How to Prepare for IAS Exam without Coaching?

Of course, it is feasible to prepare for IAS Exam without coaching. Besides, self study saves both time and money. Irrespective of the category, a citizen of India may appear for the IAS exam at the age of 21 with a graduation (or while still in the final year) or equivalent. Coaching is not required provided the IAS aspirant opts for not only the appropriately suitable strategy, but also works accordingly.

Besides the right strategy, suitable study material and time management also play a crucial role, if you are aiming to prepare for IAS exam without coaching.

Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Developing the best strategy to crack IAS exam would require the aspirant to identify his strengths and utilize them to the optimum in the best possible manner. He/She would know if he/she has a sharp memory or a greatly analytical mind or the stamina to study continuously for long hours without being tired. An individual may have one or more of these or similar qualities. 

Besides the strengths, you might have quite a few weaknesses as well. You may not study for more than a couple of hours in continuation or you may not be quite good at English or you may feel like keeping a subject at an arm’s length simply because it bores you!

Do an honest soul searching and confess all your strengths and weaknesses to yourself as an IAS aspirant before you begin to prepare for the exam. It is highly essential as it would help you choose the subjects (wherever  the options are allowed) as per your strengths as well as the weak points, thus encompassing and optimizing almost your entire aptitude.

Go for the subject that you feel you have a strong hold over. Besides prepare harder for the subject that you think you have a poor knowledge of. It becomes even more crucial where you have no option to choose from.

For example, in the Optional Paper of Mains, the candidate is allowed to opt for a subject of his choice. So if you know that you have a strong hold over any of the subjects that UPSC offers to choose from, go for it, for it definitely is one of your strengths.

Now, the weaknesses! For instance, what if your knowledge of English is not up to the mark? Mains also comprise a qualifying exam of English where it is mandatory to qualify the exam scoring at least 25% marks. Same is the case for paper of Language of Choice. In case your knowledge of English or language of choice is poor, you will have to prepare more attentively for both the papers are qualifying, failing which, the remaining of the papers in Mains will not be evaluated.

Thus, needless to say, as described above, your preparation for IAS must thoroughly take into account your strengths as well as weaknesses so that you know on which paper you need to focus more and prepare accordingly, especially as you know that a strategic self study would count for you are not going to a IAS coaching institute i.e. prepare for IAS exam without coaching. 

Also, it is desirable to understand the pattern of the IAS examination so that you can prepare accordingly.  It comprises three stages –

Stage – I (Prelims)

  • Paper I – General Studies Paper (200 marks) with questions from History, Geography, Science, Polity, Current Affairs, Ecology & Environment, and Economy.
  • Paper II – CSAT (200 marks). It is the qualifying paper. The candidate must score at least 33% marks so that Paper I is evaluated. The paper includes questions based on Reasoning, Mental Ability, Comprehension, Data Interpretation, and Mathematics.

As you would like to self-study for IAS, you must not miss any of the points given below.

  • It is mandatory for the candidate to appear in both the papers i.e., Paper I – General Studies and Paper II – CSAT.
  • All the questions are MCQs i.e., multiple choice questions.
  • A provision for negative marking 1/3rd is carried out.

Stage – II (Mains)

Mains comprises 9 papers in total as listed below –

  1. English (300 marks) – Qualifying
  2. A language of choice (300 marks) – Qualifying
  3. G.S.-I (250 marks) – History of India & World, Geography, Society & Culture
  4. G.S.-II (250 marks) – Polity & Governance, Social Justice & IR
  5. G.S.-III (250 marks) – Science & Tech., Economic & Developmental Issues, Environmental Issues, Internal Security, Disaster Management
  6. G.S.-IV (250 marks) – Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude
  7. Essay (250 marks)
  8. Optional (I) (250 marks)
  9. Optional (II) (250 marks)

Stage – III – Interview (275 marks)  

By now, you are quite sure that you are going to prepare for IAS exam
without coaching and also, it is not essential to go to Delhi in order to prepare for IAS, though it is widely believed to be so by many.

The next stage in your preparation for the IAS exam requires that you think of all the Online IAS Coaching and offline resources that would once again optimize your potentials and minimize the weaknesses.

As already said in the beginning, after graduation or equivalent qualification (or even a final year student), one may appear for the exam, so it is desirable that you begin to prepare for the exam after you graduate. It would be preferable to prepare as given below.

