How to Prepare for UPSC Prelims 2023? – UPSC Prelims Preparation Strategy

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

How to Prepare for UPSC Prelims – The preparation strategy for UPSC Prelims will guide candidates to cover the entire syllabus of two papers strategically – General Studies 1 and General Studies 2 (also known as CSAT), each carrying a maximum of 200 marks. As per the latest calendar, UPSC Prelims 2023, is scheduled to take place on 28 May 2023, for which the application process was closed on 21 February 2023. Since only a few days are left, candidates must focus on UPSC prelims preparation to effectively crack the exam with flying colors.

Clearing the UPSC Prelims is the first step to achieving the dream of becoming a civil servant. Only 3 out of the 100 candidates who appear for the Prelims clear the cut-off. In this article, we cover the strategy on how to prepare for UPSC prelims which might give you a competitive edge over others in your way to clear the exam.

How to Prepare for UPSC Prelims?

Knowing how to prepare for UPSC Prelims requires candidates to first understand the exam pattern briefly. The Preliminary Examination of the CSE consists of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each:

  • General Studies Paper 1 (General Awareness)
  • General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT)

The strategy to prepare for UPSC Prelims General Studies – Paper 1 requires comprehensive coverage of all the topics mentioned in the UPSC Syllabus. For UPSC Prelims preparation, the priority should always be on strengthening the basic knowledge of the subjects mentioned in the syllabus.

The General Studies – Paper 2 or CSAT is just qualifying in nature. One needs to score only 33% to qualify. The marks obtained in the CSAT Paper are not counted for the prelims ranking. The prelims UPSC cut off is decided on the marks scored in General Studies – Paper 1 only.

Subject-Wise Preparation for UPSC Prelims 2023

Those who are preparing for the upcoming UPSC Prelims exam must check the subject-wise preparation strategy to clear GS papers 1 and 2 gracefully.

UPSC Prelims Preparation for GS Paper 1

UPSC Prelims Preparation for the GS Paper-1 requires exhaustive coverage of all the subjects mentioned in the UPSC Prelims Syllabus. One of the foremost things for a serious aspirant is to have a daily schedule with proper time management. A disciplined candidate always has an edge over others. Going through PYQs, solving mocks, and analyzing the weak areas complete the UPSC Prelims preparation in full circle.

In this section, we will break down the strategy for how to prepare for UPSC Prelims in a subject-wise manner so that an aspirant gets a better understanding of all the topics.

How to Prepare UPSC Prelims Polity Section?

Analyzing the UPSC previous year question papers for Prelims, we can conclude that the weightage of polity questions has increased tremendously. Most of the questions are from the Fundamental Rights, DPSPs, Indian Judiciary, recent amendments, federalism structure of India and election process, etc. It can be said that the questions from the Indian Polity section are more or less straightforward and can be easily tackled with careful study.

While preparing for UPSC Prelims, the basics and the static parts of the Indian Polity topics can be covered from NCERT Books for UPSC and some good reference books by Laxmikanth and DD Basu. The remaining portion should be covered by Current Affairs and daily newspaper reading.

UPSC Prelims Preparation for History and Art & Culture

Seeing the past trends, it can be concluded that the questions in the UPSC Prelims from the history section have decreased, but the difficulty level has increased by many folds. The History section in the UPSC Prelims preparation covers Ancient History, Medieval History, and Modern History, which can be covered from class 11th and 12th NCERT, along with covering “A Brief History of Modern India” by Rajiv Ahir (Spectrum). The Art and Culture section should be covered from the CCRT website and book by Nitin Singhania.

Ancient and Medieval questions are generally factual. The conceptual questions are mainly asked from the Modern India section.

How to Prepare Geography for UPSC Prelims?

The UPSC Prelims preparation for Geography is divided into World Geography, Indian Geography, and General Geography, including maps. The majority of the questions asked are from Indian Geography, along with places in the news. In World Geography, the emphasis is more on current developments, whereas, in Physical and General Geography, the emphasis is on conceptual aspects.

The best thing about Geography for UPSC Prelims preparation is that it can be mastered with the least effort. An exhaustive preparation from NCERT Books on Geography (class 6th to 12th), along with Goh Cheng Leong and Atlas, is sufficient.

UPSC Prelims Preparation Strategy for Economics

In Economics, the majority of the questions are asked from the macroeconomics section, majorly correlating with the Indian Economy. Moreover, following the recent trends, it can be stated that the questions of economics are not just of static nature but also related to global economics and current affairs.

