While the decision to appear for the UPSC Civil Services Exam may be easy, what follows afterwards is overwhelming as well as a humbling experience. For a beginner, the initial months are spent just in understanding what this exam is about and figuring the right path to follow to reach their goal.

Read the article till the end to find out expert IAS preparation tips for beginners.

UPSC Preparation for Beginners

Read the Syllabus Carefully

One of the main reasons that students wander far and deep while studying for UPSC is that they do not pay heed to the syllabus. You neither need too vast a knowledge nor too profound.

UPSC needs people who know something about everything and not specialists. If you stick to the syllabus and understand exactly what they want, you will be able to limit your preparation to things that matter.

Also, each subject has dynamic elements, some more than others, so being clear about the syllabus will also help you pick out the right news and put a cap on your current affairs preparation as well.

On its own, current affairs can be very extensive, but once you integrate it with the syllabus and the previous year’s questions, you will not have any trouble in selecting the news you need to read.

Practice being the Planner

As an IAS officer, planning should be your forte. Put that skill to the test right away by designing a strategy to follow for the remaining one year. Do not rely on coaching institutes for this task, remember, you know yourself best. Plan your studies in a way that helps you optimize your output. This should be easy once you understand the syllabus and structure of the exam. You can take inspiration from other toppers but alter their strategy to your personality.

Also Read: Check-out the Best Timetable to Ace the Upcoming UPSC IAS Exam

Zero Down on Sources

There are tons of books for UPSC beginners and heaps of reading material for this coveted exam. As a result, finding the source that is most reliable, authentic and comprehensive becomes quite a task. The suggestion here would be to do a cursory reading of the books suggested by others and then pick the ones you feel are best suited.

Do not buy books online until you have physically gone through them and feel they will be helpful in your prep. No matter which supplementary books you refer to, there is no alternative to NCERTs. Always start your prep from them and then move on.

Save the Notes for Last

Do not begin making notes the moment you start a certain subject. Consult at least 1-2 sources besides the NCERT, highlight the important points as you read and then compile them into notes.

Many make the mistake of making history notes by just reading the old NCERT and the reference books by R.S Sharma, Bipin Chandra etc, and later discover that the Tamil Nadu NCERTs and other books also have lots of relevant information. As a result, he/ she has to make notes all over again.

Devote the maximum time to making notes as this is what you will be referring to in the last few months of your prep. You will not have the time to go through all the books at this stage, therefore put everything that is important in your notes.

Also, make a separate section for the trivia at the end of your notes. Once you are done making notes, refer to the NCERT of all classes from 6th to 12th and jot down minor things or the things in special boxes in bullet form for quick revision.

Make Revision a Habit

When you begin studying, you will realize that even the simplest of topics has the widest of information available. As you read more, you tend to forget the old.

Therefore make it a point to first revise the previous day’s notes before gathering new information on a topic. Revising every day will take you less time than finishing an entire topic and then reading it again.

Also Read: A Detailed IAS Planner 2020 for Beginners: Guide to Crack the UPSC Civil Services Exam

A Strong Foundation is a Key

When you begin your preparation, there will be lots of times when you would wish that you had paid more attention in school! For those who did, the prep became easier because they just have to build further on it and not start from scratch.

There were a lot of topics one may encounter for which she/ he just has to study the advanced bits. But don’t lose heart if your concepts are not clear.

There is ample time to read the NCERTs and understand them. At this age, your level of comprehension has increased and you will easily grasp the concepts from the junior class NCERTs.

Do not attempt to study advanced topics before you clear your basics. This approach will only dishearten you and make the otherwise easy topic appear difficult.

How to Start UPSC Preparation for Beginners?

Check the following 5 tips to ace the UPSC exam.

Read the Newspaper

Subscribe to The Hindu/ Indian Express as well as get the PIB app, the day you decide to appear for this exam. You may reserve different days for different subjects, but the newspaper is and should be a daily staple till the interview stage.

Reading the news and staying up-to-date with current affairs is not only crucial as per the new trend of questions, but it also helps in shaping your personality.

Being well-read and having knowledge on a certain matter gives you inherent confidence that reflects in your demeanour. Don’t just read the news, find the background, analyse it and then critique it too.

This habit will also help you write better answers in the Mains, regardless of the subject as well as perform well in the interview.

Also Read: Here’s the Strategy You should Follow

Reduce Your Socializing

The UPSC Civil Services exam is not called the mother of all exams for no reason! Preparing for it requires not just hard work and perseverance, but also altering your lifestyle. An important change to make would be to limit the use of social media as well as your social interactions with the world.

