How to Prepare for UPSC Without Coaching?

By Aarna Tiwari|Updated : December 29th, 2022

Can I do self-study and crack the UPSC exam? If yes, how to prepare for UPSC without coaching? These questions daunt the mind of the aspirants who want to sit for the coveted Civil Services Examinations. The UPSC conducts the Civil Services Examination every year, considered one of India's toughest exams. As per the latest calendar, the Prelims 2023 exam is scheduled to take place on 28 May 2023. The exam preparation can be done without joining coaching giants and burning a hole in your pocket. The right strategy, approach, and disciplined timetable can help you achieve the goal within a year of your preparation.

This article aims to help out those candidates who want to crack UPSC without coaching. We have covered an effective preparation strategy to answer the most asked question, i.e., How to prepare for UPSC without coaching and crack the Prelims and Mains 2023 exam.

Table of Content

How to Prepare for UPSC Without Coaching?

Since only a few months are left for the upcoming Prelims examination, aspirants must start their preparations with full concentration and dedication without wasting any minute. Every year, many candidates prepare for the UPSC exam without coaching and clear the exam with flying colors. Get a basic overview of the UPSC Civil Services exam tabulated below to kickstart your preparations at home:

Conducting Body

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)

Exam Date 2023

28 May 2023 - Prelims

15 September 2023 onwards - Mains


IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS, IFoS, etc.

Exam Level


Exam Periodicity


Exam Mode

Offline (Pen-Paper Mode)

No. of Vacancies

UPSC IAS Vacancy 2022 - 1011

Vacancy 2021 - 712

Exam Pattern

Prelims, Mains, and Interview

7 Tips to Prepare for UPSC without Coaching

Many candidates widely believe that coaching is essential for them to crack the UPSC Exam and decode the exam strategy. However, in reality, hardwood and dedication combined with the right preparation approach can lead to success. It always pays to plan in advance.

Let’s take a look at how to crack UPSC without coaching by following the given tips and tricks:

Understand the Exam Overview: Candidates aiming to prepare for the IAS exam without coaching must have detailed information about the exam pattern, UPSC Syllabus, How to Choose Optional Subjects for UPSC Exam, etc., to kickstart their preparation in the best way possible. 

The Union Public Service Commission conducts the examination in three stages: Prelims, Mains, and the Personality (Interview) Test. The strategy to approach both the Prelims and Mains requires focused study. Prelims and Mains are not separate, and there is a big overlap of topics. The aspirant should focus on integrated preparation of Prelims and Mains till only two-three months remain for the UPSC Prelims.

Formulate your Preparation Strategy:

The right strategy is required if you want to prepare for UPSC without coaching. Combining the planning with the right guidance substantially increases the chance of success. The Civil Services exam requires smart work with smart study. After understanding the UPSC Exam Pattern and the syllabus, the candidate should find the right study material, go through the previous year’s questions and analyze the paper pattern to better understand the structure.

Also, prepare by reading basic books such as NCERTs of Polity, History, General Science, Geography, and Economy. Correlate the current affairs with places in news and practice maps to understand the World and Indian demographic in a better way. Along with this, choose and finalize the Optional Subject for UPSC, so that the preparation remains streamlined.

Importance of a robust Study Plan for UPSC:

After having a fair idea about the syllabus and exam pattern, the next important part of UPSC preparation without coaching is to form an effective study plan. It is important to mention and understand that coaching institutes just aid and help in the preparation, but the hard work and the dedication to sit for long hours need to be practiced by the aspirant only. The UPSC exam is just like any other examination involving reading, writing, and speaking. However, the exclusivity of ‘what’ and ‘how’ attached to these reading, writing, and speaking abilities distinguishes the IAS Exam from any other examinations.

Candidates who Prepare for UPSC without coaching get the benefit of creating plans according to their strengths and weaknesses. They don’t have to divide their valuable time between traveling or coaching. So all the aspirants who want to crack UPSC without coaching should follow this step.

Micro-manage the UPSC Syllabus:

With the myriad of information available to the aspirants, they ought to get lost in it. Stick to using basic NCERT Books for UPSC and one other extra standard UPSC Book for each subject. Segregate the syllabus into parts and divide tasks according to days, weeks, and months. Do not burn out in this process! It is absolutely fine to create small goals that you can implement easily.

