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How to Begin Your Preparation for UPSC Civil Services Examination?

Career Education Higher Education

How to Begin Your Preparation for UPSC Civil Services Examination?


Effective planning is essential for achieving your goal, especially when it comes to preparing for the UPSC Civil Service Exam .Success requires more than mere preparation; it demands a strategic approach. A well-thought-out strategy is the key difference between regular aspirants and smart ones. Smart aspirants achieve more with less effort, while others struggle with more effort and fewer results.

If you are a beginner who wants to start your UPSC CSE preparation, you might be feeling overwhelmed by the vast syllabus, the number of books, and the different stages of the exam. With more than five decades of experience, we at Vajiram & Ravi understand the specific needs of aspirants who are aiming to clear the UPSC Civil Services Exam. In this blog post, we will provide you with some useful tips and resources that will help you begin your UPSC CSE preparation from scratch.

Step 1: Understand the Exam Pattern and Syllabus

Before wielding your sword, map the terrain. The first and foremost step to start your UPSC CSE preparation is to understand the exam pattern and syllabus. The UPSC CSE consists of three stages: Preliminary, Mains, and Interview. Each stage has a different format, syllabus, and marking scheme.

The Preliminary Examination is an objective test that consists of two papers: General Studies (GS) and Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). The GS paper covers topics such as history, geography, polity, economy, environment, science, and current affairs. The CSAT paper tests your logical reasoning, numerical ability, comprehension, and decision making skills. The Preliminary exam is only a screening test and its marks are not counted for the final ranking.

The Mains exam is a subjective test that consists of nine papers: four GS papers, one essay paper, two optional papers, and two language papers. The GS papers cover topics such as Indian heritage and culture, world history, governance, social justice, international relations, technology, biodiversity, security, ethics, and integrity. The essay paper requires you to write two essays on topics of general interest. The optional papers allow you to choose one subject from a list of 26 subjects and the language papers test your proficiency in English and one Indian language of your choice. The Mains exam is the most important stage as its marks are counted for the final ranking.

The Interview is a Personality test that assesses your mental calibre, leadership qualities, social awareness, and suitability for the civil services. The interview panel consists of eminent personalities from different fields. This Personality Test is not a test of your knowledge, but of your attitude, aptitude, and vision.

Step 2: Forge your strategy

A haphazard journey leads nowhere. Craft a meticulous plan that aligns with your strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Decide on whether you want to join a coaching or not.

While joining a coaching is not always necessary, studying under the right guidance plays a significant role in decreasing your time and effort in preparing for the UPSC exam. The classes are conducted by subject-matter experts. TheyΒ  provide well-structured study materials that are updated according to the latest syllabus. This saves you from the hassle of collecting resources from various sources. Moreover, these classes come along with regular mock tests that simulate the actual exam environment. The tests help you assess your preparation level, identify your weak areas, improve your speed and accuracy, and build your confidence.

Step 3: Choose Your Sources Wisely

The next step would be to choose your sources wisely. There are a plethora of books, websites, magazines, newspapers, and online platforms available for UPSC CSE preparation. However, you should not get confused or overwhelmed by them. Select the best and most reliable sources that suit your needs and preferences.

Start your foundation with NCERTs (class VI-XII) and then graduate to standard reference books like Bipan Chandra’s “India’s Struggle for Independence” or M. Laxmikanth’s “Indian Polity.” Tailor your arsenal to each subject: maps for Geography, newspapers and a monthly current affairs magazine for Current Affairs, and Test series for honing your skills.

Step 4: Focus on Important Concepts and Current Affairs

To crack the UPSC Civil Services examination, it is essential to focus on important concepts and study smartly. Studying smartly means understanding the nerve of the exams and adjusting to it accordingly. Reading the topics that are important for the exam is the core principle of smart study. Additionally, staying updated with current affairs and contemporary issues is crucial. Current affairs and contemporary issues are dynamic areas, and reading one newspaper daily ( i.e. The Hindu or Indian Express) and keeping up with current developments can help you stay informed. You can also read specialised magazines to cover some special portions of the syllabus, like World Focus for International Relations.

Step 5: The Role of Self-Study

Self-study is the backbone of any Exam Preparation, including the UPSC. It allows you to delve deeper into subjects, understand concepts at your own pace, and develop a personal understanding of topics. However, the UPSC syllabus is vast and includes subjects ranging from history and geography to current affairs and general knowledge. This can make self-study seem like a daunting task. Don’t get lost in the wilderness of information. Identify the core concepts within each topic – the pillars that hold everything together. Set aside a fixed amount of time every day for self-study. Rather than studying for long hours at a stretch, split your time into equal intervals of short duration. This will help you focus better and remember more of what you study.

Try incorporating different time management techniques in your pomodoro technique in your study routine like time blocking, pomodoro technique etc. Take advantage of class notes, diagrams, charts, and even the internet to enhance your learning. Craft concise notes after revisiting topics, and utilise keywords during preparation and writing to maximise your efficiency.

Step 6: Practice and Revise Regularly

The sixth step to remember during your UPSC CSE preparation is to practise and revise regularly. Resources are your allies, not burdens. They help you to consolidate your learning, improve your speed and accuracy, and boost your confidence.

You should practise as many mock tests and previous year question papers as possible. Mock tests and PYQ’s help you to familiarise yourself with the exam pattern, difficulty level, and time management. They also help you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and work on them accordingly. Always try to analyse your performance and seek feedback after each mock test or PYQ’s, and learn from your mistakes.

Revise your class notes and sources regularly, it will help you retain and recall the information, facts, and concepts that you have learned. It would also help you to revise and update your current affairs and issues. Use mnemonics, diagrams, charts, and flashcards to aid your revision. You should also revise your optional subject and essay writing skills.

Step 7: Stay Positive and Motivated

The fifth and final step to start your UPSC CSE preparation is to stay positive and motivated. UPSC CSE preparation is a long and arduous journey that may test your patience, perseverance, and passion. You may face many challenges, difficulties, and failures along the way. However, you should not lose hope or give up on your dream.

Prioritise your well-being. Maintain a healthy lifestyle with nutritious food, adequate sleep, and regular exercise. Don’t forget to take breaks, unwind with hobbies, and seek support from loved ones. Remember, a positive mind and a resilient spirit are crucial weapons in your arsenal.

Conquering the UPSC is a marathon, not a sprint. This guide equips you with the map, the tools, and the mindset to navigate the path to success. So, go forth, and claim your place among the government civil servants!


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