UPSC Preparation Strategy for Beginners

by Vajiram & Ravi

The journey of preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Examination examination is a challenging yet rewarding pursuit that opens the doors to a distinguished career in civil services. As a beginner, the path may seem daunting, but with the right approach, dedication, and strategy, success is achievable. Here's a comprehensive guide to help beginners navigate the world of UPSC preparation.

How to Start UPSC Preparation as a Beginner?

The UPSC examination consists of three stages - the Preliminary Examination, the Main Examination, and the Interview. Each stage is distinct, testing different skills and aspects of a candidate's personality. The Prelims is an objective test that focuses on general awareness and aptitude, while the Mains evaluates in-depth knowledge and analytical abilities.

Lay the Foundation

Begin by understanding the UPSC syllabus thoroughly. The foundation of your preparation rests on a clear comprehension of the topics. Start with the NCERT books for subjects like history, geography, polity, and economics to build a strong base.

Create a Study Plan

A well-structured study plan is crucial. Divide your time efficiently among different subjects, allocating more time to areas you find challenging. Balance is key - cover the syllabus comprehensively while allowing time for revision and mock tests.

UPSC Prelims Preparation Tips for Beginners

The UPSC Preliminary Exam is a screening test that assesses a candidate's aptitude and general knowledge. It is important to focus on the basics and build a strong foundation in subjects such as history, geography, economics, and polity. Here are some key tips for UPSC Prelims preparation:

  • Focus on NCERT textbooks: The NCERT textbooks are a great resource for building a strong foundation in the basics. They are comprehensive and well-written, and they cover the entire UPSC syllabus.
  • Read newspapers and magazines regularly: Staying updated on current affairs is essential for the UPSC Prelims Exam. Make sure to read newspapers and magazines regularly to stay up-to-date on the latest news and events.
  • Practise UPSC Prelims mock tests and PYQs: The best way to improve your chances of success in the UPSC Prelims Exam is to practise. Solve as many mock tests and previous year question papers, as you can, to improve your speed and accuracy.

Choose Optional Subjects Wisely

You're required to choose an optional subject for the Mains. Pick one you're passionate about and have a good grasp of. Your optional subject should complement your strengths and interests.

UPSC Mains Preparation Tips for Beginners

The UPSC Mains Exam is a more in-depth test of a candidate's knowledge of the subjects than the Preliminary Exam. It is a subjective exam, which means that candidates need to write detailed answers in the mains papers. Here are some key tips for UPSC Mains preparation:

  • Read standard textbooks and reference books. The standard textbooks and reference books are a great resource for gaining detailed knowledge of the subjects. They are comprehensive and well-written, and they cover the entire UPSC syllabus in depth.
  • Practice answer writing regularly. The best way to improve your writing skills is to practise answer writing regularly. Set aside some time each day to practise writing answers to UPSC Mains questions.
  • Analyse UPSC previous year question papers. This is a great way to understand the pattern and type of questions that are asked in the UPSC Mains Exam. Make sure to analyse the questions carefully and identify the areas where you need to improve.

Join a Test Series for Prelims and Mains

Test Series are invaluable. They help you understand the exam pattern, manage time efficiently, and identify your strong and weak areas. Regular practice improves accuracy and boosts confidence. You could also join a Test series that comes along with mentor support so that you can get regular guidance after each test.

Develop Analytical Skills

UPSC isn't about rote memorisation; it's about analysing and applying information. Integrate your static subject notes with dynamic current affairs. Read critically, form opinions, and practice writing structured answers.

Ethics and Integrity

Ethics is a vital aspect of the UPSC Mains Examination. Develop a strong sense of ethics, integrity, and social responsibility. Read about moral thinkers, case studies, and real-life examples to enhance your ethical understanding.

Revise and Reflect

Frequent revision is crucial. UPSC Syllabus is vast and requires regular revisiting of what you've studied to reinforce your memory. Reflect on your progress, analyse mistakes, and work on improving them.

Stay Healthy and Positive

A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Exercise regularly, maintain a balanced diet, and practise relaxation techniques. Surround yourself with positive influences and believe in your capabilities.

Join a UPSC coaching

Joining coaching institutes or online platforms can provide structured guidance. Their decades of experience can help you prepare in an organised manner with expert mentorship. However, remember that self-study and self-discipline are equally important. Utilise online portals like the Vajiram & Ravi Portal to receive regular updates.

Strategy for UPSC 2024 Preparation for Beginners

Follow this plan if you are a beginner and planning to prepare for UPSC 2024 from September 2023:




September 2023 

October 2023

November 2023

First Phase

Building a strong Foundation in 90 Days

  • Join a Foundation Course
  • By heart syllabus 
  • Analyse PYQs
  • Finish all relevant NCERTs
  • Give test series based on NCERTs
  • 50%-60% of your Optional 
  • Current Affairs till November 2023

December 2023

January 2023

February 2023

Second Phase

Consolidation with Standard Text Books

  • Make your own Notes 
  • Focus on Daily Mains Answer Writing
  • Read Standard Books 
  • Finish Mains Specific Subjects
  • Ethics and Essay + AWP
  • Finish with your Optional
  • CSAT 7-8 Papers Practise
  • Current Affairs till February 2024

March 2024

April 2024

May 2024

Third Phase

Focus on UPSC Prelims 2024

Prelims= Practise + Revision 

  • Revise NCERTs and STD Books
  • Practise MCQs and Join Prelims Test Series
  • Compile your Current Affairs notes( Jan 2023-April 2024)
  • Solve Test Series+ Solve PYQ
  • Economic Survey
  • India Year Book

The journey to cracking the UPSC examination requires patience, determination, and consistency. It's not just about taking an exam; it's about becoming a responsible and informed public servant. Embrace the learning process, stay committed, and let your passion fuel your preparation. Remember, every step you take brings you closer to your dream of serving the nation through the civil services.


What is the ideal time to start UPSC preparation for a beginner?

  • 1-2 years: This is the generally recommended timeline for beginners to prepare for the UPSC exam. This will give you enough time to cover the syllabus, practice for the exam, and take mock tests.
  • 6-8 hours of daily study: This is the minimum amount of time that you should study each day if you want to be successful in the UPSC exam. However, you may need to study more if you are not familiar with the material or if you are struggling to keep up.
  • Never too late to start: It is never too late to start preparing for the UPSC exam. However, the earlier you begin, the better your chances of success. This is because you will have more time to cover the syllabus, practice for the exam, and take mock tests.

How do I begin my UPSC preparation as a beginner?

Embarking on the UPSC journey as a beginner might seem challenging, but with a strategic approach, it's achievable. Start by grasping the syllabus and laying a strong foundation with NCERT books. Craft a study plan that includes current affairs, mock tests, and analytical practice. Remember, dedication, regular revision, and a positive mindset are your allies on this path toward becoming a successful civil servant.

How can Beginners Start UPSC Preparation Without Coaching? 

Starting UPSC preparation as a beginner without coaching requires a structured approach. Here are the steps involved:

  • Understand the exam pattern and syllabus: This will help you know what you need to study and how much time you need to devote to each subject.
  • Choose the right study material: There are many different study materials available, so it is important to choose the ones that are right for you. You may want to consider using a combination of books, online resources, and coaching materials.
  • Create a personalised study plan: This will help you stay organised and on track. Your study plan should be realistic and flexible, and it should take into account your other commitments.
  • Focus on building a strong foundation in the basics: This will help you answer questions confidently in the exam. Make sure to study all the important concepts and topics.
  • Practice regularly: This is the best way to improve your chances of success. Solve as many previous year question papers and mock tests as you can.
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