Being a civil servant is one of the noblest jobs in India and the UPSC exams are the only way to get into the civil services. Besides being one of the most popular and prestigious exams in India, the UPSC exam is also the hardest.
Every year, lakhs of students apply for the UPSC exam but only a few hundred get qualified to start training for the civil services. Among all the civil services, some of the most prestigious and popular are the IAS or Indian Administrative Services, the IPS or Indian Police Services, the IFS or Indian Foreign Services, and more.
The IAS exam is challenging not only because the syllabus is vast but because it is so unpredictable. Moreover, the competition is immense. As you would know, preparation is the most important thing for you to ace the UPSC exam no matter which civil services you are aiming for. To be able to give your best, you could follow the preparation tips listed above.
17 Preparation Tips for UPSC exam
You must note that only being a bookworm won’t help you qualify for UPSC. That is because even if you qualify for the main exam with your knowledge, you will still have the interview round to ace. In the interview round, your personality will be assessed to see if you are suitable to be in the civil services. Thus, apart from academic knowledge (which is extremely important, of course), you must have developed in all spheres. You will be interviewed about your thirst to constantly acquire knowledge and your insights on current affairs, not only within the country but internationally as well. Thus, here are 17 tips that would help you prepare thoroughly for UPSC.
- Be mentally prepared: As mentioned before, the UPSC exam is one of the toughest exams taken by students all across India. This, of course, means that if anyone aspires to be selected for this exam, they would have to prepare a lot. However, what is also important is preparing yourself physically and mentally before you start your actual preparation. A sound mind and body would help you put your best foot forward toward your UPSC journey. Preparing yourself also includes setting goals and following through with them. It is important to study and prepare at your own pace so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
- Make a proper schedule: When you are aspiring to be a civil services officer, you must have a well-balanced routine as an IAS or IPS Officer would have. You must note that motivation runs out but consistency is the key. Only if you study and work towards your goals daily, would you be able to fulfill them. Hence, you must make a proper timetable that suits your needs and stick to it. A timetable is always going to help you study properly than going about it haphazardly. Plus, with a timetable, you would be able to set deadlines for yourself. That would consequently help you to perform better.
- You must go through all of the UPSC syllabi for your preliminary and main exams and analyze your strong and weak points. Doing so would help you understand what subjects you need to work on more and that way you can build a well-balanced routine. Know the syllabus thoroughly: Following up on the previous point, the syllabus is the most important part of any exam. Even before you buy any books for the UPSC exam, you must know the syllabus completely. The syllabus for both the preliminary exams and main exams of UPSC is easily available and you can easily access whatever you need to know. It is necessary for you to not only know your syllabus beforehand but also to understand what you need. That would ultimately help you in choosing the best study materials, prioritize the subjects according to your strengths and weaknesses, create a routine accordingly, etc.
- Make newspaper reading a habit: Remember how we used to be told to read newspapers every day when we were young? There is a major significance of that advice. If you are an aspirant for civil services, you must always keep yourself updated on the latest news and current affairs of the country and the world. Studying your textbooks thoroughly would help you pass the prelims and main exams, but you will need to make a newspaper reading a habit if you want to fully qualify for your UPSC. The last round of the UPSC is the interview round where you will be tested on how much insights and knowledge of the outside you have.
- Choice of Optional Subjects: There are 500 marks allotted for the optional subjects that you choose in the UPSC. In the final tally, these 500 marks will play a major role in your qualification as you can very well understand. You must give quite a lot of thought to the optional subject that you choose for yourself. If you have multiple subjects in mind, ensure that you thoroughly weigh the pros and cons of each subject before you choose one. Here are some of the factors to take into account while choosing an optional subject for the UPSC. If you have prior knowledge about the subject you want to choose How much interest do you have in the subject? If you could get coaching for the subject that you want to choose If you will have enough study material for the chosen subject
- Go through NCERT textbooks: If you have had the dream to be an IAS aspirant or to be in the civil services, in general, since a young age, you must have heard about the NCERT books for UPSC. If you are preparing for the civil services exams, the NCERT books of classes six to twelve would help you immensely. If you have trouble understanding the basic theories or concepts, you can always opt for NCERT books to understand those before you buy any other study material. People prefer the NCERT books for UPSC so much because they not only are written in very simple language but also provide relevant and reliable information. That is because the source of the information in NCERT books is the government itself. If you are unsure about how to start your UPSC preparation, NCERT books would be the best way forward.