Rewarding yourself for completing your assigned targets within the stipulated time is suggested. Pick up a hobby that takes you out of your home and gives your a break from the vicious cycle. Weekends should be specifically assigned to recreational activities.

Check Previous Year Questions:

Another important tip to prepare for the UPSC IAS exam without coaching is to go through the UPSC previous year question papers for both Prelims and Mains to figure out where they stand and also give them a fair amount of idea about the pattern and trends of questions they will face in the CSE exam. Additionally, it will allow mastering the art of smart studying. For prelims, try at least solving one UPSC mock test daily, and for Mains, try attempting 2-3 questions daily, along with getting it peer-reviewed.

Importance of Reading Newspapers:

Newspaper reading plays a crucial part in UPSC Preparation. Newspaper is one of the major sources to update with the recent world happening and get eyes on trending topics and current affairs. It helps to enhance theoretical knowledge. A serious candidate should not forget to go through the editorial pages and crucial news coverage that is relevant to the exam. In addition, a monthly consolidation of Current Affairs supplements the knowledge base beneficially.

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Practice, Practice, and Practice:

At last, to prepare for UPSC without coaching, practice excessively and believe in yourself. The exam demands practice and dedication, coupled with long sitting hours. Dedicate weekends for mocks and test series. Analyze your preparation and modify wherever you think change is needed. Always remember, ‘Practice makes a person perfect’.

How to Crack UPSC Prelims without Coaching?

The above-mentioned information provided some general information on how to prepare for the UPSC exam without coaching in an integrated way. But, to clear the Prelims, one must have a strategic approach. The UPSC Prelims Syllabus is quite massive and scattered. Hence, revision should be both reasonable and time-bound.

In this section, we will help you to know how to crack UPSC without coaching for the Prelims exam.

  • A candidate needs to start his/her preparation at least a year before he plans to appear for the exam. The syllabus must be well-versed with candidates. The Union Public Service Commission demands a different approach for UPSC Prelims due to the sheer competition faced by lakhs of aspirants. Smart study plays the deciding factor here!
  • The UPSC exam, with its immense competition, mandates that the aspirant covers the syllabus well in advance, with at least two revisions done. Analyze the past trends, but don’t completely rely on them. The Commission can change the pattern anytime.
  • With three months just before the UPSC Prelims, the candidate must adapt to the fire-fighting mood. Mocks should be attempted, performance analyzed, and mistakes modified.
  • It is not important how many mock tests one attempt, but it is important to revise all those attempts. Poor performance should not bring frustration, nor should high performance bring elation.
  • CSAT should not be left to the last moment. Though UPSC CSAT is just qualifying, one needs to practice it at least twice a week.
  • Before the UPSC Prelims, the candidate must go through the gist of the Indian Year Book, Economic Survey, Budget, PIB, and Yojna. Questions tend to be directly asked from these sources.

How to Prepare for UPSC without Coaching? - Mains Exam

After the Prelims, once you are sure that you are sailing on the safe side of the expected cut-off marks, start preparing for UPSC Mains, the real battle in the game!

  • Prepare a plan (including a timeline) to cover the whole syllabus of mains. The focus has to be given to all subjects like the Optional, GS, and Essay. Even the optional papers for UPSC should not be left.
  • While the Prelims require peripheral knowledge of topics, the UPSC Mains demands an exhaustive study covering various topics.
  • ‘Horses for courses’ technique should be applied for the UPSC Mains Exam. Picking the right parts of the syllabus for the intensive study will not only help to manage time but also help to garner more marks towards the end.
  • The UPSC Mains Syllabus is designed in such a way that it needs to be sufficient with current affairs. The syllabus is open-ended and requires analysis and an understanding of the underlying trends and ideas.
  • The answers for UPSC Mains for all the papers (GS- 1, 2, 3, and 4, along with Optional Subject) should be divided in such a way that it covers all aspects, be it economic, political, legal, socio-cultural, etc. This ensures a good, wholesome read and makes the expression on examiner that the candidate is well-prepared.
  • Enroll in a test series and stick to the scheduled plan. Improve the quality as well as the number of answers by working on mistakes. The key to success is to practice, learn and improvise. Go through the answer sheets of UPSC toppers to learn from them.

