UPSC IAS Preparation: How To Prepare For IAS Exam?

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IAS preparation is a beautiful journey of gaining knowledge. As an IAS aspirant, you will learn something new everyday. You become more mature and broad minded day by day. At times, there may come ups and downs during IAS preparation but remember, success is for runners, not for sitters. IAS preparation demands regularity, discipline and consistent effort from you. You have to keep going, study regularly, practice answer writing, read newspaper daily and more importantly take care of your health.

You have always dreamed of becoming an IAS officer, but you do not understand how to start IAS preparation from zero level, then this post will help you a lot. First of all you should understand the pattern of UPSC IAS exam. You should know which are the best books for IAS Preparation? what should be the sources of current affairs? And what should be your approach towards this examination? We will answer every questions like this in this post. We will also help you to understand how to prepare for IAS from begining.

Page Contents

How To Prepare For UPSC IAS Exam?

UPSC IAS preparation is just like climbing everest. Every year around 700-800 people reaches to everest summit. Similarly , in India every year around 700-800 UPSC aspirants successfully clear IAS exam.  The journey of IAS preparation is long and hard working like climbing everest. You cannot climb everest without preparation. Similarly, UPSC IAS exam demands at least one year preparation from you. During civil services exam preparation you have to successfully clear various steps like Prelims, Mains and Interview.

You have to give mock tests and score well in that. So, IAS preparation is the grueling process of one year. It can be daunting task for the new aspirants to decide, how to start UPSC IAS preparation and how to raise first step.

We will Discuss everything in details here. Before moving further, first of all you should ask yourself that why you want to join government job? And Why you want to become civil services officer?


why government job?

Ask yourself these questions. Write down your answer or reasons on a diary. On the day of IAS Interview , you must read these answers. If you want to become an IAS, just to please your parents , to get handsome dowry, to get huge social media following or to get involve in corruption. If The Above reasons are listed anywhere in your diary then sorry to say, you must stop your IAS preparation and you should not waste your life’s one year in UPSC IAS preparation. On the other hand, if your reason is genuine and you want to serve your nation or you want to bring some positive changes by becoming part of bureaucracy. In this condition, you are ready to start your UPSC IAS preparation. Now you are ready to begin the preparation.

UPSC IAS Exam Pattern

  • Preliminary stage: Objective Type
    1. Paper-1: General studies (200 marks) Duration- 2 hours
    2. Paper-2: csat (200 marks) Duration – 2 hours

Paper-2 will be a qualifying paper. Minimum qualifying marks are 33%

  • Mains and Interview: Written and Subjective Type.

How To Prepare For UPSC Prelims Exam?

UPSC Prelims is an objective type exam. Civil services aspirants should not ignore to practice prelims during IAS preparation. In Prelims, UPSC asks only multiple choice type questions. UPSC Prelims comprises only two papers, Paper-1 is General Studies and Paper-2 is CSAT.

Each paper will be of 200 marks. Since Paper-2 is just qualifying in nature, so Paper-1 will decide your merit for Mains exam. But if you score below 32% marks in CSAT paper then even if you score 200 out of 200 in Paper-1, you will not be selected for Mains. If you see 5 years trend, we have found that the cut off of Paper-1 has been somewhere around 100. So, if you score 50 to 55 % marks in paper-1 and around 33% marks in CSAT, then you can be selected for UPSC Mains exam.

How To Prepare For UPSC IAS Mains Exam?

Generally, UPSC IAS Mains exam preparation consist of two stages that is Written and Interview. During IAS preparation , aspirants have to practice answer writing. You should gives mock tests, in this way you will learn the art of answer writing during UPSC preparation.

Stage-1: Written / Subjective –

Written paper consists of total 9 papers that is 7 papers of General studies and 2 papers of Optional Subjects. Please note that there will be two qualifying papers before written exam.

Qualifying Paper- (25%)

  • Paper-A: (One Indian language) – 300 marks
  • Paper-B: English – 300 marks

Mains is the next stage of UPSC IAS exam which includes written and interview. Written paper will consist of total 9 papers then there will be interview. Out of 9 papers the marks of 7 papers will be counted for merit list because other two papers will be of qualifying in nature.

In UPSC IAS Mains exam, you have to write answers in paragraph wise that means you have to write long answers. So, this stage is the most important stage in your IAS preparation because finally this will decide your merit list.

In qualifying papers you have to score only 25% marks to qualify. Among qualifying papers, one paper will be of English language comprehension and second paper will be of one Indian language paper. So it is on you, you can choose either Hindi language, Tamil language , Assamese , Bodo etc. Please note that the level of qualifying papers will be of class 10th level.

