Successfully clearing the IAS exam is the dream of lakhs of civil service aspirants. To ace such a tough exam, an agile preparation strategy along with the most relevant study material holds the key. Many aspirants are fazed by the vast UPSC syllabus and find it challenging to give proper focus on all important topics.
How to begin IAS preparation
To start the IAS preparation, students should go through the complete UPSC syllabus. NCERT textbooks from grades 6–12 are one of the fundamental resources and are heavily recommended by IAS toppers.
One way to start preparing for the Civil Services Examination is to self-assess by solving previous years’ UPSC question papers. Once aspirants have a good understanding of the topics covered in the syllabus and the nature of questions in the exam, the study process and note-making can be started.
UPSC Prelims is the first stage of the exam and comprises two papers, namely, GS1 and CSAT. The questions in prelims are of objective type (MCQs) and have a negative marking of 1/3rd of the total marks allocated to the question. While making notes for prelims, aspirants should be mindful of the related concepts and phenomena.
Current affairs of national and international importance can be studied from resources such as The Hindu, The Indian Express, Press Information Bureau releases, etc. Usually, current affairs from the preceding 12–14 months are enough for preparation.
Aspirants who have not previously appeared for the IAS Exam can make a timetable for covering the fundamentals first and then move on to the subject-specific reference books.
In UPSC Mains, the syllabus has some overlap with the Prelims, but the nature of the questions is essay-type (descriptive) with a focus on India-specific context or policy issues. Hence, two different sets of notes are more helpful for aspirants while revising. One more point is that once the preliminary result is declared, aspirants get 2-3 months before the mains, which is not entirely enough to cover the mains syllabus properly. Hence, preliminary and main preparation go hand-in-hand.
The UPSC Mains comprises a total of nine theory papers, including two papers on the Optional Subject. Aspirants have to choose only one optional subject from the available choices given in the notification. The choice of optional subject is important as the difficulty level of questions is between BA and MA level and the syllabus of the optional subject is comprehensive. A few optional subjects, such as Political Science and International Relations, History, Geography, Public Administration, Sociology, etc., have a significant overlap with other parts of the main syllabus. However, a candidate’s background and previous knowledge of the subject are also important factors in choosing the best optional subject. For example, an aspirant from a mechanical engineering background might find the mechanical engineering optional subject to be the most preferred choice.
The best UPSC books can be categorized based on the preliminary and main syllabuses. A few authors, such as Laxmikanth for Polity, Ramesh Singh for Indian Economy, Bipan Chandra for History, etc., are recommended starting points as well.
To crack one of the most competitive exams in the world, it is important to start with a clear plan of action. After all, well begun is half done.