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Essential Tips for UPSC Prelims Preparation: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Feb 19

Preparing for the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) Preliminary Examination is a significant undertaking that demands dedication, strategic planning, and a comprehensive understanding of the syllabus. The UPSC Prelims serve as the first hurdle in the challenging journey towards becoming a civil servant in India. This examination comprises two papers: General Studies Paper-I and General Studies Paper-II (CSAT). Success in the prelims is crucial, as it acts as a gateway to the UPSC Main Examination.

UPSC Prelims Preparation
UPSC Prelims Preparation

To navigate through the vast and diverse syllabus of the UPSC Prelims, aspirants need a well-structured approach that covers a range of subjects, including history, geography, polity, economy, science and technology, environment, and current affairs. This introduction aims to provide aspiring candidates with a roadmap to effective preparation, encompassing key aspects such as understanding the exam pattern, creating a study plan, utilizing resources wisely, and adopting effective revision strategies. Aspirants must recognize that success in the UPSC Prelims not only depends on knowledge but also on the ability to apply that knowledge in a time-bound and analytical manner. With determination and a focused approach, aspirants can enhance their chances of qualifying for the next stage of the Civil Services Examination.

Step-By-Step Guide to Prepare for UPSC Prelims

Commencing preparation well in advance is crucial for success in the extensive and rigorous UPSC Prelims Examination. Starting early provides ample time to comprehensively cover the syllabus and hone essential exam skills. The initial step in preparing for UPSC Prelims involves creating a detailed plan, mapping out the subjects to be studied and allocating specific timeframes for each. This strategic blueprint serves as a guide, ensuring organization and adherence to a disciplined study schedule.

Understand the UPSC Prelims Syllabus and Exam Pattern

To embark on a successful UPSC Prelims preparation journey, it is imperative to thoroughly understand the examination's syllabus and pattern. The UPSC Prelims syllabus encompasses a wide array of subjects, including history, geography, polity, economics, science and technology, environment, and current affairs. A comprehensive grasp of these topics is essential for aspirants. Additionally, familiarity with the exam pattern is crucial. The Preliminary Examination consists of two papers: General Studies Paper-I, which evaluates candidates on diverse subjects, and General Studies Paper-II (CSAT), focusing on aptitude and reasoning abilities. Each paper carries equal weightage, and it is crucial for aspirants to comprehend the marking scheme and question format. A detailed understanding of the syllabus and exam pattern allows candidates to tailor their preparation strategies effectively, ensuring a well-rounded approach to tackling the UPSC Prelims. Detailed Syllabus and exam pattern details is provided here

Prepare a Plan

It's crucial to emphasize the significance of having a structured plan while preparing independently at home. Adhering to a diligently crafted study plan is imperative. In the solitude of home-based preparation, distractions and temptations may pose challenges, making sincere commitment to your study plan all the more crucial. Stay true to your goals and recognize that progress often requires some degree of effort and persistence – no gain comes without a bit of hardship!

Lay a Solid Foundation

Commencing your UPSC Preliminary examination preparation necessitates an initial focus on general studies, and an effective approach is to start with the study of NCERT Books. These resources play a vital role in building a sturdy foundation for general studies before progressing to more advanced UPSC preparation materials. Allocate your daily schedule to cover a minimum of two subjects, incorporating dedicated time for staying abreast of current affairs. This structured routine will contribute to a comprehensive and well-rounded preparation for the UPSC Prelims.

Note: Ready to tackle the UPSC exam? Try UPSC Unlimited, the best app out there! It's got all the NCERT syllabus and book questions you need to succeed. With simple study materials and fun quizzes, it's perfect for everyone, whether you're just starting or you've been studying for a while. Download UPSC Unlimited now and get ready to ace your UPSC exam!

Here are the best UPSC Prelims Best Books given below –




  • NCERT 11th Ancient and Medieval

  • NCERT 12th Modern Indian History

  • Indian Art & Culture by Nitin Singhania

  • India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipin Chandra


  • NCERT VI-X Old Syllabus

  • NCERT XI, XII New Syllabus

  • World Atlas (Orient Black Swan)

  • Certificate Physical Geography – G C Leong

Indian Polity


  • Indian Polity – M Laxmikanth

  • Economic Development & Policies in India – Jain & Ohri

Environment and Ecology

  • Class XII Biology

International Relations

  • Current Affairs

  • NCERT XII (Contemporary World Politics)


  • Indian Economy by Nitin Singhania


  • Indian Economy by Sanjiv Varma

  • Economic survey of the current/previous year


  • Tata McGraw Hill CSAT Manual

  • Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning by R S Aggarwal

Importance of Reading NCERT Books for UPSC Preparation

The content presented in NCERT books is designed for easy comprehension, offering a straightforward and memorable way to grasp information. Covering a wide array of essential subjects, these books facilitate the establishment of a robust knowledge foundation. For beginners, starting with NCERT books before delving into more advanced references is a prudent approach, a sentiment echoed by numerous successful IAS toppers and educators. The advantages of incorporating NCERT books into UPSC preparation are multifaceted:

  • Establishing Fundamental Concepts: NCERT books lay the groundwork for essential concepts.

  • Clear Explanations: They provide lucid explanations to enhance understanding.

  • Comprehensive Coverage: A significant portion of the UPSC syllabus is covered in NCERT books.

  • Insights into Dimensions: They offer insights into historical, cultural, and socio-economic dimensions.

