Steps And Strategy To Clear UPSC Prelims Exam

Steps And Strategy To Clear UPSC Prelims Exam

UPSC Prelims is the qualifying exam to appear for the UPSC Mains. The candidates who clear the Prelims are only allowed to appear for UPSC Mains. Every year many students are not able to crack the UPSC Prelims due to many factors. The article given below will help you to make a strategic plan for better preparation of the UPSC Prelims exam. The article also consists of the detailed syllabus of the UPSC Prelims, the eligibility criteria and reservation criteria also. It is very important to analyze these factors before starting the preparation of the UPSC Prelims. There is a lot of syllabus which requires a perfect and planned strategy to clear the UPSC Prelims.

Before starting the preparation for the UPSC Prelims exam one must go through the detailed structure of syllabus and thoroughly understand the exam pattern of the exam. Let us have a look at what exactly this exam is, the difficulty level of the exam, the exam pattern and other factors which are necessary to understand before starting the preparations.

Step 1- Detailed Analysis of the UPSC Eligibility Criteria, Reservation Criteria and Exam Pattern-

UPSC is the conducting body of the IAS exam. Let us start with knowing about the exam conducting body that is UPSC. UPSC stands Union Public Service Commission. The headquarters of the commission are situated in New Delhi. The contact details and address is also mentioned below-

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

The exam is also referred by some other names like the UPSC examination, UPSC CSE and the Civil Services Exam.

IAS stands for Indian Administrative Services.

It is a national level examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission- UPSC for recruitment in the services of the Government of India like the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Indian Police Service. The UPSC CSE exam is conducted in three phases: 

1- a preliminary examination which consists of two objective-type papers 

2- a main examination that consists of nine papers that include essaywriting, in which two papers are qualifying and only marks of seven are counted

3- an interview round

Listed below are the services that one gets recruited on after the successful qualification the examination-

All India Services

• Indian Administrative Service (IAS)

• Indian Police Service (IPS)

Central Services (Group A)

• Indian Foreign Service (IFS)

• Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IA&AS)

• Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS)

• Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS)

• Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS)

• Indian Defence Estates Service (IDES)

• Indian Information Service (IIS)

• Indian Postal Service 

• Indian P&T Accounts and Finance Service 

• Indian Railway Protection Force Service (IRPFS)

• Indian Revenue Service (IRS-IT)

• Indian Revenue Service (IRS-C&CE)

• Indian Trade Service (ITrS)

Central Services (Group B)

• Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services (AFHCS)

• Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS)

• Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Police Service (DANIPS)

• Pondicherry Civil Service (PCS)

• Pondicherry Police Service (PPS)

Eligibility Criteria for the UPSC examination-

In order to appear for the UPSC examination there are some eligibility criteria that need to be fulfilled by the candidate and in case any criteria is not fulfilled the candidate is not eligible to apply for the examination. 

Given below are the different eligibility criteria issued by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC):

The UPSC 2023 uploaded a notification on 1st February 2023. The age limit is a very important eligibility criterion so before the preparation starts one must go through the age eligibility criteria.

IAS Exam Age Limit21 to 32 years
Age RelaxationAs per category (mentioned below)
Educational Qualification for IASGraduation
NationalityIndian citizens only

UPSC Age Limit – Minimum and Maximum Age for UPSC Exam-

The candidates must be 21 years old and should be less than 32 years as of on 1st August 2023 it means that the candidate should have born not before 2nd August, 1990 and not later than 1st August, 2001. 

CategoryMinimum Age Limit for UPSCMaximum Age Limit for UPSC
IAS exam Age Limit for General Category2132
IAS OBC Age Limit2135

Reservation Criteria-

There is no specific reservation for women in UPSC civil services examination. Although there is reservation in UPSC exam for categories such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, and Economically Weaker Sections to promote social equity and diversity.

Category                                                     UPSC Reservation Quota
Schedule Caste                                                             15%
Schedule Tribes                                                             7.5%
Other Backward Classes                                               25%
Economically Weaker Section                                       10%
Persons with Benchmark Disabilities                             4%

There are some age relaxations also, they are listed below-

Age Relaxation & Number of Attempts in UPSC

The age relaxations are given below-

UPSC Exam Age Limit for General, SC/ST, OBC & Other categories
CategoryUPSC Age Limit- Upper RelaxationNumber of Attempts
SC/ST37Unlimited (Up to age limit)
Disabled Defence Services Personnel359
Persons withBenchmark Disability – EWS (Economically Weaker Section)429

Qualification Criteria For UPSC-

• Minimum qualification for UPSC exam is that the candidate must hold a bachelor’s degree from Government recognised University or possess an equivalent qualification.

