How to Prepare for IAS Prelims Exam in 3 Months? - Preparation Tips

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : July 8th, 2021

UPSC IAS Prelims 3 Month Study Plan: UPSC IAS Prelims Examination is the first and toughest hurdle to clear in the entire examination process. As we know, the UPSC Civil Services Examination comprises three stages: Prelim, Mains, and Interview. Each year, lakhs of students appear for the exam and only a few of them succeed. Remember, this is an elimination round so those who are prepared could not be eliminated. 

UPSC Prelims 2021 Examination is re-scheduled to 10th October, 2021. That means, time available for Prelims exam is only 3 months. In this blog, let us briefly know how and what to do in order to enhance the UPSC Prelims score in the last three months.

Tips to Prepare for IAS Prelim Exam in 3 Months

UPSC CSE or IAS Preliminary examination requires the right action plan along with hard and smart work. It also requires effective time management besides diligence and endurance to get through it. This article will highlight some important tips about how to prepare for the IAS Prelims exam in three months.

IAS Prelims Exam preparation: Trend Analysis

UPSC has set a benchmark as being predictably unpredictable. By this, it is inferred that the candidates should use the patterns as a reference only and not make too many assumptions. We have broken down the UPSC IAS Prelims 2020 GS 1 Paper in the table given below:


Number of Qs

Ancient History


Art and Culture


Indian National Movement


Indian Polity


Indian Economy






General science




Current Affairs


UPSC 2019 Prelims 20219 GS Paper I


Number of questions







Environment & Ecology




Science & Technology


Current Affairs




IAS Prelims Exam Preparation Tips:

a. Define the Priorities

  • When it comes to clearing up the UPSC IAS examination, priority is the key. The first thing a candidate will need to get ready is a strategy.
  • It is important to remember that clearing the UPSC IAS prelims is not only a matter of hard work, it is also a matter of smart work because 'smart work' separates the winners from the losers.
  • One must prioritize the key topics of the UPSC prelims syllabus.
  • A candidate also must make sure that in CSAT, at least 33 percent are secured, so the preparation should be done accordingly.
  • Note that if one does not secure 33 percent in GS Paper II, the GS paper 1 will not even be evaluated.

b. Make a schedule

  • In the three months (last 90 days) of the UPSC IAS Prelim Exam preparation, one needs to establish a schedule.
  • Make sure one studies and revise all the subjects, ensuring multiple revisions. Give extra time to those areas which require an extra push. The schedule must include time for the mock tests.
  • The three months (90 days break up) should be somewhat like this. One can make a change according to your priorities, strength, and weakness.

Number of Days



History and Art & Culture Preparation


Geography Preparation


Polity Preparation


Economy Preparation


Environment Preparation


Science & Technology Preparation


Current Affairs Preparation

Last 5 days

Revision of all

Note: Prepare for CSAT according to an individual’s grasp on the subject during these 90 days. Don't miss out on CSAT. Make sure that enough efforts are put because this paper demands practice and a good amount of attention i.e. Presence of mind! This can be ensured with regular practice.

No new books or study material

  • It is crucial not to get distracted by any new study material or book in the final step of the prelim’s preparation. That will only cause frustration. Stick to those books and study material which have already been read.
  • Do not lose the focus from the prelims in these crucial months. Aspirants must complete their prelims goals for the day at any cost.

Suggested Read: IAS Study Material

Special Emphasis on Current Affairs

  • Current affairs are a really important part of UPSC Prelims. Aspirants should prepare Current Affairs regularly and update them about relevant incidents. It can prove to be a game-changer in clearing IAS prelims. Prepare the current affairs of at least 18 months and revise them thoroughly.

Practice as many mock tests as possible

  • Mock tests help to evaluate the level of preparation. If one takes a mock test and find oneself struggling to do well in them, first brush up the fundamentals and basics. Attempt IAS mock tests to know the weak and strong areas and work accordingly.
  • Start attempting a full-length sectional test as per the convenience every day or when one completes the subject revision.
  • Boost the chances of passing the UPSC Prelims examination by solving as many Mock Tests as possible.

Analyze the Answer After the Test

  • Analyzes the reason for the wrong attempt, after every test that that was attended.
  • Analyzes whether the question was incorrectly understood or misinterpreted, or a silly error was made due to overlooking a keyword in the question or were utterly clueless of the question.
  • One also needs to be attentive to the act that how things went wrong, simply made a guess, though for an answer but marked the wrong answer, etc.
  • Make sure that diligently the mock tests are approached and likewise the MCQ (Multiple Choice Questions) questions are attempted.

Check here: IAS question papers

Revise, Revise and Revise

  • Revision is the most important step in the last few months of prelims preparation. It is difficult to remember what has been read before, therefore revision must be done for a diligent attempt. The only thing that will help one understand the concepts and facts is regular revision.
  • All aspirants would have gone through the entire syllabus of UPSC prelims (Geography, History, Art and Culture, Polity, Science, Economics, etc.) at least once till now. Now it is time to revise all the topics at least twice even though you haven't finished the syllabus, subsequently, keep moving with revisions while finishing the remaining syllabus.
  • The revision will strengthen the weak areas and help you develop confidence.

Focus Areas for UPSC Prelims Exam

The most important aspect of the examination is conceptual clarity; fundamentals should be cleared at any cost. Another such important aspect is current affairs. Revise the basic concepts multiple times- History, Geography, Polity, Economy, Environment, and Ecology should be thoroughly revised. 


