How to Start Preparation for UPSC from Scratch

May 12 18:44 2021 Anup jaiswal Print This Article

Before we get into the strategy to prepare for UPSC-CSE, let's first know about the civil services exam conducted by Union Public Service Commission.

UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination once every year in following phases - 

  • Preliminary Examination
  • Mains Examination
  • Personality Test 


  Aspirants are required to clear each level in order to appear for the next.


The Preliminary examination (objective type) has two papers each carrying 200 marks (General Studies I and General Studies II) with duration of 2 hours for each paper.


The syllabus prescribed for General Studies Paper-I of 200 marks (100 MCQs) comprises of:

  • History of India and Indian National Movement; 
  • Indian and World Geography,Guest Posting 
  • Indian Polity and Governance, 
  • Economic and Social Development, General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change, 
  • General Science. 


Aspirants need to score well in this paper to clear cut-off marks (differ according to category) in order to be eligible for next level (mains examination).

The syllabus for General Studies Paper II (CSAT) of 200 marks (80 MCQs) comprises of; Comprehension, Logical Reasoning and Analytical ability, basic mathematical concepts and data interpretation. This paper is of qualifying nature (i.e. 33% of total marks), you only need to pass this paper, total marks are  not included in the final merit list for Mains Exam.


   Next phase of mains examination (descriptive nature) comprises of following papers:

  • Indian Language Paper (Qualifying- 300 marks) 
  • English paper (Qualifying- 300 marks) 
  • Essay (250 marks)
  • General studies I  (250 marks)
  • General Studies II  (250 marks)
  • General Studies III  (250 marks)
  • General Studies IV  (250 marks)
  • Optional Paper I & II (250 marks each)

Preparation Phase:

In order to crack this exam, you should strategize your preparation from the very beginning with proper guidance and the right sources of study material, starting with building up your basics with NCERTs (class 6th to class 12th). Read each book three times, and make short notes alongside for all the subjects as they are helpful in last minute revision. Then for better understanding of the subjects, switch to Standard books for UPSC and repeat the same process of three readings. This process takes 10 months and then you have to start your revision and mocks of all the subjects.


Current Affairs:

Current Affairs hold the most important position in the UPSC exam. Therefore, aspirants should be prepared with current affairs of the past 18 to 24 months. Start your day with reading a newspaper, makes notes from it according to the relevance of the topic in the syllabus and try to link the topics with static portions.

Aspirants can prepare current affairs from:

  • Newspaper: The Hindu, Indian Express, and Mint
  • Government sites, PIB, RSTV
  • Daily News Analysis
  • Yojana/Kurukshetra

(Note: Don’t devote more than 30-45 minutes to newspaper reading. It is better to concentrate more on editorial, national, international and science sections).



History; Ancient, Medieval and Modern along with art and culture of India, aspirants can go through following sources for History:

  • Tamil Nadu NCERTS
  • 11-12th CBSE NCERTS both old and new
  • Spectrum - A brief history of Modern India
  • Bipin Chandra’s struggle for Independence
  • Class 11 Fine Arts
  • History of the World by Arjun Dev



All important articles in news, committees, Acts, Policies, etc. are important for the polity current affairs section.

Aspirants can refer following:

  •  Indian Polity by  M. Laxmikant
  • Governance in India by M. Laxmikanth 

 You can make notes, flow charts or simply read the book itself multiple times.



Economics is another important subject with maximum weightage. Aspirants should be able to link the current economic situation with static portions and think critically. UPSC expects aspirants to use analytical and conceptual knowledge to solve the questions.

Aspirants are advised to clear their basics through:

  • 11th-12th NCERTs
  •  Ramesh Singh (Only selective topics)
  •  Economic Survey and budget. You can also go through a video explanation of Economic Survey and budget and make short notes to revise later.




 Indian Geography, World Geography and map questions based on places or rivers, etc, which were recently in the news is favourite of UPSC. Aspirants can go through following sources: 

  • 11th-12th NCERTS 
  • GC Leong
  • Atlas (mapping)



Environment and Ecology has gained importance in past years and it now becomes very important to be thorough with all treaties and conventions, acts, policies, bodies etc regarding environment and biodiversity protection.

For environment aspirants can go through-:

  • 12th Biology NCERT ( environment unit only )
  • NIOS Ecology Notes
  • Magazines and newspapers



Some basic concepts of clarity should be there and can’t be ignored. Latest technologies’ and their applications based questions are frequently asked in UPSC Prelims.

For that aspirants can go through:

  • Class 6-10 NCERTs (selected topics for basics clarity)
  • Science Reporter Magazine 
  • The Hindu Sunday Science & Technology page.
  • RSTV Science Monitor 


INTERNAL SECURITY & DISASTER MANAGEMENT:These topics are also highly linked with current affairs. Almost every question asked from them is related to current events. So, you should rely on newspapers and news analyses as well for these sections.

Aspirants can refer to the following:

  •  ‘India’s National Security – A Reader‘ by Oxford University Press
  • Special Edition of Yojana on Disaster management.



This paper tests the aspirant’s approach to the issues of integrity and probity while dealing with public life. It also tests the aspirant’s approach of problem-solving and conflict resolution.

This paper may have a slight overlap of topics with Governance and Social Justice Subjects from General Studies II in the Civil Service Examination mains papers but is largely independent of the syllabus of other GS papers.

Aspirants can refer to the following:

  • Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude – G. Subba Rao & P. N Roy Chowdhury
  • Lexicon for Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude for IAS General Studies Paper IV – Niraj Kumar.

 During the preparation of UPSC, guidance of experts plays an important role. For guidance of experts and mentors you can enroll yourself in any reputed IAS Coaching. They’ll help you with guidance, strategy updated study materials and Mock Tests based on UPSC pattern.


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Anup jaiswal
Anup jaiswal

I am Anup Jaiswal education consultant having 10 Years of experience in the Education Domain. I am providing information about UPSC exams, IAS jobs and other career-related domains.

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