UPSC Preparation- 21 Tips To Start UPSC Preparation From Day 1

1-Why UPSC Preparation Is Important-

UPSC Preparation is slightly different than other government exam preparation due to various reasons and one of the top reason is the Difficulty Level of UPSC exam and the Competition which makes it one of the most difficult exam in our country.

UPSC Preparation is the key to success in UPSC exam, If you are well prepared no one going to stop you. I have made an extensive list of 21 Best Practices which will guide you about complete UPSC exam process and its preparation strategies to make UPSC preparation much easier and enjoyable.

The first and most important things is, you can clear UPSC exam if prepared it well, there are ample example available who have achieved this milestone with their smart preparation and we are going to discuss most of their best practices in this article.

Everyone wants clear UPSC exam that’s why more than 1 million aspirants prepare it every year but less than 1% make their name in the final list. Now question aries what makes one in the list of 1% successful aspirants when everyone is preparing for 10 to 12 hours daily.

Here is the secret of upsc exam preparation, as most students believe, sitting 10-to-12 hours daily in front of upsc of UPSC BOOKS is enough for this exam , they might be right but knowing how to utilise these hours for optimum results is more important.

Lot’s of UPSC topper said they have studied near 6-9 hours daily and cleared upsc exam so it is loud and clear that here is no rule in number of hours but how you prepare in these hours is important. Studying 10 to 12 hours daily may not be sufficient for upsc preparation if you are not preparing in right direction.

Today you will know how you should put your valuable 6-9 hours preparation time so that you can comfortably clear UPSC exam in your first attempt. Here are 21 best upsc preparation practice which most UPSC Topper follow in UPSC exam preparation

2-Know The UPSC Exam process-

UPSC Exam which is conducted by Union Public Service Commission every year has three stages which are known as Prelim, Mains And Interview. All these three stages are important and every aspirants have to clear to make their name in the final list.

Prelims Exam-

Prelims is the very first stage of UPSC exam and also gateway for Main exam. Every aspirants have to score minimum cut-off marks to clear it as per their category. Prelims exam has two papers with each carry 200 marks. Prelims paper -01 marks are counted for Prelims cut-off and Prelims paper-02 marks are qualifying in nature.

Negative marking is also applicable for both prelims paper so be careful while attempting questions in the exam. One wrong answer can deduct your 1/3 marks of the question.

Prelims PaperQuestionsMarksTimeRemarks
Prelims Paper -011002003 hoursCounted for Merit
Prelims Paper-02 ( CSAT)802003 hoursJust Qaulifying

You only need to score minimum cut-off marks in paper-01 and 33% marks in paper-02 to clear Prelims exam and get mains exam ticket. This is how you have to clear UPSC prelims exam and be eligible for UPSC mains exam which is very important for the final selection.

UPSC Mains Exam-

The next step is clearing UPSC mains exam which has 9 papers. 7 papers out of these are only counted for merit list and other two papers are qualifying in nature ( Language papers). Let’s have a look on the question paper table which is explaining everything-

Essay2503 Hours
General Studies-012503 Hours
General Studies-022503 Hours
General Studies-032503 Hours
General Studies-042503 Hours
Optional Paper-012503 Hours
Optional Paper-022503 Hours
Language Paper-013003 Hours
Language Paper-023003 Hours


Interview is the last stage of UPSC exam which carry 275 marks and also counted for final merit for the aspirants. After successful clearing of mains exam, you are called for interview . Interview is the very crucial point when aspirants can score very good marks which can boost their overall Ranking to new high.

UPSC Interview is more about personality test than your knowledge.UPSC has already tested your knowledge in its extensive prelims and mains exam papers so prepare.These are some areas where UPSC has asked in previous year-

  • Your Bio-data
  • Information about your city/village.
  • Your profession/Family profession.
  • Your Educational Grounds.
  • Latest National & International Issues.
  • Current Affairs.

We can not predict interview question 100% but many of the questions have been asked from these areas in the last some years. So prepare well and score high in the interview.

3-Are You Eligible for UPSC Exam This year ?

