How to Start IAS Preparation at Home for 2021

The IAS exam or the Civil Services Exam (CSE) is conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). We might have heard a lot about this exam since our childhood or maybe in newspapers or in the movies, but what actually takes to clear this exam will be discussed in this article. ‘Stay Home Stay Safe’ is the new buzzword these days, and staying at home should not stop you from starting something new especially when something can define your career path i.e. IAS preparation. It is definitely possible to stay at home and prepare for one of the toughest exams of the country.

For IAS preparation, you would definitely be needing good study material, guidance or mentorship, a lot of patience, consistency and a resolute will. For clearing the UPSC CSE, one has to go to Delhi and prepare is a notion of the past now. Digitalisation has made the world a smarter and a smaller place to live in. So don’t worry and start UPSC preparation wherever you are. As they say ‘Initiating any job is the toughest. Once done right, consider half your job done.’ Here are some of the tips for the beginners to – how to prepare for UPSC in the right way. Make sure you are eligible for the exam. Check your IAS exam eligibility here.

1. Know the Exam Pattern and Syllabus: The first step in IAS preparation for every aspirant is to know the exam pattern and syllabus of the exam. This will enable you to get an idea of the length, breadth and depth of your UPSC preparation. You will be in a better position to plan your course preparation. You will also get a fair amount of idea about what is to be read in the newspaper and what is to be left. Recommended will be to keep going through the syllabus and exam pattern till it gets cemented in your head. Check the UPSC Exam pattern and UPSC Syllabus here.

2. Develop a habit of reading newspapers daily: Yes, you read it right. For IAS preparation, you will have to develop a habit of reading the newspaper daily with special focus on the editorial page. Newspapers help you to have a grip over the Current Affairs section which is very vital in your UPSC preparation.  A lot of you might question that do we have to make notes of the newspaper? If you have not taken subscription of any Good Online IAS Course or Current Affairs Magazine, then yes you will have to make notes, else not. Recommended Newspapers are The Hindu or The Indian Express. 

Reading the original text of newspaper is a must as it will develop a great insight which no other source can. It is also recommended to read Yojana Magazine and Kurukshetra Magazine, which is published by government and contains in-depth information about governmental plan, schemes and analysis. A must for UPSC preparation

3. Join a good Online Course: It is not a compulsion to join an online course though. Once you have gone through the syllabus and exam pattern, you will be in a position to figure out whether you will be needing the assistance of any course/ mentorship or not. Obviously, a good online IAS coaching will make things easier for you. While choosing any course, you can consider the below mentioned recommendations:

  1. Make sure the videos in the course are recordings of a classroom and not a studio based recording. The teacher is able to deliver his/her best in front of students and not in studios or empty rooms.
  2. Make sure the course provider is covering the entire syllabus. You can ask for the course provider for details like how many lectures for each subject. Ask for sample videos of each subject. 
  3. Any course is incomplete without good study material and tests. So ask exactly how many tests and study booklets will be given.
  4. Also clearly ask for features like validity of the course, Interactive Support and mentorship rules.
  5. Be aware of ‘over statements’. Consider what is practically feasible.

These are only recommendations, though you can ask for other facilities suiting your needs.

A good online course will take you a long way and may create that edge in your IAS preparation. This is how to prepare for UPSC, and it the best. 

4. Plan and Execute well: For UPSC preparation this is the key to your success. A good plan is realistic, pragmatic and flexible. So know your abilities well before chalking out a plan. Then comes the execution part which will define your success. Flexibility in your plan is a must. As your course progresses, you will be completing one subject after another. But if you do not put revision loops in your plan, then you might lose grip over what you have learnt. Hence your plan must be flexible enough to accommodate those revision loops in your schedule. Mentorship will play a key role here. Ask your course provider (if any) to guide you on this.

5. Do NOT Collect lots of books and Study Material: One has to study lots and lots to clear the CSE Exam and for this we will have to read a lot of IAS preparation books. This is the notion in a lot of aspirants’ mind when they are starting their IAS preparation. This is not true in any sense. Yes, you have to read a lot, but that doesn’t mean you stack up lots of UPSC preparation books and create a mini library with you. For each subject one book is sufficient or if you feel something is missing, then consider the second book. Make sure whatever you read are good quality books. Read them again and again. Revision is the key to success. NCERT books are a compulsion but not for all subjects. Click here for UPSC preparation booklist.

6. Adopt necessary Lifestyle changes: Yes, you will have to adopt some lifestyle changes to crack the UPSC exam, if you do not have it in yourself. These lifestyle changes are:

  1. Fix your biological clock. You might be an early riser or a late night reader, whatever suits you best for studies, adopt that routine and fix it. 6-8 hours of good sleep is mandatory. Waking up early and studying is recommended though. Execution of the plan will only be possible by fixing your routine.
  2. Avoid Procrastination as this will lead to inefficiency. 
  3. Eat well and balanced.
  4. Adopt a mild physical exercise routine or doing yoga will also be tremendously beneficial.  

The UPSC preparation is a tedious task and will take at least 8-9 months to cover the entire syllabus. Through the preparation period, revisions are very important. Pick up one subject at a time and complete it. In this way you can pick up two subjects in parallel, complete them, then only pick up next subjects. Once any subject is complete and you advance to the next one, make sure you are also taking along the completed subject for revision. (The revision loop as mentioned above in the article). Once the entire course is completed, start revisions of the subjects. Here also pick one subject at a time to revise. Do as many revisions as possible.

Also keep assessing yourself with regular tests in between. The tests can be of MCQs or long answer questions. Right from the very beginning, keep a dedicated focus on answer writing skill development. A good Writing skill will create a difference. It cannot be developed overnight. So focusing on it from the very beginning will help you develop this gradually, hence might be a game changer for you. Write tests and get them evaluated to know your shortcomings. Don’t let the same kind of mistakes be repeated. This is how you will grow. 

  Keep the trend of the examination in mind. Also avoid falling trap for any rumors or predictions. UPSC is very unpredictable. Stay focused, Stay Logical in your approach. Adopt a Holistic IAS Preparation approach viz. Preliminary cum Mains and don’t go for prelims specific preparation separately and mains preparation separately. 

  If you have adopted the Right Strategy for UPSC preparation, you will start feeling the difference in first two months of your preparation. The strategy suggested here is based on personal experience of the author and his vast experience in mentoring numerous students who were once beginners and are now part of the prestigious Civil Services. This article might be a guiding light for many but remember friends, it is YOU who will make the difference. It is YOU who is going to implement the plan and ultimately it is YOU who is going to crack the Examination. All the Best.

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