List Of UPSC IAS Mains Written Papers

PaperTitle Of PaperMarks Allotted
Paper-1Essay writing- Practice essay writing during IAS preparation.250 Marks
Paper-2General studies-1: [ Indian Heritage and culture, History and Geography of the world and Society]250 Marks
Paper-3General Studies-2: [Governance, constitution, polity, social justice and international relation]250 Marks
Paper-4General Studies-3: [ Technology, economic development, biodiversity, environment, security and disaster management]250 Marks
Paper-5General Studies-4: [ Ethics, Integrity and aptitude]250 Marks
Paper-6Optional Subject Paper-1250 Marks
Paper-7Optional Subject Paper-2250 Marks
Total Marks2025 Marks

Among these 7 papers , four papers are of general studies that is GS-1, GS-2, GS-3 and GS-4. Other two papers will be of optional subjects. UPSC allows to choose any optional subjects from the list given in its syllabus. Lets say, if you have chosen Geography as optional subjects then you will have to give Papers of Geography-1 and Geography-2. Your score out of 2025 will decide the merit list. So, here if you score somewhere around 1000 marks out of 2025 marks then you may get a good rank in the final merit list. This is just a rough idea, cut off marks may go up and down.

Tentative schedule of UPSC CSE – 2021

  1. Preliminary Exam- June / July 2021
  2. Mains Exam – September / October 2021
  3. Interview – January / February 2022

Your dream will come true sometime in April 2022. By April 2022 final result will be announced.

IAS Preparation Approach According To Your Profile

Here, we will briefly discuss about UPSC IAS preparation strategy according to your profile.

IAS Preparation Strategy For school Going Students ( 10th and 12th Class)

First of all, we will suggest you to focus on your class subjects. You should make a habit of reading one newspaper daily. In this way your IAS preparation will go on side by side.

IAS Preparation Strategy For College Going Students

This is the best time to start UPSC IAS preparation. You have to give at least 4 to 5 hours daily for UPSC preparation. The advantage of college going students is that you have got two to three years of time to clear UPSC subjects basics. You can save these precious years during IAS preparation.

IAS Preparation Tips For Just Graduated

In IAS preparation, largest number of aspirants are from just graduated category. If you fall in this category then we will suggest you to give maximum one year time only for UPSC IAS preparation. You will have to honestly prepare for one year.

IAS Preparation Strategy For Working Aspirants

If you are a UPSC aspirant and currently doing any job then you can also clear this exam easily. If Possible, try to take leave from job for at least one year. But if you cannot do so then you have to spend at least four to five hours for only for UPSC IAS preparation. You have to little bit sacrifice your social life because in IAS preparation time management is the key to success.

Experienced Players ( 1,2 or 3 attempts)

If you have taken 2 or 3 attempts and you could not make it to clear UPSC exam then you have to give lots of mock tests. You have to practice answer writing as much as you can.

How much Time Is Required For IAS Preparation?

Is One year enough? Yes, its true. One year is enough for UPSC IAS preparation. We have seen, many people have misconception that IAS preparation takes four to five years of time. But its not true. Take example of IAS Topper Roman Saini, who cracked UPSC IAS Exam in just six months of time. So, One year preparation time is more than sufficient to crack IAS exam. UPSC conducts this exam every year, it indicates that one year is enough to crack this exam.

How To Start Preparing For IAS?

First step is the most important step. If you have taken the first step of IAS Preparation, then congratulation. Now you must keep going and never look back. Whatever it may come, you should never give up.

If you can afford IAS coaching then its well and good. Please note that it may takes around 5 to 6 lakhs rupees in UPSC coaching preparation. But, if you can not afford coaching, then you can also prepare from home as well.

Self Preparation For IAS: How To Prepare For UPSC Without Coaching?

For IAS Preparation all you need, good study materials and a silent and distraction free room. Your study room should have enough lighting and ventillation. You should keep yourself away from all kinds of distrations like cellphones, social media, friends , family etc. Make your environment conducive for UPSC IAS preparation.

  • Do a little research on your own about the best IAS booklist, pattern, and rigors of the IAS exam.
  • Watch IAS Toppers Interview.
  • Figure out your place of IAS preparation for the next 18 months at least (till main/interview).
  • Make a conducive environment for studying.
  • Get the best books and resources and let the fun begin.

Best Optional Subjects For UPSC: How To Select UPSC Optional?

