Jo darr gaya, samjho voh mar gaya! ~ Gabbar’s enlightening words may have some pretty far-reaching influence well outside the Bollywood domain. One such unlikely sphere includes the young aspirants who decide to appear, in the hopes of qualifying, one of the toughest exams in the country – the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) because the success rate of this exam is only 0.20%-0.25%. UPSC exam can be called tough but if the student follows a strategy and prepare with direction, they can easily crack the exam.
About Civil Services Examination:-
The Civil Services exam is the doorway to exciting careers in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and more.
The Civil Services exam takes place in 3 stages; Preliminary exam (Prelims) consisting of objective-type multiple choice questions, the Mains exams which is a subjective-type written exam, and a Personality test.
How To Prepare For UPSC Prelims:-
The Preliminary exam for the UPSC Civil Services consists of two papers; Paper I is General Studies worth 200 marks with 100 multiple choice questions and Paper II is an Aptitude test worth 200 marks with 80 multiple choice questions.
Prelims is the very dynamic part of all three stages. Success rate at this stage is below 5% making it a Cut-throat competition. I found following points which is indispensable for success in prelims:
Last 5 to10 Previous years’ question papers to analyze the pattern of the exam and to understand the nature of questions asked and look at the syllabus.
Read basic books like NCERT & standard books and read them at least thrice before the exam.
Current affairs is instrumental for success in prelims. You can refer monthly magazine of any institute or you can make online/offline notes from Newspaper
Instead of reading 10 books for one time, one should try to read 1 book for ten times because Leo Tolstoy writes in Anna Karenina “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
Solving Test papers is crucial to break the inertia and to make your fear go away.
Take CSAT seriously. For CSAT solve mock test and previous year question paper.
Your time devoted to a particular subject should be based on the Input-Output approach. For instance, you can devote more time to Modern History, Polity, Economy, Environment, etc.
How To Prepare For UPSC Mains:-
The Mains examination for the Civil Services consists of subjective answers, which test your knowledge, analytical skills, writing skills and clarity of thought. There are a total of 9 papers in the Mains examination, consisting of: 4 General Studies Papers, 1 Essay Paper, 2 Language Papers and 2 Optional Subject Papers. All 9 Papers are subjective-type and take place over a duration of 5 days. Each paper except language paper consist of 250 marks each total of 1750 marks and both the language paper is of qualifying nature.
This is the “Main” exam in true sense which ultimately will decide Rank you get. Here, success rate is very high in comparison to prelims but you have to compete with the candidates having almost same knowledge base. Small differences create a big gap. Hence, try to fetch 1 extra mark in each question and that is going to create a very huge gap between you and the crowd.
GS-1, GS-2, GS-3 & GS-4
Read basic books along with standard books.
Make short notes on each single topic mentioned in the syllabus which will help in quick revision.
Try to link Current affairs and the static portion to see the broader picture.
Make diagrams, Flowcharts, Graphs, Maps etc. to make sure that your structure appears well.
Practice answer writing to ensure that you complete the paper within prescribed time. It will also help know one’s weaknesses and strengths.
Have a look at the previous years’ question papers to know the type and nature of questions that UPSC asks.
For GS-4 prepare definition of all keywords and key phrases of the syllabus in your own simple words and try to write them in the exam and try to incorporate different philosophies like Utilitarianism, Teleology, Deontology, etc. while writing answers and always support the ideology which respects human dignity.
Optional & Essay
Choose optional very carefully. Choice should totally be based on one’s interest. One can know ones interest by reading NCERTs and looking at previous year question paper of optional subject.
Prepare the optional paper thoroughly so that you are assured of getting good marks. Consult PYQs to understand the demand and the pattern
Answer writing practice is also needed here in order to increase the writing speed and retention.
Write at least 8-10 essays before exam & always choose the topic of essay which you are strong at. Write simple language, keep examiner interested in the essay and always go for a smooth transition from one paragraph to another. Try to include various dimensions like social, economic, political, etc.
Give more focus on optional, GS-4, and Essay as these are the game-changer in selection.
How To Prepare For UPSC Personal Interview:-
The Personal Interview or personality test is worth 275 marks of the total 2025 marks considered for awarding ranks.
Overall the interview examines the personality of candidates in terms of mental alertness, analytical ability, approaches to critical problems, integrity, and leadership qualities. To prepare for the personal interview, practice public speaking and your conversational skills. Talk in front of a mirror to study your body language and confidence. On the day of the interview, be confident, dress neatly, and stay calm in conversation.
At last but not least during the phase of preparation be dedicated, maintain consistency, do hard work with smartness, take proper sleep, and stay healthy.
Vipul Kumar Singh is Law student at DELHI UNIVERSITY and Content writer of Various UPSC coaching Institue in Delhi. He tweets at @vipul4927