UPSC Preparation Strategy - Complete Guide

Jul 19, 2021
6 min read
UPSC Preparation Strategy - Complete Guide

The UPSC Civil Services Exam, commonly known as the IAS examination is the most awaited and coveted examination of our Nation and has a higher significance compared to other National examinations inside our country. In this exam around a million candidates pursue their dream of becoming civil servants. UPSC Civil Services Examination has a brief history longing from the British Era, where a typical aspirant usually takes around two years of preparation for a single attempt. The value proposition and power that the recruits have after cracking the Civil Services Examination is unparalleled and holds greater prominence over the other government duties.

What is UPSC?

UPSC is the Union Public Service Commission which conducts the UPSC Civil Services Exam(CSE) to recruit the most coveted officers like IAS, IPS, IFS, and other allied service officers of the country and it takes dedication, persistence, and exhaustive preparation by the aspirant to clear this exam. It is conducted in three phases Preliminary Examination, Mains Examination, and personality test.

UPSC Exam Structure

The UPSC Prelims is an MCQ-based examination with two General Studies papers: Paper-I and Paper-II (CSAT). The Preliminary examination is a screening test and qualifying in nature; however, the scores won't be included in the final merit. Instead, the aspirant who makes it to the Mains Examination has to appear for a written and descriptive examination consisting of nine papers. Students who clear the mains examination then move to the final phase called the Personality Test, where aspirants are interviewed by a panel of experienced members hailing from the various subject matter.

Roadmap to clear UPSC

Aspirants who have set off their preparation for UPSC Civil Services Examination know well that it's going to be a journey with a stretched timeline. With a vast syllabus and conceptual concepts, students have to absorb a lot to succeed. The best roadmap for Civil Services preparation would be to understand the exam and formulate specific strategies that can help students constantly make progress rather than having a stagnant situation in their journey. Students should continuously prepare and assess their performance to overcome their shortcomings and get acquainted with the examination. 

UPSC strategy for Beginners

Competitive exams of this stature require proper guidance and the right direction to find success. Some of the quick tips to get the beginners to start their preparation have been mentioned below:

  • Understanding the Syllabus and Exam Pattern: The best UPSC strategy for Beginners would be to understand the syllabus like a user manual for an electrical device. Aspirants are advised to visit the official site and understand the exam pattern and syllabus. It's essential to know the boundaries within which you have to limit your preparation and understand what the exam demands. Aspirants must realize the fact that they need appropriate knowledge rather than being a subject matter expert. 


UPSC Strategy for Prelims

About UPSC Prelims

UPSC CSE Prelims would be the first hurdle aspirants have to overcome while preparing for this examination. While beginning their preparation, students frequently come up with concerns about What to study for UPSC Prelims and how to prepare for UPSC prelims. This examination is going to first step towards the long and excruciating process that aspirants go through. The UPSC Prelims examination is one of the screening rounds for around 4 hours and consists of Multiple-Choice Questions. Overcoming this hurdle will allow the candidate to appear for the Mains Stag of the civil services exam. The exam consists of two papers, General Studies- I and General Studies-II (CSAT). Each of these papers is 200 marks each while the first paper is for preparing a merit list and the second paper, which is the CSAT exam qualifying in nature.

UPSC Strategy for Mains

About UPSC Mains

UPSC CSE aspirants who clear the Preliminary examination become eligible to sit for UPSC Mains Examination. After years of preparation, students clear the first hurdle; it's a morale boost for them. However, the marks of Prelims don't account during the preparation of the final merit list. Therefore, it is the Mains examination whose performance will be valued while determining your rank.

The UPSC Mains strategy should be rock solid as the exam takes around 10 days of testing student's grit and preparation. Since this is a descriptive examination, UPSC Mains preparation requires a different plan and process altogether to get through.

How to prepare for UPSC Interview

UPSC Interview or the personality test is the last of the rounds that an aspirant must face before making it to the final destination. Out of the 2075 marks, the IAS interview carries a weightage of 275 marks, creating a massive difference while releasing the merit rank list. Therefore, "How to prepare for IAS interview" is one of the most frequently asked questions from the aspirants even before they clear the Preliminary examination.

Students who believe scoring maximum marks in mains examination and becoming complacent about the personality test might be because Mains Examination has a weightage of around 87% of the total marks. But aspirants should be aware of the fact that during the release of the merit list, even a single mark difference can create a huge difference in the rank list.

Those who clear the Mains Examination will receive a Detailed Application Form (DAF) which will basically become the reference point where you will be asked questions. Therefore, it is highly advisable to fill the form with proper intelligence to make things easier for yourself during the interview.


Aspirants who will be making up for the UPSC interview round must have devoted their entire time and dedication to this examination. When your finish line is so close, you don't want to be dragged back; therefore, aspirants should give equal importance to this phase of the IAS exam like they will be giving to Mains and Preliminary stages. As mentioned above, even a single mark can make a massive difference in the final merit rankings. Therefore, students should thoroughly follow the IAS interview tips discussed above. Students can even enrol themselves in mentorship programs to give mock interviews, get UPSC interview tips, and know exactly how to prepare for IAS interviews.


The IAS examination whose dates are closing in and has been scheduled for October 2021. Aspirants should follow their strategy diligently and the importance of deriving a plan has been mentioned in the article above. Since the nature of the exam is highly competitive where every year students face 11 Lakh aspirants giving a fight for 700-800 vacancies. Even though the selection percentage is minuscule the number of applicants filling in annually has always shown a constant figure. These factors only imply that students consider Civil Services as one of their dreams and religiously prepare for the same. Vast and exhausting examination schedules become excruciating when you devote years of studies. If asked to summarise the complete guidelines for UPSC preparation it will trickle down to these points:

  • Understanding the exam pattern and syllabus thoroughly to gauge the required portion of coverage during the examination and avoid wastage of time.
  • Picking up relevant study materials to avoid any confusion. Recommended and most resourceful books should be used.
  • Aspirants should set up small achievable goals and targets to cover the syllabus and keep their preparation dynamic.
  • Regular reading of current affairs and trending topics through some trusted websites and good newspapers.
  • Self-assessment is essential to keep track of preparation, mock tests should be given in regular intervals.
  • There should be enough time for revision to avoid losing out on the learnings done from months and days.

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