IAS Gyan


How to start the civil service preparation?

10th August, 2021 Miscellaneous

It is a well-known saying that “EACH AND EVERY MASTER/EXPERT WAS ONCE A BEGINNER”. There is no such thing as an overnight success. All the successful people that one may admire or idolize worked on their craft for many sleepless nights.


A goal without proper planning remains a mere dream. This is also true in the case of civil services. The Civil Service Exam, being the toughest exam in the country, requires more than just preparation. A good strategy draws a thin line of separation between aspirants and smart aspirants. The latter becomes more productive with fewer inputs, whereas the former are less productive with more inputs.


Firstly, there are few things that should be kept in the back of the mind during the entire phase:

  • UPSC is not looking for specialists in each of the subjects mentioned in the syllabus but it wants the future civil servants to have a general knowledge of the topics mentioned in the syllabus.
  • We all have experienced this natural tendency of comparing ourselves with others. REMEMBER…If you are starting something new, never compare yourself with others especially the successful ones and those who have been doing it for a long time.
  • If one goes through the pattern of marks scored by successful candidates in prelims or mains stage one will find that a score of 55-60% can make you sail comfortably through the prelims stage and a 50% score in mains exam with a decent interview performance can fetch you a very good rank in the final list. It is definitely a no-brainer that scoring 50% marks does not require some kind of specialization.
  • Believe in self: try, try and try again until you succeed
  • Identify reasons for failure: no one is perfect. focus on both strengths and weaknesses (most aspirants just focus on their strengths). Do a meticulous analysis of test series results and work on the weaknesses.
  • Be in a positive environment
  • Be patient: time heals all difficulties and hope is a great balm, Work hard for a better tomorrow
  • Introspect
  • Never give up: nothing is impossible, problems are part of the journey which are going to be resolved ultimately
  • Acknowledge your success
  • Follow a simple/ uncomplicated approach: Jump onto the IAS bandwagon with a proper strategy for the subjects.
  • Do not lose the ‘BALANCE’: remain consistent. It is not like do hard work for 6 months and then nothing. Maintain a balance in almost all spheres of life-neither eat too much nor exercise too much. Maintain a balance between static and dynamic portions of the syllabus.
  • Do not believe in rumors: do not allow things to demotivate and distract you. Focus solely on the preparation and nothing else.
  • Read from limited sources and revise the limited set of books, notes that have been prepared at least 3-5 times. DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE LOST IN ONLINE OCEANS…
  • Do not procrastinate: Many aspirants plan thoroughly and set monthly weekly and daily goals. But, due to procrastination are unable to complete them. It leads to piling up of topics to be covered. It leads to stress and skipping of topics and ultimately giving up.
  • Do not allow fear of failure to stifle you into inaction. Successful candidates do not allow fear to hamper their preparation.
  • Attitude: Cracking the UPSC civil services is not for the faint-hearted or languid ones. Stay motivated and stay hungry.
  • Cover the basics first, then go to intermediate level, and only once intermediate is cemented in the grey matter, go to advanced stuff.
  • Do not ignore the body: continuously do exercise, maintain yourself physically emotionally, and mentally, pursue your hobbies/passion.
  • Remember the harder you work, the luckier you will get.
  • Finally, embrace the hard reality-that in this exam there are only 2 possibilities-one will either SUCCEED or will either fail. Before undertaking this journey one should be ready to face any unpredictable circumstance/hardship/risk. To put it simply, ONE SHOULD BE READY TO EMBRACE FAILURES. Tough times, failures, hardships are inevitable. No matter how strong or powerful or confident one is, tough times will come: viciously forcing their might and causing one to crumble.


Aspirants who are confused about how to start preparations for the UPSC should follow these points:

  • Firstly, one should understand the process and pattern of examination.
  • The syllabus of the examination should be imbibed by referring to it daily. An accurate understanding of the nature, clarity, and scope of the syllabus is crucial for good preparation. It helps in understanding what to read and what not to read.
  • After this one should thoroughly read the past five years’ question papers of both preliminary test and mains examination. This will give a direction to the candidate that what one should focus upon while reading such a vast syllabus.
  • Before you start your preparation, a smart strategy needs to be scripted keeping in mind the details of each step that you have to go through.
  • Then choose the right study material. If one thinks that he/she needs to read HUNDREDS of books, browse TENS of websites and prepare notes from FIVE newspapers and TEN magazines each day to clear IAS, THIS IS WRONG. The exaggerated actions are neither practical nor necessary to clear CSE. Even if an imaginary person does all that is stated above, there is still a chance that he/she is not clear about Prelims/Mains. So what matters is not the number of materials one had gone through, but the quality of learning and revision done.
  • Instead of rigorous studies, studying smartly is the ideal way. What does studying smartly mean? Few easy-to-implement tips to study smart for UPSC Exam:
  • Learn in multiple ways
  • Read multiple subjects in one day
  • Avoid multitasking
  • Take handwritten notes
  • Learn by association
  • Revise periodically
  • Simplify the information
  • Practice tests
  • Know what to filter
  • Read textbooks effectively
  • Don’t cram, understand
  • Read important information out loud
  • Reward yourself
  • Take a break and make those breaks happening but in a way that one gets back to preparation with double the zeal and enthusiasm.
  • Current affairs: Stay updated with what is going around in the world.
  • How to read the newspaper?

It is true that nobody likes to read the newspaper daily for exams. In fact, even after selection civil servants do not read it diligently. BUT, THERE IS NO SINGLE CIVIL SERVANT WHO COMPLETELY IGNORES IT DURING PREPARATION. It is very true that questions are directly lifted from newspapers The Hindu, Indian Express in all the three stages of the exam.


The most important question is how to read it. Most aspirants take 4-5 hours to complete it. Some get distracted and start reading masala items and some get so bored that they altogether start postponing it thinking that they will cover the entire week’s newspaper on weekends. The weekend never comes and piles just keep on forming for years!!!

BUT by proper practice of effective reading, a newspaper can be completed in less than an hour with additional 30 minutes devoted for note-making.



  • Filtering according to the need of the exam.
  • Read from an exam perspective and not for recreation.
  • Avoid unimportant news however impressive it may be.
  • A syllabus should be on the tips.
  • Never postpone for a single day.
  • Make short notes simultaneously.



Now what to read and what not to read will depend upon the return on investment/ yield as well as the phase of the examination. Each news item will fell in one of the 4 mentioned types.

TYPE I: High Yield- cost-benefit analysis is awesome, read very carefully, make comprehensive notes

TYPE II: Medium Yield- cost-benefit analysis is good, make short notes

TYPE III: Low Yield- cost-benefit analysis is average, just glance through

TYPE IV: No Yield- avoid the piece


Now go through the titles of each page of the newspaper and analyze them and put them in the above categories.



  • Maintain a notebook for each month
  • Divide it according to subjects-Polity, Geography, History, Economy, International, Environment, Security/Defense, and Science and Technology.
  • Maintain a separate notebook for optional. For any topic of the syllabus which may have a current affair linkage, jot down the relevant news in 5 points. This will be a creative addition to your answer.
  • Try to jot down any issue in point format i.e. the important facts, figures, quotes, data, judgments, keywords, etc.
  • Do not make paragraphs.
  • Everything should be in your own words.
  • Do not store newspaper cuttings.


A person who is able to manage other spheres of his life efficiently without losing his disciplined routine is a suitable candidate for CSE.