Prelims Strategy

The UPSC IAS Prelims is the first stage of the Civil Services Exam. UPSC Prelims is the screening test for the Mains stage of the Civil Services Exam. The nature of questions in IAS Prelims is of objective type (MCQ). There are two papers in Prelims, namely, General Studies 1 and General Studies 2 (CSAT).

In this article, we will discuss the Prelims strategy as per the detailed UPSC Prelims Syllabus and provide links and resources for preparation. We will start with the exam pattern for the Prelims exam in UPSC CSE.


Total Marks

No. of Questions


Negative Marks


GS 1



2 hours


Merit ranking




2 hours



Prelims Strategy – UPSC IAS

Having a good strategy for Prelims is important as the UPSC selects for Mains only about 15000 candidates out of about 5-8 lakh people who appear for Prelims. Before we delve into the details, here are a few UPSC related links and articles.

Regarding Prelims strategy for UPSC 2020, here are a few important points, you need to keep in mind:

  • For strategy, syllabus for CSAT, refer the article. Broadly speaking, the CSAT preparation strategy should be ascertained after going through UPSC Prelims previous year question papers.
  • For a good Prelims preparation strategy, you need to think in the long-term as the UPSC CSE exam is a year-long process. There is syllabus overlap in the General Studies part for Prelims and UPSC Mains. However, the type of notes and revision process for Prelims and IAS Mains have to necessarily differ. Hence, first, go through the IAS syllabus 2020 to understand how the different topics are distributed across the Prelims and Mains.
  • For a 60-day UPSC Prelims preparation strategy with free IAS study material, refer the link. The prelims strategy has to factor in the increased weightage of Current Affairs questions from even the ‘Static’ portion of the syllabus.

Prelims Strategy – How to score 140+ marks in UPSC Prelims

The cut-off for UPSC Prelims is usually around 110-120 marks for General Category in GS 1. With proper preparation and practice tests, it is quite possible to clear the Prelims in the very first attempt itself.

Integrate Current Affairs preparation and revision into your daily plan. Try to minimise the sources as too much information will simply cause more confusion. Follow standard sources like The Hindu, Yojana, PIB so on, and if you want consolidated easy-to-read UPSC specific information from these sources, check our UPSC Current Affairs link in the table above.

Read the NCERT books as they will give the basic concepts. Other than NCERT books, the essential books for Prelims are Indian Polity by Laxmikanth, Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh. For the complete book list for UPSC Prelims, download the PDF for easy reference.

UPSC Books List PDF :-Download PDF Here

Practice reducing incorrect answers as there is negative marking in UPSC Prelims. Either, the candidates attempt very few questions as they are afraid of negative marking or they carelessly attempt questions without knowing the answers. Give Prelims Test series or join IAS coaching if you feel you need it. The basic idea is to revise, make mistakes, revise better and finally make fewer mistakes in the actual Prelims exam.


  1. Hello i have a question i hope you can answer it thank you in advance
    while filling the exam form i entered some wrong informations unintentionally and i don’t know how to correct it and when i tried to create another account i failed . How can i correct the informations ?

    1. Hi,

      For exams conducted by UPSC, you need to contact the commission for changing/updating any details given on the online application form. The contact details of the UPSC are as follows:

      Postal Address: UNION PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, Dholpur House, Shahjahan Road, New Delhi – 110069
      Facilitation Counter: 011-23098543/23385271/23381125/23098591

  2. Hi,
    What are the cutoff marks for joining IFS?

  3. how can i download prelims old question paper,please

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