Preparation Strategy for UPSC/IAS Prelims Exam?

Embarking on the journey towards the Civil Services exam, every aspirant dreams of securing a coveted rank that aligns with their desired Service. However, the path to success is as diverse as the toppers themselves, with each individual crafting their unique strategy. There exists no single blueprint that guarantees triumph in the Civil Services exam. In light of this, allow us to present a captivating list of crucial pointers, guiding you towards the formulation of your very own winning strategy. Prepare to unleash your potential and embark on a personalized path to greatness!

UPSC CSE Prelims Syllabus

The UPSC Prelims is a qualifying series to filter candidates. Only well-prepared and serious candidates can make it past the Prelims to attempt the Mains.

The Prelims have two papers: General Studies I and General Studies II both consisting of 200 marks.

Syllabus for General Studies I

✅Current Affairs – Events of national and international importance.

✅History of India and the Indian National Movement

✅Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.

✅Indian Polity and Governance Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

✅Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.

✅General issues that do not require subject specialization such as Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity, and Climate.

✅General Science

Syllabus for General Studies II


✅Interpersonal skills including communication skills

✅Logical reasoning and analytical ability

✅Decision-making and problem-solving skills

✅General mental ability

✅Basic numerical ability (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) and Data Interpretation skills (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc.) of 10th standard level.

Exam Pattern

 Given below is a table of the exam pattern:



No. Of Questions



Negative Marks

General Studies I




2 Hours

Yes, 0.66

General Studies II




2 Hours

Yes, 0.83

UPSC Prelims Subject-Wise Weightage (2011-21)

List of Recommended Books for UPSC Prelims


Recommended Books


1. NCERT XI (Ancient & Medieval)
2. NCERT XII (Modern Indian History)
3. Modern Indian – Spectrum
4. From Plassey to Partition – A History of Modern India
5. India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra

Indian Art & Culture

1. Indian Art & Culture – Nitin Singhania


2. Indian Polity – M Laxmikanth


1. NCERT VI – X (Old Syllabus)
2. NCERT XI, XII (New Syllabus)
3. Certificate Physical Geography – G C Leong
4. World Atlas


2. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
3. Economic Development & Policies in India – Jain & Ohri


1. Class XII Biology (Last 5 chapters)
2. Environment & Ecology: Biodiversity, Climate Change and Disaster Management – General Studies for Civil Services (Main) Examination – Paper II and IV – Majid Hussain

International Relations

1. NCERT XII (Contemporary World Politics)
2. Current Affairs

General Knowledge

Government websites like the PIB, PRS

News Magazines

1. Yojana
2. Kurukshetra
3. Current Affairs magazine


Subject wise Approach towards UPSC Prelims


✔️Analyzing previous year papers reveals important topics in Indian Polity.

✔️Frequently asked topics include constitutional developments, fundamental rights, etc.

✔️Focus on amendments, elections, federalism, and parliament.

✔️Use NCERT books and reference books like Laxmikanth and DD Basu.

✔️Stay updated with current constitutional developments through newspapers and magazines.


✔️Recent years have seen fewer history questions but increased difficulty.

✔️Modern history questions dominate, especially 1857-1947 period.

✔️Ancient India focuses on Vedic Age, Mauryan Period, and Gupta Period.

✔️Medieval India covers Marathas, Vijaynagar, Bahmani kingdoms, Sultanate, and Mughal period.

✔️Prepare comprehensively from NCERT books and other relevant sources.


✔️Indian Geography is crucial, comprising around 70% of geography questions.

✔️Master physical aspects and locations of India.

✔️Emphasize conceptual aspects in Physical and General Geography.

✔️Stay updated on world geography through newspaper map reading.

✔️NCERT textbooks (6th to 12th), Goh Cheng Leong, and Atlas are recommended.


✔️Macroeconomics and Indian Economy are prominent in economics questions.

✔️Focus on industry, agriculture, money and banking, public finance, and reforms.

✔️Stay updated on global economic situation and international organizations.

✔️Understand basic concepts through Class XI NCERT book on Indian Economy.

✔️Current affairs related to economics should be studied.


✔️UPSC has reduced questions on basic science, focusing more on current affairs.

✔️Study basic science concepts from NCERT textbooks but prioritize current affairs.

✔️Analyze recent question papers to understand topics and question nature.

✔️Selectively study NCERT and focus on current affairs and related basics.


✔️Environment has gained importance in UPSC prelims, with increasing questions.

✔️Basics covered from 11th and 12th Biology NCERT books and Coaching Study Material.

✔️Stay updated on environment-related current affairs through newspapers and magazines.


✔️Current affairs hold high utility in the exam and constitute a significant portion.

✔️Cover national and international events, bilateral developments, major organizations, etc.

  • Monthly Current Affairs Magazine is comprehensive.
  • Make daily notes from newspapers, focusing on relevant topics.

Key Tips for UPSC Prelims Preparation

  1. Understand the Exam Pattern and Syllabus:
  • Gain a clear understanding of the UPSC Civil Services Exam pattern and syllabus.
  • Use this knowledge to prioritize your studies and create a strategic plan.
  1. Practice Regularly:
  • Solve model papers, previous year question papers, and mock tests to familiarize yourself with the exam pattern and improve time management skills.

Regular practice helps identify weaknesses and enhances performance.

  1. Focus on Fundamentals:
  • Build a strong foundation by focusing on understanding the fundamentals of each subject.
  • Solid knowledge of basics facilitates faster comprehension of complex ideas.
  1. Review Past Years\’ Question Papers:
  • Analyze previous years\’ question papers to identify important topics and trends.
  • Understanding the weightage of different subjects helps in targeted preparation.
  1. Take Mock Tests and Solve Previous Years\’ Papers:
  • Participate in mock test series to evaluate your exam readiness.
  • Solve previous years\’ papers in exam-like conditions to gain confidence and improve your performance.
  1. Select the Best Study Materials:
  • Focus on quality rather than quantity when selecting study materials.
  • Revise from limited but appropriate resources multiple times to enhance retention.
  1. Repeat and Revise:
  • Regularly repeat and revise topics to reinforce your understanding and retain information.
  1. Seek Help When Needed:
  • Don\’t hesitate to seek assistance from teachers or peers when you have doubts or questions.
  • Utilize their expertise and guidance to clarify doubts and gain valuable insights.
  1. Stay Calm and Confident During the Exam:
  • Maintain a composed mindset during the exam.
  • Utilize your time efficiently and approach questions confidently.
  • Believe in your preparation and trust the work you have put in.

In summary, consistent effort, smart study techniques, and effective time management are the key factors in excelling in UPSC exam preparation. Stay focused, stay motivated, and success will follow.
Cracking the UPSC prelims requires a winning strategy. Analyze past questions, take mock tests, and solve previous papers. Choose the right study material, master the basics, and manage time effectively during the exam. Stay confident and composed. By implementing these strategies, you can maximize your chances of success and achieve your UPSC goals.

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