21 Crucial Tips to Prepare for Civil Services Examination

Civil service examination is considered to be the toughest exams in India but it is also considered as one of the most prestigious jobs.

Every year there are five lakh students appear for this examination, out of which only a few 1000 get selected in the final list and only a few 100 get selected for the prestigious post of IAS.

This data clearly shows that if you want to become an IAS officer you need to study very hard to get through this toughest exam. At the same time, you also need the right guidance and approach.

21 Crucial Tips to Prepare for Civil Services Examination

Being an UPSC aspirant I can surely tell you the crucial points which you must consider if you want to start your preparation or even if you are preparing for this exam you must keep these points in your mind.

Civil Services Examination

1. Study your syllabus

Before starting your preparation candidates must know what all subjects you are going to study. Knowing the syllabus does not mean knowing the subjects listed in the syllabus.

For this exam, it is always recommended to study the syllabus not just knowing the syllabus.

People say everything under the sun is the syllabus of UPSC. This is not true. UPSC has its own syllabus.

Knowing the detailed syllabus becomes very important because it will give you idea about the things you should read and things you should not, because studying everything is not possible for a human being so it is always better to follow its syllabus and limit your preparation. Without following syllabus candidates may get directionless.

2. Make your time table

UPSC preparation is a long journey. For one attempt it takes one and a half years of preparation with lots of hard work and patience with full dedication.

So randomly starting the preparation and randomly picking up the subjects may confuse you. So after knowing your syllabus and knowing all the subject’s details prepare a time table to complete them one by one.

Here are some tricks to make a time table, which can help you in completing your syllabus on time.

  1. Divide a full year in months and do monthly planning for every subject.
  2. Divide the month into weeks and do weekly planning for the topics of particular subject.
  3. Divide week into days and break up the topics into chapters and include every chapters into daily plan.

You can also prepare time table according to books and divide it among two kinds of books, basic books and reference books. All these method will definitely lessen your burden and ease your preparation.

3. Start your preparation with basic books

In UPSC preparation basic school books from class 6-12 becomes very important. Especially the NCERT books. NCERT Books contain lots of information and give you detail idea about every part of syllabus.

In the beginning of the preparation don’t jump directly to the reference books or any book by famous authors, because from reference books you may not understand all the things completely and might lose interest in starting phase of preparation.

For this exam it is very important that you are clear with your basics. NCERT books are most recommended books by the toppers because it makes things easier to understand by any student.

4. Make Notes

Don’t forget that this examination has many subjects and has many subtopics under those subjects. If you have completed a subject or a topic or a subtopic, before moving to another one prepare a brief note of everything you have read.

Not preparing notes has many disadvantages like you may forget the previous chapters while you are preparing for another one, it will make your revision tough, you might have to re read the book again etc.

Making notes for every topic/chapter will carry your interest into another chapter, also you can revise the previous one while reading another and can re revise in short span of time.

5. Solve previous year question papers

Before moving to the reference books first thing you must do is solving previous year question papers.

Earlier you may find it difficult to solve but this will give you an idea about the type of questions being asked in UPSC examination and you can also analyze that whether you are able to understand the subjects or not.

Don’t solve mock papers in early phase of preparation but do solve previous year’s question papers.

6. Start reading selected or famous author’s reference books.

After completing you basics and previous year question papers, you can move to the famous reference books.

Now you will be able to understand every part of reference books and also you will be able to relate with the questions that have asked in the examination.

Do remember that read only those reference books which are written by famous author.

For example:      India polity by M. Laxmikant, Modern Indian History by Spectrum or Bipin Chandra, Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh

Do make notes of the reference books wherever it is needed. Don’t read each and every reference book available in the market in the name of UPSC.

To know about the most recommended books for each and every subject you can follow some toppers videos available on youtube.

7. Read one book ten times not ten books single time

Pilling up of books and reading them thoroughly and even completing them totally single time will not help you in your preparation. You may get more knowledge about a subject but this will not help you to get through this examination.

The only MANTRA is read only the basic books and one reference book for any subject/topic. Read single book multiple times or revise its notes multiple times.

8. Read Newspaper everyday

In the preparation of UPSC exam, newspaper plays a very important role. It is highly recommended by UPSC toppers that one thing you should never miss in the preparation is reading a newspaper everyday.

In this exam current affairs have got equal weightage as the general studies papers have got. So one cannot neglect the importance of reading newspaper.

In early few months of preparation reading newspaper becomes difficult because we don’t understand few terms and few topics from it but after few months you will be able to understand it after completing your basic books.

While reading newspaper few things you need to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t read each and every page or article of the newspaper. Read only those articles which are important and required as per the syllabus.
  2. Take few lines notes from each important articles
  3. Pay more attention to the editorial section of newspaper
  4. Don’t waste time in reading articles which are not required like sports news, entertainment etc.

9. Read Current affair magazines

To supplement your newspaper reading you can also prefer some reputed and well known current affairs magazines.

Do not try to read every magazine available in front of you or on the internet. Prefer only one just to supplement your newspaper knowledge and revise it multiple times.

