Strategy to prepare for Civil Services Prelims Exam.

UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination every year to include officers in the Indian Civil Services. Once admitted, officers will serve in various administrative services such as IAS, IPS, IRS, IRS, ITS, IDES, etc. and also in foreign services. A career in this field will also be interesting, satisfying and challenging, which is why its recruitment process is also rigorous. To get selected in these services, the candidate has to pass UPSC Civil Service Examination.

This examination is conducted in three stages, in each of those stages those candidates who cannot pass in that stage are rejected. The first stage of this exam is the UPSC Preliminary Examination, commonly known as IAS Prelims or UPSC Prelims. This is probably the easiest of the remaining two steps, but candidates have to make a planned and dedicated preparation to succeed in this exam.

UPSC IAS Preliminary Exam Format

The Prelims exam consists of two objective type (MCQ) question papers.

  • General Studies: {GS-1} (Paper – 1)
  • Civil Services Aptitude Test: {C-SAT} (Paper – 2)

The details of the examination are given below.

Paper nameGrand totaltime limitNumber of questionsNegative markingType of question paperMarks required for qualification
General Studies (GS) – Paper 1200 Marks2 hours100 QuestionsYesMarks counted for rankingCut-off prescribed by UPSC
CSAT – (C-SAT) Paper 2200 Marks2 hours80 QuestionsYesQualifying Only33% (66/200)


The marks obtained in C-SAT Paper – 2 will not be added for pre-ranking. To qualify for the UPSC Main Exam, the candidates have to score at least 33% in this paper. The marks obtained in G-S Paper 1 will be counted in the ranking. The cut-off marks (minimum marks required) in this paper will be determined by the commission and are declared to the public only after the result of civil service prelims.

Note: UPSC deducts 1 / 3rd of the marks allotted for that question as penalty on every wrong answer given to the candidates.

Learn how to start preparing.

An IAS candidate would ideally have to spend at least one year of his or her life in IAS preparation. During this time, he is advised to start preparing with subjects which are in the main and preliminary examinations.

Prepare a plan: Since you are preparing at home, you should make a study plan without any external guidance and you should be completely faithful to your preparation to fulfill this goal. Illusions and temptations will pull you away from your preparation but be honest with yourself.

How to prepare for CSAT (C-SAT).

For C-SAT, candidates have to build strong understanding in mathematics, science and engineering background, after that you will successfully pass this paper. For this practice, they try to solve some previous year UPSC C-SET question papers. It should also be noted that if the candidate who is not able to get success in C-SAT paper, even if he has scored good marks in GS paper 1, then the candidate will not be eligible to appear for further examination. If you keep a pre-planned and strong preparation for this paper, then you can get minimum qualifying marks.

Study data with facts

A common misconception regarding UPSC Preliminary Examination is that it requires memorizing a lot of facts and figures. Considering the changes in the examination syllabus of UPSC, it is understood that in this exam you will be evaluated on various parameters like analytical ability, clarity of concepts and yes, your test based on your speed of solving questions Will also be done, because you have to answer 200 questions in 120 minutes which is less than one question per minute.

Understanding of current affairs

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the UPSC question paper will be based on current affairs. You will have to be up-to-date on the latest current affairs as a lot of questions will be based on them and you need to study your courses by connecting them to current affairs as well. For example, if a specific topic has often been in the headlines, make sure you gather relevant information related to it and understand it properly based on the theory/concept. IAS candidates should proceed in the preparation of their exam through current affairs departments like ‘Daily News Analysis’, PIB (Press Information Bureau – PIB), Rajya Sabha TV and Current Affairs Quiz.

Practice with IAS test paper

This is one of the most important steps to cross this stage of IAS Prelims exam. As mentioned earlier, if you get less than a minute for each question then in this short time you should be able to know the correct answer. Only practice can help you get familiar with the question paper pattern, and you can also improve your question-solving speed.

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