How to Prepare IAS Prelims Exam
Strategy for Prelims 2020

Hello, Students 

I hope you are doing well because you are trying to find out a detailed analysis of the biggest exam of India even all over the world (in the sense of completion and success ratio). So, don’t worry dots, we are going to explain the strategy of the big boss of all exams UPSC.

In this article, we are going to explain the certain question that was in present in your mind 

  • What is UPSC?
  • What is the pattern of exams?
  • Subject of Examination

Before you go through the detailed strategy of each section, we will try to explain some basics information about the examination UPSC stands for Union Public Service Commission which conducts exams for recruiting people to the Civil Services of the Government of India. It is a three-level examination consisting of a preliminary exam or prelims or Mukherjee Nagar ke bhasha me “pt”, the main exam or ‘full exercise in Mukherjee Nagar language’ and an interview ‘it is also known as father phobia in Mukherjee Nagar. Recruitment is done for various different posts such as IAS (district magistrate (DM) or DC), IFS, IPS, and IRS, etc.

Eligibility Criteria For UPSC Exam

The person who is applying for the IAS exam must meet the IAS eligibility criteria prescribed by the Commission. Age requirement for IAS/UPSC/Civil Service eligibility has been reformed from 2015.

Age Criteria for UPSC aspirants

  • The minimum age required for UPSC Exam is 21 years
  • For General category aspirants, the upper age limit is 32 years with a maximum of 6 attempts.
  • For OBC aspirants, the upper age limit is 35 years with a maximum of 9 attempts.
  • For SC/ST aspirants, the upper age limit is 37 and the number of attempts is up to the age limit.
  • Candidates from J&K domicile, upper age limits are 37 years, 40 years, 42 years and 50 years for GC, SC/ST, OBC and physical handicapped respectively and upper age limit is the same as stated above for specific categories.
  • For disabled servicemen, upper age limit 35 years, 38 years and 40 years respectively for GC, OBC, SC/ST respectively and upper age limit is the same as stated above for specific categories.
  • For physically disabled candidates, the upper age limit is 35, 38 and 40 for General category, OBC and SC/ST respectively with the number of attempts being 9 for General category and OBC candidates; for SC/ST up to age limit.

Educational qualification

  • The candidate must hold a degree from Government recognized Universities or possess an equivalent qualification.
  • Candidates who are in their final year or awaiting results are also eligible to appear for UPSC (CSE) preliminary Examination.
  • Candidates having professional and technical qualifications recognized by the Government as equivalent to professional and technical degrees.
  • Medical students who have passed the final year of MBBS, but are yet to complete their internship also have eligibility for IAS. Although, along with the Mains Examination application, a certificate of course completion (including internship) from the concerned authority of the University/Institution has to be submitted.

Other Eligibility Criteria

  • To appear for IAS examinations, a candidate must be a citizen of India.
  • Candidate must be physically and mentally fit.

Exam pattern of UPSC (CSE)

Preliminary exam or prelims or ‘Pt’

  • It comprises of two papers of 200 marks each.
  • First paper is General Studies, questions will be asked from Current Affairs, Geography, Polity, History, Economy, Science & Technology, and Environment/Ecology.

And in the Second Paper – CSAT, questions will be asked from Aptitude, Reasoning, Comprehension, and Decision-Making (Qualifying with 33% marks).

  • Both the question papers will be of the objective-type (Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ based).
  • The question papers will be set in both languages Hindi as well as English.

Civil Services (Mains) Examination 

The Main examination is subjective in nature and comprises of 9 papers. A candidate has to face 7 compulsory papers which include 4 papers of General Studies, A paper on Essay, A paper on any of the Regional Languages and English. The other two papers deal with an optional subject in which a candidate has to choose out of 26 optional subjects.

The Main exam is conducted for a total of 1750 marks out of which General Studies carries 1000 marks, which comprises 4 papers each of 250 marks. The optional subject carries 500 marks which comprise two papers each of 250 marks. The essay carries 250 Marks.

