Every year, lakhs of students appear for the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examinations to get into the Indian civil services. Entrance examinations test the applicants’ aptitude, and UPSC is no exception. Completing the syllabus is not enough to do well in the exam; you must be well-versed with all core concepts and their applications.
Keep reading to learn how to start UPSC preparation from the zero level.
When is the right time to start UPSC preparation?
An early start is not a significant advantage. How you prepare and not when you begin to prepare is important for cracking the UPSC exam. You can start preparing when you are in high school, while you are finishing college, or even alongside your day job.
As long as you are dedicating the time and effort required for regular, intensive study sessions, you do not have to worry about how long you have to prepare. However, make sure you have enough time to complete and revise your syllabus. Starting your preparation just a few months before the exam is not a realistic UPSC preparation strategy.
How to prepare for UPSC – some key strategies
All UPSC aspirants should first go through the UPSC syllabus. While the syllabus might seem overwhelming, a well-thought-out strategy can help you tackle it. Check the following suggestions before starting your UPSC preparation.
Know the basics
Familiarise yourself with the syllabus of both UPSC prelims and UPSC mains. Next, check the latest UPSC paper pattern and go through the questions from the last few years’ exams.
Define your goals
Set achievable daily, weekly and monthly goals. Break larger goals down into small tasks and design a timetable around them. You can also set time limits for solving UPSC sample papers and time yourself diligently. Finally, recap your progress every month to see what portions you have already covered and what you can do better.
Select optional subjects wisely
Choose UPSC optional subjects based on your academic background and interest. Also, make sure enough course material is available to help you prepare for the subjects of your choice.
Strengthen your foundation
Read and reread the NCERT books thoroughly to strengthen your foundation. These books help you develop a basic understanding of many important topics. This way, you would not have to start from scratch when you get into more elaborate UPSC notes and study material.
Use trusted study materials
There are a lot of online sources that claim to help you with UPSC preparation. But make sure to only rely on well-researched, authentic sources, such as Physicswallah. It is a platform that lets you access study material, live lectures, and doubt-solving sessions from bonafide sources.
Be well-versed in current affairs
Read at least one newspaper daily. Check both national and international headlines and go through the editorials. You can also subscribe to monthly current affairs digests, as they can help you stay updated with the latest UPSC news.
Concentrate on revision
Solve the UPSC previous year’s question papers and enroll yourself for mock tests online. Download the last 10 years’ UPSC question papers with answers in PDF to understand the pattern better. Compare your writing style with the toppers’ answer sheets available online.
Read More: Ace Your UPSC Examination
Challenges faced in UPSC preparation from home and ways to resolve them
While online resources help UPSC aspirants prepare from home, they present their own set of challenges. Some of these include:
- Problems with time management
Not planning your study sessions or not knowing where to start can lead you to lose a lot of time. If this goes on for too long, you can run the risk of not completing the syllabus.
How to resolve: Learn how to study smart and not hard! Use your monthly recaps to identify the topics you need to devote more time to and plan the next month’s sessions accordingly. Use different chunks of time for tackling different topics. Plan 20-30 minute sessions to revise topics so that you can get some studying done even on a busy day.
- Lack of motivation and guidance
Many UPSC aspirants get demotivated midway as the syllabus is quite vast and the competition is also heavy.
How to resolve: Paste UPSC motivational quotes near your study area. This way, you will always have a reminder of why you wanted to crack the exams in the first place in sight.
Studying for long hours at a stretch may cause you to feel physically and emotionally exhausted. Over time, this can lead to a serious case of burnout.
How to resolve: If you are feeling burnt out, be honest with yourself. Acknowledge the situation at hand and take a break. Remind yourself that your worth is not tied to how the number of hours you study for, and resting and recharging are just as important to do well in any exam!
Benefits of preparing for UPSC exam papers from home
Here are the advantages of covering the UPSC syllabus from home:
- You save money and time.
- You can choose your style of preparation.
- You have access to a safe and hygienic environment.
- You can choose from a plethora of online resources available.
The key to preparing for the UPSC exams and the UPSC interview is not only patience and perseverance but also ‘smart’ work. A dedicated study plan that you can follow closely and update from time to time can help you achieve this.
Frequently asked questions
- Where can I find UPSC’s previous year’s question papers?
You can find the UPSC exam papers, along with more important details on all about UPSC exams, on the official website – www.upsc.gov.in.
- Does the UPSC syllabus PDF contain both the prelims and mains syllabus?
You can find the detailed syllabus for both prelims and mains on the website mentioned above. The UPSC mains stage has additional topics that are not covered in the prelims.
- What is the best approach to solving MCQs in the UPSC exam?
If you don’t know the answers to a few MCQs, try to make an educated guess right after reading the question and before looking at the options. Then, check the options. If the exact answer you’d thought of is not listed, go for the closest matching option.
4. Is one year sufficient for UPSC preparation?
If you are dedicated, have a schedule in place, and are ready to put in the effort, you can prepare for the entire test series for UPSC in one year!
5. How many hours a day should I study to complete the UPSC syllabus?
Six hours daily on weekdays and longer weekend sessions are ideal if you are juggling other work commitments. If you are not working, you can study for as long as 10-12 hours as well. Either way, ensure you take frequent breaks and do not overburden yourself.