It does not matter whether you are a beginner in the arena of Civil Services preparation or an experienced candidate, knowledge about the requirements of the UPSC exam is absolutely essential for success. Your IAS preparation should be aligned with the UPSC Civil Services Exam Cycle, which has three stages – Preliminary examination, Mains and Interview, which normally has a fixed schedule like June-August (Prelims), Nov-Dec (Mains) and March-April (Interviews).
Let us understand how you can start your IAS preparation as early as possible:
- Age limit for a general candidate is 21-32 years.
- The no of attempts for a general candidate is 6.
Every year more than 9 lakh aspirants register for the Civil Services exam, out of which around 4.5 lakhs take the exam and around 17000 pass prelims every year, 3000 clear the mains and only about a thousand find their name in the rank list after the interview.
The subjects that you need to study for the UPSC exams are- Indian History, Geography, Economics, Indian Polity, Environment, Science & Technology, Current Affairs. Additional subjects that you need to study for the mains are World History, Indian Society, Foreign Relations, International Affairs, Internal Security, Disaster Management, Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude.
When should you start your preparation?
People start serious preparations at different stages of their career – some of them start from 10th standard in school, some from 12th, some during college, and some after it. Some may even do it after many years of working.
As a part of this major decision-making process, people might from one forum to another, asking questions, reading others’ experiences, letting it all sink in. Earlier in the day, when there was no social media, it was a physical exercise of meeting actual people and talking to them about it. Now, it’s considerably more difficult due to the plethora of options available.
Some are able to crystallise their vision pretty quickly – some just keep pendulating. Some find a major motivational story suddenly – and are prompted into action.
Whatever your story might be, in all of the above situations the major breakthrough happens when you realise that you are meant to do this & also why you are meant to do this. Once this realisation comes to you, 5 things ideally happen-
- Everything starts revolving around UPSC.
- You change as a person (positively).
- Your daily schedule changes dramatically.
- You set milestones for yourself.
- You find a mentor.
How to start your preparation?
To start with the Civil Services Exam preparation, it is not mandatory to attend any coaching classes. However, good coaching either online or offline can be of great help to the candidates for proper guidance and knowledge.
You can take two routes from here:
Route1: IAS Classroom Coaching
If the coaching of your choice focuses on the latest UPSC requirements, this approach can put you on the right path. Here, you will get a certain advantage of peer learning and competition, mock tests, analysis of previous years’ question papers and much more. This route can however have time & distance constraints and also reliability issues and misguidance if you don’t wisely.
Route2: IAS Online Coaching
There are many quality websites which offer free IAS guidance, study materials and mock tests for aspirants who wish to do self-study. Self-study can be done in the comfort of one’s own home at an affordable price. There are absolutely no time/space constraints. This type of approach is suitable for the working professionals and all others who feel that class room coaching is unnecessary. However, while doing self-preparation, if you do not follow a systematic approach by referring the right IAS books, magazines and websites, you might lose focus.
Preparing for IAS along with graduation gives you an advantage over candidates. If you work little harder in your graduation than you can cover up to 70% of the syllabus of the UPSC Exam.
Here are a few tips on how you can make this easy and achievable:
- Start reading newspapers. ‘The Hindu’ and ‘The Indian Express’ are very good and you must read them religiously.
- When you read the newspaper, make notes of important events. Divide the newspaper into 8 divisions, namely, International Relations (Middle East and Asia), Government Policies and schemes, international Relations (Americas and remaining world), Personalities and Awards and Sports, Social Issues, International Organisations, Economic Policies, Defense. Classify all news in these categories. These will help you a lot as a ready reckoner while you are revising for the General Studies syllabus.
- Start reading NCERT books from class 6 to 10. These are the basic textbooks which will give you the gist of the subject and then later you can delve deeper and deeper into that subject.
- Surf the internet- A lot! Don’t restrict your reading to books.
- Visit the Government websites on a regular basis, stay updated!
- Watch documentaries and gather knowledge.
- Frontline, Civil Services Chronicle, Economic and Political Weekly, India Today, The Economist, Yojana, Kurukshetra are some very good magazines to read. You should pick at least 4.
- Decide on an optional subject as early as you can. Ideally, it should be a subject that you are naturally inclined to.
- Invest at least 8 hours for study every day and upto 14 hours on special days.
Selection of the Optional Paper
This is the most important decision that you need to make. Start with preparing for GS and then after some time you can come to making this decision. In the GS papers you will be introduced to variety of optional subjects like History, Geography, Public Administration, Political Science, Sociology and more.
This will help you to determine your inclination towards a particular subject. Selecting an optional paper without having prior knowledge of other subjects or without knowing your own writing and presentation styles and thinking patterns can possibly put you in trouble.
Following are some basic criteria for selecting your optional:
- Interest and understanding of the subject
- Analysis of the syllabus and previous years’ question papers of the shortlisted subjects
- Writing style and presentation techniques suitable for that particular optional
- Thinking Pattern expected for a particular optional
- Availability of study material and guidance
- Weightage of that particular optional in GS
- Graduation background
In college, your studies, hobbies and extracurricular activities should be your priorities. Try to gain as much experience as you can. Be open to all sorts of projects, assignments and ideas.
All the best!