  • The GS Paper 1 which is 250 marks include Indian and World History, Art and Culture, Indian and World Geography and Sociology.                               
  • GS Paper 2 which is of 250 marks is all about governance at its core. This paper tests the wisdom of the candidate in areas related to the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. It also deals with various sacrosanct institutions and other development agendas which become imperative for a budding civil servant to delve into.
  • GS Paper 3 which is of 250 marks is based on Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security Issues, and Disaster Management. The syllabus imbibes various subjects from a very diverse arena of life.
  • GS Paper 4 which is also of 250 marks is on Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. The exam which earlier used to judge the level of knowledge and intelligence of candidates, now also looks into your wisdom and moral conception. 

Personality test or UPSC (CSE) Interview

IAS Interview is a finishing line. UPSC (CSE) aspirants need to cross three stages of the hurdle to achieve success. Third and the last stage of the UPSC (CSE) civil services exam is of personality test generally called UPSC (CSE) Interview round. It is the most important and challenging stage.

The time duration of the UPSC (CSE) Civil Services interview is approximately (30-40) minutes. The purpose of the interview is to check whether the candidate is suitable for a career in the civil services or not, whether the candidate has the potential to demonstrate good administrative skills or not.

So here we have made an effort to form a general structure about the exams, the general subject division was made. Now the second task is to explain the detailed syllabus and eligibility criteria. because an understanding of eligibility criteria before a detailed syllabus is essential and time-saving.

Our focus is to make you understand that learn and understand the syllabus by heart not with the mentality of bookies and make a correlation between each and every topic perceived by UPSC (CSE) for “pt” and “mains” and prepare both parallels.

One more thing we want to add in this discussion is that never follow any strategy without checking its rationality (Think if it is good for you or not, try to understand your position and understanding level)         

Always make self-strategy with the help of various sources because

Lee Bolman says that –

          “A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.”

Michael Porter says that –

“Strategy is about setting yourself apart from the competition. It’s not a matter   of being better at what you do – it’s a matter of being different at what you do.”

Be optimistic about your goal but remember the Vince Lombardi statement that is

               “Hope is not a strategy.”

So dear friend take pen and paper and start making a strategy for your dream. Also, make a flow chart for your better life because

‘Every person of world has self-uniqueness, immense talent and immense potential’

So, use your uniqueness, talent and potential to formulate your future by doing it with your own pen.

UPSC (CSE) requires a generalist for serving the highest echelons of administration in India. A generalist (हर मुद्दे पर सामान्य से अधिक समझ रखने वाला) is someone who knows something about everything, but not everything about something (called scientists or researchers).

  • While reading your approach should be somewhat like a generalist, i.e. jack of all trades, master of none.
  • So, the first stage (Prelims) of UPSC (CSE) focuses on factual and generic knowledge of Current Affairs, Geography, Polity, History, Economy, Science & Technology, and Environment/Ecology.
  • We start with Current Affairs; its source, importance, and a number of questions asked in the previous year’s exam and how to make notes for pre and mains will be explained. 
  • In recent years, the importance of current affairs has proportionally increased with the analytical trend of questions as well as with the increasing weightage of environment and science. There is no particular trend in which UPSC (CSE) has asked questions from current events. It’s unpredictable as can be assessed from last year’s paper where many direct questions were asked from current affairs.
  • Current Events plays a vital role in all the three stages of UPSC (CSE) preparation, especially in the Mains and the Interview.
  • The domain of current affairs is too wide. It covers approximately all topics of traditional subjects like Geography, Polity, Economics, History and more current oriented subjects like environment, science, and technology.
  • A number of questions that were asked in previous years show its importance and you can analyze the complete trend analysis of all subjects.

How to prepare

The biggest source of current affairs is ‘THE HINDU’ for mains and prelims both. (For the Mains, strategic information about questions and related screenshots from the Hindu and all other newspaper articles will be given to you.

