Tips to prepare for UPSC Civil Services: A Beginner’s Guide
The Civil Services exam is the doorway to exciting careers in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and more.Only a few hundred seats are available, the competition is extremely high. To beat the competition, it’s important to prepare thoroughly and give yourself the maximum chance of success.
The Civil Services exam takes place in 3 stages; Preliminary exam (Prelims) consisting of objective-type multiple choice questions, the Mains exams which is an essay-type written exam, and a Personal Interview. The 3 stages are separated by a gap of 1-2 months.
Right Time To Start Preparing For Civil Services
Some aspirants begin preparing for the Civil Services directly from high school and others start studying only 7 months before the exams. The ideal time for beginning the preparation is in the last few years of your graduation degree as you can attempt the exam only once after you graduate.
How To Begin Your UPSC Preparation
You have the conviction, you have the passion and a career in Civil Service is your goal. Now, comes the path to your goal.
To begin your preparation for the Civil Services Exam, start reading NCERT books for Political Science, History, Economics and Geography from Class 6-10 levels, based on the Civil Services official syllabus. Additionally, you may utilise reference books. A few good ones for Prelims are:
India’s Ancient Past by R. S. Sharma
History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra
History of Modern India by Bipan Chandra
India’s Struggle For Independence by Bipan Chandra
Geography of India by Majid Husain
Oxford School Atlas
Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
Indian Polity by M. Lakshmikanth
Make the habit of reading newspapers on a daily basis, for at least 2-3 hours, and compare the current events with theoretical knowledge studied in Political Science, History, Geography and Economics. Make your own notes that focus on your weak points. Take help of all the resources in your power, whether it’s aid from former teachers, online videos, guidebooks, and coaching centres. Be sure to use your time wisely, study with full concentration and test yourself at each step of the way.
When Should You Start UPSC Coaching?
Coaching centres mushrooming across the nation and even online, amid this you have to take the right decision.
First, begin your preparations on your own, this will test out your own drive and capability for pursuing studies for Civil Services. Prepare your own notes and make the habit of reading newspapers on a daily basis before joining the coaching classes. Attempt a few mock papers in advance to get an overall idea of the actual exam. Use a coaching centre to supplement your efforts and thoroughly research to find the best coaching centre to match your study style
How To Prepare For UPSC Prelims
The Preliminary exam for the UPSC Civil Services consists of two papers; Paper I is General Studies worth 200 marks with 100 multiple choice questions and Paper II is an Aptitude test worth 200 marks with 80 multiple choice questions.
Paper I of UPSC Civil Service exam consists of current affairs, history of India, Indian polity, Indian and world geography, Indian governance, economic and social development, general science and general issues on environmental ecology, biodiversity and climate change. The syllabus for Paper II includes comprehension, logical reasoning, basic numeracy, and decision making & problem-solving.
The Prelims act as a qualifying examination to reach the Mains, and so scoring good marks is important. There are 100 questions to be answered in 120 minutes, on an average 40 seconds needs to be spent per question.
How To Prepare For UPSC Mains
There are a total of 9 papers in the Mains examination consisting of total 9 papers, includes: 4 General Studies Papers, 1 Essay Paper, 2 Language Papers and 2 Optional Subject Papers. All 9 Papers are subjective-type and take place over a duration of 5 days.
To prepare for the Mains exam, study from NCERT school books, and online resources such as National Institute of Open Schooling study material and IGNOU study material.
How To Prepare For UPSC Personal Interview
The Personal Interview or personality test is worth 275 marks of the total 2025 marks considered for awarding ranks. Past trends have shown that candidates scoring higher marks in the personal interview get better rankings overall in the Civil Services exam.
Even after clearing the Mains examination, continue to be updated on current affairs, contemporary socio-political events and general knowledge as such topics are discussed in the Personal Interview. Overall, the interview examines the personality of candidates in terms of mental alertness, analytical ability, approaches to critical problems, integrity, and leadership qualities.
To prepare for the personal interview, practice public speaking and your conversational skills. Talk in front of a mirror to study your body language and confidence. Join interview practice classes to get comfortable with talking in interviews and to get feedback on how to improve. On the day of the interview, be confident, dress neatly and stay calm in conversation.
Should You Focus More On UPSC Prelims Or Mains?
Depending on the time in your hands and the number of attempts available, you can decide whether to study for the prelims first and mains later or both together.
If it is your first attempt, focus on the Prelims so that you can clear the qualifying exam to reach the Mains. If you have more than 1 year before the Civil Services exam, prepare for both the Prelims and Mains together.
While both the papers cover similar subjects of general knowledge, awareness, and basic concepts, the preparation and writing style is completely different. The prelims are in the form of multiple choice questions, testing your speed and knowledge while the Mains exam consists of essay type questions, which test your writing skills and analytical skills in addition to knowledge.
Know your weaknesses and conquer them first, if you feel answering multiple questions in a limited time frame is difficult, focus on that.
Securing a job in the Civil Services is not easy, especially when there are lakhs of people vying for the same position. Civil Services personnel are essential for the nation, and only a few get selected. SO practice as much as you can. To be one of the selected, it’s important to work hard and study smart.