This post is intended to give you a basic outline for IAS exam preparation, officially it is Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Services Examination, This post will cover basics of all you want to know about IAS Exam Syllabus, Eligibility, Books, Papers, Coaching institutes, online preparation, toppers advice and almost all things that a newbie wants to know.
Civil Services Examination is very tough not only in terms of vastness and effort it demands but also time is a major factor the exam process tales about an year to complete.To stay motivated for an year and study daily needs lot of determination and dedication.
First you might have heard many things and opinions about this exam,please put it all aside while you read this post. Start reading with a fresh mind without any prejudices or stereotypes clouding you .Thank you now read on
Table of Contents
- 1 Beginners Guide to IAS exam Preparation.
- 2 Prelims : Civil service Aptitude Test (CSAT)
- 3 Mains Syllabus and CSM 2014 Papers.
- 4 How to Prepare for Mains:
- 4.1 Choosing an Optional
- 4.2 So How to Prepare for Optional?
- 4.3 Optional Strategy Subject Wise:
- 4.4 Essay:
- 4.5 GS Paper 1
- 4.6 GS Paper 2
- 4.7 GS Paper 3
- 4.8 GS Paper 4
- 5 Interview test
- 6 Toppers:
- 7 Email Updates
1.Prelims> 2.Mains > 3.Personality test/ Interview.
From first to last this exam is about elimination and filtering of candidates they try to kick us out at each step its like playing Mario one mistake at any stage boom back to stage one !
To get an idea numbers are approximate : this year 4,50,000 members wrote Prelims out of which 17000 are selected to write mains from 17000 only 3000 will be called for interview.From 3000 around 1200 will be selected.
That is the toughness and competition you are going to face,also always remember your real fight is always with the top 3000 people who clear at all stages try to be in that group all the time it will help you stay focused,also if you rest you rust.
Indian, Graduate any degree no minimum percentage. Read Notification clearly for all such doubts.
Source March 2014 Circular
|attempt limit||4||4+2 = 6 years|
|age limit||30 years||30+2=32 years|
|age limit||33||33+2=35 years|
|age limit||35||35+2=37 years|
|PH candidate from||before||AFTER|
|PH from General/OBC category||attempt limit||7||7+2=9|
|PH from SC/ST category||attempt limit||unlimited||unlimited|
|age limit||40||SC/ST PH: 35+12=47 years|
This is not yet fully official but for 2015 notification these will be the ages,Till then what is written under before is official stand..
Preliminary Examination The Examination shall comprise of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each.
- Both the question papers will be of the objective type (multiple choice questions).
- 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 specialisation
- General Science.
- Comprehension Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
- Logical reasoning and analytically 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)
- English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level).
Note 1: Questions relating to English Language Comprehension skills of Class X level (last item in the Syllabus of Paper II) will be tested through passages from English language only without providing Hindi translation thereof in the question paper. This year (2104) these passages were removed, no marks allotted to this section due to Language controversy.
Golden Rules According to us
- Read one book 10 times than reading 10 diff books.
- Keep the book list short and trust it.
- The more you practice the better.
- Prepare for mains prelims is covered automatically. (most part at least)
- What everyone can attempt you must attempt, Extra questions is your edge.
- CSAT is king maker, everything is dependent on CSAT(Paper 2)
- Prepare daily and slowly you cannot read everything in one month even if you are a genius.
- Have the Right Mind set.
- Surround yourself with Doers and Serious people.
- Finally don’t leave any subject or topic. Leave no stone unturned.
- GS Prelims Anay Diwedi Strategy.
People don’t get the momentum till the last minute and as the exam approaches the tendency to give up this attempt and promising oneself to prepare better for next attempt is very common, that is a very flawed approach. So study daily even for 4 hours from now on but every day, this will help a lot. Time wasted now prove you deadly in the end.
The Hindu + Opinion Pages of Indian Express + Yojana Magazine is a Must.
Read NCERT books First for all subjects, irrespective of your background, knowledge levels read them in long run you will understand the utility. Available as Pdf’s.
Polity: Laxmikanth the one and only book you need in all stages. DD Basu is another favourite of toppers but Laxmikanth is simple and student friendly.
Economy: Sri Ram IAS institute Material, which is available in Xerox shops in all places. This is most useful to build your basics and 90% of prelims questions can be comfortably answered. Ramesh Singh is next best alternative also useful for mains, between these two book and newspapers you economy for IAS exam is almost done.
Geography: 11th and 12th NCERT and selective study from Spectrum Geography.
- 11 and 12 Tamil Nadu NCERT books.
- Spectrum’s Brief History of Modern India, By Rajiv Ahir or Bipan Chandra If you have time and patience.
