UPSC Preparation 2023 – Strategy to Prepare for IAS Prelims, Mains, Interview

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

UPSC preparation strategy covers the tips and tricks to be used to study for Prelims, Mains, and Interview tests. The Civil Services exam is one of the toughest exams in India, for which lakhs of aspirants study every year, which makes it highly competitive. By following the right approach for UPSC preparation, one can easily sail through the process and become an officer in Group A or B posts in the Central government departments. As per the latest calendar, the Prelims 2023 exam is scheduled to take place on 28 May 2023. A robust and well-planned UPSC preparation strategy helps in completing the syllabus on time and gives the student ample room for revision before the final exam.

If you are wondering about how to prepare for UPSC 2023, you are at the right place. Read this post till the end to know the IAS preparation strategy for Prelims, Mains, and the Interview along with getting a list of the best books for UPSC preparation and how beginners can start preparing for the Civil Services exam at home.

How to Prepare for UPSC?

Many aspirants often inquisitively enquire about the right time to start the UPSC preparation, i.e., while pursuing graduation or after graduation, grab a job with similar preparation or in early education days like in Class XI and XII. The right approach for IAS preparation is to focus on the curriculum while pursuing graduation or during school days. Those are the formative years of one’s personality, so one should focus on that part as personality and enhancement of the knowledge pool are necessary to qualify for the UPSC Exam.

Some of the expert tips to prepare for UPSC are as follows:

Understand the Exam

Familiarize yourself with the UPSC exam pattern, syllabus, and eligibility criteria. Understand the three stages of the exam: the Preliminary Examination, the Main Examination, and the Personality Test (Interview). This will give you a clear idea of what to expect and how to plan your preparation.

Create a Study Plan

Make a well-structured study plan that covers all the subjects and topics mentioned in the syllabus. Divide your time wisely between different subjects and allocate specific study hours each day. Set realistic goals and deadlines for completing topics.

Study Material

Choose the right UPSC study material and books recommended by experts and successful candidates. Rely on standard textbooks, reference books, and UPSC-specific study materials. Make sure to include newspapers, magazines, and online resources for current affairs.

Focus on Fundamentals

Build a strong foundation by mastering the fundamental concepts of each subject. Develop a clear understanding of the basic principles, theories, and historical events. This will help you comprehend complex topics and answer questions effectively.

Current Affairs

Stay updated with current affairs by reading newspapers (both national and international), magazines, and online news portals. Make notes of important events, government policies, and their implications. Focus on issues related to governance, economy, international relations, and social issues.

Practice Answer Writing

Answer writing is a crucial skill for the UPSC Mains Examination. Practice writing answers in a structured and concise manner. Work on improving your analytical and critical thinking abilities. Take mock tests and solve previous year question papers to get familiar with the exam pattern and time management.

Mock Tests and Revision

Regularly take mock tests to assess your preparation level and identify areas of improvement. Analyze your performance and work on your weaknesses. Also, revise regularly to retain the information you have studied. Create short notes or mind maps for quick revision.

Stay Healthy

Take care of your physical and mental well-being. Get sufficient sleep, exercise regularly, and maintain a balanced diet. Avoid excessive stress and take breaks to relax and rejuvenate.

Stay Motivated

UPSC preparation can be challenging and time-consuming. Stay motivated throughout the journey. Surround yourself with positive and like-minded individuals. Read success stories of previous year’s toppers to inspire yourself. Keep your long-term goal in mind and stay focused.

Stay Consistent

Consistency is the key to success in UPSC. Be consistent with your study routine, and don’t lose momentum. Even if you face setbacks or obstacles, keep going. Trust your preparation and stay committed to your goals.

Subject-Wise UPSC Preparation Strategy

UPSC Prelims 2023 is just around the corner, and candidates must be working hard to prepare for each subject of General Studies Paper 1 and CSAT to score well in the exam. Some of the high-weightage subjects in the CSE Prelims and Mains exams are History, Indian Polity, Geography, environment, ecology, etc. Let us look at the subject-wise strategy for IAS preparation by clicking on the following links:

How to Prepare for UPSC Prelims?

To prepare for UPSC Prelims exam, candidates must start at least 6 months before the exam date. The Preliminary exam is the first stage of the Civil Service examination which faces heavy competition every year. A well-defined UPSC preparation strategy will assist candidates to score well in this exam. Only those who clear Prelims will get the opportunity to sit for the Mains exam. So what are you waiting for? Check the expert tips for UPSC prelims preparation below:

  • Be Mentally Prepared: To start with the UPSC preparation for Prelims 2023, the first step is to be mentally prepared for the journey. The exam cycle is very time-consuming, i.e., a minimum of one year is necessary to get through all the stages: Prelims, Mains, and Interview. So, one needs to be dedicated to his/her efforts and keep the momentum going.
  • Knowledge about Syllabus and Exam Pattern: Complete knowledge about the UPSC syllabus and exam pattern is required before starting the IAS preparation.
  • Set up a Timetable: Prepare a timetable for UPSC that will suit your needs. Give appropriate time to all the subjects of CSAT and GS Paper 2, but more time to your weaker areas.
  • Make handwritten notes while preparing. Try to write in bullets in a crisp manner.
  • Read Newspapers: It is highly advisable to read the daily newspaper to score well in the current affairs section, which is a part of all three stages of the exam – Prelims, Mains, and Interview. Newspapers like The Hindu, Indian Express, etc. can not only help in learning current affairs but also help in improving comprehension skills. Check which is the best newspaper for UPSC here.
  • Take the help of NCERTs: To increase the subject knowledge of Science, Economics, History, Polity, Geography, etc., NCERT books for UPSC are a great resource.

