How to Clear UPSC Prelims in the Very First Attempt

The UPSC civil services exams are attempted by many people aspiring to be civil servants in the country. There are three stages in the civil services exams. First is the preliminary, clearing which you move on to the main exams. The final stage is the interview by the UPSC board, also called the personality test. Needless to say, each stage requires utmost dedicated preparation and a clear-cut strategy to clear them and get a good rank. If the question “How to clear IAS in the first attempt?” or “How to clear UPSC in the first attempt?” crosses your mind, you must read on to find the answer! This article talks about strategies to clear IAS in 1st attempt itself.

How to Clear UPSC Prelims in the Very First Attempt

According to the revised pattern of UPSC exams, there are two papers for the civil services prelims – general studies (GS) paper I and CSAT (Civil services Aptitude Test) paper II. They have multiple choice questions and carry negative marks. Both papers are of 200 marks each. If you mark an answer wrong, you lose one-third of the marks. Thus, if you get an answer right and mark three wrong answers, you earn zero marks. You have two hours to finish each of the papers. The following table gives you the topics to be covered for the civil services prelims.

Paper I Paper II
Current events

Indian history


Indian polity and governance

Economic and social development


General science


Interpersonal skills

Logical reasoning and analytical ability

Decision making and problem-solving

Mental ability

Basic numeracy

Data interpretation

English language comprehension

Candidates must try and clear the prelims in the first attempt itself as there is a limit to the number of attempts permitted apart from the age criterion to consider. For details regarding the age limit and the number of attempts permitted, click here.

So it is advisable to clear the UPSC prelims in the first attempt itself. If you are preparing to take the UPSC prelims 2023, read on to get a few tips on how to crack the prelims in the very first attempt.

How to Crack IAS in First Attempt?

First things first – understand the UPSC syllabus & pattern

The chief difference between the UPSC prelims and the mains is in the type of questions. The prelims are objective and the other descriptive in nature. Hence, there is no need to go too much in detail for the prelims. Read NCERT textbooks to get your basics right. Go through previous year test papers to understand the pattern.

Multiple Sources

Every UPSC civil services aspirant knows that study material must be sourced from various places but don’t make the mistake of trying to read too many books and end up getting confused and frustrated. Decide on a few books and stick to them.

Current Affairs

Read one or two good newspapers to keep yourselves up to date on current affairs. The Hindu and The Indian Express are recommended. Also go through news websites for the latest on topics of national and international politics, science and technology and socio-economic issues.

Attempt Previous year questions

After covering a significant section of the curriculum, the first attempt of the static component (Prelims & Mains) previous year questions is required. That will be your first small step towards concrete preparation, followed by a giant leap. UPSC Previous year papers should act as a radar for your preparation, providing direction and orientation. Apart from broadening your knowledge, last year’s papers aid in the formation of your topic perspective. This improves your sense of judgement and aids you in eliminating alternatives in the preliminary exam.

Plans & Goals

This is clichéd but true. ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail.’ If you want to clear the civil services prelims in the first attempt itself, you must plan and study. To cover the vast UPSC syllabus, you must plan your day, your week and your month. You ought to have a daily routine where you spend a fixed number of hours to study. Have daily or weekly goals and strive to achieve them. This is the only way to cover the entire syllabus.


The importance of revising what you have learned cannot be undermined especially for the prelims since it involves being able to recall a lot of facts. This is where making notes come into the picture. With well-made notes, you could revise the whole syllabus.

Aptitude Test

Covering aspects like comprehension, mental ability, logical reasoning, etc. acing this test requires intense practice. To know more about how to crack the CSAT (GS Paper II), click here.

Mock Tests

Answering previous year question papers can give you an idea of the type of questions asked by the UPSC and also helps you assess your own preparation level well in advance. In addition, you can time your answers optimally. It also helps you know how much time you can spend on each question.

Do not Waver

Finally, you must work hard with a passion and perseverance and think of your dream. You might be tempted to give up because of the sheer enormity of the task before you. Remember the prelims are only half the battle. You cannot afford to lose enthusiasm at this stage itself. So buck up, study hard, will yourself to go that extra mile. Do not look at the exams as a burden but as a golden opportunity to improve and showcase your talent and intelligence. Let us sum up the eight steps to conquer the UPSC civil services prelims.

  • Study as per exam pattern
  • Source wisely
  • Focus on current affairs
  • Plan
  • Have goals
  • Revise
  • Practice test papers
  • Have dedication and passion

This article gave you tips on how to clear UPSC prelims in the first attempt.

Also Read |UPSC 2023 Prelims Exam


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  2. very helpful