How to Prepare for IAS Exam - Prelims First, then Mains or both at Once?

The UPSC civil services Prelims exam is due to be held on the 4th of October 2020. Many IAS hopefuls would have already started their IAS preparation by now. As many of you would know, the IAS exam is conducted in three stages with each stage eliminating failed candidates. And only those clearing the UPSC mains would face the UPSC board interview.

A common question in the minds of UPSC candidates is – ‘Should I start preparing for IAS Mains along with the IAS Prelims?’ Many of you probably are thinking, it is better to take this exam step by step. It is better to prepare for the IAS prelims first, and only if I make the cut, I need to start my mains preparation. Let us tell you at the outset that this would not be a good move. The chief reason being you would be left with no time after the prelims to start your mains preparation.

This article outlines a strategy for you to follow while preparing for the IAS exam.

General Studies Paper 1


The GS Paper 1 has portions which are overlapping in the IAS mains papers, whereas the CSAT has other portions. If you are a maths graduate or have a science background, you might find the CSAT rather easy. For arts or humanities students, the CSAT would require more preparation.

So, depending on your background and familiarity with the topics you have to prepare for CSAT accordingly. But even maths graduates should remember not to ignore CSAT preparation. If you want a good rank, you must outperform others for which you must practice question papers and improve your speed.

Also, Read | Tips to solve Reading Comprehension in English Compulsory Paper of Civil Services Exam

  • We recommend that you start your mains preparation along with the IAS prelims preparation. Focus on covering the portions in the prelims GS paper first. Then move on to the other sections even before the prelims. Only this way you will be able to cover the UPSC syllabus before the mains exams.
  • Additionally, when you start reading for the IAS mains beforehand itself, you will get a clear picture of the vastness of the IAS syllabus. You will also get into the IAS exam mode while reading about history, polity, economics, and current affairs. This would put you in a good position for the interview as well.
  • Generally, the GS paper IV is the toughest simply because students rarely encounter topics like ethics and philosophy during their graduation days unless they are from that educational background.
  • Then GS paper I tend to be the toughest due to the sheer vastness of the contents.
  • GS paper III involves economics and the name itself tends to scare people. But just get the basics right and you can sail through it.
  • Finally, GS paper II should be easy relatively because it deals with polity. Anyone who is a regular newspaper reader should get the concepts well.
  • Always remember current affairs. This is becoming increasingly popular with the UPSC now. Relate everything you read in the newspaper to the UPSC syllabus. Static portion questions are generally asked keeping in mind current affairs.

All the best!

Also, Read | Preparation Strategy and Tips on How to Prepare for IAS

Visit BYJU’S website for more strategies and tips on how to clear the IAS exam.

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