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IAS Preparation Guide – How to Prepare for IAS Effectively

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To get started with IAS preparation you should first have some idea about the service itself. This will ensure your IAS preparation efforts are channelized in the right direction. The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is a career nonpareil – one that cannot be compared to other jobs or services. True, it doesn’t offer the best salary; still the salary of an IAS officer is nothing to laugh at.

But people aspire to IAS for reasons much more than just remuneration. For instance, the IAS is a means to perform noble deeds like serving the nation and humanity at large. Now how many jobs or careers provide this opportunity? Along the way, there are attractive privileges, perks and career goals that you can achieve. In fact, the IAS is the perfect harmony of social and personal good, an opportunity, that only few can careers can provide. Be inspired.

But to aspire for this golden service you need to prepare for IAS smartly, persistently, and patiently. The 3 golden tips to Prepare for IAS. You may have heard a thousand and one times from friends, IAS exam veterans, mentors and assorted coaching institutes that you require smart hard work to crack the IAS. But what exactly is smart hard work?

NOTE: Before you start preparing get these Books for IAS Exam.

IAS Preparation Tip #1 – Work Smart Not Just Hard

Most of us are used to working hard. Our education system is such that unless we cram tens of books each year, whether or not we understand what’s inside the book is immaterial, we cannot progress to the higher level. So most of us are accustomed to working hard which in the context of IAS preparation refers to studying 10 hours or more, every day. So much for hard work.

Now comes the smart part. Smartness could mean different things to different readers. It could mean reading selectively but reading well, reading many books selectively, mixing books and notes, making micro notes, proper time management, taking mock tests and so on.

Smart work is all this and more. In fact smartness is the approach you adopt in a particular situation. To prepare for IAS smartly requires you to be flexible as opposed to rigid, to experiment as opposed to sticking with the familiar, to plan ahead as opposed to the short term only.

Let’s say you plan to appear for the 2018 Prelims. The right approach would be to start preparing for the IAS prelims at least 10 months in advance. 10 months’ time is just right to crack the prelims. Neither too much nor too less. With too much time in hand, just like other things in excess, we tend to waste it. In fact, we should always have a little less time in hand to feel some sense of urgency to get things done. Most people tend to work best under reasonable pressure. Neither too much nor too less.

The next step when starting your IAS preparation is to get familiar with the Prelims syllabus. Doing this you will know exactly what you need to cover within this time frame to crack the prelims. The good part about the new CSAT syllabus is that optional subjects have been done away with. So you can just concentrate on General Studies. And if you’re like me then studying GS is like listening to music; there’s no hard work involved. Just pure fun. Preparing for IAS need not necessarily mean monotony. The more you enjoy preparing GS the easier the Prelims goal will become. That’s smart.

Once you know the syllabus get started with the actual preparation. Obviously everyone can’t prepare for 10 hours, particularly working people. But even working people can crack the IAS. The exact time is not important here. Some can achieve in 6 hours what others can in 10 hours. It depends on you. If you’re just starting out I’d suggest you start with 4-5 hours and scale up gradually.

Prelims Smart Preparation Strategy

As you know that Paper 2 (CSAT) is now only qualifying in scope (as clarified by UPSC in 2015) and you require just 33% or 66 marks to qualify this paper. The marks obtained in this paper are not counted for preparing the merit of candidates who will qualify the Prelims and write the Mains exam.

So your workload is considerably reduced, especially if you’re from a non-Science and non-Engineering background. You can now mostly focus on preparing the Paper 1 topics.

And you just need to prepare Comprehension, Data Interpretation, Interpersonal Skills and Decision Making well in Paper 2 to obtain 66 marks. These four topics are considerably easier to prepare and attempt as compared to mental ability and logical reasoning topics.

Also remember that there is no negative penalty for questions on Decision Making. At least 5 questions on Decision Making will be asked in Paper 2 so you can and should attempt these questions without any fear.

Also if you analyze the previous 3-4 year papers, you will know that at least 5 Comprehension passages are asked in every Prelims and these are easiest to score off in Paper 2. So you can easily score 50 marks from just Comprehension passages! Rest of the marks can be obtained from Data Interpretation, Decision Making and Interpersonal Skills questions.

IAS Preparation Tip #2 – Try Single-tasking it’s more efficient than Multi-tasking   

Yes I know you need to prepare history, geography, current affairs, mental ability etc. Only thing is don’t prepare all at once. Chunk it down. Pick one subject, let’s say Polity and combine it with current affairs which you should cover for some time everyday. Current affairs preparation consists of reading the newspaper, a good current events magazine and a year book.

