UPSC conducts the Civil Services Examination (CSE) to recruit IAS, IPS, IFS, and other officers for allied services. Lakhs of aspirants apply for the exam, yet only a few qualify the exam. So, what is that which brings about the difference, you ask!
Well, it’s the UPSC preparation strategy! Most aspirants wonder, “UPSC Preparation Strategy” or “How to prepare for UPSC to qualify the exam in the first attempt”! In this article, we have tried to answer this question in an extremely comprehensive way.
First know the Stages of UPSC Exam:
As you may already know, the UPSC Civil Services examination has three stages, namely, Prelims, Mains, and Interview. The first step is the Preliminary Examination. Hence, in this article, we will begin by answering How to prepare for UPSC Prelims effectively!
The UPSC Civil Services Prelims consists of two exams namely General Studies-I and General Studies-II (CSAT).
In the preparation strategy for the Civil Services Prelims examination, the General Studies portion is always considered to be the trickiest to crack because of its perceived complexity. Moreover, since the UPSC cutoff is determined based on the score in the General Studies paper, it is an extremely important paper.
Step-by-Step UPSC Preparation Strategy, Guidance, Tips For Civil Services exam
Let us look at a 5-step full-proof preparation strategy for preparing for the Civil Services Examination.
Step 1: Know the exam well
Before preparing for any exam, it is important to know the nitty-gritty of the exam well enough. Read through the notification of the UPSC exam carefully in order to acquaint yourself with the exam syllabus, exam pattern, exam timeline, and eligibility criteria. Once you’re through that, pick up the previous year papers and skim through them to get an understanding of what is actually asked in the exam. If you give dedicated amount of time to do this exercise, you will save a considerable amount of time through your preparation journey! Alternatively, you can glance through the articles on our website to get comprehensive information about what the exam is! At this time, you should also start reading the newspaper. Check this article to understand how to read newspapers for UPSC!
Step 2: Strengthen your foundation
No matter what your background is, you need to understand the basics of the core subjects of the UPSC syllabus. Hence, refer to NCERTs, they can be downloaded from the official website of NCERT for free. Read them at least twice before making notes, and then read our NCERT compilations. You can get the NCERT compilations on our Telegram Forum (cl_civils) for free. Prepare your notes alongside these compilations in order to save time! Check out which NCERTs you need to refer to from here.
Step 3: Upgrade Your Knowledge with standard books
Once you have read all the NCERTs, it’s time to expand your knowledge by reading the standard books. You can get the entire booklist for UPSC preparation in the linked article. Read the books at least twice and then make your handwritten notes to be used for answer-writing practice at the later stage! You can also watch video lectures on our YouTube channel for important topics to supplement your knowledge.
Step 4: Practice Answer Writing + Revision
Once you have completed a subject from the NCERT as well as standard books, then you can start practicing answer-writing. Before that, it will be a futile exercise as you will have to depend on books for the content of the answer. At this stage, it is also important to incorporate consistent revision. You should keep your weekends free for a dedicated revision of whatever new you’ve learned during the week.
Step 5: Mock-Test Based Learning Approach
Two months before the prelims exam, you should incorporate mock test-based learning approach. Sit for an actual exam-like mock test at the same time and then analyze your performance. Check your weak areas and brush up the concepts that you may have missed. It will not only help you in anxiety management during the actual exam but will also prepare you extremely well for the exam!
Subject-wise Preparation Strategy For UPSC Civil Services Prelims
#1 How to prepare for UPSC – Polity & Governance
- In recent years the importance of government policies has increased tremendously both in the Preliminary and main examination. The trend is expected to continue. The questions are more or less straightforward, which can be easily answered after careful study.
- In Polity, there are chapters from which questions are frequently being asked. These are Constitutional Developments, FRs, FDs and DPSP, Union Government, Judiciary, Amendments, Local Governments, Federalism and Election process.
- Most of the available books lack information on current constitutional developments. So, a keen perusal of newspapers and magazines is essential to develop a sound knowledge of provisions of the Constitution(for example, one should be aware of the historical judgments of the Supreme Court of India, like Triple Talaq, Right to privacy, Right to be forgotten, Adultery repealed, Aadhaar verdict, etc.).
Check out the micro topics as well as preparation strategy for Polity.
#2 How to prepare General Science, Life Science and Science and Technology for UPSC
- This section can be divided into 4 parts – Science and Technology, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics
- For students with from Arts background, this section is always a nightmare. But a basic understanding of Science, especially thorough coverage of NCERTs, can be of great help in solving most of the questions. Science and Technology have become an important section of GS for the last 15 years. Considering the overall increase in the weightage of current affairs, questions are mainly asked from India-specific developments.
- Recent analysis shows that questions on General Science cover general appreciation and understanding of day-to-day science.
- So, observing and experiencing everyday science could be handy. For example, a question regarding NAVIC was asked in the 2018 Prelims. So, the future initiatives of ISRO, like Gaganyaan and other missions automatically become more important. Thus, one must prepare a strategy of prioritization.