  1. Read a good newspaper, e.g., The Hindu or Indian Express. And it should be noted that reading alone is not sufficient. It would make more of sense if you classify the news and the articles from the papers grouping them under various subjects like Polity, Current Affairs, Ecology & Environment, Economy etc., as it would not only enhance your knowledge of the subject, but also update it and help you revise the same while preparing for the exam.
  2. Begin by reading the NCERT books and later, you may switch over reading other authors, as suggested below.

History – NCERT classes 6,7,8,11,12

Modern History of India and Indian National Movements

 Bipin Chandra

Economics NCERT classes 9,10,11,12

Economics  – Ramesh Singh

Geography – NCERT classes 6 to 12

(One must make it a habit to consult a good atlas as and when required.)

          Polity – M. Lakshmikant

   Surf the Internet. Some of the sites may be of use. For example

  1. Ministry of External Affairs
  5. Mrunal
  6. InsightsOnIndia
  7. PRSIndia
  8. eGyankosh
  9. About India Code Updated Acts
  10. 2nd Administrative Reform Commissiom
  • Going through the previous years’ question papers would be desirable as it familiarises with various kinds of questions, the question papers comprise. However, it should be noted that any kind of cramming would be a futile exercise. It would be a sheer waste of your effort if you take it for granted that UPSC will repeat any questions. So it is best to go through the question papers in order to familiarise yourself with the type of questions that are asked in the UPSC exam.
  • Enrolling in a test series is what you should do next, once you feel that you have acquired sufficient knowledge by reading newspapers, NCERT Text Books and also books by various other authors, surfing the relevant websites, going through the previous years’ question papers etc.

A good test series would allow you to test your knowledge by means of frequent mock tests.

A Few Tips

  1. Spare some time for revision at regular intervals – Preparation alone is not sufficient. It is equally important that your memory retains whatever you read.  So you must make it a regular practice to revise whatever you read.
  2. Prepare a timetable – Chart out a time table for your daily routine. Divide your time as suits you for reading the newspapers, books, surfing the websites, taking the online tests, revision etc. Besides, follow the timetable scrupulously.
  3. Stay focused – Focus entirely on preparing for IAS exam. There should be no diversions. In case if there are, avoid them. Do not waste time on chatting applications on your phone or socializing for long hours. Take a break in between in order to rejuvenate when you are tired. But remember that your goal is to prepare well for IAS and come out a winner. So there is no time to waste. The best part of the day must be devoted to preparing for the exam.

Time Saving Tips

A sharp memory would retain most of what you read. Besides, here are quite a few useful tips to help you memorise more within a little time.

  1. Prepare short notes – Make it a habit to make notes in brief, noting down all of the important details while reading. Besides, making charts and graphs and using abbreviations would help you understand and analyze whatever you read in a faster manner, making it less time consuming while you read and also when you revise.
  2. Keep time for the final revision – Plan the final revision properly in advance considering how you are going to revise 10 days before the exam.

What you should not do while preparing for IAS?

So far, we have been discussing what should be done in order to prepare well for the IAS exam in case you prepare for IAS exam without coaching.
But there are some of the aspects that must be kept at a bay i.e., you should also pay attention to what should not be done in order to get selected for the IAS, when we are to prepare for IAS exam without coaching.

  1. Do not opt for a subject simply because it is suggested by othersDo not opt for a subject simply because it is suggested by friends or family. For example, do not pick a language of choice or an optional subject just because someone in the family or among the friends did so.
  • Do not be driven by what another IAS aspirant do You know what you are good at. Your choice of the subject should be based on how confident you feel about your knowledge of the subject. You must not imitate what your competitors do.
  • Do not allow the past results or even the merit lists affect your choice Many times, an IAS aspirant conceives a false notion that a subject is more scoring whereas it may not be true. Similarly, many aspirants form an opinion that the subjects opted by the toppers in the merit list must be more scoring. Again, it is your capability and aptitude that would help you score better. So keep that in mind while you choose a subject.
  • Do not be in a hurry – If you are in a hurry and want to learn everything simultaneously while preparing, you will end up learning nothing. So it is best to select one topic at a time, read it thoroughly, make notes, charts and graphs as required and also keep some time for revision. Begin with the next topic only when you are thorough with the previous one. And again, do not forget to revise
  • Never be confused – Do not allow yourself to be obsessed with any confusions. If you feel that a specific book does not clear any of your queries concerning a subject as per the requirements for cracking the exam, consult another book. But your ideas must be crystal clear, far from any confusions. Thorough knowledge of the subject would make it easier for you to answer the question paper when you appear in the exam. Thus
    This is the way you can prepare for IAS exam without coaching.

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