• Candidates who are in their final year or those candidates whoseresults are awaited are also eligible to appear for UPSC preliminary Examination but for main exam there must be a proof of qualification.

• Medical students who have passed the final year of MBBS, but are yet to complete their internship also have eligibility for the UPSC exam.

UPSC Eligibility Criteria – Nationality

For IAS :

• Candidate must be a citizen of India

The UPSC CSE exam is conducted in three phases: 

1- a preliminary examination which consists of two objective-type papers 

2- a main examination that consists of nine papers that include essaywriting, in which two papers are qualifying and only marks of seven are counted

3- an interview round

One must go through the details of the eligibility criteria before starting the preparations because if a person is unable to fulfill any of the eligibility criteria he/she is not eligible to take the IAS exam.

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern-

One should go through and understand the syllabus in detail. All the compulsory subjects and optional subjects should be understood.

The candidates should understand the exam pattern of the UPSC Prelims, for better understanding a table is given below-

Two Compulsory Papers• General Studies Paper-I • General Studies Paper-II (CSAT)
Number of Questions asked in GS Paper-I100
Number of Questions asked in CSAT80
Total Number of Marks400 marks that means 200 marks each for every subject
Negative MarkingFor every incorrect answer 1/3 of the marks are deducted from the allotted question
Time AllottedTwo hours each

The subjects in Prelims are common and compulsory to all the students. But there are optional subjects in the mains exam.

UPSC Syllabus for Paper-1 (GS-1)

Listed below is the syllabus for GS-1 that is General Studies Paper -1

• Current events of national and international importance

• Current affairs

• Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, and Economic Geography of India and the World

• Indian History 

• Indian National Movement

• Economic & Social Development (Poverty, Demographics, Sustainable Development, Social Sector Initiatives)

• Biodiversity

• General Issues on Environmental Ecology

• Climate Change

• General Science

• International Relations

• Indian Polity

• Indian Governance

UPSC Prelims Syllabus Paper-2 (CSAT)

Listed below is the syllabus for GS-2 that is General Studies Paper -1 or CSAT- Civil Services Aptitude Test.

• Interpersonal skills including communication skills

• Comprehension

• Decision-making and problem-solving

• Logical reasoning and analytical ability

• General mental ability

• Basic numeracy (orders of magnitude, numbers and their relations & others)

• Data Interpretation (Charts, Tables, Graphs Data Sufficiency, etc. Class 10 level knowledge would be sufficient for these topics.

The syllabus is as per the UPSC Guidelines and for the detailed syllabus you can visit the official notification issued by the UPSC.

Step 2- Stick to the UPSC Syllabus

The UPSC Prelims exam syllabus is tough and very lengthy. One must stick to the syllabus so that you can complete it on time and also get adequate time for revision. Make a list of important topics, difficult topics and topics you have completed so you know what to study next. Plan your schedule well so you can complete everything on time. Analyze the syllabus properly before starting the preparations.

Step 3- Right Choice for UPSC Optional Subject

Once you have analyzed the syllabus rightly choose the optional subject before starting the preparations. It is very necessary to choose an optional subject which is right for you and helps you score better marks. Many candidates do their graduation in fields that they wish to choose their optional subjects in the IAS exam or even you can choose the subject which you are most familiar to.  Choose a subject which you feel is easy for you and has less syllabus to cover. Many applicants adopt the overlapping technique, in which they select an optional subject that is also a significant component of General Studies. Optional choice should be made correctly as this can boost your marks in the final exam.

Step 4- Right guidance makes path easier

To succeed in an exam it is necessary that you are guided rightly so that you don’t waste time on unnecessary stuffs and topics. You can even join any online coaching classes or you tube channels or join coaching institute offline for daily lectures. Coaching institutes have highly qualified and experienced faculty who provide you the right guidance for smart preparations.

Step 5- Making Strategies for UPSC Exams

Once you have read about the detailed syllabus, make strategies and plan on how to start and from where to start. Start finding the necessary reading material, books, newspaper reading should be made a habit, read the magazines for current affairs and general knowledge. The NCERT books should not be ignored. The notes made in Class 11, 12 and graduation level should also be used. Organize everything like books, notebooks, text books, magazines etc. so you they become easy to access.

