How to Effectively Prepare UPSC IAS Exam for Long Hours

So, you have decided to prepare for the Civil Services (IAS) Examination. Well done! The decision is definitely a tough hurdle but the next step in your struggle will prove to be an even greater challenge, and probably your nemesis if you are not prepared - the daily study schedule. IAS exam preparation requires an intensive focus both on the content as well as the strategy or approach towards the exam.

One of the most common phrases that are thrown around to deter the non-serious and strike fear in the hearts of the newcomers is - One must study for 12 hours a day, every day for a year to succeed in this exam . Twelve hours! You exclaim in despair. But, I lose concentration within two hours. I shall never be able to achieve my dream in such a scenario. What s my two hours to a topper s twelve? How do they study for such long periods? Where do they get the stamina? Are they human?

Since the age of bio-engineered mutants is still far in the future, we can safely assume that all the successful candidates have evolved strategies to combat the challenge of syllabus completion and revision.

So, what s the secret? You ask.

There really isn t any, to be honest. IAS exam preparation does not have a golden key known to a few but is result of months of hard work and diligence.


The hallmark of a good aspirant is the dedication and planned study. These veterans have made their tasks easier by meticulous planning and discipline. A good analogy here is that of the marathon. A marathon runner does not run at a full sprint from the word go. An athlete paces himself with each mile and knows when to slow down and when to run.

Similarly, an aspirant must know how to start the journey to LBSNAA as it will at the minimum, take a little more than a year to achieve that. Not only the major milestones, but each day must be mapped to allow for maximum output and hence success. Thus, we will start from the first level - the daily plan. Here s a novel plan to maximise the productivity of your typical study day:

Model Daily Timetable for IAS Exam Preparation

In the above schedule:

Time Distribution of study hours for IAS Exam Preparation

Your daily time has been divided as shown (the right half shows the total time spent studying) You can clearly see that roughly 50% of the time is devoted to studying:

We have tackled the quantum of study problem by dividing the total time into smaller blocks. A similar strategy is followed by several toppers. This is very advantageous for a number of reasons:

  1. The concentration curve for a human mind shows that the concentrating ability of a person falls off as the period of concentration required increases. If I were to ask you to study India s freedom struggle continuously you would probably not get beyond the Swadeshi Movement! Thus, rest and recovery are crucial to increase concentration and consequently productivity. Hence, dividing your study period into smaller units will improve your efficiency and output.
  2. The smaller blocks allow better allocation of time to various subjects. As we have already given time for daily current affairs -newspaper + AIR/RSTV, you can divide the four time periods among various subjects that you need to study. A typical example would involve using Study Time I to give mock tests for preliminary examination and Study Time II (the three-hour stretch) to study optional. While the other two can be used to study General studies.
  3. It allows you to spend some leisure time as well. As the saying goes - All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It is essential that you go out and interact with people and exercise physically as well. Many people have suffered right before or during the exams due to poor health that was brought upon as a result of non-stop study.
  4. The leisure time also allows you to indulge in your hobby/interest. This too is essential for the personality test stage and should form an important component of your IAS exam preparation.


As your preparation nears exam time, this can be modified by reducing break times to 15 minutes. A word of caution - Never reduce your sleeping time. That is sacrosanct. You need adequate sleep to be able to function properly during your preparation. Remember its a marathon and not a sprint. You ll need sustainable energy and focus through a year.

For the people who work, we understand that studying becomes a problem. We recommend that you try and fit in at least 3-4 hours daily on weekdays. You can use the commuting time to listen to lectures/ news. Follow the above schedule on weekends.


Now that the plan is out of the way, the next important activity that an aspirant should follow religiously is the preparation of notes.

Why are notes necessary?

  1. Notes help you simplify complex topics and detailed information into concise and simple sources.
  2. It is an expression of your understanding of the topic that is why notes on the same topic vary for different people.
  3. Writing helps remember better.
  4. Note making allows you to have ready material for revision and will improve efficiency during the time constrained revision period.

The notes not only include summaries but questions as well. You can look out for our upcoming post on how to prepare effective notes soon on this blog. It will help you study, even if your IAS exam preparation is from your home.


The final point to note is revision. Effective study produces good results only if it is backed by revision. For this purpose, we suggest that you block off every Sunday for revision. Follow the same schedule as suggested above, but don t study anything new. Rather, revise whatever you have learned that week. On the last Sunday of the month, you should revise the content you have covered that month. In this way, you will have two revision cycles running simultaneously - weekly and monthly. So your monthly schedule should look something like this:

Monthly schedule for IAS Exam preparation

Keep the slots flexible so as to meet your daily/weekly/monthly study targets. Also, note that we have included practice tests in your schedule. These will be important in helping you gauge the level of preparation and tailor it accordingly.

We have seen, so far, that effective study for the civil services examination requires an intelligent approach to tackling the mammoth syllabus and preparation duration. To sum up, here are our list of dos:

  1. Make an effective, daily study plan and stick to it. Divide your entire study period into smaller blocks to attain maximum efficiency. Keep enough time for your hobbies as well. You can follow our schedule to see if it fits your purpose. We look forward to your feedback on the same.
  2. Step out of your house. Take enough breaks between study periods. Exercise. Remember a healthy mind stays in a healthy body.
  3. Make notes- of books, newspapers, TV/radio news reports, internet pages. They will help you analyse and revise better.
  4. Revise. Revise. Revise. There is no substitute for this. Form a study plan that incorporates revision in a big manner. IAS Exam Preparation is 50% study and 50% revision.
  5. Your study plan should include practice tests. Do not be afraid to write exams, you are appearing for one of the biggest ones there is. This will help you evaluate your progress and keep the study interesting.


The preparation for this exam requires not just a slog but a conscientious approach. We hope that this article helps answer several dilemmas regarding your preparation and study strategies. If there are other doubts ailing your mind, please mention them and we will try to address them as quickly as we can. Till then, we wish you the best for your preparation and hope to see you achieve your dreams soon.

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