UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination to recruit IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS, and other officers for Central and All India services. Every year, more than 10 lakhs of aspirants apply for the exam, but only a few qualify. So, you must be wondering how to start preparing for IAS exam and what helps some students clear the exam even in their first attempt! Well, it’s the preparation formula! Do you want to know about the tips on how to start UPSC preparation Further, most aspirants are confused about how to start preparing for UPSC. In this article, we will tell you all about how to prepare for IAS exam. By the time you finish this article, you will know exactly how to proceed with your UPSC plan. So move ahead and finish this piece of information waiting for you!
UPSC Exam – How to Start Preparing for IAS
As an aspirant, you may know that the UPSC Civil Services examination has three stages – Prelims, Mains, and finally the Interview stage. Furthermore, we will tell you all about how to start preparing for IAS.
There are a few eligibility criteria that you must meet to be able to sit for the IAS exam. They have further been listed below –
You must hold a bachelor’s degree or any degree equivalent to a bachelor’s in any subject. But, it must be from a recognized university.
Age limit and No. of attempts
|No. of Attempts
|General 21-32 Years
|Graduate (any stream)
|OBC 21-35 Years
|Graduate (any stream)
|SC/ST 21-37 Years
|Graduate (any stream)
|Any number of attempts till the age limit
Prelims Syllabus – How to Prepare for UPSC
The Prelims consists of 2 papers. Further, the syllabus for the same are as follows –
General Studies paper I (Total Marks- 200 & Duration- Two hours):
- Current events of National and also International importance.
- History of India and also Indian National Movement.
- Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and also the World.
- Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, and also Rights Issues, etc.
- Economic and Social Development-Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, and also Social Sector Initiatives, etc.
- General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity, and also Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization.
- Science and Technology
General Studies paper II (Total Marks- 200 & Duration- Two hours):
- Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
- Logical reasoning and also analytical ability;
- Decision making and also problem-solving;
- General mental ability;
- Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation also(charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. — Class X level);
Mains Syllabus and Booklist – How to Start UPSC Preparation
General Studies – I
- History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra
- Ancient India by R.S Sharma
- An Introduction to Indian Art Part 1: Class XI
- India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
- India after Independence by Bipan Chandra
- Class X NCERT – The Story of Civilization, Part 2 by Arjun Dev
- Class XII NCERT – Contemporary World History
- Class XI NCERT – India People and Economy
- Class XI NCERT – India: Physical Environment
- World Geography – Majid Husain
- Class XII NCERT – Fundamentals of Physical Geography
- Class XII NCERT – Fundamentals of Human Geography
- Oxford Atlas
- Certificate Physical and Human Geography – G C Leong
General Studies – II
Polity and International Relations
- Constitution of India at Work (Class XI) NCERT Publication
- Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth
- Introduction to the Constitution of India by DD Basu (Optional)
- Ethics in Governance, ARC Report
- India’s Foreign Policy Since Independence by V.P. Dutt
Gen. Studies – III
- Indian Economic Development XI Standard NCERT
- Introductory Macro Economics XII Standard NCERT
- Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
- Economic Survey
Science and Technology
- Class VIII, IX, X Standard NCERT Biology
General Studies – IV
Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude
- Ethics in Governance, ARC Report
- Lexicon by Chronicle Publications
- The Hindu Newspaper
- Indian Express (Optional)
- Yojana/Kurukshetra magazine to cover current affairs and other also remaining topics like Governance, Developmental Issues, Society, Ecology, and Environment, etc.
For Compulsory Indian language, English, and Essay paper, read as many essays you can and also practice sample papers or mock tests.
These are 26 available optional papers that you can choose from. Also, you can download the syllabus from the official website of UPSC.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You can read the same books for Prelims as well as Mains.
For Interview, go through the newspaper so you keep up with the current affairs in and around the world. It will help you answer confidently during the personality test.
UPSC exam preparation
The UPSC exam preparation demands 100% focus and hard work throughout the journey. We will explain how to how to prepare for IAS exam for every stage i.e. Prelims, Mains, and Interview. We will tell you all about how to prepare for UPSC exam.
Prelims cum Mains Exam – How to Start UPSC Preparation
The Prelims exam preparation comprises of the the following main aspects –
Read the syllabus A to Z. The syllabus is the gateway to UPSC’s mind because you will understand what exactly to cover and what to leave. Though the syllabus is vast and confusing, you do not have to read everything that many people say. Moreover, the syllabus will prompt you where to stop, and that will save you a lot of time.
