UPSC is the dream of many. I am sure you are updated with the fact that UPSC is not an easy nut to crack.

But if this is discouraging you from giving it a try, then stop. Look at the fact that only 4% of aspirants clear UPSC. What makes them different from the rest?

Proper strategy, preparation tips and guidance. 

Yes, when all these combine with your hard work and determination, it makes a miracle happen.

So? Don’t look here and there for these. Rather read this article and you will get a proper understanding of UPSC CSE preliminary exams. 

And you will find a magical website for your UPSC CSE Exam preparation journey.

Let’s begin.


CSE is a Civil Service examination is a national level competitive exam for recruitment in various Civil Services such as Indian Administrative Service,  Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Services.  

It is conducted in three phases: Preliminary, Mains and Interview.

The Preliminary Examination includes two tests: General Studies I and CSAT ( General Studies II).

The main examination includes nine different exams. In which two are qualifying and the marks of the other seven are included in the final merit list. 

Then at the last stage, there is a personal interview. This is a test of the candidate’s analytical and problem-solving ability.

Preliminary Examination

Preliminary exams are the first step of your UPSC CSE dream. 

Remember this is an important part of your CSE journey. Without this, there won’t be any mains or interviews. 

Therefore don’t ignore this stage. Many candidates often start their mains exams first and give them extra priority.

And don’t get enough time for prelims and this becomes their grave mistake. 

Also Read: 3 Months Preparation Strategy for UPSC Prelims: Here is How to Crack IAS Prelims


Analysing the syllabus in detail is very important. 

General Studies Paper-1 Syllabus

# History of India and Indian National Movement.

# Current events of national and international importance.

# Indian and World Geography.

# General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change.

# Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, etc.

# Economic and Social Development

# General Science.

General Studies II(CSAT) Syllabus

# Logical reasoning and analytical ability.

# Decision-making and problem-solving.

# General mental ability.

# Comprehension.

# Basic numeracy (Class X level)

# Interpersonal skills including communication skills;

# Data interpretation ( Class X level)

# English language comprehension skills – Class X level.

# Logical reasoning and analytical ability.

# Decision-making and problem-solving.

You can check the full syllabus here:

Also Read: IAS UPSC Syllabus 2020: Buckle up Your Shoes for the Upcoming Exam


# Age Limit: 21-32 years. 

# Age Relaxation:

General 32

OBC 35

SC/ ST 37

Disabled Defence Service Personnel 35

Ex-Servicemen 37

The person with Benchmark disability-EWS 42

# Educational Qualification: Graduation from a recognized University or possess an equivalent qualification.

Candidates in their final years or waiting for their results can also appear for prelims. 

# Nationality: Indian 


Authority: Union Public Service Commission


Mode: Offline

No of questions: 180 questions ( paper I: 100, CSAT: 80)

Marks: (Paper I and Paper II: every 200 marks) 

Languages: Questions are in Hindi and English. Candidates can write answers in any language prescribed by the Constitution. 

No. of Candidates appearing every year:  5,50,000

Fees: Rs 100 for general. Free for other categories. 

Qualification rate: 0.1%

Date: October 2021

Exam Pattern

The preliminary examination included two papers: General Studies I and CSAT. 

General Studies I tests the general knowledge of the candidates and CSAT tests the quantitative, problem solving and analytical ability of the candidates. 

General Studies I

Paper I tests the candidate’s knowledge of History of India,  Geography,  Indian Polity,  Economy of India, Environmental Science,  Science and Technology and many more. 

The major part of the paper focuses on the current affairs knowledge of students. 

Candidates are given 2 hours to solve the paper. Paper I includes 100 questions, each carrying two marks. 

Every year UPSC decides on the cutoff. For each wrong question, 0.66 marks are deducted.

General Paper II (CSAT) 

Paper-II of UPSC prelims is CSAT.  CSAT was introduced in 2011. 

CSAT stands for Civil Service Aptitude Service. The main motive of this exam is to test the candidate’s analytical, problem-solving and aptitude skills. 

This paper is qualifying in nature. Candidates are given 2 hours to solve the paper.  

It consists of 80 questions, each carrying 2.5 marks. The total marks are 200 and the passing marks of CSAT is 66 marks. 

