Civil Services Examination(CSE) is one of the most prestigious and most competitive examination conducted by Union Public Service Commission of India. Every year lakhs of candidates appear for prelims but only few ten thousands qualify the first phase. Approximate statistics for the year 2017 is 5 lakhs candidates appeared for prelims but only 13,000 candidates were qualified for Mains exam. Can you think of the reasons why there are lakhs of students who are unable to clear the first phase of examination? Let us discuss few pointers on how one should start preparing for CSE.

  • For a beginner, the first approach should be understanding the exam pattern, this is very important. CSE is conducted in three phases. First is the Preliminary exam(multiple choice options answer with negative marking), second is Mains exam(Subjective answer) and third is Interview(Personality test).
  • Next and the most rightful approach for a beginner should be understanding the detailed syllabus of the first two phases of CSE. Analysis of syllabus is required as this will give the candidate an idea of how vast the subjects are to be covered and what duration will he/she need to cover the syllabus. The appropriate duration to be allotted for CSE preparation should be at least 12 months. It, therefore, becomes very important to read very well the Syllabus brochure issued by UPSC.
  • After analyzing the syllabus, the candidate needs to prepare a list of textbooks required for reference. Choice of the textbooks should not be of a very advanced level. The examination difficulty level for both Preliminary and Mains(except optional papers) is up to XII std and level for optional paper is up to Graduation and/or Honours in that specific subject. It is very important to understand that for one subject refer not more than 2 textbooks, the more textbooks you refer more confused you get.
  • Find out what subjects you are weak in, as this is the subject on which you will be spending a lot of time studying as you have less knowledge about it. Also, find what chapters/topics you’re weak at of a particular subject, this will help you to plan your studies well.
  • Prepare a daily study plan. Do not stress yourself for preparing a plan which involves 10hrs – 12hrs of constant studies keep breaks after every change of subject. Also, do not do only one subject the entire day, prepare a timetable which includes 1 weak subject, 1 strong subject and 1 CSAT practice(Quantitative Aptitude/Comprehension/Essays/Logical Reasoning/Grammar). Now, it is a common strategy to focus initially on weaker subjects and keep the strong subjects for later but try and avoid this. Keeping a balance in your weaknesses and strengths is a better approach. Devote no more than 1 hour daily for current affairs, candidates generally fear the current affairs zone, they spend more than 3-4 hrs reading news, magazines, editorials and thus do not get much time to cover other subjects. Be selective about current affairs, and 1 newspaper,1 magazine and surfing the recent news headlines is more than enough. Keep revising the topics on regular basis to develop a good grip on the subject.
  • A good approach for studying any topic is frame as many possible questions on the topic of both MCQ type and Mains type, this way you’re creating your own bank of Questions! Test yourself on every subject by attempting plenty of mock tests.
  • Solve previous years question paper, this will make you understand the difficulty level of questions asked in exam and will give you an idea of how well you are prepared for CSE. The best way to solve papers is to create examination environment at home and attempt prelim paper or Mains paper by allotting yourself the same duration to complete the paper as it is required for the actual exam. This way you will know how much time you’re wasting on what questions and what questions you need to allot more time.

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About the Author

Akshay Palande

Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.

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