UPSC Preparation

What is IAS

Indian Administrative Service, often attributed to IAS, is one of the most prestigious posts in the list of 24 services offered during the Indian Civil Service recruitment. An IAS officer is a part of the unified system (called Indian Bureaucracy) that works towards efficient delivery of the administrative functioning of our nation.

In short, Indian Civil Service Officers, appointed at the centre and state government levels and in Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) are responsible for Indian governance. People aspiring for the highly regarded IAS official post must appear for a tough, competitive exam, conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. UPSC conducts the civil service exam or the IAS exam every year to recruit for the top post. Apart from IAS, there are 24 services posts with IAS, IPS (Indian Police Service) and IRS(Indian Revenue Service) holding the maximum prestige in the recruitment list.

List of Services Allotted Through the UPSC Civil Services Examination

  1. Indian Administrative Service
  2. Indian Foreign Service
  3. Indian Police Service
  4. Indian P & T Accounts & Finance Service, Group A
  5. Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Group A
  6. Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise), Group A
  7. Indian Defence Accounts Service, Group A
  8. Indian Revenue Service (I.T.), Group A
  9. Indian Ordnance Factories Service, Group A (Assistant Works Manager, Administration)
  10. Indian Postal Service, Group A
  11. Indian Civil Accounts Service, Group A
  12. Indian Railway Traffic Service, Group A
  13. Indian Railway Accounts Service, Group A
  14. Indian Railway Personnel Service, Group A
  15. Post of Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force, Group A
  16. Indian Defence Estates Service, Group A
  17. Indian Information Service (Junior Grade), Group A
  18. Indian Trade Service, Group A (Gr. III)
  19. Indian Corporate Law Service, Group A
  20. Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service, Group B (Section Officer s Grade)
  21. Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu, and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service, Group B
  22. Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu, and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Police Service, Group B
  23. Pondicherry Civil Service, Group B
  24. Pondicherry Police Service, Group B

Things to Know Before You Start Preparing

Regardless of the education or social background, individuals who meet the eligibility criteria specified for the UPSC CSE exam can appear for the test. Thus, millions of aspirants from across India apply for the exam, which makes it one of the most competitive exams in the country. However, a far more concerning fact is the number of applicants to the selected candidates' ratio. So far, every year, there are around 1000 vacancies notified by the UPSC authorities.

The UPSC CSE exam can be taken six times by a candidate appearing in the General Category. The number of attempts is more for candidates in the OBC Category (9 times), whereas, for the SC/ST or Physically Handicapped, the number of attempts is unlimited.

However, one need not fixate on the limited number of attempts. Focusing your attention on the quality of your preparation is what would give you an edge over the others.

Hence, if an individual aspires to become an IAS officer, then he/she should be focused and committed during the time of the UPSC Preparation.

Determination and perseverance coupled with an in-depth understanding and knowledge of the subject would ensure an ordinary individual achieving extraordinary results in this competitive world.

After reading this article, a candidate would be acquainted with the best way of UPSC Preparation.

Preparation Time and Scheduling

It is important to stay focused and committed towards the ambition of becoming an IAS officer. It is one of the toughest exams to crack and requires undivided attention. Experts say that a candidate needs at least 12 months of continuous hard work for UPSC preparation.

More than the stipulated time-frame, it is imperative to have a workable strategy which includes the number of hours a candidate invests in preparing the various subjects in the UPSC syllabus. Since the questions in the IAS exam are from 6th to 12th standard books, many students, who have a good academic record and follow a concept-based approach to studies, will have an upper edge. Such candidates may need even lesser time, maybe an average of 8 hours of preparation per day, to make it through the IAS exam in the first attempt itself.

Preparation Tips and Techniques

  • Even before beginning the UPSC preparation, it is recommended to dig into the facts of the IAS and find out why you need to be an IAS Officer.
  • An individual with a clear objective will be self-motivated and will stay focused effortlessly.
  • The next step should be to study the exam pattern closely; comprehend the technicalities and approach of each set of paper of the three-staged UPSC exam.
  • The Prelims is objective and mostly based on the general studies knowledge and aptitude of a candidate. Mains, on the other hand, is subjective and needs academic skill efficiency.
  • One needs to get hold of the best general studies books, study materials, newspapers, magazines, etc. to create an own repository of the knowledge base.
  • Reading is the best strategy - start reading the NCERT Books. Go through the previous set of question papers to get a close understanding of the IAS paper format and read on relevant topics.
  • Always make sure to brush up the basics. There is no need to go beyond the basics and understand more than the basic concepts. Remember, one is not aiming to be a laureate in one-field.

Why is it important to read through Previous Year Papers?

