If someone were to stroll into the campus of Dhaka University with only one question in mind for the students, "Where do you see yourself in five years after graduation," the most common response would be a no-brainer, "A BCS cadre." With the pay, social security, and prestige that comes with it, BCS (Bangladesh Civil Service) is one of the most sought-after jobs in Bangladesh.
Not to mention, the BCS examination is statistically the toughest exam to excel in. Around 475,000 candidates are competing for 2,180 empty posts in the 43rd BCS examination. That is why it is of utmost importance to have a strategy along with the academic preparations to turn the tides in your own favour. Here is Snehasish Kumar Das, assistant commissioner of police from the 37th BCS intake, sharing his insights.
"First and foremost, you do not need to go through every single element of the syllabus. You will need to analyse which subjects are your strengths and which need more attention."
BCS has a very extensive syllabus, to begin with. In the 200 marks of the preliminary MCQ examination, candidates need to have extensive knowledge of Bangla, English, domestic and international affairs, science, mathematics, and governance. It may seem overwhelming to the candidates and they may start going through everything there is to cover. However, this arduous approach is likely to make the entire process more difficult and counterproductive. The candidates need to allocate more efforts into the subjects they are not comfortable with to score great marks.
"What I have observed during my preparation is that questions following the 35th BCS are more innovative in both the preliminary and written examinations," added the ACP. "You may need to read 70 per cent of the texts keeping an eye out for international and domestic affairs."
As for the written part, candidates targeting the general cadre need to sit for a 900-mark examination whereas candidates aiming at both general and technical cadre will have 200 more marks to score from. For the general cadre, Bangla, English and Bangladesh Affairs each has 200 marks allotted to them whereas the full marks for International Affairs, Mathematical Reasoning, and Mental Skills, General Science and Technology are 100 marks each. Given the recent trends in BCS questions, it is extremely important to ensure the basics of English and mathematics before anything else.
"As I am a graduate from IBA (DU), I probably had a stronger hold of English and mathematics than some of the candidates. That is why 90 days were enough for me to complete my entire BCS preparation," reminisced Snehasish. "With a very good understanding of the basics of these subjects, two months should be sufficient for any candidate seeking to get the cadre of his/her choice."
Candidates need to score 50 per cent of the marks in their written examination to pass. In the written segment it is important to be creative and also informative. Candidates need to answer the question by citing the text along with their storytelling abilities. Reading newspapers, books of a different sort and watching movies can certainly be of big help in this regard. Knowing only the grammatical rules may not be enough to score enough points if the words do not entice the examiner enough.
After the written examination, candidates are faced with viva examinations. A lot of well-prepared candidates are known to stumble in this phase of the examination as sitting for a viva can be intimidating. However, with enough preparation, this nervousness can be handled easily.
"Truth be told that there is no telling what will be asked in the viva examination. There may be a case when a candidate is not asked anything relevant to BCS," Snehasish stated. "The best a candidate can do is prepare for the questions that he/she may come across."
There are practically five segments from which questions can be asked in the viva. Firstly, candidates have to prepare for questions related to the subjects they studied during their undergrad and postgrad years. Recent job experiences are also one of the most common sources of questions.
Secondly, examinees need to have a vast knowledge regarding their home districts. From the origin of the district's name to the historic events, no stones can be left unturned there. Thirdly, The Liberation War is a topic that all candidates should watch out for. Significant events from 1947-1975 should be memorised extensively. Moreover, it is also important to know about the recent communal clashes happening throughout Bangladesh. Finally, candidates need to be prepared for questions pertaining to the cadres they have chosen.
Constitution is another important topic for the viva examinations. Given the size and abundance of information in the constitution of the country, you may need to pay attention to about 70 per cent of it but have a complete understanding of the entire document.
"I believe I could have done better in my examinations if I knew the proper tricks of writing my answers in a more organised and aesthetic manner. If my written answers were concise, I think I could get the foreign cadre," recalled Snehasish.
As the numbers suggest, BCS may not be that intimidating. Candidates do not need to run to numerous coaching and tuition for preparations when they can do it themselves with much more efficiency. Suggestions from five to six previous cadres are all the guidance a candidate needs to make their mark in the examination.
Serving the country is a prestige that a lot of people hope to achieve. Helping the community and the nation to reach greater heights is literally the job description of every BCS cadre. In order to be in the same conversation with the nation's best, candidates need to be diligent, tenacious, and most importantly, smart. After all, Bangladesh is counting on you.