11 IAS Preparation Tips for Beginners: How to Start from Ground Zero?

IAS Preparation: Formed in 1926, the UPSC consists of a chairman and other members appointed by the president of India. The constitution does not specify the strength of the commission but leaves the matter to the discretion of the President. Hence, the composition of the commission is determined by the president. Usually, the commission consists of 9 to 12 members, including the chairman.

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination is a national-level examination to recruit for various civil services posts of the Government of India. UPSC conducts examinations for posts such as the Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Police Services (IPS), Indian Forest Services (IFS), Indian Revenue Services (IRS), etc.

UPSC Exam Pattern: – 

The UPSC Civil services exam is conducted in three phases. The three phases are Preliminary, Mains and Interview phase. The preliminary examination or CSAT (Objective Section) consists of two objective-type papers (general studies and aptitude test). The main examination is the subjective section, consisting of nine papers of conventional (essays).

To be qualified for UPSC civil services exams, a candidate must have attained the age of 21 years and not be more than 32 years of age as on August 1 of the year of examination. For other backward classes (OBC), the upper age limit is 35, and for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) candidates, the age limit is 37 years. The number of attempts to clear the exam is capped at four for general-category candidates, and seven for OBCs; there is no such cap for SC/ST candidates.

Here we have provided some tips that will help the candidates to gear up UPSC preparation in right direction and achieve the Success!

Tip 1: – Analyse the syllabus and Previous year question papers. 

  • Solving question papers of previous years or at least glancing at them may appear a tedious task, but it is a pain worth undergoing. To clear the toughest exam like UPSC, you should put enough time in analysing the syllabus. An accurate understanding of the nature, clarity, and scope of the syllabus is crucial for good preparation. It helps in understanding what to read and what not to read. The questions asked in the exam are always within the syllabus and hence keeping a close eye on syllabus is fundamental.
  • Solving previous years question papers is another crucial part. It is advised to study at least 5 years solved question papers. Analysis syllabus and previous year papers will give you an idea about the structure of the question papers and type of questions which can be asked in the coming exams. It does boost your confidence and give you a clear picture of what exactly you are going to see in the question papers of upcoming exams. 

Tip 2: -Prepare a comprehensive Strategy of your preparation. 

  • IAS Preparation: A proper strategy is an extensive plan about what you are doing, how you are doing it and what resources you need. When it comes to civil services exams, last minute preparations never work. The UPSC aspirants should have a smart strategy and focused schedule before starting their preparation. This should be done by keeping in mind the details of each step that you have to go through. 
  • The aspirants should understand the nerve of the exams and prepare the schedule accordingly. Reading the stuff that is important for the exam is the core principle of smart study. Since the civil services exams take place every year, there is always a plenty of time to plan how many days you would want to allot for certain subjects.   

Tip 3: – Choose quality study material and stick to it throughout your preparation. 

  • The quality resources Choosing study material is not a simple task and requires proper guidance. It is always a good idea to begin preparation by getting subject fundamentals in place. The best source to get clarity and a good hold on various subjects are the NCERT books (from class VI to class XII).
  1. Modern India
    1. Ncert – class 8th (new) – ‘our pasts – iii’
    2. Ncert-class 12th ‘modern India’ (old)
    3. Tamil Nadu edition- class 12th
  2. Medieval India
    1. Ncert – class 7th (new) 
    2. Ncert – class 11th ‘medieval India’ (old)- Satish Chandra
    3. Tamil Nadu edition-class 11th
  3. Ancient India
    1. Ncert– class 11th ‘ancient india’ (old)- r.s. sharma
    2. Ncert– class 12th ‘themes in indian history- part i’ (new)- chapters 1 to 6
    3. Tamil nadu edition – class 11th
  4. Geography
    1. Ncert social science, class 6th (new) ‘the earth our habitat’
    2. Ncert social science, class 7th (new) ‘our environment’
    3. Ncert social science, class 8th (new) ‘ resource and development’
    4. Ncert social science, class 9th (new) ‘contemporary india’
    5. Ncert social science, class 10th (new) ‘contemporary india-part ii’
    6. Ncert – class 11th (new)
      1. Fundamentals of physical geography
      2. India physical environment
    7. Ncert – class 12th (new)
      1. Fundamentals of human geography
      2. India – people and economy
  5. Polity
    1. Ncert – 6th to 8th (for basic understanding)
    2. Ncert- class 9th to 12th (for understanding more on democracy and federalism)
    3. Indian polity – M laxmikanth
  6. Economics
    1. Macroeconomics- class 12th , Ncert
    2. Ncert 11th – Indian economic development
    3. Ncert- class 9thand 10th (for basics)
    4. Indian economy – Ramesh Singh-selective chapters 
  7. Science & technology
    1. Ncert- class 6th to 10th
    2. Ncert – biology – 11th 
    3. Ncert biology – 12th 
    4. Ncert – biology – 12th (old) – chapter 9 onwards
    5. Ncert – physics – 11th (chap 1,5 & 8) and 12th (chap 15 only)
    6. Ncert – chemistry – 11th (chap 1 & 14 only) and 12th (chap 14 & 16 only)
    7. Science reporter- selectively
  8. Environment
    1. Icse board- environmental studies- class 10th and 11th
    2. Ncert- geography books (in 6th to 12th there are lot of chapters on environment)
    3. Shankar ias notes
    4. Current affairs
  9. Social issues & new policies/schemes
    1. India yearbook
    2. Current affairs

Tip 4: – Focus on full-fledged preparation and Say no to shortcuts

  • IAS Preparation: Preparing for IAS is not easy. It requires the aspirants to have a proper strategy. Besides the aspirants should be committed to follow that strategy. There multiple shortcuts available that will misguide the aspirants and lead to wrong path. 
  • The aspirants should keep themselves away from such shortcuts. They should believe and follow the tested preparation steps in order achieve the desired success. 
  • Keep a distance from guides and coaching centres offering easy steps to crack IAS.
  • Stay away from coaching classes/guides that lure you into cracking IAS in easy steps.

