How to Prepare For the UPSC Prelims 2021

The date for UPSC Prelims 2021 is 10th October 2021. the aspirants can get four months preparing for this exam. The approach for preparation is more intensive. Aspirants should have an in-depth knowledge about each and every single thing. Though clearing the UPSC Prelims at the first attempt is an uphill task, proper planning and creating a well-rounded preparation strategy for the last few months can be a sure-fire way to success. Here is a 4-month Study plan with detailed information for UPSC Prelims 2021:-

Exam Pattern: UPSC Prelims

For Civil Services Preliminary Examination UPSC conducts two objective (MCQs) papers.

  1. General Studies Paper 1 (General Awareness)
  2. General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT)

The IAS Prelims exam details:

ExamTotal marksDurationNo. of questionsNegative MarkingNatureRequired marks to qualify
GS 12002 hours100YesMarks counted for rankingCut-off prescribed by UPSC
GS 22002 hours80YesQualifying only33% (66/200)

Syllabus: UPSC Prelims

General Studies Paper-1 Syllabus:

  1. Current events of national and international importance.
  2. History of India and Indian National Movement.
  3. Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
  4. Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  5. Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  6. General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change- that do not require subject specialization.
  7. General Science.

General Studies Paper-2 (CSAT) Syllabus:

  1. Comprehension.
  2. Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
  3. Logical reasoning and analytical ability.
  4. Decision-making and problem-solving.
  5. General mental ability.
  6. Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level)
  7. Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. – Class X level).
  8. English language comprehension skills – Class X level.

Topic-Wise Suggestions: UPSC Prelims

  1. History: Focus on art and culture, modern history, ancient history and medieval history in that order.
  2. Polity & Governance: Pay special attention to what is happening in the current scenario. Examples include Right to Privacy, Right to Freedom of Expression, Citizenship Act, Directive Principles of State Policy and Farm Laws among others.
  3. Economy: Refer to Economic Survey, published by the Government of India. The main areas of focus should include Macro Economics (not Micro Economics), economic performance in various sectors, trends and analysis. Do not pay much attention to static facts and figures.
  4. Science & Technology: Focus should be on space, defence, biotechnology, new diseases and other latest developments.
  5. Geography & Environment: Pay attention to biodiversity, climate change and global warming, endangered species, animals conserved through national parks and their locations.

4 Months Study Plan (June-Sept 2021): –

  • Static revision: – 4 Times
  • Current Coverage: – From Jan 2021 to April 2021
  • Total Mock Tests: 120 Tests (Subject wise+ CSAT + Full-Length)
 StaticCurrentPractice Mock Tests (Daily One)
JuneStudy 1.     Polity (10 days) History (10 days)Culture (5 Days) Science (5 Days)2020 1.     January February March AprilMay June1.    Polity (6 Tests) History (6 Tests)Culture (6 Tests) Science (6 Tests)Current (6 Tests)
JulyStudy 1.     Ancient (4 days) 2.     Geography (9 days) Environment (7 days) 4.     Economy (9 days) CSAT (2 days)2020 July August SeptemberOctober NovemberDecember1.     Geography (6 tests) 2.     Environment (6 Tests) 3.     Economy (6 Tests) Current (6 Tests)CSAT (2 Tests)Ancient (4 Tests)  
AugustRevise 1.     Polity (4 days) History (4 days)Ancient + Culture (4 Days) Science (4 Days) 5.     Geography (4 days) 6.     Environment (4 days) 7.     Economy (4 days) CSAT (2 days)2021 1.     January February March April1.     Polity (3 Tests) History (3 Tests))Ancient + Culture (3 Tests)) Science (3 Tests) 5.     Geography 3 Tests) 6.     Environment (3Tests) 7.     Economy (3 Tests) 8.     CSAT (2 Tests) Full Length (7 Tests)
Sept  Revise: – 1.     Polity (4 days) History (4 days)Ancient + Culture (4 Days) Science (4 Days) 5.     Geography (4 days) 6.     Environment (4 days) 7.     Economy (4 days) 8.     CSAT (2 days)Revise Current Affairs1.     Polity (3 Tests) History (3 Tests))Ancient + Culture (3 Tests)) Science (3 Tests) 5.     Geography 3 Tests) 6.     Environment (3Tests) 7.     Economy (3 Tests) 8.     CSAT (2 Tests) 9.     Full Length (7 Tests)