The Hindu

It is a source of socio-economic and political issues. You have to make notes from Editorials and Opinions pages. Science and Technology page is also important from Pre and Mains points of view because if we see previous year question papers, maximum questions were asked from the Hindu. Generally, the edition published on Thursday. You can cover Environmental, Economic and Art and culture related events from the respective day’s edition. If you have time and potential then you can read The Indian express and some important news from Live Mint also. Indian Express is a good source of international relations while Live Mint for social issues.

FOR THE HINDU (Click here)


Dainik Jagran

If you want to give your exam in the Hindi language you can read the “national edition of Dainik Jagran”.

Some government websites also help in the preparation of current affairs like the Press Information Bureau that comprises of Programmes and Policy updates of Government on daily basis- If you miss reading the newspapers. Second but the most important and reliable source is PRS Legislative Research, it comprises of discussions about the bills and policies of the government and a very simple and brief summary of acts and bills. You can follow the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA) for detailed coverage of India’s national security, internal security, and relations. It is one of the best sources to prepare for Paper 3- Internal and External security.

Yojana and Kurukshetra

Published by GOI, it comprises of articles on diverse topics- from social to the economic domain.

  • LokSabha and RajyaSabha Debates

Here you can follow some important program like –

  • Big picture
  • Visesh
  • The pluse
  • And other important events that were in the news

Current affairs preparation for Hindi medium students –

If you are going to write Mains exams in Hindi you can read Dainik Jagran and some important websites and follow youtube channels (for detailed analysis of how to prepare current affairs in Hindi click here)

Now we go to the next topic that is “History’

History is all about the study of past events, particularly in human affairs.

  1. In this regard (as in human affairs), it is divided into 4 categories-World civilization or world history
  2. Indian civilization, it was further divided into three distinct categories – Ancient History, Medieval History, and Modern History.

 In this division, for the convenience of the reader, modern history is also divided into 3 phases that are British period, freedom struggle and post-independence history of India. 

BUT for the preliminary examination world history is not a part of the pre syllabus. It is related to the Mains General Study paper 1.

For Pre exam, Indian history is important and questions will be asked from this section.

History of India is divided into 3 sections – Ancient, Medieval and Modern. Every segment has its own weightage in the exam both, Pre and Mains.

Before discussing the syllabus, We would like to explain to you the sources –

  1. Ncert
  • New-NCERT (from 6 to 12 ) if you do not have much time then you can read only 11th &12th class NCERT (click here to download NCERT)
  • TN-Class: 11/12 – it is the most important book mains and pre both. (Click the blue link to download FOR 11  /  FOR 12  )

       Standard book

  • Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English) -Download-
  • India’s Ancient Past by R. S. Sharma –Download pdf
  • History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra –
  • History of Modern India by Bipan Chandra –
  • India’s Struggle For Independence by Bipan Chandra 
  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania 
  1. Online source (Youtube)
  1. Government website related to the history

      Best website for UPSC (CSE) history is – click here

  1. youth the resources list for preparation (click here)

So, friends, we have mentioned almost all the relevant sources for history and the download link for the same (It is in blue color).

Now the question that arises is how to read the book and how to prepare history – (don’t worry a separate video for “how to prepare” will be made available as soon as possible – (click here for video)

In the chain of the subject, its terms of geography –

Geography is all about the science that deals with the description, distribution, and interaction of the diverse physical, biological, and cultural features of the earth’s surface…

Wow… so interesting!!

But by the definition, it is clear that it is a very vast, slightly technical but very important subject for UPSC (CSE) Prelims IAS Exam. If you understand the concept you will understand the chapter very easily. The knowledge of geography can also be used to solve several other questions, which are not directly from the geography subject. So, it is essential that we prepare geography thoroughly.

We are presenting a strategy that will help students in preparing Geography for UPSC (CSE) prelims exam 2019. If we see the trend of the UPSC (CSE) Prelims exam, the number of questions asked from geography have decreased in recent times. In the last 4 years i.e. 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 there were 20, 14,12, and 6 questions respectively from the geography portion. 2018 was quite good in reference to the number of questions asked in the exam.