- In Life Science, the thrust is on Zoology. Only a few questions are being asked from Botany, particularly from agriculture, biological diversity, and plant system. In Zoology, most of the questions are related to the human system and diseases. The topics of Communicable diseases and Nutrition are always significant.
Check out the micro topics as well as preparation strategy for Science & Technology.
#3 How to prepare for UPSC – Economic and Social development
- This includes Sustainable development, Poverty, Socio-economic Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
- Most of the questions in this area are from the Indian Economy but one also has to keep abreast of International Economics that has its bearing on India (for example, the recent trade war and its impact on the Indian market).
- Recent trend analysis reveals that most of the questions are asked from Industry, Agricultural production, Exim Policy, Money and Banking, Public finance, and reforms. Three-to-four questions are from different programs announced in the previous and the current fiscal year. Some more areas like economic reforms(government initiative in ease of doing business) infrastructure and reform policies (e.g., RERA) are to be taken care of.
- In money and banking, one has to keep an eye on financial and banking reforms( e.g., Merger of banks, Insolvency, and Bankruptcy law, twin balance deficit problem, NPA, etc.)
- In the last few years, there has been a significant shift in this section. Most of the questions are contemporary in nature but require a proper understanding of static areas of the Indian Economy.
- One must carefully follow the economic survey and budget. A basic understanding of the subject can be achieved by reading the Class XI NCERT book on Indian Economy.
Check out the micro-topics and preparation strategy for the Economy.
#4 How to prepare Geography and Environment for UPSC
- This is one of the most vital sections in the Preliminary examination, which covers a good amount of questions.
- In Indian Geography, a thorough understanding of physical aspects of India, with proper clarity on locations is the essential minimum requirement. It also helps in economic, as well as the human, aspects of Indian Geography.
- In General Geography, the emphasis is on conceptual aspects. A careful study of ‘A Certificate Course in Physical and Human Geography’ by Goh Cheng Leong would be helpful.
- In World Geography, the relevance is more with contemporary developments. It is better to locate places on your Atlas while reading the newspaper every day.
- A new dimension to the Preliminary examination is a set of questions related to the Environment. One should be aware of the developments associated with Ecology and Environment-related issues; and also the various initiatives and conferences which have been held, especially those for preserving the biodiversity and ecosystem of the country and the world.
- For Geography, a proper reading of NCERT textbooks on Geography (from VI to XII) along with Goh Cheng Leong and a regular study of the Atlas is more than sufficient.
Check out the micro topics for Geography and Environment on the links.
#5 How to prepare History and Culture for UPSC
- Analyzing the pattern of previous years’ questions reveals that while the number of questions has been declining, the level of difficulty is increasing. The questions in recent years have been asked from previously untouched areas.
- In Modern History, most of the questions are being asked from the period between 1857 and 1947, which includes the uprising of 1857, social reform movements, Governor Generals, and national movements.
- In Ancient India, questions on the Vedic Age, the Mauryan Period, and the Gupta Period are dominating. Sultanate and Mughal periods are most important in Medieval History.
- Marathas, Vijaynagar, Bahmani kingdom, and South dynasties are getting more importance in recent years.
- The importance of Indian culture has increased significantly. Thorough knowledge of the development of Indian culture, right from the ancient times, is vital to score good marks in the Preliminary Exam.
Check out the micro topics for History & Culture on the mentioned links.
#6 How to prepare Current Affairs for UPSC
- Current Affairs has gained maximum significance in Civil Services preparation. Its weightage has been increasing with every passing year.
- Current Affairs is a vast area comprising events of national and international importance, multilateral developments, sports, and personalities in various fields, along with prizes, awards, and honors.
- A part of the Current Affairs questions can be termed as General Knowledge questions.
- So, it will be incorrect to assume that reading newspapers and current affairs magazines will be sufficient to solve such questions.
- In the final analysis, we can conveniently conclude that GS can be handled with ease, provided it is approached with proper planning and time management.
Check out the importance of current affairs and the preparation strategy.
#7 How to prepare for UPSC CSAT Paper
- After the change in syllabus and introduction of CSAT, the second paper comprises General Mental Ability and Reasoning.
- In General Mental Ability, the total number of questions has shown a fluctuating trend with an increase in the level of toughness. Moreover, the questions are being asked from hitherto less-expected areas, which have made the preparation more difficult.
- The most important fact to remember is that this paper is of qualifying nature, and candidates are expected to secure a minimum of 33% marks. In other words, if a candidate fails to score 33%, then he/she will not be considered for selection at all.
- Questions on Comprehension and Reasoning are also included in the paper. Proper practice of previous years’ question papers and model questions are sufficient to ensure a good score.
So, this is a brief overview of how to prepare for UPSC! Check out the CSAT preparation strategy. In addition to that, you can also check out the weight-age of each of the subjects in this article.