  • It is crucial to understand the exam pattern and the best way to do it is to know the paper format.
  • The syllabus for UPSC preparation is huge and may appear tougher until one knows how the questions from each subject are exactly formatted in the paper.
  • Going through the archives will help a candidate to schedule the number of hours for each subject and help assess the correct approach to prepare for each subject. This way, one can invest time and effort in UPSC preparation methodically and inclusively.
  • After reading through the last few years papers, a candidate will realize that questions are never repeated. So, there is no point in mugging up the answers. The approach should be to clear the basic concepts first and then practice as much as possible.

Study Tips from Home

  • Self-Discipline is the key to effective UPSC preparation. Studying hard for pre-meditated hours is all okay, but more than the number of hours, it is crucial to master the personal attitude and approach. One can do this by building self-awareness and seeking help.
  • At every stage of the UPSC preparation, a candidate has the privilege to access a vast base of UPSC preparation resources online. These include counselling, mentoring and subjective guidance. For example, the necessity of mock tests and online study material, which are an integrated part of the UPSC preparation.
  • Mock tests are like real-tests and help deal with the questions in the exact format and stipulated exam time to increase confidence dramatically.
  • Based on the format of the question paper, one needs to be wary of the negative marking pattern. To avoid any nervous or unnecessary answering, it is crucial to practice mock tests every day.
  • Online study material is important as online IAS coaching helps in live interaction with qualified coaches to help an individual know where he stands in the UPSC preparation.

Exam Date for CSE

Each year, the UPSC exam dates are released in February for the Prelims to be conducted in June of the same year. The Prelims results are released one month after the exam; in July. Thereafter the Prelims qualifiers are required to appear for UPSC Mains exam in October. The result of the Mains is declared in the following year, by February/March. The last stage of the UPSC exam, Personality Test/Interview, is held in March and April. The final results are announced later in May/June.

Civil Service ExamImportant Dates
Last Date To Apply06-03-2018
Civil Services Preliminary Examination 03-06-2018
Civil Services Mains Examination28-09-2018

Month Wise Preparation Strategy

The exam cycle tentatively starts in the month of June and takes a year to complete all the stages. So, as such, you would be busy around the year preparing for one stage or the other. What smart students realize is that there is significant overlap in the syllabus of Prelims and Mains exams. So, it makes sense to have an overall preparation strategy as opposed to stage-specific approach.

June to October:- Focus on the preparation of optional syllabus. General Studies for Prelims and Mains should also go on side by side.

October to December:- Complete syllabus of the static part of the GS for both Prelims and Mains.

January to February:- Practice answer writing for Mains as well as the optional subject.

March to May:- Devote these last three months extensively for Prelims- for both Paper 1 as well as CSAT. Practice mock tests and revise as much as you can.

June to October:- Revise optional subject and join the test series for Mains, Essay as well as the optional subject.

Note: The above suggestions apply to vast majority of candidates who are preparing full time for the CSE, without taking up an employment. For other candidates, the preparation may have to be re-scheduled accordingly. You can consult NeoStencil for further help.

Subject Wise Preparation Strategy

Preparation of General Studies

If one can master the basic knowledge of General Studies, he is bound to qualify the Prelims. The whole pattern of UPSC Prelims is based on general studies, which in turn, has a vast variety of subjects to dwell upon. One should ideally aim for subject knowledge at the high school level.

Here is a subject-wise strategy for mastering General Studies:

History Indian Culture

A significant portion of the General Studies Paper is related to the Indian History subject divided into-Ancient, Medieval and Modern History parts. Therefore, during the time of UPSC preparation, it is advisable to prioritize the subject, specifically Modern India, Art and Culture being the top priority.

One word of caution: don t refer too many books. Instead, get hold of the best books. "History of Modern India" authored by Bipin Chandra is one of the books a candidate must refer to get a good grasp on Modern History.


Indian Geography and World Geography are two divisional subjects one needs to study as a part of the UPSC preparation. Indian Geography topics such as river systems, climate and physiography of India to mineral wealth, soil types and agriculture economy of India, etc. should be given the top priority.

While studying this subject during the UPSleaC preparation, a recommendable approach would be to understand geography from the fundamentals. A perfect example here is to understand a region in totality. Study every bit of detail related to the physical geography and to add, include topography characteristics, the region formation, its mineral wealth, climate and other basic details of the geographical location of the place.

While reading world geography, two topics are of prime importance- physical geography and environment. Also study the earth and the universe, wind systems, formation of landforms, clouds and precipitation and atmosphere. It is advised to keep Atlas with you while reading geography so that you can learn map by integrating it with the theory.


Find out as much as possible on this subject, in other words, read in detail on topics such as fundamental rights & duties, the Indian Constitution, the state government machinery or function of the central government.

Polity is about civil government, and there is no limit to learning on the subject for an Indian Civil Service aspirant. It is important to know the fundamentals of the subject. Keep yourself updated on the subject as new changes keep on happening daily. Civil matters are under continuous discussion, and one should be aware of the present decision and be able to analyze it in relevance to the past.