To have a full understanding of the economics section in UPSC Prelims preparation, one must always refer to the class 11th NCERT as a base and then proceed with Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh to make a firm foundation. Along with this, the static portion should be correlated with current affairs. Before the UPSC Prelims, one must also refer to the Economic Survey and Union Budget and a gist of the same.

IAS Prelims Preparation for General Science and Technology

Recent trends in UPSC Prelims suggest that the Commission lays more emphasis on current affairs and issues related to basic science. For the technology part, the current affairs suffice. Covering the basic science NCERT Books along with Daily Current Affairs and Monthly Current Affairs magazine for UPSC makes the preparation of this subject comparatively easy.

How to Prepare Environment and Ecology for UPSC Prelims?

The number of questions asked from the Environment section has increased exponentially. The number of questions asked in UPSC Prelims from this section varies from 15-20. The basics of Environment & Ecology are covered in 11th & 12th Biology NCERT Books, along with Book on Environment by Shankar. The current affairs part can be covered by The Hindu or Indian Express.

Prelims UPSC Preparation for Current Affairs

Current Affairs preparation is the most important thing in preparation for UPSC Prelims Exam. Seeing the syllabus and UPSC Exam Pattern, one can conclude how important current affairs is for all three levels of the UPSC Exam. It covers almost 30-40% of the paper, either in direct or indirect form.

For the preparation of Current Affairs topics, one must be in the regular habit of reading any of the credible newspapers along with the Current Affairs magazine available. These sources should be gelled up gists of Yojana, Kurukshetra, Down to Earth, etc.

How to Prepare for UPSC Prelims Paper 2?

The GS Paper- 2 is the qualifying paper of the UPSC Prelims with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33% (66/200). The marks obtained by the candidate in GS Paper- 1 are considered only for the merit cut-off. The UPSC Prelims CSAT Syllabus covers English Comprehension, General Mental Ability, Reasoning, and Analytical Ability, Data Interpretation, and Decision Making & Problem-Solving.

To approach this, it is always suggested to at least solve two mocks per along with UPSC Prelims GS Paper- 1 preparation to remain in sync. The paper pattern is easy and can be easily solved by using logic.

UPSC Prelims Preparation Strategy

With the right approach and time management, along with the help of the right UPSC Books, one can clear the Prelims easily. Just follow the guidelines:

  • Read the basic NCERT textbooks to get your basics right.
  • Go through previous year papers to understand the pattern.
  • Quality over quantity; decide on a few books and stick to them.
  • Read one or two good newspapers to keep yourselves up to date on current affairs.
  • To cover the vast syllabus during UPSC Prelims preparation, you must plan your day, your week, and your month.
  • Follow an integrated approach for preparation for UPSC Exam. The exclusive UPSC prelims preparation should start just 3 months before the exam.
  • Revision of the entire syllabus at least twice before the UPSC Prelims is necessary. With well-made notes, you could revise the whole syllabus just in time.
  • Attempting mock papers can give you an idea of the type of questions asked by the UPSC and helps you assess your preparation level well in advance.
  • Finally, you must work hard with passion and perseverance and you can crack the UPSC Prelims in your maiden attempt.

How much time is required to Prepare for UPSC Prelims?

Generally, it takes 1 year to prepare for UPSC Prelims and Mains exam. But the time required for UPSC Prelims preparation is dependent on individual candidates’ hard work and speed. The best strategy is to go through the syllabus and paper pattern by yourself and devise a timetable to prepare each topic well using online and offline resources.

There are candidates who have devoted 3 to 4 years to study for UPSC, and there are also others who cleared the exam after 3 months of dedicated preparation. Hence, the time required to prepare for UPSC Prelims varies from individual to individual.

UPSC Prelims Preparation Books

For a sound UPSC Prelims preparation strategy, one needs to have good-quality books or subject-wise study material. Candidates can get these books online or offline, depending on their preference. The list of best books for the preparation of UPSC Prelims is given below:

  • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • NCERT Class 11 & 12 for Ancient & Medieval
  • Indian Art and Culture and Indian Economy by Nitin Singhania
  • NCERT – Fundamentals of Physical Geography
  • Certificate Physical Geography – G C Leong
  • Indian Polity by M Laxmikanth
  • Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning by R S Aggarwal
  • Tata McGraw Hill CSAT Manual
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