Eligibility criteria for UPSC exam is divided into 3-4 terms and each term is well explained in this post. Though UPSC does not change its eligibility criteria for Civil Services every year but you can check any change in future from its official website.

Educational Qualification-

The minimum graduation degree is required from any recognized university. Private and Open university aspirants are also eligible for UPSC exam so if you have complete your degree from these university, don’t worry you can apply for UPSc exam.

If you are in the final year if your graduation , you also can apply for this exam, 3 year diploma holder are not eligible for this exam.

Age Limit-

The minimum age limit for UPSC civil services is 21 years which applicable for all the category aspirants. if you are under 21 year age limit , you will have to wait for some time and once you cross this age barrier you can apply for this exam.let’s have a look on the UPSC Eligibility Table where everything is explained in details.

CategoryUPSC Age LimtNo. of AttemptQualification
Genaral32 years06Degree From University.
SC/ST32+5 years No limit.Degree From University.
OBC32+3 years06+3 =9Degree From University.
ex-service man with 5 years minimum service.G-37,OBC-40,SC/ST-42.Based on Category (mentioned above)Degree From University.
Handicaps, Blind etc.32+10 YearsGen & OBC ( 9 attempts )Degree From University.
j&K resident.G-37, OBC-40.ST/SC-42, PH-50 yearsTill the age limit.Degree From University.
Dis-abled service man.G-37,ST/SC-40. OBC-38 years,Based on the category ( mentioned above )Degree From University.

You can read more about upsc age limit in detail in this article.-UPSC Age Limit

4-UPSC preparation Tips For Undergraduates-

If you are already decided to take civil services as your career then you should start upsc preparation from the college time. College time is the best period where we can start preparing our basics like NCERT books of schooling time.

NCERT books are the foundation books in upsc preparation and one must read these basic books before going for upsc course books. Questions from NCERT books are asked in upsc prelims paper-01 every year. The number of question in prelims is around over 10% every year.

We can lose these 10% marks in prelims exam so start reading NCERT books when you are in your college time. There is no hard and fast rule of reading NCERT books but it is advised to read ncert from class 6th to 12th.

It has been observed that if we are not connected in our academics due to jobs,profession etc, we tend to forget very basic concepts of our schooling days so we need to refresh it before we go into examination hall.

If you do not have much time due to college study you can read NCERT from class 9th to 12th so that you cover all the important concept from basic level. Reading NCERT will definitely help you in the prelim and mains exam.

College is the time when we study in depth of the subject and UPSC has one subject which is called optional which carry 500 marks in the exam.

If you keep in mind that we are going to take one of graduation subject as optional we can prepare it well from the college time which will help you in Mains exam preparation.

By reading in depth a subject in college time which subject is going to be your optional in the upsc mains exam is very helpful in saving time in the mains exam preparation.

5-Get complete Knowledge of UPSC syllabus-

When you are preparing for UPSC exam, your first step should be knowing UPSC syllabus in details so that your upsc preparation should go in right direction. Preparing a exam without knowing its syllabus is totally directionless and main cause of failure in the exam for most of aspirants.

At the same time you should read UPSC books based on the upsc syllabus to save your time for other subjects. There are no use of reading 100 books on one subject for upsc exam it will only consume your time.

The benefits of reading 100 books on one subject may help you in some research types course but not in UPSC exam. UPSC exam need basic understanding of all the subject which are mentioned in the upsc syllabus.So why to read such a large number of books if you can score very good marks by reading 2 books in one subject.

UPSC has well defined its UPSC exam syllabus and also notify in its official notification just before the exam. You can get complete upsc syllabus in details from here-Complete UPSC Syllabus.

6-Select UPSC Optional To Score High Marks-

UPSC mains exam has two papers of a optional subject which carry 500 marks . The choice of optional subject is deciding factor in upsc mains exam. Optional subject has potential that you can score very good marks and boost your total score.

If you select right optional subject based on some of the well tested parameters, you can score high marks and make your name in the final list.

here is the complete guide about how to select optional subject in upsc mains exam which will help you in deciding right subject for your mains exam.