Unlike presumed, economics is not a complicated subject. An IAS aspirant should appear comfortable on the subject and be able to have a perspective on the Indian economy and the state-of-affairs.

It is essential to have clarity of the concepts to do so. Study the principles of macroeconomics, principles of microeconomics and Indian economic development. Refer to the class 12th books of the subjects.

Without fail, read about the Indian Budget and follow an analytical approach, linking the vital finance decisions with the status quo.

Science & Technology

This section mostly contains analytical questions which make the Science and Technology paper section very scoring. A lot of questions are asked on issues related to what is happening around us.

The right approach would be strengthening the fundamentals first. The best way to do that is to refer to the ICSE books of the 7th-10th standard to understand the principles of science and its natural phenomenon.

It is also advisable to read through the question papers of last few years and understand what topics are relevant and then, build on the frequently asked topic questions. Use the internet to follow the latest updates.

There are important websites such as Ministry of Science & Technology, ISRO and DRDO, which make the subject more contextually relevant to understand.


In a continuously developing global environment, this subject is a bit difficult to manoeuvre and master. There are multiple perspectives and high pace developments in the environment and climate change. Also, there is no concrete study material to refer to and get a complete perspective on the topics. However, it is a very important subject for UPSC preparation.

To understand the basics, refer to the NCERT books on geography, science, economy, biology, chemistry and a book titled, Rajagopalan's Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure. Another recommendation is ICSE Books of class 10th-11th. Read Down the Earth Magazine and refer to Environment Ministry GOI website.

Current Affairs

During the time of UPSC preparation, keep a regular track of current affairs. The Prelims paper may ask a question related to current affairs linking it to polity or economics. For example, any news of climate change can be asked from the perspective of Indian economics or Indian environment or both.

Therefore, it is crucial to relate current affairs to the fundamental knowledge of every subject of the UPSC syllabus. Access to newspapers is vital to shaping an up-to-date knowledge on current affairs. The Hindu, Indian Express and some business publications like Business Standard, Hindu Business Line are important references.

Outline of the Syllabus

IAS exam has three phases namely
  1. Preliminary (objective)
  2. Mains (subjective)
  3. Personality test

Preliminary Examination

UPSC Prelims is an objective type exam including two papers, General Studies paper I and Aptitude Test(CSAT) paper II. Each paper carries 200 marks and is conducted in a single day.

The first paper(GS) consists of 100 questions covering a range of topics from geography, economics, polity, current affairs, etc. The second paper consists of 80 questions which test the basic aptitude of the aspirants.

A preliminary examination is a screening test based on scores of the first paper(GS). The second paper is merely qualifying with a score of 33%, that is, 67 marks.

The results of the Preliminary test are usually declared 40 days from the day of the exam.

Mains Examination

This is the second stage of the exam. Only those candidates who qualify the Preliminary exam are eligible for the Mains examination. It contains a total of nine papers including an optional subject. All the papers are subjective where the candidates have to write answers in the space provided by the UPSC in the answer sheets.

The nine papers are as follows-
  • Paper A - Indian Language (Compulsory)
  • Paper B- English (Compulsory)
  • Paper I - Essay
  • Paper II - General Studies I
  • Paper III - General Studies II
  • Paper IV - General Studies III
  • Paper V - General Studies IV
  • Paper VI & VII - Optional Subject

Language papers are compulsory and qualifying in nature. Candidates must score a minimum of 25% of marks, i.e. 75/300. The marks are not added while calculating Mains scores of the candidate. The candidate can choose any language out of the 22 as mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, while the English language paper is compulsory for all.

The other seven papers are of 250 marks each. UPSC has provided a list of subjects out of which the candidate has to select one as their optional subject. The Essay and four General Studies paper are common for all.

The duration of this exam is six days. On most of the days, two papers are conducted, in the morning and evening session. Each session is of three hours.

The result for the Mains examination is usually declared after more than two months from the last day of the exam.

Personality Test

It is commonly known as the interview stage. Successful candidates receive an online summon letter from the UPSC. The interview is conducted at the UPSC building in Delhi.

All the UPSC members have their board. Each board consists of 5-6 members with the UPSC member as the chairman. The interview is for 275 marks, and the combined total of Mains and personality test is considered for the final recommendation list. The recommended list is then forwarded to the DoPT, which marks the end of the examination cycle.


UPSC comes out with the marks of all candidates which can assess through the unique id provided to each candidate. The cut-off marks are displayed on the official website of UPSC. Even those who could not clear the Preliminary stage get to see their scores.

At last the official answer key for the Preliminary exam is uploaded in the official website of UPSC. No such key is provided for the Mains exam.


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