Anthropology, Sociology, History, Public Administration and Literature are some of the list of best optional subjects for UPSC. Aspirants have to be very careful while selecting UPSC optional subjects during IAS preparation. We are enlisting below some of the factors to be taken into consideration during UPSC Optional subject selection.

Background/ Graduation

You should select upsc optional according to your graduation subjects. Like if you have been graduated from B.Sc mathematics, then you must take Mathematics as optional subject. Because you have studied this subject for three to four years during your college time. You know about this subject very well, books. resources etc. By choosing your graduation subjects as optional subject means your basics is already clear in that subject.


Second most important factor for choosing optional subjects is interest. Always choose subjects which interest you the most. One thing you should keep in mind while choosing optional is that this subject should help you in your General Studies section. For example, anthropology, geography, history, sociology, public administration and literature are such subjects which will help you in your GS section. These subjects covers most part of GS section during IAS Preparation. Moreover, during interview UPSC asks most of the questions from optional subects.

Availabilty of material nearby you / Online

This is no longer a factor of optional subject selection because of availability of online shoping and courier facilities. You can conveniently order any UPSC study material from comfort of your home. You can also go to any metropolitan cities and buy UPSC IAS books from there as well.

Guidance By seniors in that exam.

You will get an extra edge over other aspirants, if you get some guidance from seniors. Those who have already cracked upsc ias exam knows very well about the right approach towards this examination.

Select optional subjects within two months of reading GS or at least ten months before prelims.

We strongly suggest you to first read General Studies for at least two months. This will give you an idea about your interest in those subjects. once you find out the subjects of your interest then just choose that subject as optional and stick to it.

UPSC Syllabus For IAS Preparation

Preliminary paper-1 – General Studies (200 marks): Duration – 2 hours , 100 questions

  • Current events and current affairs of national and international news.
  • History of India and Indian National movements.
  • India and world geography.
  • Physical, social, Economic geography of India and the world.
  • Indian polity and governance, constitution, political system, panchayati raj, public polic, rights , issues etc.
  • Economic and social development, sustainable development, poverty inclusion, demographics, social sector initiatives etc.
  • General issues on environment, ecology, bio-diversity and climate change – that do not require subject specialization.
  • General science.

Preliminary Paper -2: CSAT of 200 marks, Duration – 2 hours

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills.
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability.
  • Decision making and problem solving skills.
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy ( Numbers and their relations, order of magnitude etc. of Class 10th level)
  • Data interpretation ( charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. of class 10th level)

During IAS preparation, we suggest you to do some practice of logical reasoning and mental ability. Do not ignore practice by assuming you have to score only 33% marks to qualify and it’s very easy to score. Even to score 33% , you have to do some practice beforehand.

IAS Preparation Booklists For CSAT

We have mentioned some of the best books for UPSC IAS CSAT preparation.

Tata mc graw hill, RS Agrawal, Arihant etc. Don’t forget to Practice Previous 10 years question papers of UPSC CSAT.

How To Prepare Current Affairs For UPSC IAS?

Current Affairs mostly includes topics of current events of national and international importance.

  • The Hindu Newspaper- For English medium we suggest you to read The Hindu because it has vast coverage of international news. For in depth coverage of national news , you can go for The Indian Express Newspaper. Hindi Medium IAS aspirants can refer newspapers like- Navbharat times , Dainik bhaskar
  • Yojana magazine
  • India year book– Note down topics like Electricity production, nuclear power plants, electricity production from renewable resources etc. You can find the exact data in India year book. India Year Book is published every year and its data is authentic.
  • Any current affairs monthly magazines.

Even in statics sections, UPSC asks lots of questions from current affairs. If you regularly read any newspaper during ias preparation, then it will strengthen your word vocabulary. You will be able to co-relate current events with static section. Consquently, you will learn the art of structuring your essay if you regularly read The Hindu editorial.

Best IAS Booklist For Preliminary Preparation


Topics to be covered are History Of India and Indian national movement.

  • Old NCERT of class 11th for ancient History.
  • NCERT of class 11 and 12 (New)
  • Class 6th to 8th NCERTs For medieval history ( Themes of world history)
  • Tamil Nadu board books of 6th to 12th class.
    • Tamil Nadu board books are better than NCERT books. In class 11 and 12 books whole history is covered in paragraph form, so its good for UPSC IAS Mains preparation as well.
  • Spectrum– a brief history of modern India.
  • Bipin chandra’s India’s struggle for Indepencence.


Topics to be covered are Indian and world geography- physical, social and economic. Geography of India and the world.