  • Exposure to Terminology: Familiarity with common UPSC terminology is gained through NCERT books.

  • Affordability and Accessibility: These books are cost-effective and readily available.

  • Enhancing Basic Foundation: They strengthen the foundation, complementing other study materials effectively.

  • Alignment with Exam Requirements: NCERT books align well with UPSC exam demands.

  • Recommended by Experts: Often suggested by UPSC experts and successful candidates.

  • Real-world Applications: The content aids in addressing scenario-based questions by providing practical applications.

Incorporate Current Affairs into Your Preparation

In your UPSC Prelims preparation, the significance of staying updated on current affairs cannot be overstated. Ensure daily perusal of newspapers and consider supplementing your understanding with a Newspaper Analysis video. Towards the end of each month, consult a monthly current affairs magazine to consolidate information from diverse sources such as The Hindu, Indian Express, PIB, Yojana, and Kurukshetra magazine. A common mistake is relying on last-minute current affairs booklets, which often result in information overload and hinder effective memory retention. Instead, allocate dedicated time each day for current affairs, allowing for regular revisions to enhance comprehension and retention.

Join a Prelims Test Series

Enrolling in a Prelims Test Series is instrumental in addressing any gaps in your preparation. The greater the number of practice Prelims Test papers you undertake, the more assurance you gain in your UPSC Prelims Preparation. Consistent participation in mock tests facilitates acclimatization to the exam environment, efficient time management, and a reliable measure of your progress. Conduct a thorough analysis of your performance to pinpoint areas of weakness and actively address them in your study regimen.

Preparing for the exam involves studying, but mastering the skill of answering questions within a stipulated time is a separate aspect. The pressure experienced on exam day is substantial, making it imperative to practice answering questions under time constraints to ensure optimal performance.

Note: Ready to tackle the UPSC exam? Try UPSC Unlimited, the best app out there! It's got all the NCERT syllabus and book questions you need to succeed. With simple study materials and fun quizzes, it's perfect for everyone, whether you're just starting or you've been studying for a while. Download UPSC Unlimited now and get ready to ace your UPSC exam!

Practice the UPSC Prelims Previous Year Question Papers

In recent times, the UPSC Prelims examination has evolved to be more conceptual, particularly in core subjects. This shift emphasizes the need for a solid grasp of concepts rather than mere memorization of facts and figures. To navigate this change, it is crucial to analyze the question papers from previous years. This practice provides insight into the types of questions posed and the level of complexity, enabling better preparation for the examination.

Identify Facts vs. Concepts

There's a prevalent misconception about UPSC prelims, often reduced to mere memorization of facts and figures. However, the UPSC examination goes beyond rote learning, emphasizing the clarity of concepts and the analytical aptitude of candidates. It assesses not only your knowledge but also your ability to thoroughly analyze topics. Furthermore, the exam evaluates your quick thinking, given the challenge of answering 200 questions within a time limit of 120 minutes, allowing less than a minute per question.


Regardless of the subject or topic under study, it is crucial to engage in thorough revision to retain the information. Failing to revise adequately may result in increased confusion during the exam, leading to a higher negative score that could offset the diligent efforts put into preparation.

When preparing for UPSC, a comprehensive understanding of each concept is indispensable, and mastering all concepts provides a distinct advantage. Therefore, the practice of regular revision is crucial. After initially studying a topic, it is essential to revisit it every seven days.

  • For droppers, having ample time allows for daily revision, either in the morning or evening, covering all the day's learnings.

  • Regular students, on the other hand, should allocate weekends exclusively for revision.

  • Dedicate a minimum of two hours each day to revision, avoiding procrastination. Adhere to a structured revision cycle, ensuring that once a chapter is completed, it is revisited the next day and then at intervals of seven days, repeating this cycle until every topic is thoroughly understood.

  • Active participation in revision tests is recommended, and after completing the tests, conducting a meticulous analysis of each topic is vital.

Tips for cracking UPSC Prelims

Some tips to crack the UPSC prelims on the first attempt without coaching –

  • Adhere to punctuality by creating and strictly following a timetable, ensuring that daily, weekly, and monthly targets are set and achieved consistently. This disciplined approach not only fosters motivation but also encourages productivity.

  • Diversify your reading by selecting one book outside the prescribed course each month. This practice enhances your expressive abilities, exposes you to various ways of presenting ideas, and contributes to the refinement of your writing skills, ultimately shaping your personality.

  • Cultivate a hobby as it serves as a reflection of your identity and personality. Whether it's reading, singing, dancing, writing, or any other pursuit, having a hobby not only offers a means of self-expression but also safeguards your creative ideas, contributing to your overall development.


These guidelines aim to assist you in formulating a successful strategy for preparing for the UPSC exam independently at home, ensuring a smooth journey through Prelims initial attempt. Drawing inspiration from the achievements of IAS toppers who succeeded without formal coaching, such as Anudeep Durishetty, who holds the highest score in UPSC history and cleared the exam twice, can serve as a motivational source. Aspirants can glean valuable insights from these success stories, fostering determination and dedication to excel in the UPSC exam.

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Note: Ready to tackle the UPSC exam? Try UPSC Unlimited, the best app out there! It's got all the NCERT syllabus and book questions you need to succeed. With simple study materials and fun quizzes, it's perfect for everyone, whether you're just starting or you've been studying for a while. Download UPSC Unlimited now and get ready to ace your UPSC exam!

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