UPSC Exam: The UPSC conducts various examinations for making a merit-based selection and recommendation of candidates for various Group A and Group B Services of the Govt. of India and the Civil Services Exam is one of the most prestigious exams in India. Though a large number of people across the country attempt this, only a small percentage of them are able to fulfil their ambition.

This exam requires not only academic brilliance but also an overall development in personality.  “An IAS aspirant is supposed to know everything under the sun” is a total myth. Through the right understanding of the syllabus and best choices of materials, suitable study strategy and patience one can clear all the different levels to get into the dream position. This article lists some important UPSC Exam preparation tips for aspirants helping them develop a well-planned preparation strategy for the upcoming exams. 

Know the syllabus 

The first and most important thing an aspirant is supposed to do is knowing the syllabus thoroughly. The UPSC prescribes a well-defined syllabus and you are only expected to know what has been prescribed in it. Before starting the preparation it is very essential to read and understand the syllabus given (multiple times) which later really aids in segregating the data/ facts/ case studies that are necessary and unnecessary while referring to the study materials and preparing for the exam. 

Choose the best materials and a study strategy that suits you

A lot of study materials are available and you’ll find many explaining different study strategies. But always remember studying from too many sources won’t do much good. Take your time to filter the available sources and choose the best ones. This saves time and keeps you closer to the aim.

UPSC Exam Preparation Tips

Also as all strategies won’t work the same for everyone, choose a strategy that suits you and your life the most. There are many resources available online like compiled current affairs and general knowledge in online platforms like Entri. Make use of such resources instead of writing your lessons and short notes manually. 

Revision

With studying the syllabus and being updated with the current affairs, revision is the key, and if you’re avoiding that your preparation is at risk. So revise as many times as possible. General knowledge has a chance of getting forgotten, so it is very important to revise and recollect the points and topics. 

Question papers and test series

It is very essential to go through the previous year’s UPSC question papers, preferably from 2013, not only to understand the format but also how dynamic or static the questions are. 

Also, it is a must to attend the test series. 

Keep yourself motivated

It’s okay to fail. Accept and analyze your mistakes, move forward to some better preparations, and keep yourself motivated. 

Now,  let us look into the different levels of the UPSC civil services examination,

  1. UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam
  2. UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam
  3. Personality Test (Interview Process)

Candidates who successfully get through all these 3 rounds are finally selected for the esteemed Civil Services.

Preliminary Exam

The UPSC exam pattern for the Preliminary stage consists of two papers, conducted on one day. Both the papers comprise objective-type questions with multiple choice answers.

This is the qualifying exam consisting of two objective-type papers (General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper-II also popularly known as Civil Service Aptitude Test or CSAT). 

  • Dynamic part of the question paper mainly deals with current affairs. Newspaper reading [preferably “The Hindu”] and supplementing it with reading monthly current affairs magazines by Vision IAS/ Insights/etc.  Additional reading of magazines like yojana and Kurukshetra also helps. 
  •  It is upto each individual’s comfort  to make notes from the newspaper. It is recommended to note down important datas, schemes etc that helps for a quick revision. And this data can be replicated in mains answers too. 
  •  For more time saving “smart work”, news compilations are easily available digitally and you can switch on to that. 
  • Start with NCERTs [6th to 12th] of History, Geography.  NCERTs of polity and economics  are also essential with basic Science and Fine arts [11th NCERT text book] 
  •  After finishing NCERTs, move ahead with standard text books like Laxmikanth for polity, Spectrum for History, Shankar IAS environmental studies, etc.
  •  As you cover portions, it is suggested that you attempt tests to check your progress. Unless you attempt exams, you would not know the loopholes in your preparation.
  • Prelims also tests your basic aptitude. So, it is essential to equip yourself with aptitude to qualify the preliminary examination.

Mains Exam

The UPSC exam pattern for the Mains stage consists of 9 papers conducted over 5-7 days. Only those candidates who secure at least the declared cut-off in General Studies I and 33% in General Studies II in Prelims will be allowed to appear for the Mains Examination. As per the exam pattern of UPSC Mains, all of the papers consist of descriptive answer-type questions. 

  •  Stick to the syllabus. [Mains has a more detailed syllabus than prelims]
  • Answer writing practice is a must. Make sure to write at least two answers a day from the portions you read or newspaper, and ensure it is reviewed by your teacher/ peer group.
  •  Answers should be written within 7-9 minutes depending on the number of words asked [150/250, etc].
  •   Make sure to use minimum statistics in your answers. Too much statistics in one single answer is not suggested.
  •  Read model answers of toppers, equip yourself with various ways to make an answer impressive [using diagrams, maps, charts, etc]
  •  It is recommended to use a multi subject notebook and split it according to the mains syllabus [eg: history/ society/ governance/ polity/ ethics, etc]- segregate information at source and add it into these sections, this will aid in last minute revisions.
  •  Language is never a barrier, if your vocabulary is not good enough, work on the keywords. It will fetch you marks. But the essay paper demands basic vocabulary.
  •  Practice drawing maps [India and world]. It can be used in most GS papers. [eg: question regarding naxalism in India -you can make the answer attractive by marking naxal affected regions in India, same with earthquake prone areas, cyclone affected areas, spread of textile industry in India, coal reserves in the world, ocean currents across the world]
  • Attend test series.

OPTIONAL:

Choose your optional paper wisely keeping in mind your interests and academic background.

  • Those from non-science backgrounds can choose history, geography, sociology, etc.
  • Those from science background wanting to take up a non-science subject can do a detailed study of the syllabus of each subject and take up that which one finds suitable.
  • Science subjects can also be taken as optional if you are very strong in it.
  •  One should possess good knowledge in optionals as this can bring a major difference in your overall scoring.

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Personality test (Interview)

The best tip for performing well in the interview is to take mock interviews as much as you can. Along with that, seek help from your mentors and peer groups for corrections and clearance of doubts. Everything about you is assessed during an interview process, ranging from your posture to your mental ability and adaptability to the situations.

You will be given problems and challenges to solve. It’s okay to not have all the solutions. The brilliance lies in how well you manage your weak areas and challenging situations. It may seem tiring in the first attempts, but eventually, victory will be yours if you are dedicated and determined.

Realize that this exam demands time and one has to patiently and systematically approach it. And mere knowledge is not sufficient to clear these exams. The recruitment process is designed to test your endurance and discipline over a period of two years for which motivation is an important necessity. So patiently prepare your mind, body and personality to achieve the wonderful dream.

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Raushan Kumar
A Cook, Software analyst & Blogger.

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