- Make notes: This goes without saying that notes are the best way to prepare for any exam, especially the UPSC. Firstly, because the syllabus for UPSC is huge so you have notes handy, you would not only be able to record all the portions that you have studied but also be able to remember better what you have studied. It is an excellent practice to make notes when you are preparing for UPSC. You should keep separate files for the notes on different subjects. Many people generally opt for keeping their notes in files because then they are more accessible and also easier to add more notes. When you are making notes on current affairs, you will need to keep adding more notes as you come across more news. In this case, files are life-savers.
- Practice writing answers: In the main exams of UPSC, you will be required to write descriptive answers to several questions. Thus, you need to practice writing answers. This would help you gain clarity on the concepts that you have studied. Moreover, you will be able to organize your perceptions and views properly and pen them down as you practice writing more and more answers. You would also start honing the necessary critical, analytical, and communicative abilities. Since you will have a time and word limit when you are sitting for your main exam, you must practice writing answers within a stipulated time.
- Solve previous years’ question papers of UPSC: Besides your books or other study material, the most reliable sources for understanding the pattern for UPSC questions are previous years’ question papers. When you start solving previous years’ question papers for UPSC, you will be able to gauge the difficulty level of the exam, the pattern of the exam, etc. You will also be able to spot the most asked questions and such trends. Solving these question papers will help you gain confidence in your studying and preparation strategies. Moreover, you would also be able to spot where you are doing good and where you may be falling short
- Take mock tests: One of the most important things to do when you are preparing for UPSC is to assess yourself. As mentioned in the point before, you must understand your strengths and weaknesses. Unless you know where you are falling short with your preparation, you would not be able to improve. Mock tests are the best ways for you to assess yourself- weaknesses and strengths both. If you are preparing for UPSC at home, you must join the mock test series. When you are preparing for UPSC from the zero level, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Hence, the mock test series can help you gain confidence in yourself.
- Utilize Government resources (websites): Joining the civil services ultimately means that you aim to work in the government. Thus, you must opt for researching government sources- articles and websites. Updating yourself with all of this information would help you in your final preparation for the UPSC- main exams and interview round both. You should keep researching government websites such as PRS, PIB, etc., and also watch the national TV programs which get featured on Rajya Sabha TV. Following these would help you immensely in your preparation.
- Revision is essential: Another point that goes without saying is revision. Just like you revised whatever you studied the day before your examinations in school or college, you must do it as part of your UPSC preparation as well. Firstly, since the syllabus of the UPSC is huge, it is easy to get confused on certain topics. The revision would help you gain focus and remember all of the topics that you have studied. You must ensure that you are keeping enough time aside for revising the topics you have studied as you would have a lot of topics to cover.
- Prepare for the interview: You would probably already know by now that there are three stages of the UPSC exam, namely, the preliminary exam, the main exam, and the interview round. In the interview round, your personality will be assessed. This is the last screening round to see if you are fit to qualify for the UPSC. Not only is the interview stage very important but it is that stage in which you will be tested beyond your academic knowledge. You will be assessed to see if you have the necessary communication skills, diplomatic skills, presence of mind, etc. Besides that, other questions that you would be asked are your hobbies, interests, educational background, and work experience, if applicable. You must ensure that you can speak properly and confidently and have the necessary skills for you to qualify for this round. Preparing for the interview round is quite crucial.
- Read relevant magazines: As has been stressed before, besides academic knowledge, your outside knowledge matters a lot in the UPSC exam. The UPSC exam is quite unpredictable and they may give you many types of questions regarding the subjects that you have chosen. To prepare yourself best for UPSC, you should follow and read important and relevant magazines like Economic & Political Weekly, Yojana, and Kurukshetra which contain important information on such topics as agriculture, polity, government, economy, and more. You could subscribe to these magazines to keep yourself updated every day.
