How to Prepare for UPSC 2021: Important Tips & Tricks

UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) CSE (Civil Services Examination), commonly known as the IAS exam or UPSC exam, is one of the most prestigious exams in India. The examination is conducted in three stages: Preliminary Examination or Prelims, Main Examination, and the Personality Test or UPSC Interview.  

Every year lakhs of aspirants across the country try their luck and attempt the challenging examination, but only a few make it through. Cracking the UPSC exam is not everybody’s cup of tea. The reason being, the vastness of its syllabus. It is lengthy and demands unwavering discipline and commitment for exam preparation.

‘With great power comes great responsibility’ This phrase fits appropriately for IAS officers. However, acquiring great power requires a good deal of hard and smart work. With stiff competition and less pass percentage, how to prepare and pass the UPSC examination has always been a point of concern and worry for aspirants. But you need not worry!

This article will provide you with some practical tips and tricks which you can and should implement in your daily study routine. If followed religiously, these tips will not only boost your confidence but also help you prepare for the exam efficiently.

UPSC 2021: Important Tips & Tricks

Tip #1 Understand the UPSC Exam Syllabus:

It is highly crucial to have a clear understanding of what exactly you need to study. There’s no point in studying an outdated curriculum! Knowing the syllabus is the foremost thing to do before you go through the books. Hence, read the syllabus thoroughly and understand the topics clearly.

Tip #2 Understand the UPSC Exam Format:

It is imperative to have a deep understanding of the UPSC exam format for adequate preparation. Below mentioned is a detailed description of the same:

Preliminary Examination

  • It consists of Multiple Choice Questions.
  • There is a negative marking in only this exam. It is ⅓ of allotted marks to particular questions.
  • It has two papers – General Ability Test I and General Ability Test II with a time limit of 2 hours each.
  • The first one has 100 questions revolving around General Knowledge topics with a total of 200 marks.
  • The second paper is more towards logical reasoning and communication skills.
  • The minimum score should be 33% to qualify for the next exam.

Mains Examination

  • It has nine papers in total of descriptive type with a time limit of 3 hours each.
  • The first two are of 300 marks, and the rest are of 250 marks.
  • The papers are:

1. Indian language Paper

2. English

3. Essay

4. General Studies I – Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

5. General Studies II – Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations

6. General Studies III – Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

7. General Studies IV – Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

8. Optional Paper I

9. Optional Paper II

  • The last two papers are selected by the candidate according to their subject choice.
  • The candidate who passes this exam will go for the final interview.

UPSC Interview

  • Only 1 -2 % of the total candidates reach till here.
  • It takes place in UPSC Bhawan, Delhi.
  • The questions are asked about the candidate’s interests, current affairs, general knowledge, and situation-based questions.
  • It is to evaluate a candidate’s personality and critical thinking.
  • The final score only looks at the mains exam and the personality test. The prelims are only for screening.

Tip #3 Cover the Whole Syllabus:

Once you are properly aware of the exam format and syllabus, make sure to cover the whole syllabus during your preparation. Don’t practice selective studying. It is like inviting unnecessary trouble. You can’t afford to study only a portion of the syllabus; instead, the syllabus has to be covered comprehensively. As a UPSC aspirant, you can’t afford to leave any topic or chapter for granted.

Tip #4 Make Proper Notes:

Retaining the whole study curriculum of UPSC is only possible if you make summary notes. The reason being, quick summary notes are convenient, easy, and less time-consuming to go through. Having self-prepared notes handy helps focus on important topics/questions without wasting much of your crucial time. Note-making during your exam preparation helps in better retention of topics as it is your ultimate study guide. It boosts your confidence as well. 

Tip #5 Devote extra Time on General Knowledge & Follow Current Affairs:

As a UPSC aspirant, following current affairs and keeping a check on general knowledge is of utmost importance. A good grasp of general knowledge can be achieved by reading different books, journals, articles. Reading newspapers daily is the most effective means of keeping yourself updated with current affairs.

Tip #6  Practice Writing:

Unlike Prelims, the Mains examination demands written answers. Acquiring the habit of writing and mastering it is a prerequisite for scoring well in the Mains exam. This habit can accompany you a long way to a successful end of your IAS journey. Set aside some time to write your opinions and thoughts on current affairs and write essays on important events and happenings. 

Tip #7 Keep Revising:

All of your study efforts can go waste if you don’t revise. Since the UPSC syllabus is vast, it is impossible to retain it for a longer period. However, if you inculcate the habit of revision in your daily study routine, it will be much easier for you to prepare for the exam. Revision is the key aspect that enhances our memory and learning.

Tip #8 Analyze yourself:

Timely analysis of your preparation is the most vital tool for getting the desired results. Be accountable and responsible for yourself. Analyze your exam preparation regularly at the end of the day. Do a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. Proper analysis will help you work on your weak areas and help you to prepare for the UPSC exam effectively. 

Tip #9 Don’t touch New Topics just before the UPSC Exam:

Never touch a new topic in the last 10/20 days before the exam. Learning an entirely new topic in these last few crucial days will only lead to confusion and anxiety. The main demerit of taking on a new topic is that it will interfere with what you’ve already learned. So, avoid it. Instead, revise what you have already studied. It will boost your confidence and allow you to focus more on important topics/chapters.

Tip #10 Solve Previous Year Papers and Take Mock Tests:

Solving practice papers such as Mock Test Papers and Previous Year Papers while preparing gives you a tremendous amount of confidence. You get a fair bit of idea about how to present the answers in your exam. Attempting practice papers also gives you a reality check so that you can direct your preparation accordingly. The number of practice papers attempted during preparation is directly proportional to scoring good marks in the exams. 

We hope these tips will assist you in your preparation for the most challenging exams in India.

If you are currently preparing for the UPSC examination and want well-researched study material to crack it, download the PrepLadder app. It has everything you need to ace the UPSC exam with ease.

All the best for your exams. Stay tuned for more updates. 

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Raminder Singh

Raminder is a Content Writer at PrepLadder. He is working to provide students with informative articles and the latest updates about UPSC and GATE exams.