One main advantage of geography is that it overlaps with the Environment portion and the questions are mostly conceptual, so if you know the concept, you will be able to solve the questions easily. Also, if you have geography as an optional subject …. then (बल्ले बल्ले है जी because (500+120 + 120) rule is applied on geography. Don’t think yaarr what is this! (. +. +. +) it has 500 marks of optional paper +120 marks approximately of the first paper + 120 marks (geopolitics + environmental-related issue).

Note– this division is not an absolute only assumption.

For detailed syllabus, topics and subtopics of geography for prelims (click here)

Note – Here explaining the topics and subtopics of the syllabus are not being explained because it makes the article too big and boring we will make a separate article for each and every subject separately and the links will be provided.  

Sources – 

  1. Ncert
  • New-NCERT (from 6 to 12 ) if you do not have much time then you can read only 11th 12th class NCERT (click here to download NCERT)
  • Old NCERT for world geography  ( 6 to 8) 
  • NIOS (Free) 
  1. Standard book
  1. Geography of India by Majid Husain 
  2. Savinder Singh physical geography 
  3. Certificate Physical and Human Geography( g.c long ) 
  4. Physical, Human and Economic Geography for Civil Services Examination by D R Khuller
  5. Indian and World Geography: Objective Questions with Explanatory Notes for Civil Services Preliminary Examination.
  6. Objective Indian and World Geography by Majid Husain 
  7. Geography of India by Surender Singh (alternative to Majid Husain).
  8. India: A Comprehensive Geography by D.R Khuller (alternative to Majid Husain)


  1. resources list for preparation (click here)

How to prepare various subparts of geography and world geography. (click here for complete strategy)

Now we move on to another and much more interesting subject amongst the aspirants, ‘Indian polity and governance’. Its source is very limited (if you read only one book, you can solve all questions that were asked in the previous year.)

If we focus on the weightage, on an average 15%-18% of the questions come from Indian Polity. Because of the significance of weightage given in the exam, Polity as a subject becomes even more important in the preparation process.

So, the polity is all about ‘a particular form or system of government’ and the term governance is all about the action, manner, or power of governing. Hence, by definition, it is clear that Mains domain of polity is the Constitution, an individual’s rights, duties, and responsibilities to structure, power, functions, and responsibilities of various institutions of administration. Another aspect of polity for Prelims is about the various policies of the Government, rights-based issues of the vulnerable group’s related issues that are present in society. By such intervention and awareness campaigns, a sense of awareness is created in the minds of the common man – about one’s rights, duties, and responsibilities and helps him/her to make an informed decision. It also helps in holding the Government accountable for failing to serve its people.

My suggestion is trying to make an interrelation among each and every topic and subtopic of the core syllabus of polity and syllabus of general study paper 2 of mains. for detailed analysis of polity and general study paper 2 – (click here)

Sources for polity

  1. Ncert
  1. Standard book
  • M laxmikant indian polity


  • Introduction to the Constitution of India ;D.D Basu 
  1. resources list for preparation (click here)

Next subject is Economics –

Economics is all about the studies of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the behavior and interaction of economic agents and how economies work. An aspirant preparing for UPSC (CSE) Civil Services Exam is confused about the subject of Economics! Candidates are doubtful about the approach and study-material for the Economics section of IAS Prelims and Mains. They keep asking about single, all-in-one-book to cover Economics.

Textbooks do exist, but unfortunately, as the Economics section for UPSC (CSE) exam is more current affairs based, no one can guarantee any textbook as the whole and sole. Ideally, one should go through atleast one book on Indian Economy and the latest economic survey. Also, the latest budget should be properly analysed. Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is a magazine which is suggested as a good source. The best way to start is by understanding basic concepts, thinking and asking questions.

During the preparation time, focus on division of syllabus & divide it into two parts.

First part is all about the core concepts and terminology like – GDP, REPO, Reverse REPO, CRR, SLR, Inflation Indices, Growth, Inclusion, and Development. Further you can make a interrelation between the terms, between the meanings and between the implication of each and every topic.

The other part is Understanding the application of the concepts.

Here you will be provided with only general overview of syllabus. For more information about syllabus and economics survey, how to read and questions based on economics survey (click here).

