The UPSC Civil services exam, more commonly known as the IAS exam, consists of three stages, viz; Prelims, Mains, and the Interview. Assuming that the reader is a complete beginner in the preparation, I will explain how you must proceed if you want to start from Level 0.
1. To start off, do not worry about where you stand right now. Be calm and go through the syllabus first. Even if you are not someone proficient in general knowledge or current affairs, fret not. Many officers cracked this exam who were completely new to these areas. After you go through the syllabus, try to understand what the exam is demanding from you. This is the essential thing you should follow. The syllabus for the civil services exam is quite extensive, but you can taste victory if you put hard work along with smart work. Mindless studying without considering how it must be studied gives you a false sense of accomplishment. This is the most common mistake a beginner makes. Click to go through the Prelims and Mains syllabus.
2. After you go through the syllabus, it is time for you to start learning. The very first thing you should keep in mind is that what you were before does not matter anymore. Forget Level 0; you might be someone who has absolutely no clue about what is in your textbooks/newspapers etc. Still, the one thing you must know is that it is still possible for you to achieve success. For this to happen, make sure you are strong in the basics. Be it any subject, UPSC wants you to be strong in the basics. As a civil servant, you might be tasked to solve challenges, and it is through these basics, knowledge is converted to actions. Hence, UPSC makes sure that only an aspirant with strong basics is selected as a civil servant. Now, what should you refer to get your basics strong? The answer is NCERTs’. By understanding the textbooks that are of school level, you can crack this prestigious exam. Again, I must insist that you learn by understanding the topics and not through rote learning.
3. The next thing you must focus on is newspapers. The Hindu is the most popular newspaper read by the aspirants. Go through the newspaper to understand what is going on around you and connect these to the syllabus you have already gone through. This will help you in understanding current affairs. Also, the editorial in the newspaper is an area where you can get information to enrich your answers.
4. To further sharpen your current affairs knowledge, follow a current affairs material covering information from various sources like newspapers, PIB, magazines like Yojana, Kurukshetra etc. This will help you improve your knowledge and enrich the answers when you write them. But make sure you read and revise them often and follow only one material judiciously. Try not to cover current affairs materials of multiple institutes. Stick with the one you are most comfortable with and revise it as much as you can. Remember, continuous revision is one of the key essentials in this exam.
5. It would be best if you also used the continuous revision strategy to solve mock question papers. This will help you understand how questions are asked in the exam, especially Prelims and Mains. Through these mock papers, you will get enough experience to face the actual exam. These mock tests would also emulate the environment that appears in the actual exam. Thus enough time should be devoted for mocks to have sufficient MCQ revisions and writing practice. Click here to get your preparation started with our NCERT oriented practice test.
6. Along with this, you should also go through the Previous Years’ Question Papers to further tune yourself into how UPSC asks the questions. Make sure that you ultimately solve question papers from the past six years.
Before I conclude, I would like to stress again that every one of you has a chance to crack the Civil service exam, provided you stay devoted to the preparation. It doesn’t matter where you stand right now, but what matters is how you plan on achieving it—all the very best for your upcoming attempt.