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IAS Preparation for School and College Students

I receive many emails and comments from IAS aspirants who are in school or college asking how they should start their preparation for IAS exam keeping in view the subjects to select later on. This post helps all those who are currently studying but plan to appear for the IAS later on.

First and foremost understand the civil services or IAS exam. It’s pattern, eligibility criteria, prelims syllabus before thinking about the mains exam. Think about your school or college exam; how many unit tests or semesters are there in the academic year or your course? What are the qualifying marks required for various papers? What is their syllabus and so on. You should approach the civil services exam in a similar manner. Develop curiosity about it and understand what UPSC expects from you as an aspiring civil servant.

Going by the latest trends and changes in the pattern, UPSC expects high integrity, sound judgement, and good knowledge of current issues from IAS aspirants. What it does not want are rote learners who rely solely on optional papers to qualify the prelims or mains. That’s why optional papers have been removed completely from the Prelims and restricted to just one subject consisting of two papers in the mains. While the weightage of general studies papers has been increased significantly. Now there are two GS papers common to all in Prelims and four compulsory GS papers in the Mains.

Since GS commands such huge importance in Prelims (100%) and Mains (70%), it is obvious that you should start with GS topics when in school or college. This will give you a good launch pad when you start your actual IAS preparation since you will have knowledge of many topics beforehand and you will find them quite familiar.

What to Read First

Before diving into the required books for IAS, I suggest you start reading a good newspaper like The Hindu or Indian Express (skip ToI) combined with a good magazine like Pratyogita Darpan. You can refer this post on how to read the newspaper for IAS. This will help you develop interest in current issues happening around you.

Next, you need to expand your general awareness or build up your GK base. I highly recommend the Manorama Year Book for this purpose. It’s language is really simple to understand, the data and facts are highly reliable and most importantly it’s trusted by UPSC paper setters since many questions are routinely asked in the Prelims from this book.

The Next Step

Once you develop the habit of reading these books, magazines and newspapers you are ready to move to the next level. It is important to realize that we are still focussed on the Prelims since this is the first stage you need to clear before you can appear for the Mains exam.

You should then focus on these books for Prelims to really begin your IAS preparation in the right earnest. But since you have to also focus on your school or college studies, don’t burden yourself by getting all the books listed on the page. Chances are you won’t have enough time to go through all the books.

Rather get books that you can go through in your spare time like the Oxford Student Atlas (which will also help you with your Geography studies). If you want to go even deeper, get the GS manual for paper 1 and paper 2 by TMH since this is a nice and reliable compilation of all the subjects and topics for prelims. Besides it is a good source of general awareness issues; not to mention they are really fun to read. At least I found them so.

What About Subject Selection?

As I mentioned above, optional papers come only in the mains; not in prelims. If you are still in school, don’t bother about optional subject at this stage. Just focus on the tips I gave above. If you are in under-graduate or post-graduate college, first check if your subject(s) is offered in the civil services mains exam or not. If it is offered, ask yourself do you want to choose the same subject as the optional subject in mains? If the answer is yes, go through its syllabus and so you can stress on the part that overlaps with the UPSC syllabus. This way you can save significant time during your actual preparation.

If the answer is no, ask yourself do you have the spare time to prepare the subject you will select for mains exam along with your college studies. If you have the time, start preparing. If not, it doesn’t matter. Just wait till you devote full time to your IAS preparation then you can worry about subject slection and preparation.

The point of this discussion was to make you realize that IAS exam and its preparation is a layered process which requires constant effort and patience to complete. You have made the right choice by selecting the civil services as your career option early on during your school or college itself. Now you need to channelize your enthusiasm and make the best use of your time by following the strategy listed in this post. This way you will get a head start over others when you appear for your first attempt.

I can help you make the best use of your knowledge and time through online tests, current affairs updates and general awareness bits focussed on the Prelims exam through my Membership Program. Check it out.


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I am your friend, mentor and guide to help crack the IAS exam. I've cleared the Prelims everytime including the first and also reached the Interview stage. Know more about me

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 26 comments
devendra kumar vermna

may you provide me the list of NCERT that are useful for IAS GS prepration.
kindly mail me.


Really this post is very helpful for us.
Sir, presently am in final year of So will it be better to do civil services after my masters or shall I go ahead directly after bachelors?

    Rohit chaudhary

    Mam please tell me are you still doing or masters or prepareing for civil services exams ?
    I’m also in final year and suffering from same dilemma ..

Rahul Singh

How to prepare for cast exam without any coaching classes.

Anindya Shome

Presently I’m pursuing my degree in computer science. Can i follow your steps for the preparations?

Deepak kumar

sir i am the student of ECE branch .. sir i want to know how i will start to prepare for IAS exam..sir please suggest me which subject will better for me as optional..and how many subject will be for this exam..please suggest briefly such that i could be a part of your institution and always i shall be obliged to you for this…..

Shubhakar singh

Dear sir,
Abhi mai 12th class me hu or mai science liya hu,pr mujhe interest ips job me h,ips bane ke liye kya krna padega sir or kon sa book most h.please tell me sir

vishal soam

these posts are confusing I have heard that there is a different exam for ips other than ias is it true..??


Sir…what if astrologer says that u cannot go in govt job.. u can go only for engineering having astrologer said this to me..but I want to go for ias what to


    Either believe in yourself or your astrologer. I suggest you should believe in yourself 🙂



praveen kumar

sir…….can i know the date when i have to apply for ips exam


Hi sir,
I am currently working in IBM and I have not aware about IPS exams… so after reading this I am feeling to try…. so I am 28 running now… I have very short period to attempt exams n I need to look forward on this… could you pls suggest me…. when n whr d exams will take place n when we need to apply for this n wht s d cut of date to apply…. ?



    All info regarding the exam and how to apply is available in the free ebook!


sir.. i will highly obliged if you will provide me with ur email or contact. . i am at vry peak point.. i.e. end of my graduation.. and cnfusd in taking final decisions..
thank you.. 🙂


Sir.i want to know that for an optionl subject i have to choose two optionl subject or only one…i am pursuing my btech from civil i hv to choose 2 optionl lyk history plus smthng lyk tht…or i hv to choose either civil engineering…or geogrphy….or history

Devansh rai

Sir i m from bpl i also want to became an IAS Officer and i m in school please tell me that where are the IAS schools and colleges are located so that i can start my pepration from npw onwards only plzzzz


Hi mam , i want to just ask you that i cleared my +2 exams with 94 %(in best 4) from commerce stream in 2014 and than i did a diploma course of elementary teachers ..
And now i want to go for graduation first i want to ask you that whether i should go for regular or non collegiate for the same..and second what subjects i should choose in ba program .. to best prepare for civil services.

bhavi sibal

I wanted to know which subjects should i take in class 11 and 12 if i want to go for civil services ?

gaurav singh

sir howmany hours is required for study during graduation. tell me some tips how can i do time management.i am in bsc first year.

samsher Hussain

Sir ,
I have no idea about IAS study …..but i really want to do IAS study. Can u say me sir,what i do for it. So plz say me sir when i apply for it and which site. Plzz plzzz sir help me


I request you my children are in school which books we are to motivate them

Shraddha Nirbhawne

Hello sir
I m an arts student studing in 11th std. My dream is to become an ias officer but i dont have much idea about it.
Plz make me understand

Sunita Singhal

I appreciate your article as well as effort to motivate aspirants to start from their schooling days. As parents wish their kids should become IAS or IPS but they donot mold them accordingly.Your website should be promoted among parents as they go for coaching for engineering from 9 onwards but never ask their kids to prepare for IAS from school time.


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