Strategy and Preparation for IAS / Civil Services Examination

To succeed in this IAS / CSE examination, it require prudent planning, organized preparation and appropriate resource materials. Determination to succeed, positive attitude and requisite confidence would be a key in clearing IAS / CSE.

Preparation and Strategy of IAS / CSE (Main) along with Prelims (Duration - approx 12 months)-

* Clearing CSE Prelims is the first step towards cracking IAS / CSE

* Better to start preparing for both prelims and Main together –
~ Preparation for GS would help immensely in the Prelims, ( one may concentrate more on topics which are common in GS syllabus)
~ Time available for preparation of optional subject would not be adequate – hence better to start preparing optional paper from the beginning itself, however, duration of study may however increase after Prelims.   

* Concentrate on Prelims at least few months (about 6 months) before the Prelims date

* Appropriate Planning & Time Management – for Prelims & Main and Interview

# Time Management  

First Phase (4-5 months) 

     @ Joint Preparation 

      > Start with preparation of both Prelims & Mains
      > Concentrate on General studies
      > Practice in answer writing
      > Begin Optional Subject study

 Second Phase (5-6 months before Prelims)

      @ Focus on Prelims
       ~ Concentrate on Prelims GS-I
       ~ CSAT- General Ability Test – Paper –II

Third Phase (after completion of Prelims; about 4 months)
      @ Focus on Mains

       > GS – I, II, III, IV
       > Optional Subject (Paper I & II)
       > Essay
       > Qualifying Papers

    * Facts to be kept in Mind –

        > First Goal is to clear Prelims
        > Completion of  Syllabus for Prelims ( both General Studies & General Ability Test Paper)
        > Need to complete the Optional syllabus, to the extent possible before start concentrating on Prelims.     
        > Need for detailed plan
        > Importance of General Studies (1000 marks)
        > Focus on Optional Papers as they carry 500 marks
        > To perform well in Essay Paper as it carries 250 marks
        > Need to clear Qualifying Papers

General Studies Preparation

General Studies (GS) carry about 57% (1000 out of 1750) of the total marks assigned to CSE (Main) written. Hence thorough preparation of General Studies is very critical for the candidate to not only crack the exam but also come higher in the ranking.

GS - I, II, III – Suggestive Resource Materials

^ Revise NCERT / ISCE / State Boards Books – relevant chapters.
^ Select the resource material topic wise.


* 11th - 12th Old NCERT; 11th NCERT on Culture & Culture part of Ancient and Medieval India
* Website:
* Freedom Struggle – Bipin Chandra
* Modern History - Modern India  Spectrum
* World History – Norman Lowe
* Indian Society – NCERT on Indian Society


* NCERTs of both 11th & 12th class
* Certified Physical Geography by G C Leong
* Atlas


* NCERT (11th – 12th )
* Indian Polity / Governance in India – M. LaxmiKanth


* NCERT - 12th class - last four Chapters.

Science & Technology

* New NCERT- 10th and selected chapters from 11th and 12th
* Science Reporter magazine.


* NCERT ( Chapters related to Environment)
* Indian Geography - Khullar
* Environment current affairs.


* NCERT (11th-  Indian Economic Development, 12th - Basics of Macro Economics)
* Indian Economy – Sanjeev Verma / Ramesh Singh
* Economic Survey

Current Affairs

* 2-3 Daily Newspapers (including Hindu)
* Online reading of current national / international events
* Any Good comprehensive General Knowledge Book – latest edition.
* Browse current affairs relevant topics / articles on net / good magazines
* Yojana Magazine


* Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude – Chronicle Lexicon/ Subba Rao
* Practice Case Study

Procedural Tips

~ Keep record of source of each topic – websites / other sources
~ Store the topic wise materials in digital medium, wherever possible
~ Focus on quality over quantity
~ Written practice useful
~ Revise  periodically
~ For memory retention and revision time management, the following can be adopted –
                     ^ Prepare short notes while reading
                     ^ make chart and graphs
                     ^ use abbreviations
                     ^ discuss current affairs / topics with friends and others who are appearing for competitive exams.

Writing Answers

Appropriate content and word limits are two important ingredients for writing good quality answers. Hence –
        > Practice answer writings – it helps in managing the time & word limit.  
        > Answer should be to the point and with right content
        > Incorporate main points; explain wherever necessary
        > Avoid writing anything extra.

Mock Tests

> Write Mock Tests
> Get the mock tests evaluated, if possible from experts / professionals / bureaucrats / coaching centre etc.

Optional Subject

*It carries 500 marks; hence quite important after GS; getting good marks will be helpful in ranking.
* Selection of Optional Subject is to be done carefully. If the subject has to be chosen which has not been studied by candidate earlier, it would be better to -
                       > Go through the syllabus
                       > Analyze previous years’ question papers

           And check -

                        > Your interest and understanding
                        > Whether it will help in preparing GS
                        > Resource materials - availability

(*History, Geography, Public Administration, Political Science, Sociology etc. are also part of GS)

Preparation and Strategy for IAS / CSE (Mains) after Declaration of Prelims -

$ Factors to be kept in Mind –

          > Time left –about 75 days + 10 days for revision
          > Completion / Revision of Vast Syllabus
          > Need for rigorous study
          > Importance of GS carrying 1000 marks
          > Need to score well in optional carrying 500 marks to go up in merit rank
          > To perform well in Essay Paper as it carry 250 marks
          > Need to clear qualifying papers

$ Key Elements of Strategy

* Time management

* Appropriate prioritization and sequencing of subjects / topics
* Expertise in writing answers

$ Action Plan

            > Prepare the Revision / Study Plan keeping in mind above factors and key elements of strategy.
                               ^ Count number of topics in GS I to IV, Optional I & II
                               ^ Assign number of days to each topic
                               ^ Give more time to topics not adequately prepared
           > Plan should be in consonance with marks weightage.
           > GS should be given maximum time as it carrying 1000 marks.
           > Devote more time on GS topics not covered in Prelims.
           > Give adequate time to Optional Papers.

$ Dos & Don’ts

* Adhere to action plan
* Maximize the duration of study earmarked for the day, to the extent possible  
* Try to revise from the short notes, if already prepared
* Focus on quality rather quantity
* Gain experience by practicing writing good quality answers
* Answers should incorporate main points and avoid writing anything extra
* Write Mock Tests and try to get them evaluated
* Don’t ignore GS –IV ( Ethics) – it carries 250 marks

 @ If you have joined coaching, try to realign your action plan with that of coaching schedule                                                @ Resource materials details are given in the section of ‘Preparation and Strategy of IAS / CSE (Main) along with Prelims’