IAS toppers recommend starting UPSC preparation at least one year before the Prelims Exam Date. The Union Public Service Commission has released the official exam calendar for 2020 on their official website. Serious aspirants should kickstart their UPSC 2020 preparation as soon as possible as the Civil Services Exam is a comprehensive and highly competitive exam that needs no introduction.
The Civil Services Exam (IAS Exam) comprises three stages:
- UPSC Prelims – 2 papers – objective type questions
- UPSC Mains – 9 papers – descriptive-essay type
- IAS Interview or UPSC Personality Test
The first stage of the exam is UPSC Prelims where candidates are filtered out for the Mains stage of the exam. The final merit list is prepared based on the candidates’ marks in Mains + Interview.
|UPSC Prelims||UPSC Mains||UPSC Personality Test|
|Number of Papers: 2
Paper 1: General Studies I
Paper 2: General Studies II or CSAT
Duration: 2 hours each
Maximum Marks: 200 for each paper
Nature of Questions: Objective Type (MCQs)
|Number of Papers: 9
Paper A: Compulsory Indian Language
Paper B: English
Paper 1: Essay
Paper 2: General Studies I
Paper 3: General Studies II
Paper 4: General Studies III
Paper 5: General Studies IV
Paper 6 and 7: Optional Subject
Duration: 3 hours each
Maximum Marks: 250 for each merit ranking paper
Nature of Questions: Descriptive-Essay Type
|Maximum Marks: 275|
Aspirants can check the detailed UPSC Exam Pattern at the linked article.
UPSC 2020 – IAS Preparation
The first step for aspirants should be to go through the exam pattern and the UPSC Syllabus.
The syllabus for the IAS Exam is quite detailed and yet because of the wide range of knowledge being tested, aspirants should go through the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to gauge the level of questions being asked in the exam.
Aspirants should think of UPSC Preparation as a marathon and not a sprint. For efficient and effective preparation, candidates should divide the reading material (UPSC Books) and revision time according to the date sheet given by the commission.
For reference, the important UPSC exam dates for the year 2020 are given in the table below:
|Date of UPSC Notification||February 12, 2020|
|Last Date for receipt of application||March 03, 2020|
|UPSC Admit Card||(tentative) May 15, 2020|
|UPSC Prelims Exam Date||Sunday, May 31, 2020|
|UPSC Prelims Result||(tentative) 1st week of July 2020|
|UPSC Mains Admit Card||(tentative) 1st week of September 2020|
|UPSC Mains Exam Date||September 18, 2020, onwards (5 days)|
|UPSC Mains Result||(tentative) November 2020|
|IAS Interview||(tentative) December 2020 – January 2021|
Currently, the UPSC 2019 is underway, and candidates can check the linked page for year-specific exam-related information.
Every year, the Union Public Service Commission releases the official notification for the Civil Services Exam.
The UPSC Notification lists the following information:
- Posts and Vacancies – The number of vacancies varies each year. For UPSC 2019, the official notification stated 896 vacancies
- UPSC Eligibility – Age limit, Educational Qualification and Physical Fitness
- UPSC Online Application – How to Apply and Application Fee
- Exam Pattern and Syllabus for Prelims and Mains
For General Category aspirants, the UPSC Age Limit is 21-32 years and maximum 6 attempts are allowed. An attempt is counted only when a candidate appears for at least one paper in the UPSC Prelims.
Aspirants who are in their last year of graduation can also take the exam but they will have to submit the proof of passing before they can appear for the Mains stage of the UPSC 2020 exam.
UPSC 2020 – IAS Prelims
The IAS Prelims pattern was last changed in 2011 when the CSAT paper was introduced. At the time of introduction, marks in GS II or CSAT were taken into account for the preparation of the Prelims Cut Off. However, as of now, CSAT is only a qualifying paper and candidates who score 33% or more are deemed eligible for the next stage.
There is negative marking in both Prelims papers. Aspirants can get detailed information about UPSC Prelims from the linked article.
The General Studies I paper can be sub-divided into:
- Current Affairs – Usually Current Affairs spanning 10-12 months prior to the date of the exam are considered as relevant but recently UPSC is increasing the weightage of questions based on important national and international events. For Current Affairs preparation, reading newspapers like The Hindu and The Indian Express along with regular updates on Government Schemes, Policies, and important Court judgements is essential. Aspirants can find daily current affairs at the linked article.
- History – For UPSC Prelims, the History part can be further subdivided into Ancient, Medieval and Modern Indian History. Aspirants can find the topic-wise segregation of free NCERT Notes at the linked article.
- Geography – Physical Geography + Geography of India and the World
- Economics – Core macroeconomic concepts + Indian Economy
- Polity – Indian Government, Political Structure, Constitution and Governance
- Environment and Ecology – Important national and international organisation, conventions, charters and current affairs
- General Science – Class Xth level general questions
Aspirants can check the detailed IAS Prelims syllabus here.
The number of questions on each section varies each year. The subject-wise weightage of syllabus topics in Prelims papers of last five years can be found here.
The cut off for Prelims is decided based on the candidates’ marks in GS I provided they qualify the CSAT paper. For reference, aspirants can check the UPSC Cut Off for the Civil Services Exam at the linked article.
Aspirants should follow an integrated preparation strategy for Prelims and Mains as there is significant overlap. However, the nature of preparation will differ as the Prelims comprises MCQs while the Mains is all descriptive-essay type.
Candidates can watch the videos below to get insights into the strategy of Ms Saumya Sharma which helped her clear the IAS Exam in the 1st attempt itself and Ms Khushboo Gupta (AIR 80).
Khushboo Gupta (AIR 80)
Saumya Sharma (AIR 9)
UPSC 2020 – IAS Mains
The UPSC Mains is a tough hill to climb. Nine theory papers which are held over five days, test the candidates’ depth of knowledge and their ability to present the relevant information in a succinct manner.
Out of the nine papers, two papers (Paper A – Indian Language and Paper B – English) are qualifying in nature where candidates who score more than 25% are considered eligible for the next stage of the Civil Services Exam.
The remaining seven papers are counted for merit ranking.
Aspirants should check the detailed UPSC Mains Syllabus at the linked article.
In UPSC Mains, candidates have to choose one optional subject out of a list of 48 subjects. The optional subject will have two papers in the Mains exam. Aspirants should choose the optional subject based on:
- Their interest or previous experience in the field
- Amount of overlap of the optional syllabus with the General Studies syllabus
- Availability of books, study material and teachers.
- The success rate of optional subjects
Candidates can find the UPSC syllabus for all the optional subjects here.
For the General Studies part in both Prelims and Mains, NCERT books are the standard starting point. NCERTs have clear and concise information and are really good for preparing the basic concepts.
Candidates can download NCERT books PDFs from the linked article.
UPSC 2020 – Personality Test
The final stage of the Civil Services Exam is the IAS Interview or the UPSC Personality Test. Candidates who clear the Prelims and Mains stage are called for the Personality Test at the Union Public Service Commission, New Delhi.
Salient Points about the IAS Interview:
- The interview is more like a 20-25 minutes discussion with the UPSC Board.
- Usually, the Panel comprises the Chairperson + 5 other eminent personalities.
- The purpose of the interview is to ascertain whether the aspirants’ personality and mental acuity under pressure are apt for a life in the civil services.
- The final merit list is prepared out of 2025 marks. The marks breakdown is as follows: 7 merit ranking papers in Mains (7*250 marks each) + 275 marks for interview.