Union Public Service Commission (or widely known by its acronym UPSC) Examinations are qualifying examinations for various civil service posts conducted in India. This vindictive examination is really not for the fainthearted but with proper diligence and smart learning, this particular monster would not be impossible to take down either.

On the face value, the syllabus for this examination consists of everything that you have studied till high school as general education. But this doesn’t even scratch the surface of it as ‘general studies’ is nothing but an umbrella term for an otherwise vast amount of universal knowledge. They expect you to dig deep and then deeper still to understand every core concept that we have been fed as children.

Almost like derivations of mathematical theorems that we did to understand the logical basis in which the theorem came to be. This would make you a well informed and rounded person who can make excellent decisions that every civil servant has to make.

Know the UPSC IAS Exam Pattern

The whole process of the UPSC examinations is divided into three rounds- Preliminary, Mains, and Personality Test/Interview. The Preliminary Round is used to test an individual’s current affairs and general knowledge and their ability to perform well in a short period of time. This is the basic knowledge that every aspirant must study extensively not only for the Preliminary round but also for their Mains.

Also Read: UPSC Updated Syllabus and Pattern to Keep You in the Loop!

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern

Parameters Details
Number of papers 2
Language of paper English
Duration of exam 4 hours (2 hours each)
Number of questions General studies paper 1: 100

General studies paper 2: 80

Maximum marks 400 (200 each)
Qualifying marks 33%

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern

Parameters Details
Number of papers 9
Language of paper English
Descriptive paper: Candidates can appear for language paper in 22 languages mentioned in schedule 8 of the Indian constitution
Duration of exam 3 hours each
Subjects Compulsory Indian language



General Studies I

General Studies II

General Studies III

General Studies IV

Optional I

Optional II

Number of questions Part A and B: 300 each

General studies and optional paper: 250 each

Maximum marks 1750

Prepare Yourself and Make a Schedule

The first step to starting your UPSC preparation making up your mind because the whole process needs you to sacrifice a lot in life. From leaving your job to cutting back on other activities in life to study day and night. The preparation for the exams is extensive and draining but it is important to be systematic and rigorous in your approach.

Last-minute cramming and crash courses are not generally recommended for this kind of examination as at least a year-long preparation is required. The usage of study plans and guides is imperative. You should set a timetable according to your personal capabilities before your preparation and make sure you stick to it. Making a timetable will ease your preparation and make it more streamlined. With small set goals and planned learning, you would work more efficiently and complete the syllabus faster.

News and Current Affairs Reading

Religiously follow the newspapers and current affairs for your UPSC as it one of the key factors of the UPSC exam. Every civil servant is required to be proficient in knowing the country and the world very well. The questions in the exam are either directly or indirectly connected to the current affairs so you cannot hope of clearing it without studying the news meticulously.

Choosing an Optional Subject

Choose your optional subject very wisely based on your interests instead of on which paper is more scoring as your opinions and writing presentation is what fetches your scores. An interest and a passion for the subject is reflected in your answers and will be more attractive than an objective approach.

Some of the factors to keep in mind before selecting an optional are:

  • Interest in the subject
  • Prior knowledge in it/academic background
  • Overlap with the GS papers, past and mock
  • Availability of coaching
  • Availability of study material

Study Material and Book Lists

The first and foremost book recommended for UPSC is the NCERTs. NCERT books are known for their concepts and thus are good for laying your foundation down. Aspirants can get basic concepts and theories from NCERT textbooks. These books provide information very coherently. Moreover, they are reliable too as the source is the government itself. There have been instances of getting questions straight from NCERT in the past too.

Also Read: Books For UPSC IAS Preparation

Recommended Book List

Book Title Author/ Publication
History Of Modern India (History) Bipan Chandra
India’s Struggle For Independence (History) Bipan Chandra
India’s Ancient Past (History) R.S. Sharma
History Of Medieval India (History) Satish Chandra
A New Look at Modern Indian History BL Grover
The Wonder That Was India (Culture) A.L. Bhasham
Indian Art and Culture (Culture) Nitin Singhania
Our Parliament Subash Kashyap
Geography of India (Geography) Majid Husain
Oxford School Atlas (Geography) Oxford
Science and Technology TMH
CSAT Book Cracking the CSAT Paper-2 Arihant
Certificate Physical and Human Geography (Geography) Goh Cheng Leong
Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations (Polity) M. Laxmikanth
Indian Economy (Economy) Ramesh Singh
Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure (Environment) Rajagopalan
A History of Modern World Ranjan Chakravarti
Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Main (Environment) Khuller
Facets of Indian Culture Spectrum
Indian Constitution PM Bakshi
Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning R. S. Aggarwal

Practice Papers and Mock Tests

It’s important to practice writing answers as the questions asked are generally descriptive types that could take up too much time if attempted on the spot with no prior practice. Also to understand the pattern of questions and to be able to predict the kind of topics that would be covered, it is best to solve past and mock papers. It will also help in gauging how much progress you’ve made.

Also Read: How To Practice Writing Answers For IAS Mains?


The battle to succeed in Civil Services Exams is long and hard. There will be many obstacles in the way. You have to maintain your determination and work towards your goals. Revision is also a very important part of the journey. You will also have to alter plans according to the situations that arise however it’s not impossible. Stick to your dreams and you will be able to get to the end.

Also Read : UPSC Posts List and Salary: Check-out the 24 UPSC Service List that Awaits You

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UPSC Study Plan for 2021: When and How to Start Preparing for IAS Exams?
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UPSC Study Plan for 2021: When and How to Start Preparing for IAS Exams?
Start preparing for your UPSC Exams next year right now! Click here for the best 1 year long UPSC study plans, syllabus, and important tips. Check it out now!
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