Are you thinking of preparing for UPSC Prelims in 2021? Are you wondering about how you can start your preparation as a beginner and go about the preparation? Have you been trying to come up with a time-table for your preparation or an exam strategy? Not sure about how many hours to study for UPSC, and how much time to allot to different subjects? Worried about how to choose the perfect optional subject for your IAS Mains? Thinking about how to study NCERT for UPSC? If your answer to all of the above questions is affirmative, then this article is just for you.

You can find study tips, a preparation strategy, study materials and books, the syllabus, and other techniques that can help you be in control of your UPSC Civil Services preparation from the very beginning. Read till the end and find the best available sources online.

UPSC Preparation for Beginners

Before we find out the ways you can start preparing for your UPSC exam, let us find out more about the UPSC exam, its eligibility requirements, and the different kinds of job postings that can be applied for through the exam.

UPSC Exam, Eligibility Requirements, and Recruitments

The Union Public Service Commission is a central recruiting agency in India. It was founded by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1926 under the chairmanship of Sir Ross Barker. The present Chairman or Commission Executive of UPSC is Pradeep Kumar Joshi. UPSC is known to be one of the few institutions that work as an autonomous body along with the Election Commission. It was initially named the Federal Public Service Commission by the British government and was later changed to UPSC after the independence of India. The expenses of the Union Public Services Commission, under Article 322, are charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.
Also Read : Sectors of Indian Economy McQ: Learn More About Sectors of Indian Economy


The eligibility criteria for UPSC examinations based on age, nationality, and educational qualifications are as follows-

  • Must be at least 21 years of age, and maximum 32 (reservation categories relaxation of 3-5 years)
  • Must be a graduate in any discipline or have an equivalent degree from a recognized institute
  • Must be a citizen of India or, a subject of Nepal or Bhutan or, an Indian origin candidate from other listed countries planning on settling in India permanently
  • The maximum number of attempts for a person from the General category is 6, for OBC is 9, and for SC/ST categories is unlimited until the age of 37.
Posts under UPSC

UPSC recruits officers for 23 different kinds of posts through the Civil Services Examination. Throughout their career, the candidates are transferred or appointed to various posts within the service they are allotted. The Central Civil Services Recruitments for Group A and Group B are done through the examinations under the Civil Services, Engineering Services, Combined Geo-Scientist and Geologist, I.E.S., and I.S.S., Combined Medical Services, and Central Armed Police Forces. Some of these services include the following-

All India Services (AIS) Group A Services Group B Services
Indian Administrative Service (IAS) Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services
Indian Police Service (IPS) Indian Foreign Services (IFS) Income Tax Service (Group B)
Indian Forest Service (IFS/ IFoS) Indian Engineering Services (IES) DANICS
Indian Ordnance Factories Services (IOFS) DANIPS
Indian Audit and Accounts Services (IA&AS) Central Health Services (Group B)
Indian Civil Accounts Services (ICAS) Telecommunication Engineering Services (Group B)
Indian Postal Services (IPoS) Botanical Survey of India (Group B)
Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS) Geological Survey of India (Group B)
Indian Railway Account Service (IRAS) Zoological Survey of India (Group B)
Indian Communication Finance Services (ICFS) Central Engineering Service
Indian Defence Estate Services (IDES) Indian Salt Service
Indian Revenue Services (IRS)
Indian Trade Service (ITrS)
Survey of India Service (SIS)

Also Read: How to Apply for Civil Services Examination 2021: A Complete Guide

How to Start UPSC Preparation from Level Zero?

If you are worried about finding a coaching institute or some experts for help with your UPSC strategy, you can find a solution for all your woes here. The exam may be difficult to crack but it is not impossible to clear it, and with the right approach, you can conquer it in your first try itself. To answer a popular question by the aspirants, about how to study for UPSC, here are some steps that you can take to approach the exam initially.

UPSC Syllabus

The syllabus for Civil Services is the most important aspect. You cannot begin your preparation without it, and you need to keep it with you every time you sit to study for it. Several toppers suggest keeping a copy of the syllabus by your side at all times and to keep referring to it while preparing different concepts.

Choosing the Optional

Once you are familiar with the exam pattern and syllabus, you need to choose an Optional subject for the Mains before you apply for the CSE. Your IAS score is highly dependent on your scores on the Optional paper. It is advised by experts that one should either choose a subject that they are highly interested in or one that they are good at. Many aspirants make the mistake of choosing subjects that are chosen by the toppers generally, but it is not wise to do so.

Current Affairs

Before you start your preparation, make sure you have access to neutral news sources that can help you stay updated with the latest news. Several concepts and topics appear in the assessment because they are somehow related to the recent news topics. Some IAS officers who did not come from a place of privilege have been known to be highly dependent on current affairs for their study.