- Sekhar Bandyopadhyay from Plassey to Partition. [Only if you have time]
- Ancient History NCERT selective study. Most people leave out ancient and modern from preparation due to low output ratio.
Culture: Nitin Singhania Xerox notes or Vision IAS culture material.
Environment and Biodiversity:
- NIOS books
- Shankar IAS academy Xerox notes.
7-12 NCERT books
|7||4, 13, 14 & 15||5 & 6||1,2,10; 11 & 12|
|8||11 to 16||3 to 6||2, 8, 9 & 10|
|9||8 to 12||1 to 4||5,6,7 & 13|
|10||10, 12 & 13||1 to 5||6 to 11|
|11||1,5,8||1,14||2 to 5|
|12||15||14,16||4,5 then 7 to 16|
Chapter wise arranged by Murnal.
Do buy this book for practice 14000+ Objective Questions after reading a topic you can solve questions from this book and check and in case if you miss any point it will be covered very useful feedback mechanism.
- Cracking the CSAT Paper – 2 : Solved Papers 2014 – 2011 & 10 Crack Sets
- Career launcher previous papers.
These two will be more than enough if you practice perfectly, again who can define perfection? If you read the above books like you mean it and Join career launcher test series and write all tests sincerely you will surely clear prelims 2015.
But most people despite of doing all things mentioned above panic in the exam or afraid of maths, I was scared to death by maths but doing few hours of maths practice every day of very basic models from Rajesh Verma book I can say that it helped me a lot.
Combined for both papers so out of 400 you must get:
This is the stage 2 of the examination, only those who cleared in prelims are eligible to write mains and this is the most important stage where almost everything is decided.
Papers in mains and Max score
|Papers in Mains||Total score||2013 Topper Gaurav’s score|
|Compulsory Indian Language||300||X|
|TOTAL ( Compulsory papers, they’re not counted in final score)||1750||769|
Following is the list of optional papers one can choose from, any one subject can be selected including Literature , Popular optional’s are Anthropology, Public Administration, Geography, Sociology, Literature’s, .etc.
Click on the link for respective question paper.
|General Studies||Paper I|
One has to choose one language for compulsory paper .The paper Indian Language will not, however, be compulsory for candidates hailing from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.
30% marks in Indian Language and 25% marks in English as minimum qualifying standards in these qualifying papers.
|English Language (Compulsory)|
|Indian Languages (Compulsory)|
|Sindhi (Devanagari)||Sindhi (Arabic)|
Now as you have seen the previous papers and list of optional’s to select from Decide on one optional ,as per suggestion of toppers choose the one you love not the one crowd follows or so called scoring ones.
I will copy paste what Gaurav Agrawal said, there is nothing to add or remove to what he said it’s just perfect it depends on you how much you will learn from it.
People often have many criteria to choose the optional. Some of them are…
– ‘Scoring’ optional: People think some optional’s are more scoring than others.. Don’t know what to say on this. Every year UPSC changes the optional’s it favours / punishes, so u never know whether the ‘scoring’ optional u took may end up in the ‘butchering’ list of UPSC next year..
– Overlap with GS: “Pubad le lo, GS ki bhi taiyyari ho jaayegi”… Nothing could be more dangerous than this attitude.. coz if we don’t like pubad, and still take it, then we anyways won’t be able to study it well enough and not only will we screw the pubad portion of GS but also additional 500 marks optional. We only amplify our weakness by this attitude.
I believe an optional must be chosen out of our strength. When I took economics, many people advised me against it saying economics is technical, not scoring etc. etc. But I knew economics was my strength… doesn’t matter if no one has scored 400/600 in economics so far, I know I would score it (as per the older marking scheme). When UPSC is giving us 500 marks to play by our strength, why should we pick anything else? These are our marks and let us score the maximum out of it. And of course, such a strength can only develop when we have deep interest and luv for the subject.
Again reproduced from his site: Stages of Preparation
There are multiple stages of preparation in a subject like Economics.
– Stage 1: In this stage, we just focus on understanding what we are reading. While reading, we must understand the concept fully. We will forget the thing 2 days after we have read it, don’t worry. We will not even understand half the questions which have been asked in previous years, don’t worry. We don’t even have a clue of how to write answers in the exam, don’t worry. Just ensure you understand what you are reading and finish the syllabus.
– Stage 2: This begins after the syllabus has been finished once. In the second time, we again focus on understanding what we are reading. This time we would find, it takes less time to understand all the stuff and most of it seems familiar once we read. Our retention would increase at this stage. Read, re-read, revise the syllabus 2-3 times, ensure that we can recall without any aid what was said in a given topic / theorem and can reproduce it on paper. At the end of this stage, we would still not be able to even understand half the questions in the paper.