Previous Year Question Papers – How to Prepare for UPSC
Go through the Previous Year Question Papers. This might seem a boring task but all your hard work will go in vain if you skip this step. Since the UPSC does not follow a set pattern of asking questions, you cannot predict future questions. So, these question papers act as the guiding light to your attempt at this exam. Moreover, try solving as many papers as you can.
NCERT books are the best books that you need to start with if you are a new aspirant. Further, these books are government authorized and have all the necessary details. You can rely on these books 100%. Also, UPSC often asks direct questions from these books. So, these books may help you get that one extra mark that could secure you a position.
The current affairs section will be covered by reading the newspaper on a daily basis. Follow ‘The Hindu’ regularly. Also, read ‘Indian Express’ if you have the time to do so. This is an important tip on how to prepare for UPSC exam.
After you complete reading NCERTs, you must continue with advanced books like Polity by M. Laxmikanth, Economy by Ramesh Singh, etc. Advanced books will help further deepen your knowledge and reach of the subjects.
Supplement your studies with magazines like Yojana/Kurukshetra. These are monthly magazines and so they cover almost all the relevant news of the month. If you miss out on any news from the newspaper, you can cover it all here.
Make notes as you read books, newspapers, etc. Remember that these notes should not be too long. the idea is to help you revise when you have very little time. You do not have to write a book out of a book. Very important tip: Make Comprehensive notes (Prelims + Mains) because this will save lots of time and you will have a compact folder of notes to revise from.
Enroll yourself in a test series so your preparation is checked from time to time. Appear for Prelims (GS +CSAT) as well Mains (Answer writing) mock tests because it will improve your performance.
Finally, revise multiple times before you sit for the actual day of the exam. Multiple revisions will increase your chances of success. There is no shortcut to success. So, revisions will help you cross the bridge leading your dreams to become a civil servant. This is the most important tip on how to prepare for UPSC exam.
Apart from the above strategy, there are also an extra paper that you will have to study for Mains:
For the Mains exam, you have to choose an optional paper out of the available 26 subjects. You either have to enroll yourself in coaching or if you plan to self-study the subject, get a list of the relevant books for that subject. Rest, answer writing, revision is a must for this paper also. If possible, finish preparing notes for your optional paper at the beginning itself because this will give you ample time to revise your notes again and again.
Interview stage – How to Start Preparing for IAS exam
The Interview or Personality Test is solely to test your answering and response mechanism to the toughest of the situations. So, keep reading newspapers to keep yourself updated and appear for mock interviews. Also, such sessions will get you ready for the actual day of the interview.
When to start preparing for UPSC?
Ideally, one should start preparing as early as possible. So, the moment you decide to become an IAs/IPS officer, you must gather information from all possible sources. Subsequently, talk to teachers, seniors, or enroll in coaching if you want professional guidance.
But often, people change careers and decide to give the IAS exam at a later phase of their career. You can start preparing at any stage but the only requirement is you must be prepared to devote time and hard work for at least a year. Also, you can read about IAS preparation at home here.
Other tips on How to Prepare for UPSC
Prepare a Time table: It is uttermost important that you make a study routine for your daily use. Without one, you will move in no direction. Consequently, your preparation will be useless. Also, a proper routine will keep you on track and help you record your progress. So, prepare one suited to your needs and lifestyle.
Exercise: Regular exercise will keep your mind and body healthy. When you have a balanced life, your concentration power increases. Also, this exam requires a lot of it. So, do not forget to squeeze out time for some physical and mental well-being.
Balanced diet: A balanced diet will keep you fit, healthy and free of diseases. You do not want to miss on any day of studies till you make it. So, choose what you put in your body wisely.
Finally, you have to maintain a balance between studying, recreation and smart work. Remember that this hard work will take you a long way. So, start preparing for UPSC with full dedication and 100% motivation. Also, you can read about how to find the best coaching institutes for IAS Exam.
Frequently Asked Questions on How to Prepare for UPSC Exam
An attempt is only counted when you appear for one of the paper in Prelims do not even appear for the second paper. Also, if you just apply and don’t appear for the exam, it will not be counted as an attempt.
The answer to how to start UPSC preparation is quite simple. Read the syllabus and previous year questions to get a clue about the demand of the exam. Further, buy relevant books and read the Hindu newspaper daily. Also, the most important tip on how to prepare for IAS exam is revision.
COVID-19 Update | How to Prepare for UPSC Exam
The COVID pandemic has brought everything to a standstill. Coaching classes shut down and students got confined to their homes. Online coaching came to the rescue for many and with dates being postponed, students got more time to prepare for the UPSC exam. So, these times must be utilized for the better instead of delaying studies. As students, you must prepare more than ever because now more students got time to prepare from home.