You can read a good newspaper like The Hindu, magazine like Civil Services Chronicle or Pratyogita Darpan and the Manorama Year Book. Schedule a particular time for newspaper reading, but in any case, don’t read the newspaper for more than an hour. It’s not required.

Next, you can continue with the year book or start off with Indian polity. Whichever topic you choose get the right books only. Don’t refer more books than are absolutely essential. You don’t want a PhD in General Studies, just need to clear it.

But before you start with the topic get the past 5 year’s solved question papers and combine it with the syllabus as the question papers and syllabus are your best guide for IAS preparation.

Once you have started with polity or any other topic see it through completion. Don’t try to multi-task. Mixing polity with history and geography will lead to loss of concentration and lower your output. Besides it will make your progress lower. On other other once you’ve covered a topic in full you will gain confidence as you’ve pocketed x number of marks beforehand.

online tests for ias

IAS Preparation Tip #3 – Adopt the Just in Time Approach

The JiT (Just in Time) Approach says we should seek information only when required at that moment. In this hyper-connected world there is an overdose of information and if you seek to acquire all information and knowledge before starting a task, you can never get started as you will lose yourself in the information maze.

Applied to IAS preparation what this implies is don’t try to cover all the books referred by your friends on a given topic, say GK. Since GK is so vast and constantly expanding you can never hope to “master” it. Rather, refer a good book like Manorama Year Book and a magazine along with the daily newspaper to build up your knowledge base.

If, while referring the past Prelims papers, you come across a new topic you can quickly refer the reference books at hand or head over to the library or internet and find out more. This way you retain the information for a much longer time rather than by trying to read everything at one go.

Smart IAS Preparation Tip #4 – Test Yourself Constantly

Taking the above JiT approach further let’s apply this to evaluating yourself. Instead of waiting till the last few days to take mock tests you should evaluate yourself right after completing a particular section in a topic. For instance refer the previous year’s question papers before starting Quit India Movement in Modern Indian History and after completing it. I’ve already written about the benefits of this approach so I need not repeat it here.

Adopting this JiT approach you know exactly where you stand, which topics have been covered well and which require more consideration. But more importantly it removes the uncertainty and anxiety to a certain level, if not completely. Before entering the examination hall you know what kind of questions to expect and this will boost your confidence and calm your nerves so you perform better than expected.

But going through the previous years papers is just the first step, I recommend you enroll for a good test series to know the latest trend of questions and also to prepare yourself for the forthcoming Prelims in a better way by attempting mock tests that cover the entire Prelims syllabus.

Prepare for IAS Tip #5 – Make Micro Notes 

Notes help us to revise quickly before the Prelims; the last 15 days that can determine whether or not you will appear for the mains that year. These micro notes can be on current affairs, GK, as well as other GS and optional topics. In fact I’ve already shown how to make notes for IAS exam preparation. Learn from it and profit.

IAS Preparation Tip #6 – Shoot then Aim

Most IAS aspirants prefer to wait till the end moment to take mock tests or prepare for 2-3 years before making their first attempt waiting for the perfect preparation level. Unfortunately your preparation can never be perfect no matter how hard you try. The latest syllabus is such that questions will always be unpredictable. Gone are the days when you could rely on certain number of questions from a particular topic.

So instead of preparing for 2-3 years during which time the pattern (not the syllabus) could change so many times prepare for a year and jump into the fray. You can improvise along the way.

This also holds true for taking practice tests. I suggested constantly evaluating yourself after going through every topic rather than waiting till the end hoping to finish the entire syllabus before going through the question papers.

Guess what, we are never able to finish the syllabus completely. There’s always something left in the end, some topics that we wish we should have prepared differently. So shoot first then aim.

Smart IAS Preparation Tip #7 – Read Only What’s Absolutely Essential

Your friend tells you to refer THM GS manual because that’s the best one around, another refers Unique, while a third one suggests XYZ classes notes. And you unwittingly jump from book to book hoping to cover every source that’s considered important for that subject. Stop taking this information overload that you will never be able to process within the limited time at your disposal.

Refer the standard books and supplement the missing information from other book for notes. Instead of reading three books for polity stick to one for detailed explanation and one for the bare acts. Similarly, I suggest just NCERTs for Ancient and Medival Indian History. No need for epic titles.

Whether it’s books for prelims, or public administration, sociology, political science or geography books stick to the above strategy.

You’ll discover you can extract so much more by re-reading limited number of books than running after the next shiny book just launched.

Resources for IAS Preparation

No guide for IAS preparation can be complete unless you know important sources for finding information online.

