Preparing for UPSC? 4 Tips to Identify False Claims by Coaching Institutes

UPSC CSE coaching centres

On 30 May, UPSC announced the results of the Civil Services Exam 2021 or commonly known as the IAS Exam. Those who were successful are still celebrating their success whereas the many others would have already chalked out a plan for their next attempt.

On the other hand are the numerous IAS coaching institutes, which have only increased in numbers over the years jostling for credit. As the results were announced, there was an immediate rush to conduct TV interviews with toppers, photo ops and guest lectures by toppers for the eagerly waiting Aspirants. After all, this is the admission season and what better way to attract fresh candidates/aspirants than by claiming top ranks?

If anyone has been following the news, or to be specific, the ads in newspapers, every other IAS coaching institute claims the top five or top 10 rank holders to be from their institute. The funny thing is, top rankers especially the top five are claimed to be students of more than a dozen institutes. One of the top ranker’s photos from last year has been plastered across coaching institutes from Delhi to Bengaluru which makes it difficult to believe since it is humanely impossible to attend classes at all these institutes and makes one wonder, isn’t something fishy?

So, how do coaching institutes claim ranks and how can candidates verify their credibility before losing hard-earned money?

Genuine UPSC CSE coaching institutes
Reference image; Source: Pixabay

Many coaching institutes, especially the online ones offer many recorded videos free of cost to those who have written the mains at least once. The reason is that the chances of them clearing the exam again are higher and it doesn’t cost them anything extra to provide free access to recorded videos unlike conducting actual offline classes. Recorded videos are a one-time investment and can be distributed en masse.

As a student, when we are struggling with studies, deadlines and pressure, when something comes across as free, we tend to accept it. If these students clear the exam, is it fair for such institutes to claim their results? There is absolutely no way of finding out whether the videos benefitted the candidate or not unless he/she specifically mentions it. It’s as if, I give a book free of cost to a candidate and later claim his/her result to be mine, as they referred to it.

Free mock interviews are another tactic. The success rate in the prelim exam is very low, less than 2 per cent of those who give the prelims make it to the mains whereas the success rate in the interview stage is about 40 per cent. Hence, it is common sense to target candidates who have cleared the mains by offering free mock interviews which in many cases are not up to the mark.

When the results are announced, these coaching institutes claim top ranks, denying the credit to genuine institutes that would have helped candidates in the preparation.

Candidates usually take a year to prepare for the exam and later the exam itself is conducted over 11 months in three stages making it a 2-year process. On the other hand, the mock interview is a 30 minutes process, which is a fraction of the time spent on preparation.

This also disrespects the hard work and effort put in by the candidates by undermining their years of effort.

The information collectors are one of the most unethical forms of claiming one’s results. Many coaching institutes coerce candidates to divulge basic information during walk-ins. The same is true for many e-institutes which force candidates to register with their name and contact details on websites for simply accessing any course-related information. The candidate information is stored and later used to claim results. The same had happened to me as well. One of the institutes, where I had approached to inquire about mock interviews but never took any, claims my result today since I had shared my application with them.

Some institutes have developed this practice where they invite candidates who are waiting for their interview and present them with a memento or a bouquet, a ‘goodwill gesture’ and ‘motivation’ as they call it. This might be done at the time of mock interviews as well. Later this photo is paraded across social media as if they were the reason behind the candidate’s success.

How does this affect genuine institutes and the aspirant community?
Many coaching institutes are honest and have painstakingly reached the stage they are in as of today. It would have taken a lot of money, time and energy to have developed the reputation and credibility. Such institutes remain with candidates till the end and support them with resources, materials, scholarships, right guidance and not to mention emotional support. To take away their credit and falsely claim results are simply wrong.

When few institutes take the shortcut, it would also demotivate genuine institutes in the coaching industry and push them to resort to unethical means as well. Of course, coaching has become a business, but should not be sans ethics.

Moreover, if good, hardworking institutes do not get the recognition they deserve, the main loser would be the aspirant community since they would be losing out on quality/right guidance which would be replaced by those trying to make a quick buck.

One incident comes to mind where a coaching institute, barely six months old claimed more than two dozen results when the entire exam process itself takes 11 months. To claim results of other institutes as one’s own is the undoing of an educational institution. This is nothing but a disservice to the entire community of aspirants and those genuine institutes.
If this unethical practice continues, fresh and gullible aspirants, especially from poor and rural backgrounds, would be misled by TV and newspaper ads into believing that such institutes would guide them to realise their dreams of becoming an IAS/IPS officer.

Not only would such candidates receive poor guidance from the beginning, but it would also take them a few years to realise the truth by which time, they would have lost their hard-earned money and their limited attempts.

What needs to be done?

UPSC CSE coaching centres
Source: Shutterstock

In today’s age of the internet and multiple sources, it is very unlikely that a candidate would not have used any coaching institute material. I can credit three mentors for their immense support in some way or the other, but my result is claimed by a dozen other coaching institutes which is not true.

As part of the aspirant community, I believe it is the duty of the toppers to publicly come out with information on what course and which institute enabled their success. This would be the best way of showing gratitude and can be easily done through social media.

Those who clear the exam must also be careful before accepting requests by many coaching institutes to give speeches/talks and be very clear that the speech is not a testament to the institutes’ credibility.

The coaching institutes on the other hand can also publish details of the successful candidates along with the course they had enrolled in so that everything is out there in the open for everyone to see.

Finally, it is the duty of freshers to verify the credibility of institutes before enrolling themselves.

Here, are a few things that one can do:

  1. Request demo classes.
  2. Talk to former students of the institute and go through the materials provided by them.
  3. Check out their reviews on the internet.
  4. Verify with toppers if possible whether the institute claiming their result did in fact aid them in their success.

The exam is a tough nut to crack but becomes easier with the right guidance. Ensure you find the right mentor and guidance.

Written by Rajesh Ponnappa; Edited by Yoshita Rao

Author: Aaron Ryan