  • NCERT books of class 6 to class 10 – all world geography topics.
  • NCERT class 11 and class 12- Very important for ias preparation.
  • G.C Leong– Physical geography- very important for UPSC preparation. Coverage through diagram wise.
  • Geography Of India by Majid Hussain– For Reference only.
  • Oxford Atlas – keep your atlas with you while reading news and mark down important places of important events.


Topics need to be covered are Indian Polity and Governance.

  • NCERT of class 11 and class 12.
  • M.laxmikanth– Indian Polity. This is best book for Polity preparation for IAS exam.


To prepare for IAS topics are Economic and social development – sustainable development, poverty, inclusion, demographics, social sector initiatives etc. UPSC asks mostly current affairs based questions in economics section. First clear subject basics and then stay updated with current affairs. You must watch budget.


To prepare for IAS these topics need to be covered. General issues on environment, ecology, biodiversity and climate change. That do not require subject specialization. UPSC asks mostly current affairs based questions from environment.

General Science

UPSC gives stress on current affairs based questions in sience and technology. Most of the questions are asked from current affairs topics. For example, what is the latest satellite of ISRO? orbit of that satellite? etc.

Best IAS Booklist for Mains

Books/sources mentioned in prelims booklist are not mentioned again. We will include few additional topics here.

General Studies-1

General studies-1 includes topics like Indian heritage and culture, history and geography of the world and society. We have mentioned below some of the best resources for UPSC IAS general studies-1 preparation.

General Studies-2

UPSC asks lots of current affairs topics in polity and governance.

General Studies-3

General Studies-4

  • Lexicon by chronicles – For ethics, integrity and aptitude for IAS preparation. Its very easy to read.
  • Book By G.Subba Rao to prepare for ias.
  • Case studies – it covers half paper. You have to practice answer wrting in case studies.


To prepare essay for upsc ias, practice key topics beforehand during preparation for example-

  • Social issues
  • Pollution
  • Women Empowerment
  • Energy Related Issues.
  • Digital India
  • 4th Industrial Revolution

How to Prepare Notes For IAS Preparation

During IAS Preparation, Make your own notes always. Try to make notes which are concise , brief and easy to revise. You should revise your own notes few days before your IAS exam.

Benefit Of Making Own Notes For IAS Preparation.

  • Concise – easy to carry. You can carry your own handwritten notes wherever you go. In this you can revise them anytime.
  • Easier to revise
  • Things you write down will stick in your memory better. This is proven scientifically. You can try yourself.
  • Do NOT make notes of current affairs.

Practice: Must For IAS Preparation

You have to practice mock test for ias preparation as much as you can. Try to score good in it.

  • Knowledge gained by reading is put to test in a limited period of time.
  • So practice in a simulated environment. You have to write 25 answers in just 3 hours.
  • Join any test series ( online/offline) – evaluate in which topics you are weak in.

Other Sources For IAS Preparation

One Year Time Table For IAS Preparation

ActivityTime Frame
Complete GS Static Syllabus6 Months
Optional Preparation4 Months
Revision Plus Practice2 Months
Total12 Months

If you get bore, then you can study GS portion in half day and optional subjects in other half day.

Daily Time Table For IAS Preparation

For UPSC ias preparation you have to devote at least 6 to 10 hours.

  • Two hours for news papers and current affairs
  • Two GS subjects for 3 to 4 hours each everyday or 1 GS subject for 7 to 8 hours each day.

How to avoid Burnout During IAS Preparation

Today, the human brain is exposed to tonnes of information. Almost drowned in the digital stream of information. It is easy to feel as if day is getting wasted doing too many things. Fix a time for digital devices.

Maintain A Schedule For IAS Preparation

If you give rest to your brain then it will absorb more things during study. During ias preparation avoid unnecessary tasks and people. Just focus on your studies.

  • Sleep for 7 hours
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise for minimum 30 minutes everyday.
  • Meditate


During UPSC IAS preparation try to stay in touch with people who are allready doing upsc preparation. In this way, your mind will remain focused. For one year avoid unnecessary-

  • Calls
  • Trips
  • Friends
  • Relatives


As someone is rightly said, there is no perfect approach or perfect path to success. So, is the case with UPSC. First of all memorise upsc ias syllabus. Get good books and resources to prepare for ias. Maintain a fixed schedule for IAS preparation. Always be in discipline and stick to your time table , no matter what it may come. Lastly, practice a lot. You must practice answer writing. Develop the art of answer writing. Try to find out your strength and weaknesses. If you follow all these instructions and resources mentioned in this post, we bet, no one can stop you from becoming IAS. All The Best.

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