Part-1 Preface to the Strategy of UPSC Civil Services Examination

Crack Civil Services in a single attempt is not an enigma. There are simple principles, if follow with confidence and dedication, brings you at the door of success. Please read them patiently and take time to think over them.
By IT's Research & Analysis Wing
May 02, 2017


  • Introduction
  • Civil Services Examination: Schedule and Pattern
  • Nature of the examination
  • Common mistakes aspirants do while preparing for Civil Services
  • How to achieve your aim?
  • We are happy to help you
  • We demand only one thing- Your Dedication
  • In a nutshell

This is the first part of the series of Strategy for UPSC Civil Services Examination by IASToppers. To read subsequent parts, click here.




In 1953, Edmund Hillary and fellow mountaineer Tenzing Norgay were the first two people to reach the summit of the tallest peak on Earth, Mount Everest.

The gruelling expedition required extensive planning and the climbers displayed remarkable self-control during the ascent. Hillary reportedly summarized the lesson of the adventure with this eloquent quotation:

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

Preface to the Strategy

Hello Friends,

Welcome to

We, ‘IASToppers’, brings you a comprehensive set of articles covering all aspects of strategies to crack the country’s most prestigious exam: “Civil Services Examination”, also popularly known as IAS Examination.

These series of documents will be your ultimate guidebook in your preparation journey whether you are a new comer or experienced one.

It’s our genuine effort to introduce you with all possible ways to crack the exam. We humbly request you to take a note that all methods or ways suggested by us are not the only ways to crack the exam. There are so many other ways, by use of which an aspirant can get success. We urge you to rationally decide which way best suits to your preparation.

We have prepared series of articles after some rigorous deliberations with previous years’ Toppers and also with aspirants who have wide experience of preparations in Civil Services Examination.

Our methods or ways are among the thousand ways to crack the exam.


Civil Services Examination: Schedule and Pattern

Every year, Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the Civil Services Examination (CSE) to recruit for various Civil Services of the Government of India, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), and Indian Police Service (IPS) and other 21 Central Services.

The selected candidates will be at the quinary level of the government. And should have to shoulder a lot of responsibility. Their actions/ decisions would directly or indirectly make a difference to millions of lives. The exam tries to pick the best of the best through a rigorous testing process and that is why this is one among the toughest exams in the world.

Exam process lasts for around more than one year i.e. from issuance of official notification to final result.

Below given is the timeline of the tentative calendar/schedule of CSE, which is released by the UPSC prior a year in their online notification. UPSC’s official website is:

 Preface to the Strategy 1

The Civil Services Examination consists of 3 stages:

  1. Preliminary Exam,
  2. Mains Exam, and
  3. Personality Test/Interview.

Total Marks:

Preliminary exam (Only qualifying in nature) + 1750 Marks (Mains exam) + 275 Marks (Personality Test/Interview) = 2050 marks.

Preliminary Exam:

First stage of the exam is Preliminary Exam which is a screening test.

It comprises of two papers with questions of objective or MCQ type (with ‘Negative Marking’).

  • Both the question papers will be of the objective type (multiple choice questions) and each will be of two hours duration.
  • The General Studies Paper-II of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination will be a qualifying paper with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%.
  • The question papers will be set both in Hindi and English.

Structure of the Preliminary exam is as follows:

Structure of the Preliminary exam

Note: There is a penalty of 33% of the allotted marks per question for each incorrect response. 

2. Mains Exam

Second stage of the exam is Mains Exam. It is a written examination and comprises of 9 papers.

Mains Exam

Note: Paper-A (Compulsory Indian Language) and Paper –B (English) are qualifying in nature, candidates need to score 25% to qualify these papers.

While the other papers which are Essay, General Studies Paper I, II, III, and IV, and Optional Paper I and II are considered for the final ranking.

3. Personality Test/Interview:

Candidates who clear the Civil Services Mains Exam with the set cut-off marks will qualify for the final stage of the exam i.e., the Personality Test or Interview round.

The personality test will be held at UPSC Bhawan in New Delhi. 

So, a final merit list is made by calculating marks you secured out of the total 2025 Marks i.e.1750 Marks (Mains) + 275 Marks (Personality Test/Interview).


Nature of the examination

For the last few years especially from 2011 onwards, the structure of UPSC civil services examination went through a series of radical changes and is dynamic in nature.


If you really wish to get through this quite difficult exam, you need an authentic and effective strategy to guide you throughout all stages of your preparation.

Nature of the examination 1

 Common mistakes aspirants do while preparing for Civil Services

  • Reading many strategies and failing to follow any single one
  • Lack of planning
  • Lack of regular revision.
  • Half-heartedness or irregularity in implementation
  • Buying too many books and study materials [and]
  • Avoiding and ignoring mock practice of Prelims and writing practice of Mains papers
  • Showing lethargy in practicing mock papers after buying them
  • Choosing wrong optional paper.

Other hurdles include not referring UPSC syllabus meticulously, devoting too much time on single subject, addiction to social media etc.

The above list of mistakes/hurdles is not exhaustive. Our intention here is to show you some of the common obstacles which, individually as well as collectively, makes your success impossible in Civil Services.  