☛ Learn More:

How to Crack UPSC Interview without Coaching?

After the Mains, analyze the performance and decide on the future course of action. If you expect an interview call, then start preparing for the UPSC interview within a few days after the mains. And if you could not do well in Mains, then introspect and again, with full dedication, approach the next UPSC Prelims.

  • For the Interview, the panel at the Dholpur House wants to evaluate a candidate’s personality and critical thinking ability.
  • The UPSC Interview is a one-to-one communication between the aspirants and the panel. The interview may seem scary, but with the right amount of confidence, relevant preparation, and soft skills, one can really ace the Interview call really well.
  • The key to acing the interview is to prepare the DAF well because that forms the base of all the questions asked, along with the candidate’s critical analysis about the recent happenings occurring at the national and international level.

Thorough coverage of newspapers, along with Rajya Sabha TV programs like Big Picture, India’s World, World Panorama, etc. will give the candidate enough critical thinking and analytical ability to face the questions confidently.


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FAQs on How to Prepare for UPSC Without Coaching?

  • Yes, absolutely, it is possible to crack UPSC without coaching. It is just a myth that coaching is essential to crack the UPSC Exam. Candidates who are focused, and execute their strategy effectively, can surely succeed in the UPSC Exam on the first attempt. Many candidates have cracked UPSC without coaching over the years. So, if they can, why can’t you?

    ☛ Read: How to Prepare for IAS at home?

  • If you are a beginner and thinking of preparing for UPSC without coaching, then you need to stay focussed, more determined, and confident in your strategy. Go through the complete paper pattern, list of subjects, syllabus, and selection process to be aware of the Civil Services exam. Check previous year's questions, and cover the syllabus for each subject one by one by preparing a timetable for UPSC.

  • It is possible to crack the UPSC exam without coaching if you are determined to devote time to self-study and revision. Preparing UPSC without coaching can be done by setting up a timetable and effective strategy suitable to your needs.

  • There are many candidates who have cleared UPSC in the first attempt without coaching. Coaching centers merely provide you with notes and daily practice, which can be easily done at home by taking the help of online notes and mock test series.

  • As per the UPSC eligibility, aspirants can apply for UPSC after graduation. So, if you have made up your mind, you must start UPSC preparations right after 12th. It is advisable to decide on your optional subject in advance and take it in your graduation so that the advanced knowledge of that subject can be taken. Take the help of the previous year's question papers and mock tests to test your performance level.

  • Preparing for the UPSC exam is not as tough and gigantic as it looks. Though it is tough to clear IAS in 3 months, it is not impossible. To prepare for the UPSC exam without Coaching, a candidate needs to build a solid foundation and understand the syllabus and exam pattern to develop an effective strategy.

    If the candidate has built a basic strong foundation and is clear with the concepts, then it won’t be hard to clear the IAS Exam in 3 months.

    Also Read: How much time is required to prepare for UPSC?

  • The first and foremost thing is to get accustomed to the process of the UPSC Civil Services Exam. Following that, follow these simple steps:

    • Analyze the pattern of examination and go through the past year’s question papers of both prelims and main exams.
    • Get in the habit of reading the newspaper daily and correlating it with the UPSC syllabus.
    • Keep the preparation simple; stick to basic NCERT books and suffice them with standard books. Make short notes of the same.
    • Have daily and long-term goals to complete your syllabus well in advance so that you can revise and solve mocks adequately.
    • Make use of the internet and social media for your preparation carefully, and do not waste time needlessly.
  • The UPSC CSE requires more than just hard work. It requires proper planning and the right strategy to crack the exam. Though the materials available are ample, some of the basic books suggested over the years to prepare for UPSC without coaching include Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations by M Laxmikanth, India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra, Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh, Certificate of Physical & Human Geography by GC Leong, A History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra, India’s Ancient Past by RS Sharma, etc. to name a few.

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