Step 6- Framing a Schedule of the daily routine

UPSC Prelims is a tough exam and requires a great level of preparation. You should make a time table so you can make every day productive and don’t end up wasting your time. You can also make a to-do list for the next day before you go to sleep this will help you work in an organized pattern. Make a list of topics to be done on a particular week so at the end you know what is left and what is done. You can also work in a pattern like difficult topics first and easy topics later or vice- versa, whatever suits you.

Making a time table is not enough; you must adhere to the schedule you have made for yourself. It would certainly be difficult in the starting but once you do it on a regular basis it will become a habit and easy to follow.

Step 7- Make Notes

Making notes of the topics makes it easier to revise and memorize the important points. Make notes of the topics you find difficult so during revision you need not refer to many other books.

Step 8- PYQs of UPSC Exams

Analyze PYQs, that is, Previous Year Questions. Analyze the previous year papers thoroughly, practice the questions, make a list of repeated topics or the topics which make the highest weightage and are repeated almost every time. This will help you mould your preparation in the right direction and will help you in working smartly.

Step 9- Practicing Questions and Answer Writing Techniques

You should practice the questions from every topic you read. A proper time should be dedicated to practice the questions daily. This helps in clearing the confusing topics and memorizing important points. 

You should analyze the exam writing pattern followed by UPSC. You must practice writing sample answers and try to use all the information you have gained to answer the questions in the most efficient manner.Compare your answers. Ask someone to judge them. Make improvements if needed. Practice more and more.

Step 10- Taking UPSC Mock Tests is Necessary

Mock tests are a very important factor that boosts your exam preparation. You can buy test series and mock tests from a renowned institute. Do not skip tests because they help you in analyzing your preparations. These tests help you in keeping a check about your progress. This also helps in limiting the negative marking.

Step 11- Revision is the KEY to Success

Revision is the key to success. Reading once and covering a topic is not enough until and unless you revise it again and again. The number of times you revise is important but at the same time how well you revise is the most important thing. Revision is the main thing that gives you success in a competitive exam. Make a weekly or daily schedule of topics that are to be revised. The difficult topics should be revised again and again. One must not ignore the easy topics as sometimes those easy topics get ignored and then they create problem while writing the exam. Revision should be done effectively and efficiently.

Step 12- UPSC Interview Preparation

Once you clear the first two phases of the exam then you must start preparing for the last round that is the interview. Be prepared for questions related to your education, the optional subject that you chose. You can even join coaching classes for this as there they have experience panel and they create a perfect environment for practice. Do not take this round lightly. In the interview do not mention anything that you do not have enough information about. Be confident and prepared for each and every question that is asked.

Step 13- Discipline and consistency is the Key

For qualifying a competitive exam and even for achieving anything in life discipline is must. One must remain consistent throughout the preparation period. The schedule should be followed in a disciplined manner.

Step 14- Living a Healthy Lifestyle

During your preparation time it is very important that you are healthy and free from diseases. If unfortunately you suffer from any type of illness it can waste your complete year. So it is necessary to stay fit and healthy. One must take balanced diet and avoid junk food. You can also go for walks as they refresh your mind. You can also practice yoga or simple exercises at home. Self care is also very important.  

Step 15- Staying motivated and focused

You need to remain motivated throughout the preparation period.  Stay positive and focused during your journey. Don’t let yourself feel bad because of other people who are settled or at a better place then you. People will judge you and make comments which will let you down but you need to ignore them and work on your goal. Listen to motivational speakers when you feel bad. 


To clear the Prelims exam is necessary so that you can appear for the Mains Exam. Along with self study right guidance is very necessary to pass any examination. A candidate must inculcate positive attitude and mindset which is really very necessary before one starts to prepare for an exam. Self discipline is must. One should consider all the subjects and then choose the optional subject. It is very necessary to make right choice of the optional subject so it helps you in scoring better marks and gives you an overall good ALL INDIA RANK. The right guidance and a proper schedule can help a person to crack an examination with flying colors. Along with hard work it is very necessary to do smart work. One must not waste time on unnecessary topics or easy topics. Clearing the UPSC Prelims exam is not easy but it is also not impossible. Hard work and dedication can help in achieving every dream in life. Also it is very necessary to keep yourself motivated throughout the journey. If you stay focused and prepare thoroughly you will definitely succeed. ALL the Best! 

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