Source of economics

  1. Ncert


  • New-NCERT (from 9 to 12 ) if you do not have much time then you can read only 11th class NCERT (click here to download NCERT)
  • NIOS (Free) (click here to download)
  1. Standard book


        Some alternative Additional Books to study Indian Economy for IAS Mains:-


  1. resources list for preparation (click here)

Next topic in the preparation of Prelims is “Culture”

Culture is all about the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social groups, India’s culture is among the world’s oldest civilization. it began about 4,500 years ago. Many sources describe it as “Sa Prathama Sanskrati Vishvavara” — the first and the supreme culture in the world, according to the All World Gayatri Pariwar (AWGP) organization.

The culture of India refers to the thousands of distinct and unique cultures of all religions and communities collectively, present in India. India’s languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food, and customs differ from place to place within the country, often labeled as an amalgamation of several cultures, spans across the Indian subcontinent and has been influenced by a history that is million-years-old. Many elements of India’s diverse cultures, such as Indian religions, philosophy, cuisine, languages, martial arts, dance, music, and movies have a profound impact across the Infosphere, Great India and the world.

So, Indian culture is a diverse topic. It encompasses cultural aspects from ancient, medieval to modern times. Moreover, there are unending aspects to be covered which is beyond anyone’s capability unless born with luck factor.

How to prepare it for Prelims as well as Mains – (click here for more information strategy and topics division)

Source of Indian culture

  1. Ncert
  1. Standard book

 Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania PDF – download

  1. resources list for preparation (click here)

UPSC (CSE) culture pattern for mains and prelims and question (click here)


So, we are going to end up the discussion now. In the period of how to prepare for UPSC (CSE) we have come to the subject, Environment and Ecology, the most important subject of UPSC (CSE) and a scoring one.

However, Environment is the most difficult to cover as the questions asked are highly dynamic in nature. In recent years, to be able to crack the UPSC (CSE) IAS prelims exam, one should have a good hold over Environment, Ecology, & Biodiversity subjects. From this portion, a lot of questions are being asked in UPSC (CSE) Prelims IAS exam these days.

Since these subjects are without content, they are comparatively difficult to comprehend, hence a good strategy is required for it. In the study material, we are presenting a strategy, which helped the students in UPSC (CSE) Prelims 2018. UPSC (CSE) combined with the prelims of IAS and IFS, a large part of the prelim’s examination paper is covered with Environment questions.

In the last 3 years i.e. 2014, 2015 and 2016 there were 28, 22 and 21 questions respectively from the environment and ecology portion. This means more than 20% of the questions are from this section.

To know more about the syllabus topics, subtopics and how to prepare the environment for Pre and Mains together- click here 

Source of environment & ecology 

  1. Ncert
  • NCERT Class XII Biology – Last 4 Chapters (Must) (click here to download NCERT)
  • ICSC environment book class 9th and 10th (click here to download 9th  & 10th )
  • NIOS environment (Free) (click here to download)
  1. Standard book

 Shankar IAS book is most important – download

  1. Online source (Youtube)-

 Best website for UPSC (CSE) environment   – UN- environment  & Ministry of environment

  1. resources list for preparation (click here)

Finally, the last subject- Science, and Technology-

Science and Technology are all about a systematic process to gain knowledge through observation and experiments. The practical application of science gives rise to technology. Technology is used to design products that improve the quality of human life. It is an important part of the Prelims syllabus. It covers not only the static portion but also the dynamic. In recent years, UPSC (CSE) is emphasizing on dynamic cum analytical aspect of Science and Technology (S & T). The importance of Science and Technology can be seen from the number of questions asked in previous years.

The science part deals with subjects like Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. The technology part deals with the application of various sciences. Questions can come from all the latest technologies like Biotechnology, Information Technology, Nano-technology, Space Technology, and Defense Technology, Energy Technologies, etc.

Sources of science and technology


  1. Standard book
  1. Online source (YouTube)
  2. youth resources list for preparation (click here)
February 2021

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