– Stage 3: Many questions in the eco question paper are not direct i.e. they ll not ask write abt XX theorem. These questions are indirect and we won’t even know which theorem / model to apply! The aim of this stage is to identify which model to apply. This can only come if we sit down with previous years’ question papers and think and think and discuss with others on what model to apply for a particular question. by now we have internalised all the stuff, we can not only reproduce the entire model / theorem on paper but also understand when and where to apply them. We will be able to answer most (90-95%) of the questions in previous years’ question papers now.
- Strategy for History by Ms. Surabhi Malik (AIR-51)
- Strategy for Geography by Mr. Mangesh Kumar (AIR-4)
- Strategy for Economics by Ms Harshika Singh (AIR-8)
- Strategy for Medical Science by Dr. Piyush Singla (AIR-84)
- Strategy For Electrical Engineering Prince Dhawan
- Strategy for Psychology by Ms. Shena Aggarwal (AIR-1)
- Strategy for Sociology By Mr. Rajanvir Singh Kapur (AIR-92)
- Strategy for Public Administration- Mains Anay Dwivedi
- Strategy for Public Administration (Advanced- Unit wise strategy) Prince Dhawan
- Strategy for Public Administration Optional – IAS Prem Ranjan Singh (Rank 62, CSE 2013)
- Strategy for Economics Optional Gaurav Agrawal
- PubAd Hidden Topics: Lohit Matani (AIR 182, CSE 2013)
- History Optional
- Psychology Optional Strategy by IAS Ravi Ranjan (AIR 92 CSE 2013)
- Geography Optional by IAS Chanchal Rana (AIR 7, CSE 2013)
- Management Optional – Nagendra Singh (AIR 120, CSE 2013)
- Philosophy Optional – Dinesh Bishnoi (212 marks optional)
- Political Science – by Subject Topper Rajat Sen (255 marks, cse 2013)
- Political Science Optional Preparation – by IAS Himanshu Aggarwal (AIR 28, cse 2013)
- Physics Optional – by Divyanshu Jha (AIR 9, cse 2013)
- Physics, Ethics and Interview – by IAS Manish Bansal (AIR 53, cse 2013)
After seeing the results of last mains no one can deny that Essay has become a very crucial paper, more crucial than ever before. CSM 2014 essay paper no requires a candidate to write two essays around 1200 words each. Regular reading of books, newspapers and Yojana will help a candidate accumulate lot of points.
Some are gifted writers but to majority of us that art comes only with rigorous practices. And writing in the exam hall is a completely different story. Gaurav Agarwal wrote a post on How to improve Essay Writing for UPSC Mains? .He also listed his past experience and what mistakes he committed.
- Essay strategy – Puneet Gulati, AIR 319 with 140 in Essay (2009)
- Strategy for GS (Advanced- Unit Wise) by Ms. Rukmani Riar old Syllabus but useful.
- UPSC GS: How to Prepare Gaurav Agrawal
Indian Heritage and Culture, History
- Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and 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 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization.
- Political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.‐ their forms and effect on the society.
- Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
- Role of women and women’s organization, 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.
Geography of the World
- Salient features of 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, cyclone , geographical features and their location‐ changes in critical geographical features (including water‐bodies and ice‐caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
Indian History: From Plassey to Partition by Sekhar Bandyopadhyay and Modern Indian History Rajiv Ahir or Bipan chandra.
Indian Heritage and Culture: Questions are very in-depth and sometimes requires PhD .Still Nitin Singhania’s Xerox notes is best source so far along with any institutes material.
Geography of the World: Spectrum Geography is a comprehensive book it is for mains geography but selective reading will help you in both mains and Prelims.
Society: NCERT books and Newspapers will do.
- Indian Constitution‐ historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
- Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
- Parliament and State Legislatures ‐ structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
- 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.
- 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 Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
- Issues relating 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 neighbourhood‐ 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 diasporas.
- Important International institutions, agencies and further structure, mandate.
- Polity and Constitution parts : Laxmikanth or DD Basu
- Vajiram PDF on various schemes.
- Insights website compilation will also help Or Vajiram Yellow books.
- PRS reports and Blog.
- Newspaper is the most important source for social justice and IR.
- C.Raja Mohan articles for International relations.
- 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
- Achievements 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.
Bio diversity and Environment
- 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, 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
- Ramesh Singh for Economy.
- Newspapers, Vision IAS printed Material.
- Shankar IAS academy notes foe Environment and Bio diversity (read at prelims thoroughly not directly useful for mains)
- Vajiram yellow book for Security.
- Insights Compilation for any gaps.
This paper will include questions to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects. The following broad areas will be covered.
Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships.
Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; 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 world.
- Public/Civil service values & 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 above issues.