10. Choosing an optional subject is a difficult task

In UPSC main examination there are nine papers: four of which are general studies papers, one is essay paper, two language papers and 2 optional papers. You have to choose one optional subjects out from the long subject’s list.

Choosing right optional can be a very tricky thing for candidates because this one subject can make a big impact on your rank in top list.

So for optional choose a subject which brings interest in your mind. The subject with which you are comfortable reading for long hours. Don’t choose any random subject.

Have a look at the syllabus of all optional subjects and analyze which subject attracts your mind or seems easy to you.

11. Devote three to four months for optional preparation

Optional contain vast syllabus, which requires separate preparation. In your yearly plan, devote three to four months for optional subject preparation.

Complete your optional syllabus in this planned time frame and try to solve previous year papers or mock tests for the same.

In optional subject list, you may come across many subjects which are mostly from Humanity steam, so many candidates from technical background find difficulty in choosing or understanding the subject.

In that case you should take help from any coaching institute, because optional subject demand your expertise in that particular subject.

12. Answer writing practice

For the preparation of second stage of UPSC exam that is main exam you need to prepare yourself beforehand for the answer writing.

Writing a good answer with good hand writing and completing 20 questions in matter of three hours with 200 words for each answer is a big deal.

Writing neat answers is not possible then and there so answer writing practice while preparing becomes very important at this point.

Practice writing answer from previous year question papers and try to solve as many mocks as possible.

There are many online platforms which also provide free answer writing practice. You can find model answers in their websites for self evaluation.

13. Neat handwriting, nice presentation and structure of the answer plays an important role

While practicing answer writing always remember that someone is going to read your answers and if they will find it easier to read they may allot you some extra marks.

You answer must be neatly written and well presented. Try to structure all your answers in one format (if possible). For example introduction, main body and conclusion format.

This will not happen in one day so while practicing answer writing try to implement it in your answers as soon as possible.

14. Essay Paper need separate preparation

Out of total nine papers, the essay paper, is equally important as the general studies papers.

Candidates should not take this subject lightly as essay writing in main exam of UPSC is not like the essays we used to write in the exams of school and college and also it contains 250 marks separately.

You need to prepare separately for an essay paper. Here are the few tips which you can start with.

  1. Have a look at previous year question papers
  2. List out the sections from where essays are being asked for example: topics related to science and technology, philosophy, economy etc.
  3. Prepare every section separately and uniquely.
  4. Prepare some famous quotes and sayings according to the topics/ sections which you can use instantly while writing an essay.

15.  Interview preparation

Interview preparation is the very crucial part. Many candidates clear main exam but fail in interview. An interviewer will not check your subject knowledge because this is already done in the prelims and main exam.

An interviewer will check your knowledge in various grounds, they will also check your personality and your awareness in the society. They will judge you on your stand and your point of view for a particular situation.

Personality is something which cannot be built in one day, so start developing your overall personality in various aspects as early as possible.

16. Engage in group discussions

Best way for interview preparation is take part in group discussions. Keep your point of view on any topic in front of people, let them know what you think about any situation and listen to them also.

Learn from these discussions because these discussions will give you many ideas on which you can talk about, it will increase your knowledge and it will also boost your confidence.

You can also discuss the current affairs topic in you peer group on daily basis.

17. Right guidance and motivation

As you all know that UPSC preparation is not an overnight thing. It takes year after year to clear all three levels of this exam and get into the top list.

All these years need patience, consistency and hard work. Being patient with such huge syllabus, being consistent and working hard everyday and every hour is not everyone’s cup of tea. Many people fail at this point.

So all you need is right guidance and motivation throughout the preparation journey, to hit the bulls eye in one go.

Surround yourself with positive people and don’t pay attention to things which demotivate you. With right guidance and right approach one can easily clear this exam in their very first attempt.

18. Do not abandon another career opportunities

You need to stay positive during your preparation, but at the same time you should not forget the statistics of the examination. Every year 5 lakh students appear in the examination and only 1000 get selected.

So without losing hopes and confidence in your hard work, you should also focus on another exams which have more or less same syllabus like UPSC.

Such exams are state Public service commission examinations, conducted by various states time to time every year.

19. If Failed in CS exam, learn from mistakes and move forward

Life is not about winning all the time and UPSC is not life. So what if you failed in this examination even after a lot of hard work you put in.

So even if you fail at any level of this examination, don’t be sad and don’t lose hope. If you want to start the preparation again, start with full dedication else you can find another opportunities to work on and which interests you.

Analyze your mistakes when you fail, learn from it and start afresh.

20. Revision

Last but not the least revision. Revision is the king of the preparation. No matter how much you have studied, how much hard work you have put in, it will all be waste unless you revise what you have studied.

So it is always recommended by toppers to revise your notes multiple times. Do it religiously and it will help you in sailing this long journey.

21. Watch toppers videos on YouTube

This point becomes important when we need right guidance. A teacher can guide you for few days but not throughout the whole journey.

So to get motivated and to keep your track right candidates should watch previous years toppers videos. You can get some motivation from their story and can also learn from their mistakes.

To conclude I would say always remember implementing knowledge is more important than gaining knowledge. This exam is all about implementing knowledge.

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