How to crack UPSC exam in first attempt? This is easily one of the top questions aspirants end up asking every year. So, is there a definitive answer to this question? Is this dream even achievable?

Yes, it sure is.

What you will need is:

  • The right time for preparation
  • The right plan
  • The right approach
  • The right focus
  • The right sources

The UPSC CSE is divided into 3 crucial stages:

  • Preliminary
  • The mains
  • Interview or personality test

Every stage demands equal dedication and clear-cut strategy to successfully clear them with a good rank.

Let us start with the Prelims first!

As per the latest pattern of UPSC CSE, the Prelims are categorized into two papers:

1.   General studies (GS) paper I

2.   CSAT (Civil services Aptitude Test) paper II

  • Both these exams are multiple-choice question based. Both the papers carry 200 marks each, which makes for a total of 400 marks in your UPSC prelims.
  • The questions carry negative marks. This means that for every wrong answer, you will lose one-third of the marks.
  • If you get one answer right but mark three others wrong, you will end up with zero marks.
  • You must finish each paper within a strict time frame of two hours.
  • It is crucial for you to clear the prelims in the very first attempt due to the limit on the number of attempts permitted, besides the age criterion that applies in your case.
  • If you want to clear the UPSC in the first attempt, make it your priority to clear the Prelims the first time itself.

Let us now explore practical tips to crack the UPSC civil service exam in your first attempt:

1. Start at the right time

It is best to start one year in advance if clearing CSE in the first attempt is your aim. One year is substantial time to formulate a study plan that is practical and convenient to carry out for 12 months.

Four hours of study everyday is sufficient to cover your entire syllabus in a time frame of one year.

Also Read: 10 Must-Have Qualities To Become An IAS Officer

2. You must clearly understand the UPSC syllabus

Your prelims paper is objective in nature, while the mains is descriptive in nature. To clear mains, you must concentrate on getting your basics right.

Read up on your NCERT textbooks as they are time-tested and most advised sources to garner foundational knowledge on topics under the mentioned syllabus.

3. Understand the paper pattern

Dig out previous 2-3 years’ question papers. You’ll notice a distinct pattern in terms of recurring topics and question style. Concentrate on preparation based on the previous year’s pattern.

4. Stick to minimal number of books

As mentioned, for prelims, stick to NCERT books strictly. You can select one book for your every subject of your mains. Avoid getting mixed up with multiple books for one subject.

5. Concentrate on your Current affairs

You must religiously read The Hindu daily. Make notes on current affairs from your daily paper session. In your free time, visit news websites for the latest on national and international politics, socio-economic issues, science and technology.

6. Stick to the Plan

I know this sounds cliché but its true. You must stick to your study plan throughout the whole year as you did on the first day.

Many aspirants fizzle out on their preparation mid way and end up losing initial concentration and determination.

No matter what, end up sticking to your schedule as per plan every day. Fixed hours every day, repeatedly is the right way to approach and follow through your plan.

7. Don’t forget to revise

Prelims are a fact-based paper. After reading up on extensive information, it is easy to lose track of knowledge gained.

After your daily study hours, make it a point to revise for an hour whatever you have learnt in the previous days.

Always revise from your notes, and not from your source books.

8. Practice well for Aptitude test

Comprehension, logical reasoning, mental ability, etc. too requires in depth practice. Besides just reading up on Paper I, prepare equally well for Paper II as well.

9. Always take Mock tests

Answering previous years’ question papers give a clear insight into the type of questions asked in the UPSC CSE, and also aids in assessment of your own level of preparation.

The mock tests available online and offline are more useful than you think. Take these and the guidance offered by the experts who check your answer sheets seriously.

10. You must practice answer writing for mains

Answer writing practice is crucial. The more you time yourself and write your answers, the better it is. Your mains paper is very descriptive and lengthy. If you do not practice enough, you will not be able to complete your paper.

Regular answer writing practice is also significant as it helps you build up speed, think conceptually within a limited time frame, and pen down answers in a presentable handwriting.

11. Practice Essay writing

If you want to crack your IAS examination in the very first attempt, you must master the art of writing a good essay.

2500 words is the upper word limit for your UPSC essay. There will be two compulsory essays, both of which carry 250 marks.

Essay writing in this exam is unlike your regular essays. Time is limited and word count is large. Add to that the strict attributes your essay must portray as per UPSC requirements.

If you have sociology as an optional paper, you should use scholarly theories to enhance your writing.

You can start your writing practice on topics covered in newspaper and good online news portals. Start writing essays of smaller word limits and gradually move on to 2500 words.

To conclude, I will again stress on the importance of staying focused all throughout your preparation months. No matter how tiring and mundane your study hours make you feel, just carry on with your ultimate goal in mind and do not give up. If your aim is to clear your IAS exam in the first attempt, plan and follow through with the right strategy.

Also Read: How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims? UPSC CSE 2021 Tips

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Greeta Sulochana

Greeta Sulochana is a content evangelist with a flair for compelling creative writing. She has penned down her thoughts in poetry and prose since the past five years, and has catered her skills to the Indian and international audiences. She started out as an advertising intern with Grey worldwide, and is now a full-fledged writer in passion and profession, who has worked for major national brands.

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