UPSC mains exam has 4 paper of general studies and these papers are same for all the aspirants so the competition level will be high but in optional subject you will face less competition and you can score high marks.If you prepare optional subject very well you can change your ranking in the final stage too.

The basic rule of selection of optional subject is based on the following guidelines-

  • Your Interest in the subject.
  • Your previous knowledge of the subject/ graduation subject.
  • Length of the subject syllabus in mains exam.
  • Availability of the study material for that subject.
  • High scoring subjects based on the previous years.

All the above mentioned guidelines are based one the choice of the aspirants and priority so choose intelligently to score high marks in the exam.

7- Find The Best UPSC books for UPSC Preparation-

UPSC Books are the best study material for upsc preparation and finding right kind of books is also essential. Many aspirants loose marks in the upsc exam because they read books which are out of upsc syllabus or very big books which takes lot of time to complete.

The best guide to select upsc books is to find upsc syllabus first and then get all the books which are specially made for upsc exam preparation.

In the era of internet, books are still relevant in upsc preparation and cover large number of upsc syllabus so reading books is good decision along with online website, videos etc.

We have made a comprehensive list of best upsc books which is based on the following recommendation.

  • Read only those books which cover entire upsc syllabus.
  • Do not read those more than two books for one subject. Save time for other subjects.
  • Read books which are not so big, otherwise it will be difficult for you to revise these books later.
  • Read books which are commandeered by IAS toppers, experts , do not buy books blindly without prior knowledge. Market is full of books and each subject has hundreds of books , it become very confusing to select right books.

Here is the list of complete set of UPSC books for both the exam including prelims and mains so check-out these books before going to buy. You can also buy these books from here-Click To Buy Books Online.

8–Time management Is The Key In UPSC Preparation-

Time management is very crucial in upsc preparation as this exam test the patience of the aspirants so managing time is important. You may be a working person or dedicated student who is studying round the clock for upsc exam.

But managing 6-8 hour daily is big concert for working person so they need more planned schedule for upsc preparation.

UPSC preparation needs quality preparation of 6-10 hours daily and this depends on the aspirants and his capabilities. Some aspirants say they study only 6 hours in a day but some study 10-12 hours.

The most important thing is how much time do you actually put for upsc exam preparation with consistently and cover UPSC syllabus.

There is no hard and fast rule for study hours but you should be in position of completion of upsc syllabus well before exam time.

If you are not able to cover your syllabus in time, you will not able to revise it and forget most of which you read in the exam. So keep enough time for revision of upsc syllabus.

9-Current Affairs is The King In UPSC Exam-

Since last 5 years UPSC has changed its question base from conventional questions to current affairs and more than 50% questions of prelims and mains exam are directly -indirectly are coming from current events.

So the importance of current affairs is huge in upsc preparation and you should take this section more seriously. Current affairs are also part of prelims & mains syllabus and cover considerable portion of the exam.

There are multiple ways of preparing current affairs -Many aspirants read online , some read magazine and coaching material etc.

all the options are good but some of the are time consuming  and our aim is to save your time and prepare well. Previous year question papers suggest that most of the questions of current affairs sections asked from Newspaper and magazine .

These are two powerful source of current affairs preparation and The Hindu Newspaper and Yojna magazine are most powerful source of current affairs.

These two source are enough to cover wide range of current affairs for prelims and mains exam. The Hindu is one of the most read newspaper for upsc preparation by upsc aspirants and there are ways of reading it in less than a hour-Click to know  how to read The Hindu in less than one hour.

Reading booklet for current affairs may not right decision because current affairs need to be updated regularly and online website and newspaper are updated on daily basis.

so read any source which you like but make sure that it should be updated and regular then only current affairs can be prepared for getting high marks in the exam.

10-Newspaper Reading Strategies For UPSC Exam-

The importance of newspaper i immense in upsc exam preparation and most expert suggest to read at least one newspaper daily. Newspaper is the best source of current affairs for prelims and mains exam and The Hindu and Indian Express newspaper are the most loved newspaper for upsc preparation.

The biggest problem in newspaper reading is how to finish newspaper in less time. Aspirants has big concern that one complete reading of newspaper takes more than 4-5 hours and you can not afford this much time for a newspaper as there are many more subjects in the line.

