How to Start UPSC Preparation from Zero Level?

by Vajiram & Ravi

Embarking on the journey of preparing for UPSC Civil Services Examination from zero level can be both daunting and exhilarating, especially for beginners. The UPSC Civil Services Examination is a highly competitive and rigorous process that demands dedication, perseverance, and a well-structured approach. If you are starting your UPSC preparation from scratch, fret not!

This article aims to provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to lay a strong foundation and kickstart your UPSC preparation from the zero level.

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Tips to Prepare for UPSC from Zero Level

To prepare for UPSC Civil Services Examination from zero level, it is very important to understand where to start your preparation. With the right strategy and determination, you can build a solid foundation and embark on your journey to success. Follow this comprehensive guide, stay disciplined in your preparation, and believe in yourself.

Understand the Exam Pattern

The very first thing to do when beginning from zero level is to familiarise yourself with the UPSC exam pattern, stages, syllabus and marking scheme.

The UPSC Civil Services Examination follows a three-stage selection process - the Preliminary Examination, Mains Examination, and the Personality Test.

Preliminary Examination:

The UPSC Prelims consist of two objective-type papers - General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II (Civil Services Aptitude Test - CSAT).

  • General Studies Paper I covers subjects like History, Geography, Polity, Economy, Environment, Current Affairs and General Science.
  • CSAT assesses analytical and reasoning abilities, comprehension, decision-making skills and Basic Numeracy.

Only the marks of General Studies Paper I are considered for qualifying to the Mains examination, subject to the fact that you have reached the cut-off and first qualified the CSAT paper.

UPSC CSE Mains Examination:

UPSC Mains is a written exam that comprises nine papers, including two qualifying papers (English paper and one Indian language paper e.g., Hindi, Tamil, etc.).

The General Studies papers (I, II, III, and IV) focus on diverse subjects, including Indian Heritage, Governance, International Relations, Ethics, and Technology.

Additionally, there are two papers on optional subjects, and candidates must select one optional subject from a list provided by the UPSC.

Personality Test:

Candidates who qualify the Mains examination are shortlisted for the Personality Test, commonly known as the Interview. The UPSC Interview assesses the candidate's personality, communication skills, leadership qualities, and suitability for a career in civil services.

It is vital to express ideas clearly and confidently while showcasing knowledge, ethical values, and problem-solving abilities.

Know the UPSC CSE Syllabus

UPSC syllabus is vast and comprehensive. While beginning your preparation from the zero level, thoroughly study the UPSC syllabus for both the Prelims and Mains examinations. Analyse each subject and topic to comprehend the areas that need focused preparation. Find your strengths and weaknesses and begin with the subject which you feel is the toughest for you.

Build a Study Plan

As a beginner, it is very important to create a well-structured study plan that covers all subjects and topics. Allocate time for each subject, and divide your preparation into short-term and long-term goals.

Start with NCERTs

If you are planning to begin your UPSC 2025 preparation from zero level, NCERT books will provide a strong foundation of fundamental concepts in various subjects like History, Geography, Economics, Polity, Science, and more. UPSC CSE requires a comprehensive understanding of these subjects, and NCERT books will offer a clear and concise explanation of the topics.

Reading Newspapers and Current Affairs

Both the Prelims and Mains examinations of UPSC CSE have a significant number of questions based on current affairs. By reading newspapers regularly, aspirants who are beginning their preparation from zero level can gain valuable insights and knowledge that can be directly applied during the exams.

  • Select reputable newspapers with comprehensive coverage of national and international news. The Hindu, The Indian Express, and Economic Times are some popular choices known for their reliable and unbiased reporting.
  • Pay attention to editorial articles and opinion pieces as they offer in-depth analysis and diverse viewpoints on various issues. These articles provide valuable insights and can help candidates form well-rounded opinions.
  • Ensure your newspaper reading includes a balanced mix of national and international news. UPSC questions often cover global events with implications for India's foreign policy and national security.
  • Read quality magazines like Yojana and Kurukshetra and refer to reliable online sources to improve your general awareness and understanding of social, economic, and political developments.

Choose Optional Subject Wisely

UPSC Optional subjects play an important role in determining your score in your Mains exam. As a beginner, select an optional subject based on your interest, background, and the availability of study material. Seek guidance from mentors and experienced candidates if necessary.

Join Coaching Institute

Consider joining a reputable coaching institute if you need structured guidance, study materials, and mock tests. This is the most important factor to consider for someone who is planning to begin their preparation from zero level. Joining a reputable institute will help candidates avoid confusion and ensure comprehensive coverage of the vast syllabus.

Practise Previous Year Papers

Previous year question papers serve as a treasure trove of knowledge and practice for UPSC CSE aspirants, especially for the ones beginning their preparation from zero level. They not only help aspirants get acquainted with the exam pattern but also aid in self-assessment, time management, and answer-writing skills. Aspirants are advised to include solving UPSC previous year papers as an integral part of their preparation strategy to increase their chances of success in the UPSC CSE.

Test Series and Revision

Participating in Test Series helps candidates identify their strong and weak areas of preparation. Analysing test results provide valuable insights into which subjects or topics need more attention and improvement, especially when preparing from zero level.

Revision is a fundamental pillar of successful UPSC CSE preparation. It solidifies knowledge, enhances retention, and enables aspirants to perform at their best during the exam. A well-planned and consistent revision strategy complements the entire preparation journey, increasing the likelihood of achieving a favourable outcome in the UPSC CSE.

Stay Motivated

Ups and downs are part of the UPSC journey. Stay motivated, believe in yourself, and maintain a positive outlook throughout the preparation process.


Starting UPSC CSE preparation from zero level may seem daunting, but with determination, discipline, and a systematic approach, you can achieve your dream of becoming a civil servant. Remember that success in the UPSC Civil Services Examination is a result of consistent efforts, continuous learning, and adaptability. Embrace the challenges, learn from failures, and stay committed to your goal. As you embark on this transformative journey, believe in your potential and strive for excellence. Good luck on your UPSC CSE preparation!

FAQs on UPSC Preparation from Zero Level

How to Start UPSC Preparation from Zero Level at Home?

You can prepare for UPSC CSE from zero level at home by first understanding the exam pattern. Use all the standard books to prepare the syllabus, and then Join a Test Series that will help you evaluate your performance.

How many months are required to prepare for UPSC from Zero Level?

Preparing for UPSC from zero level typically requires 12 to 18 months. However, the duration can vary based on an individual's background, study routine, and dedication.

How can a working professional start UPSC Preparation from Zero Level?

To start UPSC preparation as a working professional from zero level, allocate dedicated study hours each day or week. Create a well-structured study plan covering all subjects and topics. Utilize weekends and free time efficiently.