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Home » The Ultimate Guide on How to Prepare for IAS: Top 11 Tips

The Ultimate Guide on How to Prepare for IAS: Top 11 Tips


Of the many challenges a UPSC aspirant faces, the first and the most crucial one being- finding the ideal guide on how to prepare for IAS. This article is for all the hardworking UPSC aspirants out there. We have cooked some of the most effective ways to better your UPSC preparation strategy.

From creating a mental plan of your UPSC preparation strategy to implementing the tricks of the trade, this comprehensive guide will charge up all your brain cells and help you focus on the right things, with the absolute right mindset.   So, what are you waiting for? Sit back and read on!

Before we discuss how to prepare for IAS let’s take a quick look at the questions in the image below. These questions will help you in understanding if you really want to pursue a career in Civil Services:

How to prepare for IAS
Questions to ask: How to Prepare for IAS

Hoping the above questions offered some clarity to you. In case you don’t feel these questions are enough for you to decide a career path, talk to iDreamCareer’s expert counsellors, and get unbiased career guidance. Get clarity and lead a career path that suits your capabilities.

How to prepare for IAS– UPSC Prelims

One of the first questions an IAS aspirant asks is- How to prepare for IAS Prelims? UPSC Prelims or Preliminary examination is the first level of UPSC Civil Services Examinations. The Prelims comprises of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each.

Let’s understand the prelims exam pattern and discuss how to prepare for UPSC prelims in detail later on.

UPSC Prelims exam pattern

As mentioned above, UPSC Prelims exam consist of two compulsory papers:

General Studies Paper-I, includes:

  • Current events of national and international importance
  • History of India and Indian National Movement
  • Indian and World Geography- Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
  • Indian Polity and Governance- Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development- Sustainable Development, Poverty, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity, and Climate Change General Science

General Studies Paper-II- CSAT, includes:

  • Comprehension Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • General mental ability Basic numeracy (numbers and relations, orders of magnitude, etc.), Data Interpretation (charts, tables, graphs, data sufficiency, etc) (10th Standard level)

UPSC Exam Preparation: Some facts first

Now that you have a clear understanding of the UPSC prelims exam pattern, let’s now discuss how to prepare for UPSC Prelims examination:

To create an effective UPSC preparation strategy you must first get your facts clear:

  • IAS aspirants must know that the Paper-II of the Prelims exam is a qualifying paper i.e. candidates need to at least 33% marks in the UPSC Prelims to be eligible for Mains examination. The questions will be of multiple choices, objective type.
  • The marks acquired in General Studies Paper-I are counted for ranking and the cut-off marks for this paper is set by the UPSC.
  • For each incorrect answer, 1/3rd of the marks allotted for the question are deducted.
  • The official website of UPSC lists the Prelims examination syllabus in detail.

How to prepare for IAS: Top 11 Useful Ways

Here are the top 11 tips you may find extremely informative on how to prepare for IAS. Take a look at each one of these and speed up your UPSC exam preparation strategy.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 1

#Clichéd but true- Manage your time well

  • The reason why time management is crucial for UPSC exam preparation is because of the vastness of the syllabus and the scarcity of time. No matter how good your strategies for UPSC exams are, if you aren’t following a proper schedule & strategically evaluating your progress, you are bound to get stuck.
  • If you are currently in college and want to start preparing for the IAS examination, then you would need to create a customized time table that lets you study for both your graduation and UPSC.
  • If you are a working professional and are trying to balance your job as well as your UPSC exam preparation, then you must manage your time and give at least 3-4 hours a day into your exam preparation.
  • Most IAS toppers suggest that preparing for IAS should be strategically planned and the aspirants must take 1 to 1.5 years to prepare for IAS.
  • Not only does preparing for IAS take time but the entire examination process extends over a year. Graduates or working professionals must make sure they can commit to their jam-packed schedules and deadlines.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 2

#Understand the exam pattern

  • The nature of the UPSC exam is intimidating; creating a strategic action plan may get puzzling. The students must understand the exam pattern and determine their actionable plan.
  • Understanding the syllabus and exam pattern would help you in creating a mental note of the subjects you know a little about and the subjects you need to start from scratch. 
  • Most aspirants start their UPSC exam preparation without any strategic plan; many students hardly know what all topics are covered and why diverse topics from all over the world are covered. Avoid these mistakes and go through the exam syllabus before creating your exam strategy.
  • Check out the mind map below and understand the IAS exam pattern. The official website of UPSC lists the detailed syllabus and exam pattern of the IAS examination.
How to Prepare for IAS
IAS Exam Pattern

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 3


  • For those wondering how to prepare for IAS English section must form the habit of reading the newspaper from the beginning of your UPSC exam preparation.
  • Reading newspapers and keeping a tab on current affairs is a must as most of the topics in the IAS syllabus are closely associated with the government policies, politics, socio-cultural as well as economics.
  • Given that the syllabus for IAS is vast and hard to remember, staying up to date with the current affairs and news would add value to your IAS preparations.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 4