Read: Last Minute Preparation Tips for UPSC Prelims 2023

UPSC Preparation for Mains 2023

When the IAS Prelims exam is over, candidates should start the UPSC Mains Preparation from the very next day of the exam. Do not waste time waiting for the tentative Cutoff or result to declare. The Commission takes around a month to 40 days to announce the UPSC Result for Prelims, so when declared qualified, one has already lost time that could have been utilized for the UPSC preparation for Mains, and covering up nine papers becomes difficult at the last lap of time.

The candidate’s primary focus should be on UPSC Answer Writing. Writing is an essential part of the Mains exam, and one should have immense practice in writing descriptive answers. Write a set number of questions daily while preparing for UPSC Mains, join a ‘Mains test series’, and work on the feedback to perform and score better. Discussing in a peer group helps develop perspectives and opinions about ongoing issues. Remember, it does not matter how much one knows; what he/she expresses in the exam counts and becomes the deciding factor!

The time given is 3 hours, and one needs to answer twenty questions in that period. So how one finishes the UPSC Mains paper becomes very important. Writing performance will ensure the candidate’s merit (prelim is qualifying, and marks are not counted), and so is the service and cadre allotted.

One should link any issue in the news with the UPSC Prelims Syllabus and UPSC Mains Syllabus and make notes on that topic. That will help in the effective UPSC preparation for the Mains. Practice thoroughly; be ready to formulate answers if taken by some surprise questions asked in the exam hall. Be aware that there is hardly any time to ponder in the exam, and someone else would get an edge to perform. So diligently express yourself on paper.

IAS Preparation for Interview

Those who clear the Mains exam will be asked to appear for the final stage, i.e. IAS interview. Go through the following points, which will help you to understand how to prepare for UPSC Interview strategically:

  • The interviewer mainly asks questions from the UPSC DAF. One’s educational background, place of work, hobbies, etc., should be thoroughly known.
  • Read the newspaper thoroughly during this time.
  • Should make an opinion on various issues, particularly debatable ones.
  • Appear for mock interviews. The feedback helps one improve the verbal and non-verbal aspects. These will help refine one’s personality.
  • Check and read online about the previous year’s IAS Interview Questions which will assist candidates in understanding the type of questions asked by the Interviewer.

With this information, we intended to give a fair idea about the basic UPSC preparation strategy. It is upon the individual’s strength how he/she makes the most of it.

Current Affairs Preparation for UPSC

For the initial four months, when one starts the UPSC Preparation, they should not focus much on newspapers or answer writing. Just for reading, one should spend time on headlines but not indulge much for at least the initial four months.

After the candidate is done with NCERTs and the Optional Subject, i.e., after spending 4-5 months covering these, the role of current affairs and newspapers becomes essential. By then, a fair understanding of what to read and what not to read is developed!

Newspaper reading plays a crucial part in UPSC preparation. Newspaper is one of the major sources to update with the contemporary world and get eyes on trending topics and current affairs. It helps to enhance theoretical knowledge. A serious candidate should not forget to review the editorial pages and crucial news coverage relevant to the exam.

Best Books for UPSC Preparation

Along with a sound preparation strategy for the UPSC Civil Services exam, it is equally important to check out the list of best books for UPSC preparation that will support your learning. Books are an important resource for IAS preparation and other online study material like notes, mock tests, previous year papers, etc. Therefore, we have provided a list of subject-wise best books for UPSC preparation below to complete your study plan:

Subject UPSC Preparation Books
History Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania

India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra

NCERTs of XI and XII

Indian Polity Jain & Ohri – Economic Development and Policies in India

Indian Polity by M Laxmikanth

NCERT textbooks of grades 9th to 12th

Geography World Atlas (Orient Black Swan)

Certificate Physical Geography – G C Leong

NCERT VI – X (Old Syllabus)

NCERT XI, XII (New Syllabus)

International Relations NCERT XII (Contemporary World Politics)

Current Affairs

Economics Indian Economy by Nitin Singhania

NCERT of Grade 11

Economic Development & Policies in India – Jain & Ohri

CSAT Tata McGraw Hill CSAT Manual

Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning by R S Aggarwal

How to Start Preparing for UPSC 2024?

One could approach IAS Preparation for the UPSC 2024 exam in the following way; make yourself ready, create a schedule, be familiar with the syllabus, read the newspaper or keep up with current events for IAS, choose optional courses, use NCERTs, take notes, and practice writing answers.

Approach for IAS Preparation

Questions here are also addressed, including how to start preparing for the UPSC Exam from school. Candidates can check out the UPSC preparation strategy to know the best approach that must be opted for by beginners who are in school, college, or working professionals.

School Students:

  • Some aspirants begin their preparation in the 11th and 12th grades.
  • Such students are mostly perplexed about which subjects to choose after school for UPSC.
  • It is advisable to not start coaching classes during school time. Aspirants should cover NCERT textbooks from grades 6th to 12th for History, Geography, Political Science, etc. Along with that, from time to time, take a look at the previous year’s papers of the CSE exam to be well versed with the difficulty level, exam pattern, and type of questions asked.

College Students:

  • The majority of applicants begin their CSE journey during their time in college.
  • Choose a subject in your graduation that can be taken as an optional subject in Mains.
  • Use resources such as the college library, books, etc., and dive deeper into the UPSC preparation.

Working Professionals:

  • There is a group of UPSC candidates who train while working.
  • As a result, several inquiries on time management, preparation in three, six, and other months are made.
  • Time Table for Working Professionals can help them answer questions using the best method, prepare for the exam strategically, and provide details about the most promising resources.
  • Aspirants should focus on crucial subjects, including Current Affairs.
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