These are some of the many resources for IAS exam:

Get all NCERT text books

Free IAS study material available here

Attempt Practice Tests

The above preparation tips for IAS exam are of little use if you do not test your preparation against UPSC level practice tests. I suggest you check out IAS Kracker’s Online Test Series for IAS to attempt practice tests for Paper 1 and 2 with many advanced features to boost your IAS preparation manifold.

Also Read: Learn How to Prepare for IAS with these Resources

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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 183 comments

Respected Sir
Please tell me that from how many years ago I should start preparation of current affairs to crack IAS?
Thank you

shivam rajawat

i am student of b.a 1 year.i want to prepare for i.a.s from this year.what material should i read this year? please suggest me


hello sir .
sir,my friend want to prepare for an ias ..he is now doing btech in electronics n communication 7 sem n next is trainee sem , so he wants to prpare at that tym ,, so plz guide us how to prepare for it he didnt get guideanc from anyone yet,, he is fav sub is physics n he wants opt for that ,, is that easy for to crack compartivly other sub… n how to prepare for premil?

plz relp n guide us ,,,waiting

Deshant Kumar

I have gone through your blog and i feel i can do it in parellal with job in PSU.Currently I am Master student of Indian Institute Of Science and i want to start my preparation from next year when my master will complete. But the biggest problem that i have is about choosing the language.Because i study till 10th in medium Hindi because of that every small term apart from Science and Computer Science i knows there hindi version but at the same time as a Engg student i also focused on english so common knowledge of daily life i know in English. And one biggest tragedy in IAS exam for hindi medium student is in language that is currently use in paper and also less no of selection in IAS from hindi medium. As far as my writing skill is concern i am good in hindi compare to english. In Englsih i do lots of grametical as well as spelling mistak. So from this point of view i should prefer hindi. Another importent thing is , i have studied Geography,Civics, History,Economics etc in hindi so every basics term i knows in hindi if i will prefer English then it will take lots of time to remember all terms in English so again i can not take risk.
So according to my situation what would you recommend to me???????


    Hello Deshant,

    If you’re comfortable in Hindi, go with it. English students don’t have any particular advantage. It depends on individual’s ability and expression as well. If people can qualify in regional languages, why can’t you with Hindi?


      Problem is with comprehension that comes in hindi because UPSE guys are using perhapes google translator for translating things from english to hindi. I read hindi editorials as well as practisiong hindi comprehension but type of language that UPSE people is using is very difficult than editorials and practising set. And i am afraid of this only because comprehension parts covers 40% of total question so i can not neglect this issue as well. But one thing that i don’t know is “whether question of prilims comes in hindi as well as Englis???”


very helpfull article sir. guys i have found one new blog where this person discuss abt how to read newspaper and how much avg marks can occur for exam..check out blog name: are u dreaming to get into lbsnaa


Dear sir upsc paper for ias comes in both language or in saprate for different medium student

jhon siga

l am Bsc choose my subject Zoology for IAS examination…
Is it better or not ?
Just i need to know..

nitish sharma

Sr I m bcom student please help me for preparing ias exams

Vivek Malik

Sir, I am a B.Tech student of 3rd year. How should I have to start preparing for IAS. But have only 4-5 hours hardly for preparing it, because I also have to study my technical course. Please rply sir.


Sir I’m an engineering student in civil branch, i need information about preparation of IAS exam, so please help me…..


Hlo I am in +2 and i want to be IAS
So plz give me some questions about this. .

Jitendra meena

Dear sir,i need your valuable suggestions for reading a particular book.Is it required to cover every line of a book for a particular subject? If your answer is no,then how would i know the important part of that book.

k praveen kumar

Hi iam praveen plz i want plane to ias i dont know how to prepar ….plez plez…..give me help ……..

samir dalvi

Ser muje ias eaxm hindi me dena hai uske liye kab form bharna hai or kaha bharna hai ork itne rs ka form honga and exam kaha hongi ye sab kaise pata chalenga plz batado …. respected ser

mohit ram sahu

I m a hindi medium aspirant… how can I crack this exam. What should be resources for exam? And from where I get.

Aarav Agrawal

Good Read and very well explained.

Can you also help us in choosing the subjects and then how to proceed with the preparation of the subjects that we chose. Really appreciate the help.


Please let me know the effective book for history for upsc

Ravinder dande

hello sir I’ve started preparing for IAS a year ago but i think i’m not preparing in better way. tips you gave above i gues will me for upcaoming days

Rajeev Shakya

Respected Sir/ Madam,

Firstly, I feel very bad that I had reply after so many people views, but it is not matter that Sun is bright for everyone not only for one, as you are. After studying your posted information I wish to appear in I.A.S. examination in the year of 2016. I know the syllabus for I.A.S.(Pre. or Main) and also some referred books, but I am confused to take some decision that what should I start. My topic is History and I know the syllabus for History. I request to you that kindly tell me that what should I do?

