A.R. KHAN of the Khan Study Group (KSG) has been teaching Indian Administrative Services aspirants for the past 18 years. With an award to its credit for being the best in the business, KSG has shown an 80 per cent success rate this year. Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontline.
How does your institute plan to tackle the proposed changes in the civil services exams from next year?
The UPSC has proposed changes in civil services Preliminary exam, but it has not come out with the syllabus yet. We are fully prepared and lots of groundwork activities are going on at various levels. We are equipped to tackle any type of change that may come.
It will be too premature to start coaching without knowing what is in store, as we do not want to waste the valuable time of our students. We shall organise special classes once the syllabus is declared.What do you think are the changes?
There are changes no doubt, but the content of change may purely be guesswork. We do not want to indulge in guesswork; lets wait and watch till the syllabus is published.
An examination is for selecting the right candidates, but the Preliminary examination is one of rejection. The least rejected candidates are called for the Main examination.
The aptitude test as we understand shall be a measure to select the candidates who have the correct attitude towards these coveted services. I think this test is going to change the entire nature of the Preliminary examination, from being rejection-based to a selection-based one.
Since the UPSC itself is not disclosing the type of the test from next year, how do you plan to train students who have joined your institute?
Our curriculum contains both Main and Preliminary as an integrated course. We begin our work on the areas that are going to remain the same, and once the syllabus is announced, we will train the students on new formats. The students, after the announcement of the new format, will have less time to prepare the conventional themes. It is, therefore, highly recommended that they do not waste time and start working on the conventional themes so that they have ample time to prepare for the new areas.
Do you have any unique methods of teaching? Why should a student come to your institute rather than go anywhere else as coaching institutes have mushroomed everywhere in Delhi and elsewhere in India?
There are several reasons. We keep the size of the classes small. This allows us to give individual attention to each student. Since the syllabus of General Studies is vague and students come with unique backgrounds, we follow a module-based teaching programme to make the topic explicit. We have adopted a special technique, which has been developed after many years of teaching General Studies. Here the student is comfortable with the area covered.
We focus on the basics as well as the finer points of the topics. We follow the method of listening-understanding-reproducing, the third being the most vital test of our achievement. At KSG, a lot of attention is given to developing writing skills through regular feedback after evaluating the candidates answers.
What do you think is the unique selling proposition of your institute?
Though the institute is better known for its specialisation in General Studies, we also have extremely competent faculty in History, Political Science, Psychology and Public Administration.
Are the notes given by your institute sufficient in cracking this high-profile examination?
Yes, but we do not stop with giving the notes. We, in a given time frame, ensure that the students master those notes.
What criterion do you have for selecting the teachers?
It will be difficult to list their attributes. I am a teacher myself and we all work as a team passionate about the success of the candidates. Our General Studies team has a collective experience that is much greater than that of teams in most of the coaching institutes of the country.
Do you expect that with the proposed changes, the civil services examination will become more like an MBA entrance test?
No, that will not happen because CSAT, as reported, will have questions on moral and ethical issues, decision-making processes and so on.