Here I have a better Idea for you to finish the Hindu or Indian express newspaper in less time with complete understanding for UPSC exam.

  • The trick to read newspaper in less time for upsc preparation is find out the news which is not relevant for upsc point of view.
  • First of all we will simply avoid all the pages which contains material which is not as per upsc syllabus. i will explain in the example-
  • Let’s take example of The HINDU newspaper- The Hindu Newspaper has one page of sport news and you can avoid it completely because in UPSC , sport questions are very less expected.
  • Like sport page , we can skip many pages, heading which are not useful for upsc exam preparation and read only those pages, news which are useful for upsc exam.
  • National , International , States , administration, policy related, science & tecnology etc pages are useful .
  • You can avoid political news , PIN ( person in news) types news which does has any relevance in the upsc syllabus.

If you follow all these tips while reading newspaper you can easily finish newspaper in less time than other and use that time for other subject. Read How to read newspaper for upsc exam-Click here

11-Read NCERT Books For UPSC Preparation-

NCERT books are fundamental study material for all the exam and the important of ncert books is huge in UPSC Preparation. Past exams speaks itself that prelims paper has large number of questions which are directly from NCERT books of class 6th to 12th.

This is the reason, most expert advice a complete reading of NCERT books before prelims exam. NCERT book contain very basic concept which are missed in mains course books and we tend to forget all these small point and lose marks in the prelims exam.

The best way is to prepare upsc exam is starting upsc preparation from NCERT books  of schooling time and finish them once then start reading mains upsc syllabus books . 

NCERT books are very useful for making short notes for later revision. If you read NCERT books from 6th to 12th class, it will difficult to revise all the books in the last month.

Notes can be made from NCERT books while first reading , it will save your time and work in the last time. Note should be short and clear in keywords only otherwise no use of making long notes like paragraph.

The golden rule for notes making is 1/10 of the sentence -e.g if you want make notes of 1000 words paragraph , you should be able to short it in 100 words then it will be called a quality note making.

Read how to make notes for upsc exam in details-Click Here.

12-List Of Useful Websites for UPSC exam Preparation-

After UPSC books , websites are the most visited source for study material in upsc exam preparation and current affairs , international events, science and technology are some key area of upsc syllabus which can be prepared well from these websites.

Many students spends lots time searching study material online for upsc preparation and end-up with some low quality websites. There are some very good online websites which are very good source of information for upsc exam.

Online websites are very good source of current affairs and mock test , some of them are listed in this article which can be very useful for you in upsc preparation.

While surfing online for study material, you have to very cautious because low quality study material and wrong information can lead you in wrong direction. so always check the information twice before writing in the exam so that you do lose marks.

Click here to find list of Useful websites for upsc exam preparation-

13-List Useful YouTube Channel For UPSC Preparation-

YouTube videos are also very useful in upsc preparation, almost every coaching institutes has its YouTube channel where they upload coaching class videos regularly. There are also some very popular youtube channel which are run by Ex-IAS officer who provides everything about UPSC Preparation.

There are many students who can not attend coaching so YouTube is the best source for them to understand the difficult topics in details. You can download these videos for later revision and prepare upsc exam from home.

Let’s have some important YouTube channel list for UPSC Preparation-

  • Unacademy- This one of the best YouTube channel for UPSC Preparation which is run by an IAS Officer Dr Roman and his friends. They provide almost everything required for UPSC Preparation in their YouTube Channel.  Most of the content of the channel are FREE and some are paid, you can access both by following their rules & regulations.
  • StudyIqoption- This is another YouTube channel for upsc exam preparation, this channel has all types of videos on different topics , you can watch this channel for FREE.
  • Drishti IAS- Is one of the most watched youtube channel for upsc exam preparation in hindi medium aspirants. This channel provide quality videos on various topics which are important for prelims and mains exam..
  • Upsc exam Guide- This is channel is also growing with time, you can find some videos on upsc books

14-List Useful Magazine for UPSC Preparation-

Magazine are handy in UPSC preparation and cover vital information from current affairs to government schemes , international issues etc in details.