You will have to get your priorities straight for the one year of your prelims prep and the six months of Mains afterwards. Many initially think that one could balance the two, but soon realise the mistake! It is difficult to keep a tab of time once you are on social media and you end up missing your deadlines. You may keep some time for these things but remember to stick to that time limit.

Also Read: Here’s What You were Looking for – Best Online Coaching for IAS

Set Deadlines

Setting personal goals for the day as well as months is an excellent way to finish the UPSC syllabus in time and get the maximum out of your day. Previous year toppers found it extremely useful and beneficial in their preparation.

By setting deadlines and a time limit for everything, they were able to optimize their time. It helped to focus on the studies and flush out other redundant activities. Design a timetable for yourself and you will see the difference in both the quantity as well as the quality of your studies.

Keep the Spirit High

The preparation for UPSC tends to tire you and there will be times when you feel like giving up. Almost all have such days during their preparation. But rather than giving up, you should try to find ways to keep going.

One thing that really helped many was listening to the topper’s interviews. Hearing about their journey, identifying with their challenges and realizing that they are as human as you, will be a satisfying experience. It will keep you on track and infuse new motivation.

Opt for Online Lectures

If you are doing self-prep, there will be times when you are unable to understand a concept or are bored with reading. To overcome this, watch online videos for a lot of topics. Not only will they help you grasp a topic better, but will also save you time.

For example, if reading and comprehending a topic takes an hour, you can do the same by just watching a 15-minute video! Also, some people retain such information better than reading from books.

UPSC Prep Plan for Beginners

Many people begin their UPSC prep with the Prelims and leave the Mains until after they have completed the prelims. This strategy may help you pass the prelims, but it will backfire because there isn’t much time between the prelims and the mains to start over.

Furthermore, the syllabi for both are nearly identical, with the exception of test practise. You should prepare for the prelims exam by practising MCQs. As a result, it is preferable to take a combined strategy to the UPSC CSE, in which you begin preparation for both the UPSC Prelims and Mains at the same time.

When to Start Preparing?

Beginners should start studying at least 10 to 12 months before the UPSC Prelims exam. Only then will you be able to cover the entire curriculum and get enough exam preparation. Before proceeding on to the optional, you must start with the usual GS papers.

Also, don’t forget to prepare for the CSAT exam. If your academic credentials make scoring in the CSAT simpler for you, you only need to practise a few exam papers before the prelims. If you are unfamiliar with CSAT, you should devote at least two months to learning it.

Study Plan for UPSC Prelims

Two months before the Prelims, you should focus solely on the prelims. With 100 questions, concentrate on time management. Learn how to use educated guesses to prevent unfavourable marking. Don’t stress about the Mains now; what you prepare will be beneficial in the mains as well; instead, concentrate on answering MCQs.

Current Affairs for UPSC

The current affairs section of the UPSC exam is possibly the most difficult. This is due to the fact that the examiner is free to ask any question under this banner. But don’t be concerned.

Although the UPSC is unpredictable, there is a method to the madness. You should tie what you read in your daily newspapers (which is your primary source of current affairs) to the UPSC syllabus. You should keep track of current events while you read the newspapers.


Hopefully, this article will help you prepare well for the upcoming UPSC exam. You can share your thoughts about the UPSC preparation strategy for beginners by commenting in the below section. For the greatest and most complete daily news collection for the UPSC exam, you can always count on UPSC Pathshala.

Our professionals review a variety of significant news sources and give you vital news analysis that is neatly organised into categories. There will practice questions for both the prelims and the mains.

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11 IAS Preparation Tips for Beginners: How to Start from Ground Zero?
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11 IAS Preparation Tips for Beginners: How to Start from Ground Zero?
Are you a beginner in the UPSC realm? Don't stress out, we are here to guide you on this journey. In this post, we have discussed how a beginner can start his/her UPSC preparation.
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About the Author

Madhurjya Chowdhury

Madhurjya Chowdhury, a web content writer in Ufaber EduTech has a very strong passion for writing and alluring the readers. You can find him writing articles for the betterment of exam aspirants and children. With immense interest in research-based content writing and copywriting, he likes to reach out to more and more people with his creative writing style. On the other side, he is an Electronics and Communication Engineer from LPU, Jalandhar. In his leisure time, he likes to play badminton or read about space discoveries. Apart from this, he is a pro gamer on PC, PS and Mobile gaming platforms.

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