The delay in the exams means they have more to prepare – at the same time, the economic fallout of COVID-19 is pushing many to look at other job options.

Two aspirants preparing in COVID19 safety masks Image Credit:
news Public service exams Monday, July 06, 2020 - 18:31

Younus Md(*name changed) is a state public services and police recruitment aspirant from Kamareddy in Telangana. He has been living in Hyderabad’s Ashoknagar area for the past year, which is the hub of coaching centres for state government ‘Group’ exams, as well as UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) exams. Until March, Younus’s daily routine involved attending classes from 9 am to 1pm, driving a taxi part time to make ends meet, and spending free hours preparing for his exams.

Due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Younus has lost his part time job, his coaching classes have moved online, and he doesn’t even know when the exams he has been preparing for will be held. 

“Even when there was no pandemic there was no clarity about notifications,” Younus says, “But now, it’s become worse. We don’t know how long this situation will continue, and the government will give notifications for these exams.” Until then, Younus says, he will have to find some other job in order to survive, and help his family at this trying hour. 

It’s not just Imran, hundreds of public service aspirants are in a similar situation in Andhra and Telangana. UPSC has postponed the C-SAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) (Prelims exam), which was supposed to have taken place in June first week, to October. But the state governments haven’t yet given any timeline for when the exams will be held. 

Issues with the pivot to digital

"The pandemic has added more uncertainty around state government jobs,” says Sagar R, a state services aspirant from a village in Mahabubabad in Telangana. “Aspirants who were preparing in Hyderabad coaching centers have gone back home. Many, especially from rural areas, are thinking about alternatives." 

The pivot to digital learning has also affected many who don’t have access to infrastructure like computers and broadband in rural areas. According to several aspirants, only a few institutes are offering online classes to their students. Many students are also subscribing to Apps such as Unacademy, GSScore, BYJUS to prepare. 

N Pushpalatha, a B Tech graduate from Vijayawada, was studying at a well known coaching center in Hyderabad. The pandemic, she says, has created chaos in her preparation.

“Further, while many of us can adapt to online classes, there are still many people who I know have connectivity and access issues,” she says, “This uncertainty also takes a toll on people’s mental health.”

Effects on income sources of families are also affecting the preparation, she says. "At one point, we feel like we are becoming a burden."

Sai V a UPSC aspirant from Hyderabad says, "Many people from remote corners can’t access material as others can. Everyone left to their native places thinking it would be a short break, but things turned out worse. Since their study material is in Hyderabad, all that they can do now is try to access material available online."

Preparation pattern has changed

While some aspirants believe that the extra time they have now will help them prepare better, others say it has put an additional burden on them. 

The UPSC exam for instance expects people to be thorough with their current affairs knowledge. "The UPSC by custom demands a pattern of preparation from aspirants,” says Akshay, a civil services aspirant from Jagital in Telangana. “The rescheduling of examination will always drive the aspirants into a dilemma, as the bulk of current affairs, which tend to dominate the papers, increases.”

Prabhakar Chouti, a Civil Services faculty who offers classes through Unacademy says, “The pandemic has changed the pattern of preparation. Aspirants have to use the internet. Those who can adapt to the changes and prepare accordingly can easily survive through competition.” 

However Prof MA Malik, a civil services coach says, “Though online coaching is keeping them engaged to some extent, it's not the ultimate solution. Students are eager to get back to their routines."

Vivek Tadakamalla, ex Telangana Public Service Commission member and faculty of civil services coaching in Hyderabad says, “Corona has put UPSC aspirants at a slightly advantageous position as it has given them more time, and technology such as online learning has filled the gap of the classroom."

“Maybe first timers will have some sort of apprehension, fear about how one should go ahead as there is disruption in face-to-face contact with mentors, but for repeaters it's not much of a problem,” he adds.