How Many Hours to Study for UPSC?

Beginners often wonder how many hours to study for UPSC CSE. According to popular belief, you cannot crack the exam unless you for 10-15 hours a day, which seems a bit too odd if you think about it practically. Experts suggest that instead of counting the hours of study, make a plan for each day and stick to the list for the day, and try achieving those goals every day when you study. However, if you like to stick to a specific time limit, you can sign up at UPSC Pathshala where the mentors believe a 4-hour study session is enough for their students.

What to Study for UPSC?

Another important question that is frequently asked by candidates and potential candidates is that there are a large number of resources available for preparation, so how do they decide what to study for their UPSC exam. You don’t have to know every piece of information available in books and notes. You need to be more aware of different topics about the country and you can just choose from the resources available and select the ones that you understand better. At the same time choose the books or resources that cover important topics that you might need to be familiar with.

Study Time Table for UPSC

You can either make your timetable by analyzing the Prelims and Mains papers, their scores, and important topics, or you can find online websites that offer a readymade study time-table for you, based on the importance of different subjects and their concepts. These institutes also offer a study plan for your entire year of preparation to ensure you end up covering every paper and its syllabus by the time the exam arrives. The study plans at UPSC Pathshala are made by experienced mentors who have analyzed the exam pattern and previous papers for years to understand what topics can occur in the papers again.

Study Material for UPSC

You can find the study materials for the paper in various books, magazines, and government websites. However, the exam syllabus is vast and so are the study materials available for its preparation. It is upon you to pick trusted study notes and books by reading up about their usefulness on trusted websites and choosing only authentic sources for yourself. Two of the most important and trusted sources for the exam are NCERT books (new and old) that can help you understand the concepts in easy and simple language, and government websites (like and magazines like Yojana, India’s Yearbook, etc.

Also Read: What is the Best Way to Start UPSC Preparation at Home?

How to Study NCERT for UPSC?

NCERT books are known to be the Bible for the IAS exam. Toppers suggest that while other books may help you study topics in-depth, NCERT books lay the foundation for your study. You can start with a basic reading of the books once, and then another reading to understand and connect the topics. You can then revise what you have learned and then make the connection from current affairs issues to the topics studied in the book. This can help you with your written answers for the Mains. Even if you are not familiar with the questions in the Mains, knowing the theme or the topic it is based on can help you write the answers.

Is Joining a Coaching Class Necessary to Clear the CSE?

A lot of people live under the impression that joining a coaching class is the only way they can get through the whole process of the examination. However, the statistics have proved that a large number of IAS, IPS officers did not rely on coaching centers for their success due to a lack of resources or their belief and a strong action plan. It is upon you to research and find the right resources that can help you with your strategy for the exam.

You can sign up for online classes that are cost-effective and more accessible than traditional coachings. You can also just depend upon a single application that can keep you updated with your preparation without leaving the comfort of your home.

Important Tips

  • You need to have faith in yourself before you start your preparation for the CSE. Stay confident and be assured of your success.
  • Make a proper plan for your study and stick to it without fail.
  • Practice as many mock tests and previous year papers as possible, it helps you understand the kind of questions that are asked and how to answer them.
  • Opt for a smart way of preparing instead of working too hard for the test.
  • Practice writing the essay and answers for the Mains as good writing skills can fetch you good scores.
  • Prepare yourself for the interview by revising on your knowledge gained, but also make sure you are confident and polite during the test, and maintain eye contact with the interviewer.

Also Read: How to Prepare for IAS without Coaching? Tips to Begin your Preparation at Home

Coaching Classes vs Online Classes

While traditional classes have been around for a long time and a large number of aspirants depend on them, online classes have brought in a new wave of learning techniques. During the pandemic, students suffered a loss when they couldn’t attend their classes for their preparation. With online classes, you can never face such issues since the video lectures are accessible from anywhere at any time. One of the main advantages of online classes is that one can receive personal mentors and personalized lessons based on their capability, something traditional classes cannot offer with their large student capacity in every class.


The syllabus and the tough competition in UPSC can be an overwhelming experience for a beginner. Make sure you do not spend too many hours on study, instead concentrate well whenever you study a topic so you learn more in less time. It is advised that you meditate and exercise regularly to keep your mind fresh and to increase your understanding.

If you do not want to spend an extravagant amount on your preparation but receive customized lesson plans for your study, you can sign up with us and receive the best possible mentorship and study experience. You get access to online mock tests, video lectures, personal mentors, and study notes at nominal rates, all of it at the comfort of your own home. Sign up today for a demo lesson and experience education like never before.

Also Read : What is the Role of an IAS Officer? IAS Officers Administrative Functions and Responsibilities

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