- Download apps that would help: The EdTech industry has grown and flourished over the past decade. Nowadays, more and more people are opting to prepare for important exams at home with help from video lectures and learning apps. In most of these apps, you will find qualified mentors who teach specific subjects and you can also avail doubt-clearing sessions. Moreover, you can also solve question papers and take mock tests in these apps for any exam that you may be studying for; which in your case would be UPSC.
- Hone your communication skills: It has been mentioned multiple times that besides your prelims and main exams, you must also prepare well for the interview round. In your interview round, you will not only be tested on your outside knowledge but you will also be assessed on your communication skills. When you are preparing for UPSC at the zero level, ensure that you have enough time to work on your skills for the interview round. Also, communication skills are an important part of the job description. Thus, you must include communication practice in your UPSC preparation
- Stay calm and positive: Last but not the least, it is very important for you to keep a positive mindset throughout the preparation time. Of course, you might feel down sometimes or you may feel overwhelmed, but you need to keep reminding yourself that you are on the right track. Unless you believe you can achieve your goals, no amount of preparation would get you through. To help you stay calm and positive, you could also start exercising and/or meditating daily so that you can remain active and happy and always ready to give your best.
Preparation for UPSC at home- The Right Time and Strategy
Since UPSC is such a tough examination, you might feel like you would not be able to study the syllabus at home. But many students do not take coaching for UPSC. What matters is not how many tuitions you take for each subject but how much time you invest in each subject. That also includes how well you know the syllabus and how well you are studying your study material. Starting your preparation at the right time and going through with it with the right strategies would help you ace your exam and qualify for UPSC.
Starting at the right time of course means starting to prepare as early as you can. You must always start your preparation early for exams like these so that you get more time to understand all the concepts, revise them, practice and answer question papers, and hone the necessary skills for the interview round. The list given above would help you when you have started preparing but you must be wondering how can you start preparing UPSC at the zero level. Keep reading further to find out how to start preparing for UPSC right at home.
The basic tips or strategies that you would need to follow for preparing for UPSC have been given above. Now what you need to know are the details of the UPSC syllabus and also the books or relevant study material that you would need to ace your exam.
UPSC Preparation strategy
There are three stages in which you would need to prepare for your UPSC.
First comes General Studies. This is the hardest part of the preparation as the syllabus is huge. That is because General Studies include almost every concept you can think of. To ace this part of the exam, you will need to have an excellent understanding of the concepts and topics in the syllabus. You must not think of General Studies as GK and you must note that you cannot prepare only by reading a variety of general knowledge books. To prepare for the General Studies part of the syllabus, you must invest the maximum time and effort so that you can achieve good results. You must practice writing descriptive answers for your UPSC. The syllabus has been listed in gist later.
Secondly, you have Current Affairs. Generally, you will find questions about the news and events that have taken place one year before the commencement of the exam. Hence, when you start preparing for UPSC, you must sit every day every newspaper, the Hindu preferably, and note down the important news and events of each day on topics like Indian Economy, Polity, Environmental News, Judicial News, National, and State news, Sports news, etc.
Next comes the Optional Subject and as mentioned before, you must choose this subject based on what you are interested in. You can choose your optional subjects like History, Geography, Economy, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, and Public Administration. Besides these, you can choose from more optional subjects like Political Science, Commerce, Law, etc.
Syllabus for First Prelims Paper
In your first prelims paper pass, you will be required to study several topics. These include History of India, Indian Geography, News of National and International Importance, Government and Indian Polity, General Science, Social and Economic Development, Climate Change, Environment, and Ecology.
Syllabus for Second Prelims Paper
For your second prelims paper, you will be asked questions based on comprehension, logical and analytical skills, mental ability, problem-solving and decision-making, and numerical and data interpretation of Class X standards.
Syllabus for Main Exam
The main paper of UPSC will test you on subjects like Indian culture and heritage, Indian polity, governance, Indian history and geography, Technology, Social Justice, the Constitution of India, the Environment, Aptitude, Integrity, and Ethics, Disaster Management, Security, etc.
In this article, you would have found all you needed to know about UPSC and how you can start your UPSC preparation from zero level. With the right preparation strategies and investment of ample time for your preparation, you can ace your exam and qualify for y UPSC. You must believe in yourself and keep working hard towards your goals every day. Ensure that you are consistent and are investing an ample amount of time for the preparation every day.