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Why Engineers Dominate The UPSC CSE

In last 10 years, engineers have topped the CSE eight times. Reasoning paper gave them an edge because of engineers’ better analytical skills. The trend continues, though reasoning paper marks are not counted in preparing merit list. UPSC experts tell Indian Masterminds about the disparity and the scaling process between engineers and other candidates.
Indian Masterminds Stories

Presenting Indian Masterminds’ exclusive interview with Civil Services Expert, Abhishek Kumar, where he discusses the reasons why Engineers dominate UPSC CSE results and what gives them that edge.

In 2021, six out of the top 10 rank holders had engineering backgrounds. In 2020, the top three were engineers and there were eight candidates with engineering backgrounds among the top 15 candidates. There were 11 engineers among the top 15 candidates in 2019. In 2017 too, 11 of the top 15 candidates were engineers while in 2016, of the top 15 candidates, nine had engineering backgrounds. In 2015, there are 102 candidates with engineering backgrounds who qualify for the UPSC Civil Services Exam.

Among the UPSC CSE toppers during the last decade, barring just two toppers –2015 AIR 1 Tina Dabi and 2021 topper Shruti, all other CSE toppers had an engineering background. In 2020 there were 4 IITians among the top 10. While AIR 1 Shubham Kumar and AIR 8 Jivani Kartik Nagjibhai were IIT Bombay alumni, AIR 7 Praveen Kumar was a graduate of IIT Kanpur whereas AIR 3 Ankita Jain was from DTU Delhi. 

Apart from these four candidates, a total of 17 students from IIT-BHU (Varanasi) cleared the exam. Owing to the increasing interest of its students in civil services, IIT-BHU now hosts regular counselling and knowledge-sharing sessions for UPSC aspirants.

These statistics lead one to believe that it is easier for engineering graduates to clear the Civil Services exam than those with humanities, commerce or even other science streams including medicine. Indian Masterminds tried to decipher the puzzle by speaking to some experts. 

Mr Abhishek Kumar in a video interview claimed the process started in 2011 with the introduction of a reasoning paper in IAS Prelims. Candidates were supposed to solve 0nly 80 questions, each of 2.5 marks. Engineers having better analytical skills found it easy to crack it, some scoring up to 190-195 marks out of 200. 

Thus, they managed to clear the exam even if they scored just 40-50 marks out of 200 (100 questions each of two marks) in the General Studies paper. Candidates from other disciplines found it hard to score even 100 on the reasoning paper and their success rate dropped significantly even if they scored 120 marks in the GS paper, again a very difficult task. 

Students’ agitation brought some semblance of parity in 2015 after UPSC decided to exclude the reasoning paper marks while deciding the merit of the Prelims. One only needed to score just 33 per cent on the reasoning paper. 

But, even this step couldn’t establish a level playing field between engineers and candidates from other disciplines. Engineers have been opting for optional subjects like Maths, Sociology, Geography and Public Administration, which are high-scoring subjects though they require scientific temperament. That’s why UPSC has introduced a process called Scaling to bring parity between engineers and others. Please watch the video to know more about scaling. 

AIR 2 of 2020- batch Jagrati Awasthi, a BTech graduate says, “Engineers qualify CSE because of their good analytical aptitude as a result of undergoing four-year engineering studies. However, it is a candidate’s hard work and determination, irrespective of their background, that help them crack a competitive exam like Civil Services.” 


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