Tip 5: -Choose your optional subject wisely: IAS Preparation

  • The optional subject plays very significant role in placing the candidate’s name in final list. The optional constitutes of 500 marks in Mains exams. Thus, choosing a correct optional subject is one of the most significant steps in how to prepare for IAS. 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.
  • The aspirants should analyse the subjects provided by UPSC for optional. They should study the success ratio and current trend of the optional. The optional subject should have strong subject areas and aspirant should be able to use them for your benefit.

Tip 6: – Prepare a separate strategy for Current affairs. 

  • Current affairs and contemporary issues are the dynamic and crucial areas in UPSC examinations. It is very important that the aspirants should keep themselves updated with what is going around in the world. 
  • Civil services exams are there to test an aspirant’s in-depth knowledge about the current issues in society. Knowledge about international events is also required, but knowing one’s own village, district, state and country should be considered as the foundation for one’s preparation. 
    1. Read one national newspaper daily and keep adding the current developments to the all topics given in syllabus. 
    2. Read specialised magazines to cover some special portions of the syllabus, like World Focus for International Relation, down to earth etc
  • Here is a list of important sources which can be used to cover current affairs for UPSC examination: –
  1. Newspapers: – The Hindu and The Indian Express
  2. Authentic Government Websites: –
  1. Press Information Bureau 
  2. PRS 
  3. IDSA: Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis 
  1. Magazines: – Yojana and Kurukshetra, Down to earth 
  2. LokSabha and RajyaSabha Debates

Tip 7: – Study the Pattern and practice answer writing.

  • An analysis of previous years’ papers helps in understanding the syllabus in a better perspective, and helps identify the areas from which more questions have been asked. Aspirants must go through the previous years’ question papers. It helps in determining the type of questions, and also helps in identifying the best source of reading material. 
  • Practice tests come in handy for candidates. These tests not only help all candidates in preparing for the mains, but also help in learning time management. Practise writing on a daily basis. Pick up an editorial from a newspaper or a topic from the syllabus, and frame a question on it and write its answer.

Tip 8: – Use internet wisely for your intellectual development

  • The Internet helps in staying updated with whatever is happening around. However, the usability of the Internet is one thing that aspirants should use for making useful value additions to their preparation.
  • The usability of the information that the aspirants get from internet is a crucial step in UPSC preparation. The aspirants should use the internet wisely and fit a piece of fact or information in the best way. 
  • Intellectual development is one of the most important parts of the examination. It is vital for you to convey your thoughts clearly in the mains exams and to the interviewers. Hence, concentrate on polishing your communication skills and body language. 
  • The aspirants may need to practice to become excellent communicators of their ideas. Candidates with no communication skills can approach those, who have already appeared for the civil services exams, to take useful tips from them.

Tip 9: – Focus on key words and develop creative ways to remember

  • Keywords will help aspirants to understand the applicability of the topic with the syllabus. The aspirants should look for keywords during preparation, as well as during writing the exam. For example, every question would have a question tag such as “critically analyse”, “discuss”, “elaborate”, “comment”, and so on.
  • Knowledge retention is a real challenge so avoid stuffing topics and exhausting your brain to the next level. Besides the aspirants should also focus on creating a innovative techniques to enhance their preparation. Boring facts of history and polity can be made easy to remember with flowcharts, diagrams. Making interesting flow charts and visual aids can add that little bit of color in your preparation. Visual aids can be used for revisiting the topic. Jot down your ideas in short formats and create interesting flow charts and diagrams.

Tip 10: – Take care of your physical and mental health 

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated UPSC preparation and placed career of aspirants at risk. It has become very significant that the aspirants should take good care of their mental and physical health. There is a significant role of physical exercise in well-being and sleep to maintain higher concentration during study hours. 
  • Remember there will be times when you will feel demotivated but do not lose hope and keep your calm. The aspirants should practice regular physical activity at home. It not only impact on the level of physical health but also on the mental health of aspirants.

Tip 11: -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.
  1. Read all instructions very carefully to ensure you’re answering what is asked. 
  2. Identify which sections and questions are compulsory and, where you have a choice of questions, select the one(s) you will answer.
  3. Plan the amount of time you will spend on each question proportional to what they are worth. 
  4. Answering easier questions first will boost your confidence and may even allow you to pick up some extra time that you can spend on more difficult questions. 
  5. It can be helpful to jot down key points and concepts you will use to illustrate your answer to a question, before you start writing your detailed response. 
  6. Attempt to answer every question.

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