Many IAS aspirants have the common query that when should they start preparing for IAS exam or what is the right age to start IAS preparation. So I thought I should explain this topic in detail so you can start your IAS preparation as early as practically possible.
Is there a Right Age to Prepare for IAS?
The reason I need to answer this question is because I receive regular emails from school going children that they wish to prepare for IAS and how should they go about it. Even under-grad students (those currently in graduation) ask me this question.
So I want to state that there is no perfect age to start preparing for the IAS. But yes, from the available statistics, it is clear that most of the IAS aspirants start preparing right after their graduation at the age of 21 or 22 years. But even then, there are many of you who feel inspired later on in life to join the public service and wish to start preparing after 26 or 28 years. No harm in this as well as there are many success stories of older aspirants who have cleared the civil services after crossing 30 years of age.
But one thing is clear; your academic focus changes at different stages of your education. So if you’re in school right now, you need and should focus on your school studies and not get into full-time IAS preparation mode. If you’re in graduation, again, you will need to concentrate on your graduation rather than worry unnecessarily about choosing the Mains optional at this stage.
Having cleared this, you can still prepare for IAS exam at an early age. Only thing is, IAS preparation should be a secondary task for you and your school or college studies should be your foremost focus.
Now let’s move on to the next topic.
What is to be Prepared for IAS Exam?
To know when to prepare we should first know what all is to be prepared and then according your current age and academic stage you can decide what can you prepare.
Very briefly, the IAS exam and the subjects or topics to be prepared is explained with the help of the following mind map.
As you can see from the above mind map, the Prelims consists of two papers – General Studies (GS) and CSAT. In the GS paper there are various conventional subjects like History, Geography, Polity, Science and Economy apart from current affairs and general awareness.
What should you prepare in school?
Now that we know the various subjects and topics in the GS paper we can get down to the actual preparation plan. This sub-topic assumes that you are currently in school. In this case you can prepare current affairs and build up your general knowledge base both of which will greatly help later on when you’re preparing full-time for the IAS exam.
So how should you prepare current affairs?
For current affairs the daily newspaper you get at your home is the best source. Newspaper reading should become your daily habit. Don’t worry too much about making notes from newspapers right now. You should just enjoy reading the newspaper at this stage. In order to ensure you don’t feel bored easily you can mix the fun newspaper stories with the more serious articles. Like reading about the movies or entertainment news and also something about international affairs, sports or the economy. Once you’re comfortable with reading the newspaper articles start reading the editorials at the centre page of the newspaper. Initially you will find them difficult to understand. It’s ok. Even grown up people find editorials difficult to understand. But if you persist, slowly, they will start making sense to you.
How can you prepare general awareness?
Having a strong base of general knowledge will help you greatly in your Prelims and Mains papers later on. Don’t get any coaching notes for this though. Just reading one good magazine and one good reference book will be sufficient. In fact, even if you skip the magazine right now it’s ok. Just read a good reference book like Manorama Year Book. This will suffice for now. You can read whatever you find interesting in the Year Book. There’s no particular strategy at your age. Just enjoy reading whatever you feel curious about.
Finally, since you’re studying NCERT books in school my only advise to you is to read these books well. This will greatly help you once you cross 20 years of age and start preparing for the IAS exam seriously.
My Journey with IAS Preparation
As a young student I always found History subject quite interesting and although I did not take it up as my optional subject in the IAS exam, since I always scored good marks in history in my school I could easily prepare for it during Prelims and Mains. Also I have always had fascination for current affairs and general awareness right from a young age.
Not because I planned to prepare for the IAS exam at that age. But just for the sake of knowledge I used to read the newspaper daily and also any magazine and current affairs magazine that I came across. This habit really helped in my IAS preparation later on. Not only did I clear the Prelims 4 times in a row but I also scored 371/600 in my GS papers in the Mains.
Remember: You may start IAS preparation from an early age (as in school going age) but it should only be to build up your current affairs and GK base, not to seriously prepare at this age. Preparation should be an enjoyable process not a competition at this stage.
What should you prepare in College?
Now let’s assume you are in college, junior college or undergrad college. Then the above advice will equally apply to you, that is, to prepare current affairs and build up your GK base. Apart from this you can also prepare some CSAT topics like Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical reasoning. CSAT or GS-II paper is only qualifying in scope in the Prelims so you don’t have to worry too much about scoring high marks in this paper. Just getting most of the questions correct in these 3 topics I listed above combined with Decision Making questions will easily see you through in CSAT.
This will also be helpful if you plan to attempt other competitive exams like Bank P.O, SSC etc.
Finally if you are graduating in a Arts subject like Political Science, History, Public Administration, Literature etc. make sure you really study well since you can select the same subject as your optional in the Mains exam. If you focus on graduating in the subject with good marks this will reap good rewards for you later on.
The Ideal Time to Start Preparing for the IAS Exam
Now that we have covered the school and college scenarios above, if you have completed your graduation implies you must be 21-23 years of age. This is the best time to seriously prepare for the IAS exam. You should consider devoting at least 2-3 years of your time to preparing for the IAS exam full-time unburdened with other responsibilities like supporting your family, working for a living etc.
Most of the successes in the IAS exam also take place in the 2nd and 3rd attempts between the age of 22-26 years. So without doubt this is the best time to devote to the IAS exam. Also in the unfortunate event of not clearing the civil services you still have time for an alternate career.
If you found this advice helpful, consider leaving a comment below.