Now forget the above negative list mentioning what not to do. You simply need to focus on what to do to crack the exam, if you’re truly committed to do so.

“Strategy, focus and commitment are the only essential prerequisites to crack the exam.”


How to achieve your aim?

Cracking the Civil Services in a single attempt is not an enigma. All you need is to have confidence and dedication. Below mentioned are some key principles. If followed along with confidence and dedication, the success is definite. Please read them patiently and ponder for a while.

1. Make your mind:

Make your mind

The foremost requirement to get success in any exam of the world is your conviction. If you are serious to get through one of the most difficult exams of the world i.e. Civil Services Examination, you first need to make up your mind to strive towards achieving it by any cost.

We believe that if you have a strong conviction to clear the exam, no hurdles or difficulties can prevent you to achieve success.

So friends wake up and make up your mind and be prepared to work systematically to come over successfully any challenges thrown at you for the next one year.

 2. Plan your strategy:

Plan your strategy

Planning is the most essential part which largely decides your success. We insist that while preparing for the CSE, everything should be planned. Your planning should be not only for a year or a month, but also for a week and even for a day.

One important thing, generally aspirants miss to follow, is the integrated preparation of Prelims, Mains and Interview. The current pattern of UPSC CSE demands an integrated approach.

Correct selection of appropriate books or study materials is the part of planning as well. There are many books and study materials available in the market, which are prepared not keeping UPSC CSE syllabus in mind.

To sum up, you should make your own plan. Everyone has his/her own way of preparation. So, prepare a plan accordingly.

Don’t worry, we’ll help you to draw out a customized plan. It is important to note that our Programme is already based on Micro-Planning. Moreover, we’ll give you a daily routine raw plan, through which you can easily prepare your own plan yourselves.    

3. Implement your strategy:

Implement your strategy

We like to write only one line for implementation:

“Do Anything & Everything to Complete Your Plan.”

This simple principle demands your sincerity towards your goal and this sincerity culminates into consistency, which is the most essential part, that decides your graceful destiny.

Be consistent in reading, revision and the last but not the least, practice.

4. Keep faith in resources you choose and in your planning.

Keep faith in resources you choose and in your planning

Many times, students start preparation with great enthusiasm and zeal, but after a few months, when they advertently or inadvertently start comparing their resources with their fellow aspirants, problems start. They slowly lose hold over their preparation and their confidence starts diminishing even if the resources they choose is the best of all times or they have already achieved good command over the preparation. This is the most common problem, found in almost every aspirant.

Here, we don’t mean to say that you should never compare your resources with anyone. Our philosophy is simple to follow: take your time before choosing any single book or resources and if you choose them after an in-depth analysis, you should keep faith in them. The logic behind it is that if you have any single doubt after reading a particular book, your hard work doesn’t bear fruits to you.

In short, you should have faith in yourself whether it is a case of your selection of books, following your planning or your hard work.

5. Keep Patience:

. Keep Patience

As the whole exam process lasts for around one year, keeping patience is inevitable. But here the most important thing is that your success is decided not on how many years or months you keep patience but on what you have done while keeping patience.

So, keep calm and have patience, draw out your plan, implement it with confidence and consistency, revise and practice as much as possible, the success will not be far from you. Take our word as gospel truth.


We are happy to help you

We are a group of passionate hard-working people who want to make a transformative impact on everyone’s life who are connected with us via this platform.

We believe that everyone has a right to dream and we are here to help them in their journey towards their dreams.

‘Your journey is our passion’.

We genuinely put our efforts towards giving everyone level playing field irrespective of their background and making a positive difference in their preparation.

We believe in providing the best or nothing.

We always strive hard to achieve an extra mile of perfection.

We always work towards planned smart work instead of unplanned hard work.


We demand only one thing- Your Dedication

Are you serious?

The intention behind asking this question is to evaluate the strength of your desire to become an IAS officer. You may find almost every aspirant engaging with this exam always busy and in a kind of hurry. They are preparing almost all days in a week but unfortunately did not clear any part of the exam even once.

Based on the above case, we cannot conclude that this exam is unconquerable. It may be possible that an aspirant is missing any link which decides his/her success or is putting efforts in wrong direction.

Observing so many cases of failures, we here sum up all possible hurdles which you might face while preparing for the CSE.    

With this, we here also discuss the reasons because of which your certainty to get success in your goal, seems clear in initial period, goes thin & dim at later stages of your preparation.


In a nutshell:

Basic qualities needed in an aspirant to crack this examination:

  1. Consistent perseverance
  2. Dedication
  3. Planning
  4. Smart work
  5. Integrated approach to whole exam

Skills you have to develop over a time:

  1. Ability to cull out essential information
  2. Writing Skills
  3. Comprehension ability
  4. Develop balanced view
  5. Develop intellectual traits


This is the end of the part 1.

In second part, we will discuss in detail about Some common exam related Myths prevailed among CSE aspirants and will also try to clarify them.



If you find this part of Series on Strategy helpful, please like and share.

Thank you


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