There are plenty of good magazine in the market which contains lots of stuff for various exam preparation and finding right magazine which exclusively cover upsc exam is little difficult.

But here are some very useful magazine which not only cover upsc syllabus but also provide high quality content with high level of authenticity. You can read these magazine for upsc preparation and boost your score in the exam.

Yojna– This is a government run monthly magazine which cover wide range of topics from environment to social and also cover related government schemes , initiatives . This magazine is written by highly qualified expert in their field, bureaucrat, IPS officer, economists etc.

This magazine is very helpful for both prelims and mains exam. You can write very good essay with the help of this magazine.

Science Reporter-One of the best magazine to cover science and technology section of prelims exam , this magazine is published on monthly basis in both the languages. This magazine cover latest science inventions world wide , environment section,innovation and technology news.

If you read these two magazine on daily basis, you can easily score good marks in the respective section of the syllabus. there are also some magazine which contains huge stuff with low quality and these magazine are written to cover all the competition exam so the quality is compromised.

But above mentioned magazine are exclusively written by experts on theme basis every month and the data is very authentic, you can put the data direct in the exam.

15-Make UPSC Preparation Notes-

Making notes in upsc preparation is wise decision, many aspirants unable to revise whole syllabus in the last month due to absence of time because whole syllabus takes months to revise. Notes play crucial role here, if you make notes for important topics while upsc preparation, you can revise your syllabus in hours with help of these notes.

Notes can be made in two ways-Online notes / offline notes.

Online Notes- Online notes can be made when we study something online in websites, newspaper, magazines. we can bookmark important lines or copy them and store in online stores.

there are two most popular online notes making websites/app- POCKET and EVERNOTE. These two app can installed on smartphone from playstore to easily save notes.

Both of the app are FREE to use so download them from Google playstore.

Offline Notes- Offline Notes can be made in any note book or diary but it should be very clear in reading and short in length. Notes should be in keywords only, no need to write complete sentence in notes .

Offline notes are very useful when you want revise upsc syllabus in less time. Notes can be revised in hours so very helpful in the last minute before the exam.

16-Attempt Test Series for Smart UPSC Preparation-

Test series is the best way to test your exam preparation before the exam. many aspirants appear in test series to know if they are ready for the exam this time or not. UPSC has fixed attempts for all the categories, so appearing without sufficient upsc preparation is wrong decision.

By attempting good test series/ mock test you can check your exam preparation and find your weakness and strong points. If you attempt enough test series on regular interval , you get sufficient time to correct your mistakes so that you do not repeat in the exam.

Test series also helps in increasing your overall score in both the exam. If you practice 10-20 mock test before prelims exam , you can expect at least 5% increase in your score.

Solving test series in timed manner, you actually feel real exam type situation which helps in time management in the examination hall and improve your accuracy.


Online Test series which are also known as mock test are two types online and offline. Online test are easily available which can be bought from your home with the help of mobile and laptop.

There are some very good websites which provide high quality test series for both the exam. These  websites are very popular among UPSC aspirants for high quality test series. The best part of these websites that you can attempt all the test papers from your home as per your time schedule.( expect few)

Once you get access to their test series dashboard, you get full access to all the test series which are attempted by many UPSC aspirants. You can also check your ranking among other who attempted these tests at all India Level.

Offline Test Series-

Offline Test series are the mock test paper which can be bought from the market in printed format. All these papers are similar to online test papers but you can solve them with pen and pencil.

You can get all these Offline test papers from market or also download them from the website of the UPSC coaching institutes in PDF format.

There will be no LIVE test or Ranking check on all India Basis but you can check your preparation level while solving them at home. Both the types of test series are useful for upsc aspirants and choose which is suitable for you.

17-Understand The Value Of Self-Study-

Many IAS topper say that self study is the best way to prepare for upsc exm and it is also true because you are the only one who can clear ias exam not coaching centers. It is good if you have joined any coaching institutes but totally depend on that can be cause of failure in the exam.

The practice of self-study has decreased and more and more students are depend on coaching study material and classes. Coaching classes can be extra edge for you in the exam but the success will come with your self study only.

