The UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) exams are considered the toughest tests to crack. It withholds a vast syllabus to cover, and the aspirants should plan a detailed strategy to pass this examination. It is conducted in three phases – UPSC Prelims, UPSC Mains, and the personality test or interview. While the prelims paper is based on objective-type MCQ questions, the main part is descriptive with nine papers. They include a compulsory Indian language, English, Essay, General Studies I, II, III, IV, and Optional I and II.
When an aspirant passes the prelims and mains, they will face the final phase of the IAS Exam called Personality Test/Interview. Here, the candidates are interviewed by a competent board. The officials will hold a face-to-face interview with the aspirants and examine them in multiple aspects.
Candidates can give interviews in their preferred language as UPSC will make arrangements for the translators. The age limit for the aspirants to take up UPSC exams is between 21 and 32 years of age. However, different age relaxation rules applied to different categories. It is also essential that the aspirant should have completed their degree from a recognized university board.
UPSC Preparation Tips
Though UPSC exams are well-known for their toughest nature, there are certain preparation tips that the aspirants can follow to pass the test with excellent scores. They are:
Understand what is UPSC:
Knowing about the nook and corner of the UPSC exam is the basic foundation for succeeding in this examination. Study the exam syllabus, pattern, and go through all notifications released by UPSC, especially the dates. It is also important to read through the eligibility criteria. To get thorough about the examination pattern, the candidates can analyze the previous year's question papers. Parallelly, the exam takers shall also read articles about mark allocation, choosing optional subjects, starting with UPSC preparations, etc.
A solid start:
After understanding UPSC, a solid start is necessary if a candidate would like to give it a shot. Some of the basic steps would be practicing newspaper reading every day. There are a set of book suggestions provided by experts. You can go through these books and start with handwritten notes. Further, begin following youtube channels and social media pages with professional lectures and guides.
Practice writing and schedule revision:
Apart from reading and going through the books, experts also strongly suggest practising writing. Followed by this, there should be a consistent revision scheduled in the study cycle or timetable. For instance, if a candidate plans to study a new topic for a whole week, the weekends should be solely dedicated to revision.
No matter how intense a learner's study session is, the mock tests ward off the exam fear and boost the confidence of an aspirant. Before attending the final interview, practice numerous mock interviews and analyze everything, including sitting, confidence in speech, elaborating style, maintaining eye contact, keeping up with the latest trends, etc.
Top Strategies to Crack UPSC Examination
Every year, thousands of aspirants appear for UPSC examinations. But only a handful of aspirants can make up till the final round and crack the exam. The sole reason behind this is following designed strategies. These action plans help them crack the exam in the first attempt or within fewer attempts.
Divide the syllabus, not exam
As we have mentioned early, the most important stage of UPSC preparation is analyzing the syllabus. Here, the aspirants should divide the topics into different categories. It will help the candidates to know their strengths and weakness. By jotting down these topics, they can prepare a timetable and a strategy to complete their study schedules.
Most aspirants divide prelims and mains as two exams and kickstart their preparations. It is a blunder to divide the exams. The syllabus for both the exams is similar, but the pattern is different. The prelims paper is based on MCQs, and the mains are based on elaborative questions. Hence, it is better to practice these together for better performance.
Setting a customized timetable
One of the major strategies that the UPSC exam toppers follow is to create a customized timetable that will suit them. The aspirants choose the timetable created by their coaching centers or other toppers. But, creating your own timetable as per your timings is the best way to study. In the beginning, it might be overwhelming, and everything might pose achievable. But stay calm and create real-time timelines.
UPSC preparations are never a linear process. There is nothing like once you start with the preparations, you should keep going with the topics. Taking pause and assessing yourself is highly essential. It will help keep track of all topics a candidate has covered and yet-to-be covered.
Rely on professional guidance
UPSC examination can be both physically and mentally tiring. It is not only about studying. Instead, it involves dedication, consistency in practice, a lot of compromises, and more. It can easily take a toll on one's mental health. Hence, following the tips and tricks provided by professionals will help prepare better. The candidates can also create a network of people who have the same mindset. For example, they can have a good rapport with the coaching class pals, mentors, etc.
Eye on notes
Handwritten notes have a greater impact on a student's preparation. So, start taking notes right from the beginning of preparations. Similarly, a candidate should ensure that the notes taken are from credible and reliable sources. These valuable notes will help in last-minute revision and overall glancing.
