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How to study for an IAS exam

Posted by : Anurag Singhal on | Nov 21,2021

Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the dream career of millions of aspirants in the country. Recruitment to 24 services including IAS, IPS, IFS, etc is conducted via a common exam called the UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE). In this era of the internet where an enormous number of resources are available, more and more people are opting for self-study and online preparation for UPSC civil services examinations.

This exam consists of 3 stages. The stages are (1) Preliminary Exam (objective) (2) Main Exam (written) and (3) Interview (personality test).


Is coaching a necessity?

Taking tuitions is definitely a great add-on to the self-study, it helps out with the directions that are beneficial for the preparations. But it's not a necessity, one can always take the help of a person who has taken the exam or some senior or a batchmate is also taking the examination. People often decide to join IAS coaching classes but those who cannot do the same can also pass this exam with flying colors if they are dedicating enough time and effort. Online resources are of great help for people unable to join tuitions. 

The optional subject:

An aspirant's optional subject might make the difference between passing and failing this test. After a comprehensive analysis, it is critical to select the optional subject. The optional subject's preparation must be done in conjunction with the General Studies syllabus.

In the UPSC final tally, the optional subject accounts for 500 marks. As a result, you should pick an optional topic carefully and after considering the advantages and disadvantages of the subjects you are considering. 

Before choosing an optional, consider the following factors:

Prior knowledge/academic background in the subject of interest

There is some overlap with the GS papers.

Study materials are readily available.

Important Things to keep in mind while preparing for the exam:

Making a road map: this step is one of the most important as it helps to evaluate a candidate how much time they have and how they can devote their time to respective subjects.

Making a timetable: this step helps with daily practice and works toward better time management as making a timetable will lead to less confusion as to what you have to study at a particular hour of a day. This will ease your preparation and make it more streamlined. With deadlines, you would work better and complete the syllabus faster.

Being up-to-the-mark with current affairs: The most significant element of the IAS test is newspapers. You cannot hope to pass the IAS test if you do not read the daily newspaper or keep up with current events. The civil service test questions are either directly or indirectly related to current events. As a result, it's critical to keep up with pertinent news stories in your daily newspaper.

For people who cannot subscribe to the newspaper, there are numerous mobile applications that provide daily news without a subscription.

Making Notes: Making brief notes throughout UPSC preparation is beneficial. Because the UPSC syllabus is so large, it aids in keeping track of what has been covered and also acts as a review checklist. Separate files or notes might be kept for different subjects. Many people like files because they make it easy to add notes to a topic. This is especially useful for adding current-events-related news to a certain topic.

Answer writing practice: The descriptive aspect of the IAS main test papers is evident. It's mostly about putting your critical thinking, analytical, and communication skills to the test. It necessitates conceptual clarity and a faultless organization of your opinions, perceptions, and thoughts. The time and space constraints in the answer booklet should also be considered. As a result, applicants must respond to questions swiftly, efficiently, and with as few words as possible. Without sufficient answer writing experience, this is not feasible. 

Mock test series: Self-evaluation is an important element of UPSC preparation. It can assist civil service candidates in recognizing and learning from their mistakes, determining the strategy they should take in completing their preparation, and identifying their strengths and shortcomings. Joining a mock exam series is highly suggested, especially if you are studying at home. This will assist you in evaluating yourself and assisting you further.


When you're taking an exam as difficult as the UPSC, revision is vital. Because the UPSC curriculum is so broad and covers so many areas, it's normal to forget what you've already learned. Timely correction is essential to avoid this.

Preparing for the interview:

The UPSC interview or Personality Test, as previously said, is the final stage in the UPSC test process. This is a critical point in the process, and you'll need more than just academics to succeed. You'll be judged on things like diplomatic abilities, communication skills, mental presence, stress reactivity, and so on. You'll also be quizzed about your hobbies, interests, schooling, and employment experience, if any. As a result, you'll need to brush up on these points. 

Staying Positive: 

The most critical component of the UPSC process is to have a positive mentality. There will be moments when it becomes too much for you, and you will feel discouraged. Remove any negative ideas from your mind and focus on the task at hand.