#Choose your optional subject wisely

  • Aspirants who have little or no clue on how to prepare for IAS commit the mistake of not thinking and researching well about their optional subject.
  • Choosing an optional subject is one of the most significant steps in how to prepare for IAS. It accounts for a total of 500 marks in UPSC total score. 
  • Don’t go for a subject you would like to study for your IAS. This is not the time to explore your interests; this is the time to practically act upon your strong subject areas and using them for your benefit.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 5

#Stick to NCERTs and follow all-inclusive Study Materials

  • Most of the topics in IAS exams cover everything we studied in classes 6th to 12th. Sticking to NCERTs for understanding the basics is a great way to start your UPSC exam preparation.
  • Remember that NCERTs would help you in starting your IAS preparations; you would need subject-specific books to understand the concepts and fundamentals in detail.
  • Students stuck with the question of how to prepare for IAS and what is the best study material for IAS exam preparation must refer to trusted sources only. There are many educational tutors who sell fake notes in the name of the best guides for UPSC exam preparation.
  • Moreover, investing in good quality study materials could prove helpful in your overall IAS preparation strategy.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 6

#Practice, Practice and Practice

  • What is the best strategy and how to prepare for IAS? Practice and Practice a little more.
  • Practice mock tests and previous year question papers as much as you can. This would give you a glimpse of the types and nature of questions generally asked in the exam.
  • Look for study material that offers mock tests and also go for free online mock test series.
  • Mock tests and practice tests must be a part of your weekly practice schedule. You must evaluate and keep a tab on your scores while practicing.
  • One of the biggest mistakes IAS aspirants make while preparing for IAS is that they skip practicing or even delay it till the last minute.
  • Make a habit of evaluating your progress in subjects by testing your knowledge using free online mock tests.
  • Make the best use of free online tools and UPSC previous year question papers.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 7

#Don’t cram topics, innovate creative ways to remember 

  • Boring facts of history and polity can snatch away the charm and make you want to just ‘rattofy’ them and budge ahead in the syllabus.
  • But this is like a battle half won; you won’t remember those stuffed topics when the time comes. Making interesting flow charts and visual aids can add that little bit of color in your preparation.
  • Find creative ways of revising the subjects you are pro in.
  • Knowledge retention is a real challenge so avoid stuffing topics and exhausting your brain to the next level.
  • Visual aids can be used for revisiting the topic. Jot down your ideas in short formats and create interesting flow charts and diagrams.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 8

#Indulge in group study

  • We all know how peaceful it is to study alone. But after a point, this could be counterproductive.
  • Make sure to involve your study mates or friends in your preparations. Revise and discuss topics as this would give you quick feedback on your preparations and would enable you to reflect on your own preparations.
  • Group studies can help you gain confidence over the topics you have prepared well and allows you to understand the topics you don’t understand with different perspectives.
  • Although group study is a good practice, don’t forget to go off the topic. Focus on using your time in the best way possible.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 9

#9 Just say no to shortcuts

  • Stay away from coaching classes/guides that lure you into cracking IAS in easy steps.
  • Let’s be practical, preparing for IAS is not easy. It requires mental and physical strength until the end of the process.
  • So keep a distance from guides and coaching centers offering easy steps to crack IAS.
  • Get it: It is not easy; working hard and smart is the way.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 10

#Plan for your final exam day

  • Exam day could be the most stressful day and proper planning could save months of your hard work.
  • Don’t keep new and alien topics for the last minute. Avoid studying any new topics before your final exam.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of unplugging your mind one day before the exam. Stick to your notes and focus on eating healthy and sleeping well on time for your final exam.

How to prepare for IAS – Tip 11

#Relax and remember your goal

  • Most students worrying about how to prepare for IAS end up forgetting the fact that the actual civil services preparations filters down to refining and internalizing the knowledge you would have acquired as a student and as a citizen of the country.
  • Instead of stressing on the vastness of the IAS syllabus, you must focus on brushing up your facts and knowing the history, culture, polity, and a lot more about your country in detail.
  • Remembering your goal and understanding what you’d do if you become an IAS officer would give your preparations a new pace. Always keep in mind why you started in the first place. This would trickle down your doubts and worries and help you focus on cracking the IAS examination.

Summing Up

In this article, we discussed how to prepare for IAS examination and the top tips in refining the UPSC preparation strategy. The entire process of preparing for any exam gets easy when you have a clearly defined goal. No matter how great your IAS preparation strategy is, if you are still not sure about this career path, you don’t have to feel guilty! It’s never too late! You can always talk to expert career counsellors and understand whether you really should go for CSE.

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