Revision – a crucial part
No matter how much you read or how intense your preparation is, if revision is weak, all efforts will go in vain. Hence, make sure there is a definite consistency in your revision period. Cover all the topics and give prominence to topics you are weak in.
UPSC Exam 2023 Syllabus
If you are preparing for the upcoming 2023 UPSC exams, it is a must that you should be thorough with the syllabus. With a clear understanding of the syllabus and subjects included, you can develop a learning plan. It also acts as a support for you to concentrate on weaker subjects. Here is the syllabus for UPSC prelims and mains.
UPSC Prelims Syllabus
There are two papers in the UPSC Prelims; General-1 and General-2. The General-2 paper is also known as CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test). It is mandatory for candidates to appear for both papers as part of the preliminary round conducted to shortlist them to the next level; UPSC Mains. Below is the syllabus for General-1 and General-2:
- Current events of national and international importance.
- History of India and Indian National Movement.
- Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
- Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
- Economic and Social Development-Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.
- General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change - that do not require subject specialization. General Science.
The General-2 paper test your aptitude, and to qualify, you must at least score 33%. Below is the syllabus for the General-2 paper:
- Interpersonal skills, including communication skills
- Logical reasoning and analytical ability
- Decision-making and problem-solving
- General mental ability
- Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc., - Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc., - Class X level).
UPSC Mains Syllabus
Mains is the second phase in the UPSC examination. There are a total of nine papers, and the exam is descriptive in nature.
Paper- A and B
This paper mainly tests your knowledge in an Indian Language (the candidate must choose) and in English. These are qualifying papers, and the marks will not be counted in final merit total. The following will be tested in both Paper A (Indian Language) and Paper B (English)
- Precis Writing
- Usage and Vocabulary
- Short Essays
- Translation Exercises
Paper-I: Essay Writing
This paper will require candidates to write essays on multiple topics. The main aim of this paper would be to see how candidates are well-versed with what they write and the ability to order the information incorrect style.
Paper-II General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
This paper will commonly deal with historical aspects including events, culture, geography and about the world. Have a look at the detailed syllabus:
- Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature & Architecture from ancient to modern times
- Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues
- The Freedom Struggle - its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country
- Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country
- History of the World will include events from the 18th century, such as the Industrial Revolution, World Wars, redraw of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc., - their forms and effects on the society
- Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India. Role of women and women's organizations, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies. Effects of globalization on Indian society - Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism
- Salient features of the world's physical geography
- Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India); Important Geophysical phenomena, such as earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic activity, cyclones, etc., geographical features and their location - changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
Paper-III General Studies-II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations
- Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure.
- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
- Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
- Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries, Parliament and State Legislatures - structure, functioning, the conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
- Structure, organization, and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary, Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
- Salient features of the Representation of People's Act.
- Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions, and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
- Statutory, regulatory, and various quasi-judicial bodies, Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Development processes and the development industry - the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Center and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions, and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
- Issues related to development and management of Social Sector/Services in the field of Health, Education, Human Resources.
- Issues related to poverty and hunger.
- Important aspects of governance, transparency, and accountability, e-governance - applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
- Role of Civil Services in a democracy.
- India and its neighborhood - relations. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
Paper IV General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
- Government Budgeting. Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints;
- E-technology in the aid of farmers Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices;
- Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
- Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
- Land reforms in India. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
- Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
- Investment models. Science and technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievement of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
- Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment Disaster and disaster management.
- Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
- Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
- Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.
- Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate
Paper V General Studies- IV Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude
- Human Values - lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; the role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
- Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.
- Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections.
- Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world.
- Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.
- Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity;
- Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen's Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption. Case Studies on the above issues.
Paper- VI and VII Option Paper I & II
The optional paper 1 and 2 hold in a weightage of 250 marks each and are extremely vital as they sum up to a total of 500 marks out of 1750 total. There are around 40+ subjects you can choose from.
List of Optional Subjects
IAS aspirants must be at least 21 years and a maximum of 32 years old to appear for the UPSC exam. The candidates must have completed their bachelor’s and graduated from any government-recognized or UGC-approved university. They can pursue any graduation and field of study. However, students’ graduation results should be released or declared prior to the final exam of UPSC.