UPSC guide for beginners – Preparation for ‘The Preparation’

Ranking 5th in the index of Toughest Exams in the World, the Civil Service Examination, conducted by UPSC is the dream of about half the youth of our nation. This fact is established with these figures:


  • Registration: More than 10 lakh aspirants/year;

  • Preliminary Exam Takers: Around 4.5 Lakhs/year;

  • Those who pass Prelim: Around 15000/year;

  • Those who pass mains: 3000/year;

  • Those who find mention in rank list after interview: 1000/year.

  • Note: As 49.5% seats are reserved, if you are from general category, you may need to be in the top 50% to ensure a place in the final rank list.


With the broad expanse of topics covered by the syllabus- be it of General Studies or Optional- extensive and concentrated study for 10-11 months is a must before you attempt the examination. But even before the preparation, there are some things that you must keep in mind so as to keep your preparation focused and success oriented.

Also See Article: Studying Smart to crack the UPSC Civil Service Exam


Also See : UPSC Exams


Hard work pays off


upsc work heavy


The first thing that one can deduce is hard work. There is no alternative for it. Artika Shukla (Rank 4th, CSE 2015) in an interview with a local news channel said, “The only trick to succeeding in this exam is hard work.” Similarly, Roman Saini (Rank 18th, CSE 2013) says, “Only two things can guarantee success in this exam- dedication, and effort.”


The lines from Margaret Thatcher convey the importance of hard work in CSE in the best possible manner, “I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work. That is the recipe. It will not always get you to the top, but should get you pretty near.”

Also See Article: Study Tips for UPSC Civil Service Exam-part II GS paper 3,4

What is your Motivation ?


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Equally important is identifying your source of motivation, i.e.- what motivates you to become an IAS officer. Some dream of going into the services for the ‘respect and power’ quotient, some for serving the nation & others for proving that they are better than the rest. Whatever motivates you to achieve your goal,  make sure that it is potent enough to push you to work hard at times when you are frustrated and agitated with the course work and hectic study schedule and want to quit. This is the time when you are required to think of the reason that made you start preparing for this backbreaking exam and only when the reason is worthwhile, can you overcome the glitches, frustrations, and hopelessness that you will come across while preparing. This ‘reason’ will serve as your lifeguard in the sea of difficulties named UPSC.


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Great things take time


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Another thing to understand is that the preparation and success of this exam will take time. Even if one qualifies the CSE in the first attempt, he or she will be required to go through preliminary examination, main examination and interview, a process that stretches for 11 to 12 months and if, God forbid, one fails at any given level, he will have to start again by giving the preliminary examination. It is seen that the most selection-probable attempts are third & fourth attempts. Going through such an extended period of hyperactivity coupled with extensive attention requires patience“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” Hard work done consistently for 2 to 3 years while patiently believing in your capacities and keeping your source of motivation close is the first thing one has to prepare oneself for, even before beginning with the real exam preparation.


Also See Article: Civil Service Exam Optional Subjects – Science, not popular, but scoring


There won’t be any part of your erudition left that UPSC won’t tap into before selecting you. This exam tests extensively your knowledge about everything, ranging from your awareness about social issues to how well you can put down your ideas through the essay paper, from Science and Technology to Ethics. The only choice you will have is regarding your optional subject, this choice should not be made on the basis of which subject is the most scoring or easy or has the shortest syllabus but rather the chosen subject should be the one that piques your interest the most, for CSE is not just an exam, it is a process of learning and unless you learn what you enjoy and enjoy this process of learning, cracking this examination will prove to a burdensome impossibility.


You can start here ..

Whether you are a college going or a working professional, you’ll need to have a time scheduled plan of how you will move forward with your preparation. It can be broken down into ‘The Must Dos’–  like


  • Going through the NCERTs from classes 6th to 12th.

  • Reading the newspaper ‘The Hindu’ daily.

  • An ardent perusal of the magazine- Yojana.


If you join a coaching then


  • revision of what is taught in the class.

  • reading what is to be taught in the next class.

  • clarification of doubts as soon as you have them.


If you do not join a coaching


  • allotting time in which each subject is to be completed.

  • the revisions schedule supplementing your knowledge with current affairs.

  • honing your writing skills by answer-writing practice.


But plans are only good intentions unless they immediately materialize into hard work. Thus, making good plan and sticking to it through all the might is the path that will lead to success.

Also See Article: UPSC Civil Service Optionals – you just cannot brush aside these subjects

The least discussed thing- at home and coaching- is the probability of failure. The chance of clearing CSE is less than 0.1%, i.e.- you have more chances of surviving after taking a fall from a peak than passing the three step CSE, this is not to scare the aspirants but to make sure that they have a realistic idea about how beset with difficulty UPSC exam is.  But as Newt Gingrich said, “Education, actual learning-it is hard work. It’s very personal. Your parents don’t teach you anything. Your teachers don’t teach you anything. The government doesn’t teach you anything. You read it. You don’t understand it; you read it again. You break a pencil and read it again.” You don’t get scared of failure and try again and again and again, for it’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.


What is your Plan B?


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Apart from the patience required for going through the exam multiple times expanding over numerous attempts, a backup plan is essential for all those who are not engineers, doctor, lawyers or CAs. Professional degrees like short term diploma courses can be pursued or preparation for governmental examinations side by side, though difficult, owing to the difference in patterns of different examinations, is the most prudent option.

Also See : UPSC Exam Dates

UPSC Preparation Costs money!

Another very hush-hush thing that must be given a thought is expense to be incurred, somewhere between 1.5-2 lacs for coaching and another 1-1.5 lacs for residence if you move to a metro city for preparation, thereby making a strong financial parental backup necessary if you are not employed. Opting to work for awhile and then taking a break to prepare proves to be a better option, financially.


If you’re still reading the article and thinking that YES! CIVIL SERVICES IS FOR ME, then sir and ma’am, it indeed is for you. So fasten your seat belts to you study chairs and get ready for the study-time of your life. Come what may, IAS is yours or rather, you are the next IAS.  Amen!


Author: Anushka Mishra