Getting Started with Prelims Preparation: Routinize Your Day

Yes I hate routine as much as you do but sometimes a little routine and regimen can do wonders to your Prelims preparation. As you must be aware the Prelims is a 10-12 months affair and long-term affairs need some amount of loyalty as well. Right? Well then let’s learn how we can schedule our day for maximal benefit in some simple steps.

Step 1: Determine the average time you study daily

To do this simple observe the time you studied in a week and divide that by 7. If you devote 5 or 6 days a week to IAS prep then divide by 5 or 6 as the case may be. You should have an exact or approximate figure like 10 hours or 10-12 hours every day.

Step 2: Determine the number of subjects to study daily

I know there are only two papers in the Pre but within each of them there are so many to cover like History, Geography, and Mental Ability etc. Now I am sure you can’t study all of them in one day even if you devote only a small amount of time to each. Some people try this but I don’t think it’s a wise idea to go for ‘study all’ approach. Rather you should take up two or three subjects at most on a daily basis, finish it completely or at least a major portion of it and then switch to different ones. This is essential as finishing a subject in full will give you confidence in your preparation, will enable you to tackle all the questions in a particular section completely, and help you to keep track of your progress more effectively. Remember, reading newspapers or watching news programmes is not included within this.

Step 3: Divide time between the different subjects

Till last year when you had study one optional subject, I used to devote about 70-85% time to the optional and rest to some section of GS. Obviously I read newspapers on a daily basis and didn’t count it within this time split. But now that both papers are GS based you might pick up one subject each from Paper 1 and 2 or go with both subjects from the same paper or one from P1 or P2 and two from P2 or P1 respectively. After you’ve done this, divide the total time that you determined in Step 1 between the subjects you will be studying daily.

How to do this? While there is no one best method of doing this a simple way is to devote more time to that subject or section that you find a) more difficult b) carries more weightage in terms of number of questions asked c) has many topics to cover, that is, is pretty vast d) quite new as you’ve just started with it.

The exact time to devote to each of the topics will vary from person to person. Also you can be little flexible in this. For instance, if you have been devoting 3 hours to study Modern Indian History every day and have covered a major part of it you might reduce the time devoted to it by 30 mins or 1 hour and allocate this to some other subject that you study alongside Modern History, maybe Data Interpretation.

Step 4: Stick to your routine

Now that you have a daily schedule ready, stick to it like Bees stick to Honey. In any long term work program scheduling is important but even more important is sticking to the commitment you made to yourself. If you committed to clearing the IAS, stick to it. And for this you committed to devote certain amount of hours every day and then you committed to study one, two, or three subjects on a daily basis till you covered it in entirety. Stick to it. As I mentioned in Step 3 above some flexibility is essential and the odd day off is OK but don’t make it a habit otherwise you will see yourself lying to yourself and the commitments you made.

Benefits of developing a routine

  • Track your progress easily: Instead of doing everything in bits and pieces and struggling to up the loose ends learn to cover the major distance before taking up a new path. This way you can test yourself against past papers to know which are your strong and weak areas and rectify the weak ones. If you cover only a small part of every subject, you’ll have to wait till Jan or Feb to test yourself and if for some reasons you deviated off course then course correction might be too late. Avoid this by finishing off a subject as quickly as possible and effective scheduling is a good way to do this.
  • Build up stamina to devote long hours of study: If you thought only running and other physical activities required stamina, think again. Mental work is also included within the ambit of stamina. In fact if you’re mentally not up to the task of devoting 8-12 hours daily to your preparation, then other things are of no use. When you devote a consistent time and effort to a particular subject then you not only gain mastery in it but also develop immunity to boredom resulting from studying a topic for long hours.
  • Prepare yourself for Mains more effectively: In the mains as you have to cover each optional thoroughly you’ll need to devote long hours and even days on end to just one subject. This will require prior practice as you could easily lose focus and indulge in time wasting tactics if you are bored of a particular topic or subject. But by devoting long hours to a single subject during your Prelims Preparation itself, you’re indirectly preparing for the Mains as well. And the benefit of this approach will be quite visible during the Mains.
  • Cover the scoring sections early: The Prelims is such that some sections like Indian Polity are easy to score off. And the right way to crack Prelims easily is to cover most or some subjects entirely than covering something of everything. When you consistently devote X number of hours to a topic over a period of time, you secure Y number of marks from it beforehand and this is invaluable.


I am also aware that some people like to divide time in terms of days and not hours. For instance, you might study History for two days and Geography for one day. Even this approach is fine as long as you’re sticking to your schedule to reap the benefits discussed above.

This post is first part of the Prelims Preparation series, in response to numerous comments from readers, like Mahendra, asking for tips to get started with Prelims preparation. I hope you found it useful. I would love to get your feedback, your Prelims strategy, and novel ideas in the comments below. Guess what, routinize your commenting!

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  1. thanks a lot and really so i didnt find any site like this .its very realllllllllllly useful for me in ias preparation.ur good deeds will give u a happy and prosperous life.continue in helping us

  2. Thanx a lot..i really got useful guidance…but i want to ask that in prelims what is the coverage??.. I’m a commercwe student and cleared CA..but GS is totlly new for me.. So how should i start?? N while studying, what importance should be given to facts and figures??… N whether it is sufficient to study 9 th to 12 ncert books or graduation level books in history, geography,polity etc is needed to study?? Please guide me..

    1. For General Studies
      ALS text book of Polity and Indian Constitution ,
      K Siddhartha Geography Prelims Volume 1,
      PD special issue of Economics,
      Vishal’s India Year Book
      Sure Success

  3. what would be the right approach to start off with the preparation of prelims??how should one determine what all is important about a topic/g.s subject from the perspective of prelims??

  4. Hi i am a chemical engineer and wish to prepare for IFS , i wish to take chemical engineerng and forestry paper for mains but dont know how to prepare for preliums…….does IAS and IFS have same type of preliums

  5. Hi i am a sales officer in a private bank.i faces many difficulties for preparation for ias exams.and i read your suggestion and guidence for please guide me what would be the the right books and other materials for help me?

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