1. May I read all the books of N.C.E.R.T. (All Subjects like Polity, History, Geography, Economics, etc.,). or only One (History)for Preliminary examination or Main Examination (both examinations)?

2. After completion of reading of N.C.E.R.T. books, may I read suggested books for History only or all topics like mentioned in Mains subjects G.S.-I, G.S.-II, G.S.-III and G.S.-IV?

3. I know the topics of My optional subject History but I do not know the topics of above mentioned syllabus like G.S.-I, G.S.-II, G.S.-III and G.S.-IV.

As I am beginner for this examination and working in Part Time Job and as per advertisement I had seen all the eligibility criteria and selection procedure mannaul. But I am little bit confused regarding suggested books for these topics.

I would like to request you that kindly give me the list of books for these all topics I can managed by myself but I want to list of suggested books I have tried many sites but I am unable to find such books, I found some books for few topics.

At last, I would again request to you kindly send/post the suggested books for basic knowledge of all these topics, I am highly obliged to you. Please Sir/Madam, please give me the response with suggested books of all topics like English, CSAT, GS-I, II, III, and IV and Optional Subject of above mentioned subjects. (JUST LIST OF SUGGESTED BOOKS) Please.

With Regards.


Sarvendra Singh

How should I start prepration for IAS, and which will be best books for prepration, and also tell me which sub wiil be suitable for me.


These tip are really very usefull….Thamxxx sir


I have read so many blogs and write-ups on effective IAS exam preparation, but the tips given in your blog are the best ones. I will always remember the 3 golden tips: Smartness, Persistency and Patience. I am taking coaching from one of the best institutes Vajiram and Ravi to get knowledge on different subjects. And now by combining the knowledge gained in the class with the tips given in this blog, I am sure I will be able to perform better in IAS exam. Every point given in the write up is helpful for every student aspiring to take IAS exam. Thanks again for such a motivational, helpful and effective blog.


sir i want start my preparation. please give me guidance how to start


Very Nice and informative


“No guide for IAS preparation can be complete unless you know important sources for finding information online.”

Very well said, and the right source to get this guidance is a good coaching institute. With abundance of online sources finding out the most helpful and updated source gets really difficult. I am lucky that I got support of helpful, experienced and supportive teachers at Vajiram and Ravi. The teachers not just provide me solution to my queries, but also equip me with the additional resources to explore more for effective preparation of IAS exam.

Gyan Prakash Singh

Sir I am a student of class 12 (PCM) and I have a dreamed to become an IAS officer when I was in class 7. But sir today I am little bit confused about which course I should choose after 12 so as preparation for IAS Continues alongside with graduation.


sir, i m in final year cse student.
please tell me best coaching centre in Delhi or North India to prepare for ias.

Gurdeep kour

sir can u guide me that how should I prepare for the exam


Thanks Veenit I am just start the preparation for your stayl

Naresh kumar

I want to prepare of IAS from beggin.what should i do first.


Who is Gram Sevak? What are his functions?


Hello sir, i am going to start preparation for upsc. i am little confused.should i go for the prelims first or mains?…or i can start both at the same time because after prelims i think time will be limited for the mains.


Dear sir, would you please let me know if I choose the physics as your optional subject for IAS would it be a good idea and what kind of questions asked in the physics paper


what are the subjects in prelims


Dear sir/madam,
I am an aspirant who has jus completed my 12th standard PCMB, i want to join BSc nd prepare for IAS. I don’t even know single piece of information abt it except dat i hav a dream to crack it.
So can i get any help dat how to prepare?? Pls reply.


Sir i have g one through the preparation tips for a working personnel and i am well satisfied with your tips.
sir i would like know some points in details like how to corelate newspaper and book(particular subject) and syllabus.
pl give some tips here

Naresh kumar

sir i am fresher in this field.and i want to prepare what shall be my first steps.

uday singh

sir mai west bengal police abhi new job liya hu.aur mai ias officer banana chahta hu.kuch preparation ka tips digiye.jishse mai preparation suru kr saku. pls sir


Hi i am giving exam in 2018 and want an advice whether i should take maths as my optional subject or not as i have a lot of interest in maths and i like studying it…..i have done bba as my college degree but i had maths in 11th and 12th standard an what books should i refer for it and can you give a brief strategy plan for it?


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