COACHING and My recommendation – I took coaching in my first attempt in 2009-10. I did not have idea about the preparation. I did not even know what the topics of the course meant! I had no friends or family who had ever done this. That time, in 2009-10 there was no material available online. I didn’t know even NCERT books are needed. I needed coaching mainly for my optional. I didn’t attend most of the G.S. classes but did attend the optional classes. I had to prepare most of the stuff on my own though they helped guide me on where to start. These days a lot of material is available online and a lot of guidance on where to begin is also present online so if I were preparing today, I would not join them. I don’t recommend or condemn them. It depends on the sort of person you are. Some of us need hand-holding and need someone else to keep them on track and some of us are self-motivated. So it all depends on how you think you can succeed best. Though if it is only about material, a lot of it is available online these days.
Coaching at ALS, South Delhi centre in specific – I took Geography, Public Administration and G.S. classes from ALS.
Geography as taught by Mr. Shashank Atom was brilliant. The teacher helped you recognise patterns and build your understanding yourself. I never opened a single book for Paper 2 of geography as I had understood everything so clearly in his class. I just had to update myself on the trends from the Economic Survey and the Census. Even though he didn’t actually like me and even doubted I would ever get selected, I think he was a brilliant teacher because he made sure our fundamentals were built.
General Studies and Geography as taught by Mr. Jojo Matthews was absolutely terrible. In my opinion, he was pretty much the worst teacher possible. Firstly, he just comes to class and starts narrating some data which you have to take down at the speed of light because he doesn’t feel like he should slow down and either try to explain anything or even give you enough time to properly put your pen to paper, so that you might be able to read the things you have written, sometime in future. After the first few attempts I gave up altogether. Another really nice thing he does, is insult the students when they ask questions. And not only does he insult you when you ask, right then and there, he continues doing it for the rest of the class and carries it to the next if he can remember you. He thinks he is being funny, the student who dared to ask feels he is being insulting, and I just found it all plain offensive and rude. A teacher should create a learning environment and no question is too stupid - something I think he missed when he decided to become a teacher.
Also he has claimed credit for my success so I think this is where I should clarify a few things that happened. I had given the exam in 2010 & 2011 and scored a rank both times. I did not give in 2012 because I thought I needed to first solve my matter in court before attempting this again, if ever. Since nothing was happening, I decided to try doing it again with the completely overhauled pattern in 2013. I went to their South Delhi centre where I had taken the coaching and begged them to let me buy the material for the new pattern. I told them I’d pay whatever they were charging. I was told that Mr. Matthews had given strict instructions and that I should call and ask him. I called him 5 times and messaged him 3 times. I told him I was an old student and that I had cleared the exam before and I wanted to buy the material and was ready to pay full price. He told me to call later but he didn’t deign pick my calls later. He did NOT EVEN ONCE RESPOND TO MY MESSAGES AND AFTER THE FIRST TIME STOPPED TAKING MY CALLS. He didn’t care if I was a partially successful ex-student. Actually he doesn’t really care if you are his student, he needs money and as long as you are paying for the full class again, he will give you the material…not that he is polite and caring as a teacher should be even then! But then this time, as soon as the result came, he found time from his super busy life to call and congratulate me! I am suddenly important!
Oh and by the way, ALS was the one who taught me to write only in paragraphs. In fact they insisted on it! They said NEVER WRITE IN POINTS. If I had stopped following their advice earlier, I might have not had to wait for my fourth attempt to clear IAS. I only wrote in points this time cause my friend Savita who was a fellow sufferer at their hands told me that all the toppers write in points! I was still scared to follow her advice because ALS had insisted SOOOO HARD to never write in points! But I thought, well it’s not like I ever got brilliant marks ever before so let me just try it! In my B-School and Engineering we wrote the answers in points and it made everything to much simpler. But due to the coaching centre I wrote all my previous attempts in paragraphs. This time I did the opposite and I think I did a lot better in my presentation.