There is no universal rule favoring coaching over self study. “To each their own” philosophy works best in the context of Coaching versus Self Study. Let me enlist the pros and cons for each –

Self Study – Pros

  • Flexible schedule. One can choose topics and prepare as per convenience.
  • No Dependency. There will never be a dependency for a fixed kind of study material, notes or schedule. The fact that you have to study yourself will work out the best hit and trial method for you that will determine success.
  • Saves Time. Self study saves way more time than coaching since an aspirant doesn’t have to venture out every day and spend a fixed amount of time in the classroom.
  • Better Research. The fact that an aspirant knows that he/she is own his/her own with regards to the resources of study, better research for content, subject matter and content will be done.
  • No Distractions. Since an individual will be preparing in isolation, there will be no external distractions. A lot of candidates waste precious time discussing topics.
  • Notes. The best thing about self study is that it instigates one to make damn good notes since there is nothing else to rely on.

Self Study – Cons

  • No Guidance. One should be very sure about the overall preparation strategy since there will no be any external guidance.
  • Doubt Solving. Each doubt will have to be solved by you alone. This can be irksome at times.
  • Optional. For aspirants new to an optional, a certain amount of guidance is necessary. Else, the preparation strategy might be jeopardized.

Coaching – Pros

  • Study Material. Good resources required to prepare for CSE are provided by coaching centres. So no individual running around is needed.
  • Handy Tips. The professors at Coaching Centres will be more than sufficient to provide handy tips – subject wise – for the exam.
  • Optional. A candidate new to an optional subject will surely find coaching useful because the initial push towards a new subject will be given there.

Coaching – Cons

  • No Guarantee for Success. No matter what coaching class you join, there will never be a 100% guarantee for success. What will come to your rescue will be your own efforts and hard work, nothing else.
  • Dependency. One flaw of coaching is that it makes most aspirants dependent on their style of teaching, resources and even questions. Now this is dangerous because UPSC CSE is not a predictable paper.
  • Time Wastage. Candidates waste a lot of precious time attending coaching. Many times, their own schedules get disrupted due to the schedule of the class. This isn’t good.
  • Expensive. Coaching classes are expensive because at the end of the day, it is somebody’s business venture. Spending so much money on something that doesn’t even guarantee success doesn’t seem right.
  • Nature of UPSC. The biggest disadvantage of joining coaching is that it will never prepare you with the unpredictability with the nature of UPSC. Each year aspirants get surprised so far as the questions are concerned. No coaching class in the world can be sure of the pattern that can be expected for a particular year.

Having mentioned all the above points, I would like to highlight the importance of Mock tests. Coaching or no coaching, do enroll for mock tests to get your preparation and performance evaluated.