- Any one Institute Printed notes for basics
- Ethics Lexicon as you need to know the meaning of the words in the question paper.
- Synergy Class notes Xerox. + Tons of common sense.
- Ethics is your personality can’t be taught.
The candidate will be interviewed by a Board who will have before them a record of his/her career. He/she will be asked questions on matters of general interest. The object of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a Board.
On a personal note a guy who reached this stage will not read this post. So more on this section later. If you get a Interview call Go to Delhi, Old Rajendar Nagar near Karol Bagh Metro, And get some professional help, as institutes there will bring retired bureaucrats and others who will help you a lot.
- Supreet Singh Gulati (2008 IAS Rank-2)
- Bijay Ketan Upadhyay (2008 IAS Rank-5)
- Shubra Saxena (2009 IAS Topper) Public Admin
- Prasanth Reddy (2009 IAS Rank-64)
- Prakash Rajpurohit (2010 IAS Rank-2) Maths and Electrical Engg
- Anay Dwivedi (2010 IAS Rank-5) Public Admin
- Abhijeet Agrawal Rank 24 IAS Physics and Chemistry
- Tanvi Sundriyal (2010 IAS Rank-6) Sociology and Public Admin
- Garima Mittal (2010 IAS Rank-8) Sociology and Psychology
- Rashmita Panda (2010 IAS Rank-13) History and Public Admin
- Prabhjot Singh (2010 IAS Rank-16)
- Ghanshyam Thori (2010 IAS Rank-25) Geography and Psychology
- Rajiv Ranjan Singh (2010 IPS Rank-191) Sociology and Public Admin
- Kashish Mittal (2011 IAS Rank-58)
- Prince Dhawan (2011 IAS Rank-3) Public Admin and Electrical Engg
- Gaurav Agrawal (2013 IAS Rank-1) Economics
- Rahul Pandey (AIR-52 CSE 2013) Public Admin
- [Topper’s Interview] Neha Yadav (CSE-2013/AIR-24): Sociology optional, Got IFS, ICMR fellowship, Gorakhpur
- IAS Topper Rank 1: Gaurav Agrawal, Economics Optional, also cleared IIT, IIM & IPS
- [Topper’s Interview] Dinesh Gupta (UPSC-2013/Rank-249) History Optional, ECE, Chandigarh
- [Topper’s Interview] Dr.Arpit Jain (UPSC-2013/Rank-194): Anthropology Optional, Madhya Pradesh
- [Topper’s Interview] Vinay G.M. (UPSC-2013/Rank 459) Public Administration 226 marks, B.E.Computer, Shimoga
- [Topper’s Interview] Rajarshi Raj Varma (UPSC-2013 / Rank-351): First Attempt, Public Administration, Ranchi, XIM-Bhubaneswar
- [Topper’s Interview] VP Gautham (UPSC-2013/Rank-138): First attempt, 309 in prelims, Geography optional, IFOS Rank-3, Tamilnadu,
- [Topper’s Interview] Sakshi Sawhney (IAS-2013/ Rank-6): BA LLB, Second among girl toppers, Law optional
- [Topper’s Interview] Neha Jain (IAS-2013/Rank-12): 4 years in IT sector, 400 marks in GS Mains, First Attempt, Sociology optional, Kanpur
- [Topper’s Interview] Akash (CSE-2013/AIR-63) First Attempt, 297 in prelims, IFoS ranker, maths optional, IIT Madras from Kerala
- [Topper’s Interview] Sumit Kumar (CSE-2013/AIR-81): Rohtak Mech engineer, 4 years IT experience, Mathematics Optional
- [Topper’s Interview] Ashish Agrawal (CSE-2013/AIR-209) : Chhattisgarh, B.Tech, Public Administration
- [Topper’s Interview] Dr. Roman Saini (CSE-2013/AIR-18): First Attempt, 309 in Prelims, ~100 marks GS Mains 1,3,4; Medical Science Optional, AIIMS
- [Topper’s Interview] Gaurav Gupta (CSE-2013/AIR-117): IIT Kanpur, History Optional, Technopreneur
- [Topper’s Interview] Nima Arora (UPSC-2013/AIR-50): B.Tech, Public Administration, also cleared SSC auditor, BankPO & the ACIO
- [Topper’s Interview] Shweta Chauhan (CSE-2013/AIR-573): First Attempt, Geography optional, ACIO, B.Sc, Ghaziabad
- [Topper’s Interview] Dinesh Bishnoi (CSE-2013/AIR-481): First Attempt, B.Tech Rajasthan, IBPS ranker shares his ethics case studies & mains experiance
- [Topper’s Interview] Parth Gautam Sharma (AIR-294/CSE-2013): B.Com, Commerce Optional, Madhyapradesh