For every wrong answer 0.83 marks.

Paper Analysis

The first step of the UPSC Exam strategy is analysing the paper deeply. 

General Studies I includes questions from History of India and INM, Geography,  Polity of India, Economics, Environmental Studies, Science and Technology and Current Affairs. 

The weightage of Current Affairs is increasing every day. Each year the pattern of the paper changes. 

Though many questions come from Current Affairs. The second important subject is History. 

Polity, Geography, Economics, Science, and Environmental science are also important.

2020 Prelims Analysis

Current Affairs-15

History- 18

Polity- 16


Geography- 10

Science- 10

Environment Science- 17

Winning Strategies

With a proper strategy for UPSC CSE, anyone can clear UPSC exams.

Test Approach 

In this method, you can periodically take tests to analyse your strengths and weaknesses. 

Target one subject, study everything you can and then take weekly tests and analyse where you were wrong. 

You can take various Mocks tests or solve previous year question papers.

Also Read: Free Online Test Series for UPSC Prelims 2021: Get Thorough with the Preparation

Reverse Preparation 

In this method start your preparation by solving the previous year question papers. 

This will help you to analyse the pattern of the question paper. Some repetitive questions come every year. 

By solving papers you will have a proper understanding of the paper. What kind of questions come and what questions are asked. 

This will guide you throughout your preparation. 


Start studying NCERTs as soon as possible. NCERTs helps you to cover various topics of prelims paper.

UPSC Pathshala Course

Need extra care and support? Try to take various courses from UPSC Pathshala.

UPSC pathshala provides various questions which help you to boost your preparation. 

Here are some courses which you can take.

How to Read Current Affairs?

Current Affairs are an integral part of your UPSC prelims preparation.

For Current Affairs, start by looking at the recent activities. Start by reading newspapers,  online blogs or magazines.

You can even watch different youtube channels or subscribe to one channel which helps you to understand current affairs. 

Also Read: 3 Months Preparation Plan for UPSC Prelims: A Step Towards Success

How to Study CSAT? 

CSAT is an important part of your prelims preparation. Candidates often ignore this paper thinking it is only qualifying in nature. 

CSAT preparation should include the right strategy for the UPSC CSE exam.

But this is their grave mistake. If you think maths is hard then you should start your CSAT preparation early. 

Try solving previous year question papers and mock tests. Speed is the key to your success. 

Therefore practice, practice and practice solving problems. 

Best Books for UPSC Prelims


Ancient History- India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma

Medieval History- History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra

Modern History – Modern History of India by Bipin Chandra


World History: Spectrum

Culture: Nitin Singhania

Geography: NCERT 6-12, 

Polity: Indian Polity by Laxmikanth,  NCERT 6-12

General Knowledge: Lucent Publications

General Science: Ncert 11-12

Quantitative Aptitude: Quantitative aptitude by RS Sharma 

Current Affairs: Newspaper ( Hindu, Economic Times, Hindustan Times

Yojana Magazine, Manorama Yearbook, The budget, Economic Survey.

Tips for UPSC CSE Exam Strategy 

# Try to solve previous year question papers and mock tests to test your weakness and strengths. 

# Analyse 10 years prelims paper to understand the pattern and types of questions.

# Includes reading newspapers and magazines as an important part of your preparation.

# Study different NCERTs for each subject.

# Analyse the Syllabus carefully.  Read it every time and you will see different topics every day. 

# Don’t ignore CSAT. Solve different reasoning and maths questions to increase your problem-solving skills and speed. 

# Make proper notes for each topic to help you with revision.

# Take different mocks tests to test your strengths and weaknesses.

Also Read: How many Papers are There in UPSC Prelims? Here’re the Insights to Boost Your UPSC Preparation


Prelims examination is an important part of your UPSC CSE dream. With proper preparation and the right strategy, you can easily pass your prelims paper.

Rather than studying everything, try to study smartly. You can either apply for a coaching Institute or take online courses. 

UPSC Pathshala provides you with various courses to help you with your preparation. We have expert instructors and teachers to teach you. You can also find different question papers and mock tests for your preparation. 

Remember you can do this. UPSC is not far away. Best of luck!

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About the Author


Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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