  • Modern History can be revised through Spectrum; the summary given here helps a lot to retain better. It is advisable for revision during the last phases of the preparation. In history, timeline or chronology is very important, factual aspects such as associations, personalities involved in the freedom struggle, GoI Acts-1850,1909, 1919, 1935 and their provisions, events after second world war like August Offer, Wavell Plan, Cabinet Mission, Cripps Mission, Cabinet Plan etc. must be known thoroughly.
  • Medieval or Ancient History should be revised from crisp notes such as Lucent, but while studying, one has made self-notes then stick to that source only. While brushing through Ancient History, keep a tab on topics or items or sites mentioned in the Union Budget and have relevance in ancient sites.  

Art and Culture

  • Various schools of Indian Philosophy like Nyaya, Vaiseska, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa, Vedanta, Carvaka etc.
  • Religious Movements like Jainism, Buddhism etc.
  • Archeological (Inscription/Epigraphy, Numismatics/Coins, monuments)
  • Foreigners (Greek, Chinese, Arab travellers)
  • Art and architecture during that period

Ancient Indian History:

Indus Valley civilization

  • Society, Religion and Political Life
  • Important places and items associated with them 

Aryan Civilization

  • Society, Religion and Political Life
  • Important terms 

The Mauryan Empire

  • About Ashoka in detail
  • Administration and Society

South Indian History

  • Sangam Age
  • Satavahanas Chola, Pallavas and Pandayas

 Gupta Empire

  • Administration

 Social development

  • scientific development during that period

Medieval history:

  • Important kings such as Sher Shah, Akbar, Aurangzeb, etc.
  • Delhi Sultanate

Modern History:

European powers

  • Chronological order of European powers in India
  • Important Governor-General such as Warsen Hastings, Cornwallis, Wellesley, William Bentinck, Dalhousie, Lytton, Rippon, Curzon, Mountbatten and their contribution.
  • British rule impact on India
  • Britisher Quest for Supremacy and various Battle fought by them.

 Social and cultural Awakening

  • Reform movements
  • 1857 Revolt In detail

For Modern History, you can refer to- Strategy to Prepare Modern History

Indian Independence movement:

Freedom Struggle

  • Partition of Bengal
  • Surat Split
  • Lucknow Pact
  • Home rule movement
  • Minto Morley/Montagu Chelmsford

Gandhian Era

  • Non-Cooperation Movement
  • Civil disobedience movement
  • Gandhi  Irwin Pact
  • Quit India Movement 

Indian National Congress

Important session and its resolutions

GOI Acts of 1909, 1919, 1935 and Charter Acts


Laxmikanth is in itself a very comprehensive book. Revise it multiple times as Qs from the Polity segment can be very well attempted to form this.Prelims are factually inclined to polity, but conceptual Qs are also asked in the past few years.

  • Focus on current events such as any changes in the constitution, new acts or amendments, and schemes
  • Fundamental Rights
  • Fundamental Duties
  • Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)
  • Parliament and parliamentary proceedings
  • Judiciary
  • Constitutional bodies

7. S&T:

  • Refer to NCERT books selectively as in-depth knowledge is not needed
  • Focus on current affairs part

8. Environment and Ecology

Apart from the Shankar IAS book for Environment, there is no comprehensive material available. Generally, Qs are asked from the current affairs, e.g. climate change, global warming, forest fires, river pollution- mining-related…such news entities must be referred.

  • Important declarations, conventions
  • IUCN’s Red List
  • Biosphere Reserves, Tiger Reserves, etc.
  • International bodies

9. Geography:

  • Geography – the NCERTs of Class XI and XII are very important, must be done chapter-wise. Why are these books advisable? Because the concise information is given nicely in them and physical geography, they are a good source.
  • Keep a tab on Atlas with the places in the news, their location on the latitude and longitude. It is seen that 1-2 questions from the world map also asked every year in the UPSC Exam. 
  • Factual aspects such as mountain ranges of the Himalayas, Vindhya, Western Ghats, north-east mountains must be practised nicely. 
  • Important national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, Ramsar sites, status report of the forest must be done and revised.
  • Latitudes and longitudes
  • Layers of the atmosphere
  • Global atmospheric wind, cyclones
  • Pressure belts
  • Revolution, rotation and seasons
  • Monsoons
  • Types of rainfall
  • Koeppen classification
  • Jet streams, ocean currents
  • El Nino, La Nina
  • India’s physical geography (NCERT)
  • Rivers, hills, soil (India)
  • Mineral resources (India), Geological history of India
  • Basics of agriculture (NCERT)
  • Maps Work

10. Economy:

Qs from this segment are more conceptual. Any policy, its objective, and the repercussions of the regulatory bodies' measures, including the government.

  • Focus on current events
  • Important committees and their recommendation
  • Growth and development
  • poverty
  • unemployment
  • inflation
  • State of the national and global economy
  • Latest budget and economic survey

11. Current Affairs

  • Monthly magazines are handy and very helpful for last minute revision. In case, if you have already prepared the notes for current events, then revise it again and again.
  • Do not try to read from any new sources, especially in the last three months, because for the last one year, it will take around 2-3 days to cover for each month, and it might not serve well.

These are few keynotes regarding the last three months strategy for covering General Studies Paper I of UPSC Prelims. 

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Sudheer Kumar KMember since Sep 2020
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Jul 7, 2020

Thank u@Saroj Singh 😊🙏🙏@UNICORN siso🙈😊
Thank you sir

Prasant SethyJul 7, 2020

Thank u sir

ChitraJul 7, 2020

Tysm sir

Nidhi VermaJul 8, 2020

Thank you

Rakesh RockyJul 8, 2020

Thank you

Simran RajputJul 8, 2020

Thanku sir
Thank you very much sir

Henu ChoudharyJul 13, 2020

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