Does and Don’t: –

Does: –

  1. Planning:
    To holistically prepare for UPSC exams it is extremely important to have a good study schedule. Aspirants should allocate time to each topic or subject based on their importance or weightage. Prepare a daily routine where you spend a fixed number of hours on study. Have daily or weekly goals and strive to achieve them.
  2. Stay updated with current affairs:
    Get into the habit of reading one or two good newspapers to stay up-to-date on current affairs. Also, go through news websites for the latest on national and international politics, science and technology and socio-economic issues.
  3. Follow a subject — Wise Timetable

Allocate the remaining number of days for various subjects, depending on their weightage in the examination and your level of preparation of each subject

4. Pay special attention to current affairs

The current affairs are integrated in various subjects like Science & Technology, Economy, Polity & Governance. This is the most crucial part of the UPSC Prelims exam. The best way to stay updated on current affairs is to go through newspapers every day. You have to be abreast with the current affairs of at least 18 months.

5. Revise from your notes

Keep your subject-wise notes handy and go through them while revising. This will save a lot of time as aspirants won’t have to go through every topic elaborately. They can look for subject-wise revision notes released by some coaching centres two months prior to the exam. 

6. Do Multiple Revisions

The aspirants should read the relevant NCERTs and revise their notes multiple times. Particularly, a quick revision of the relevant books of history, polity, geography, and macroeconomics is a must. Revise your own notes, subject-wise. Complete their revision at least two to three times in these three months.

7. Develop a Test strategy

Aspirants are advised to develop a test strategy by taking practice tests in a simulated environment. The strategy has to be personalized.

  • A candidate should try to attempt around 85 to 90 questions in total.
    • Successful candidates typically attempt at least 60 such questions, the answers to which they are sure of.
    • Another 25 to 30 questions are to be attempted by first, eliminating the two least likely answer choices. Then, make an informed guess from the remaining two.

8. Take Care of Yourself:

In times of Pandemic, it is out most important for an aspirant to take care of his mental health.An aspirant is to spend 8 to 10 hours studying daily in the last three months. However, it is also important to get adequate sleep, eat healthy and exercise daily.

Don’t: –

  1. Don’t Burden Yourselves with Resources

Limit your resources and revise them multiple times. The Aspirant should avoid touching any new reference books or other sources during this period, especially in the last month of preparation. The aspirants should source material from various books, do not make the mistake of trying to read too many. Decide on a few and stick with them.

2. Don’t undermine taking Revision:

The importance of revising cannot be undermined, especially as the Prelims involve being able to recall a lot of facts. This is where making notes helps. With well-made notes, you can revise the whole syllabus easily.

3. Don’t Overlook Previous years’ question papers: –

The previous years’ question papers will give you an idea on the type of questions. It also helps aspirants to assess preparation level. In addition, aspirants will learn to answers optimally. The aspirants can plan how to focus on aspects like comprehension, mental ability, and logical reasoning.

4. Do not waver:

 Aspirants might be tempted to give up because of the sheer enormity of the task. Remember, the Prelims is only half the battle. Aspirants cannot afford to lose enthusiasm at this stage itself.  Aspirants should not look at the exams as a burden but as a golden opportunity to improve and showcase intelligence.

5. Do not neglect CSAT

Aspirants do not need to spend too much time for the preparation of CSAT. You need to score only 33 per cent in Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). CSAT can be divided into basic numeracy, verbal ability and reasoning. This paper is very well-balanced with around 20 questions from maths, 30-35 from English and some from analytical reasoning. You can clear the paper if you have command over two of these core areas. 

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