Every year students are clearing ias exam with self-study even without taking any help from coaching institutes. The power of self-study is so powerful that one can clear ias with top rank.

18-UPSC Preparation can be done from home-

The big question is how to prepare upsc exam from in the mind of students. Large number of UPSC aspirants belong to rural area live in the absence of modern educational facilities but they want crack upsc exam and become a Civil Servant.

UPSC preparation can be easily done from home with the help of some smart IAS preparation techniques. The main problems a rural student face is non-availability of right books , latest study materials, notes, test papers etc.

If you pay attention to the following tips and trick, you can easily manage all the study material, guidance, notes without spending too much.

YouTube- YouTube is the biggest network of video content and UPSC preparation videos are also available there. Most of the Big Coaching Institutes has their own YouTube Channel where they upload video of coaching class on regular interval.

Watching videos on difficult topics is the best way to understand the concept, you can search any topics and watch video on that. So you don’t need to join any coaching classes in Delhi or other big cities. You can either subscribe them or pay them for premium content.

Websites- There are many good websites which provide very useful information about UPSC Preparation and they also help students in preparing for upsc exam. These websites are full of quality content and updated as per upsc syllabus.

You can read topics like current affairs, UPSC Preparation Guide, IAS Topper Interviews etc Free of cost. The best part of these website is -You can access them from you smartphone at anytime , anyplace. This is the beauty of internet and technology which will help you in clearing UPSC exam from home.

Online Books- The Most common problem for a Village student is to get UPSC books at right time. Selection of UPSC books is also challenging task for many new UPSC aspirants. So here we have made an exclusive list of best UPSC books which covers prelims and mains syllabus in details.

These books are selected based on UPSC syllabus published just before UPSC prelims exam, you can buy these books from here-Click To Buy Online.

19- UPSC Preparation Without Coaching Classes-

The confusion among young upsc aspirants is if they can clear UPSC exam without coaching or not. This is very common concern because most of the IAS topper had joined some of the coaching institutes once in their upsc preparation time.

So many students believe that coaching is must to clear UPSC exam but the real picture speaks different story. There are more than 1 lakh aspirants are taking serious coaching in big coaching institutes in delhi, Bangalore etc.

How many of them actually clear UPSC exam every year ? Very Few !!

The passing percentage is very less !! Who are the other who clear UPSC exam with flying colors ? They are the student who made their dream come true just buy doing self-study. Many of rural aspirants are clearing IAS every year even without coaching class.

So the bottom line is – If you think you need coaching , you don’t have much time to prepare or you are new to this exam and no one is near you to guide, you can join coaching classes.

If you know the importance of coaching center and can manage study material, notes, test paper etc as we discussed above, no need to join nay one of them. Anyone can clear without taking expensive coaching.

20-Don’t Waste Time in Social Groups-

There are hundreds of social groups which are made to add UPSC aspirants and help them in preparing for this exam. You may have joined some of them if you use FACEBOOK app in your smartphone. These groups, pages are good for some extent where some people post news articles, websites post, YouTube Video etc.

All these stuff looks good and important but at long run we are more about waste our valuable time in commenting or solving 8th stranded math problems. we know UPSC is not going to ask all these in the exam but still there.

The cost benefits of using these groups, pages are less so we should avoid all these practice while upsc preparation. We an read newspaper, magazine or other study material in place of surfing on these groups, pages.

The other big disadvantage of using these social groups is- We tends to easily destruct to other things like sms, chats, social campaigns and finally end-up with downloading some app from google Play Store.

This is how many aspirants waste time while upsc preparation and you must avoid it.

21-Have Faith In Yourself and Clear it-

UPSC preparation is like running a Marathon, so students needs lot of patience, continuity and faith in their abilities. While UPSC preparation many students quit in between and opt for some other courses, because they either lose faith in them-self or may be some other reasons.

Some students take 5-6 year to clear this exam and prove that they can conquer any challenges, time is not a barrier for them. Faith, self-confidence are the very essential part of UPSC exam preparation, if you are the master of them, no one is going to stop of becoming a CIVIL SERVANT.

Other Useful Links-