How to plan & prepare for UPSC Civil Services Prelims examination

How to plan & prepare for UPSC Civil Services Prelims examination

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How to plan & prepare for UPSC Civil Services Prelims examination
Rojina Raut

Welcome to the ultimate guide on planning and preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination. This examination is the first step towards becoming a civil servant in India and serves as a gateway to numerous prestigious administrative positions. 

Aspirants from all corners of the country dream of cracking this tough nut, but the journey requires diligent planning, focused preparation, and unwavering dedication.

This article will delve deep into the intricacies of preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination. We will cover essential topics, tips, and strategies to help you confidently ace the exam. So, let's get started!

How to Plan & Prepare for UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination

Understanding the UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination

Before diving into the preparation, it's crucial to understand the format and structure of the UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination. This will give you a clear picture of what to expect and how to proceed.

The examination consists of two papers: General Studies Paper-I (GS Paper-I) and General Studies Paper-II (GS Paper-II) – also known as the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). GS Paper-I focuses on general knowledge, current affairs, history, geography, economics, and other subjects, while GS Paper-II assesses your aptitude and problem-solving skills.

Name of the Paper

No of Questions

Marks Allotted

Time Allotted

Nature of Exam

Paper I: General Studies (Objective-type)



2 hours

The score will be considered for Cut-off

Paper-II: General Studies-II (CSAT) (Objective-Type)



2 hours

Qualifying Nature- Candidates will have to score 33% to qualify CSAT.

Building a Solid Study Plan

Creating a well-structured study plan is the foundation of your preparation. Divide your time wisely between GS Paper-I and GS Paper-II, considering your strengths and weaknesses. Allocate sufficient time for each subject, and keep a buffer for revision and practice tests.

Familiarising with the UPSC Civil Services Prelims Exam Syllabus

To excel in the examination, you must thoroughly grasp the syllabus for both papers. Refer to the official UPSC website for the latest and detailed syllabus, and ensure you cover each topic comprehensively.

Choosing the Right Study Materials

Selecting suitable study materials is vital for adequate preparation. Invest in high-quality, authoritative books and study materials recommended by toppers and experts. Focus on understanding concepts rather than memorisation.

See How to score good marks in exams?

The Art of Time Management

Time management is crucial, considering the vast syllabus. Create a study schedule that includes daily, weekly, and monthly targets. Dedicate ample time to each subject, with regular breaks to avoid burnout.

Notes Making and Revision Strategy

Taking concise and comprehensive notes is essential to retain information. Develop a systematic note-making strategy that helps you review and revise the material efficiently.

Practising with Mock Tests

Mock tests are invaluable for assessing your preparation level and identifying weak areas. Take regular mock tests to simulate the exam environment and analyse your performance.

Answer Writing Practice

Effective answer writing is critical for scoring well. Practice writing concise and coherent answers, focusing on clarity, structure, and relevant content.

Stay Updated with Current Affairs

Current affairs play a significant role in GS Paper-I. Stay updated with the latest national and international news through newspapers, magazines, and reliable online sources.

Effective Revision Techniques

Regular revision is the key to retaining information. Utilise effective revision techniques such as flashcards, mind maps, and group discussions.

Seeking Guidance and Mentorship

Mentorship from experienced candidates or qualified professionals can provide valuable insights and motivation throughout your preparation journey.

Need more guidance regarding your higher education?? Click Here!!!

Managing Stress and Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

The preparation phase can be stressful; hence, adopting healthy habits, exercising regularly, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle is essential.

UPSC GS Paper I Subject-wise Breakdown:

Policy: Policy questions are straightforward and require careful study. Focus on Constitutional developments, FRs, FDs, DPSP, Union Government, Judiciary, Amendments, Local Governments, Federalism, and Election process. Stay updated with current constitutional developments through newspapers and magazines.

General Science: Understand Science and Technology, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. NCERT textbooks are helpful. Pay attention to India-centric Science and Technology developments.

Life Science: Emphasize Zoology with questions on Botany, particularly agriculture, biological diversity, and plant systems.

Economic and Social Development: Cover Sustainable Development, Poverty, Socio-economic Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives. Know Indian and International Economics, financial and banking reforms.

Geography and Environment: Thoroughly understand Indian Geography, focusing on physical aspects and locations. Study General Geography conceptually and keep track of World Geography developments. Be aware of environment-related issues and biodiversity preservation efforts.

History and Culture: Modern History - 1857 to 1947, social reform movements, Governor-General, and National Movements. Ancient India - Vedic age, Mauryan and Gupta periods. Medieval History - Sultanate, Mughal, Marathas, Vijaynagar, Bahamani kingdom, and South dynasties. Indian Culture - understand its development from ancient times.

Current Affairs: Crucial area with increasing weightage. Cover national and international events, sports, personalities, awards, and honours. Half of the questions are General Knowledge, so deeper understanding is needed. Plan and strategies for success.

Tips for CSAT Preparation:

English and Decision-Making:

  • Review grammar concepts using books like Wren n Martin or Objective General English by SP Bakshi.
  • Enhance reading and comprehension skills by regularly reading Hindu Editorials for RC passages.
  • Improve vocabulary through extensive reading or the use of flashcards/vocabulary modules.
  • Consider reading simple English novels to boost reading, comprehension, and vocabulary skills.

Maths and Logical Reasoning:

  • Analyse previous year's papers to understand the topics' depth and coverage.
  • Develop a basic understanding of each topic and consider enrolling in a CSAT course for additional support.
  • Consistent practice is essential to retain concepts and improve problem-solving skills.

Take CSAT Seriously:

  • Allocate sufficient time for CSAT preparation alongside General Studies Paper-I.
  • Dedicate a specific day each week, preferably Sunday, for CSAT preparation and mock tests.
  • Aim to score at least 120+ in all mock tests to secure a place on the merit list.

Assess Your Level:

  • Solve previous year's papers to identify strengths and weaknesses.
  • Scores above 100 require minimal preparation, while scores below 100 indicate areas that need immediate attention.

Buy a Comprehensive CSAT Manual:

  • Consider using the CSAT Manual by Tata McGraw Hill for comprehensive topic coverage and efficient revision.

Solve CSAT Mock Tests:

  • Regardless of your level, solving CSAT mock tests is essential for efficient revision and practice.
  • Focus on enhancing speed and accuracy to excel in the CSAT exam.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How many UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination attempts are allowed?

A: General category candidates can attempt the exam six times, OBC candidates get nine attempts, and SC/ST candidates have no restrictions.

Q: Is coaching necessary for UPSC Civil Services Prelims Preparation?

A: While coaching is not mandatory, it can provide valuable guidance and save time for aspirants.

Q: Are there any age limits for appearing in the UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination?

A: Yes, the candidate should be between 21 and 32 years for the General category, with age relaxations for reserved categories.

Q: What is the negative marking scheme in the Prelims Examination?

A: For every incorrect answer, one-third of the marks allotted to that question will be deducted.

Q: Can I choose the language of the question paper in the UPSC Prelims?

A: Yes, candidates can opt for either English or Hindi as the medium of the question paper.

Q: Can candidates with a technical background skip GS Paper-II (CSAT)?

A: No, GS Paper-II is mandatory for all candidates.

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