The right age to start UPSC preparation

Is there such a thing?

Table of contents

I’ve heard so many answers to this question. Here are the 3 most common ideas:

  1. If you clear UPSC CSE at 21, then you can become Cabinet Secretary.
  2. Starting your UPSC journey after 25? You won’t even make it to Secretary!
  3. I’m going to start preparing after working for a few years so that I have a fallback option.

While the 3rd option is more logical, the 1st and 2nd are what you hear most often. But there’s a core issue in all of these ideas. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

So Is there a right age?


You can clear the exam at 22, and then quit service by the time you’re 30. (Yes, there are a lot of people quitting the services these days)

Or you can get in at 30 and have a fulfilling career and make a name for yourself in service to the nation.

What matters is that you know WHY you’re doing this. If you know your WHY, it’s easy to figure out the rest.

So what's the problem?

We are so absorbed in the idea of optimising our preparation and so fixated on that singular outcome of becoming IAS that sometimes we forget the most basic thing.

WHY are you doing this in the first place?

Do you have an answer to that? If not, are you trying to find an answer to that?

Or are you simply doing this because someone told you IAS ban jao, life set hai? Or because Sharma ji ka ladka cleared the exam and now your parents are pressuring you to do the same? Or are just trying to run away from the fact that you did not get a campus placement?

We all have our reasons.

The question is, are you aware of them?

Know yourself!

We get so engrossed in working towards the goal of clearing CSE, focused solely on optimising our preparation towards that goal all without realising that it might be the wrong goal, to begin with.

Dig deep inside you. Find your goal, find what drives you.

It will be a difficult conversation to have if you’ve not talked to yourself in a while. And when you do go down this path, one of the first things that you will realise is that the easiest person to fool is yourself.

But if you can stick it out and find out what drives you, if you can figure out why you do things, if you can find your purpose, you will realise that age is just a number.

Some examples, please

In UPSC prep, I can recall two shining examples of this:

  1. Anu Kumari (Rank 2, CSE2017) who started preparing after she was 29 and had a kid already. It was her second attempt.
  2. Gaurav Agarwal (Rank 1, CSE2013) quit a high-paying job in Hong Kong and came back to prepare at the age of 28. It was his second attempt.

Both of them had already lived a rich life in terms of experiences and gave serious attempts after reaching a certain age and level of maturity.

Will they make it to the post of a secretary? Probably not.

Will it matter to them? Probably not.

So how can I figure out what I want?

Now that’s the hard part. We’ll take it up in another post.

“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”

― Peter Drucker

Prepare for UPSC CSE with a mentor.

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