Part-11 How to crack UPSC Civil Services Exam for Working Professionals

The most important question, striking every working professional’s mind, is that ‘Is it possible to crack Civil Services Exam while doing job?’. The answer is ‘YES’
By IT's Research & Analysis Wing
February 22, 2020


  • Benefits of Preparing while working
  • Key Sources you will need while preparing for exam
  • Suggestive plan for the exam
  • Three-pronged Strategy to Clear Prelims in one go
  • Four pronged Strategy for Mains Examination

Frank Noble Completed his in 2006. He Joined Tata Consultancy services the very same year as an IT Analyst earning lakhs per month after promotions.

In 2010, he started preparing for UPSC. Appeared for the CSE- 2010 with Public Administration as optional in May. He could not clear UPSC.

Again by October 2011, he started prep and appeared for CSAT- 2012. He Cleared prelims. Then he accumulated his leaves and took leaves for his main exam. Cleared the mains. Again he took leave for interview in 2013 march and continued working till the final results came out.

Now he is an IAS officer in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

Hello Friends,

You can see from the above story and numerous other stories of past years’ toppers that all toppers had their strategy. But one thing common among them is their determination to crack the exam while working.

To include this special part in our series of UPSC Civil Services Strategy, we intend to help all those working professionals-cum civil service aspirants who are seeking a guidance exclusively made for them. Students who are pursuing their post-graduation or PhD are also considered working professionals by us as they have a busy schedule like any other professional.

The dissatisfaction in the current job and the dream of fulfilling the higher aspiration brings a dilemma in a working professionals’ life. Getting into Indian Administrative Services and serving the society and nation is a way to come out of that dilemma. The opportunity to understand the minute details of the societal fabrics and the zeal to correct the wrong is a stimulant which attracts lakhs of working professionals to take up this exam.

In a situation where students are preparing for the exam having sufficient time with them, almost whole day, this exam seems an unsurmountable task to be passed by the working professional having meagre amount of time at hand. The daily commute to office, working 8-9 hours for a day and the continues pressure from the senior is a daily routine of a working person. It sucks the energy and motivation within a person which do not even leave enough motivation to study.

We clearly understand that with all the above challenges in everyday life, you as a working person, would face many difficulties in preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Exam. It is definitely a daunting task but we assure you that with right strategy and proper approach this exam can be cracked with flying colours.

At first sight, it seems hard to manage both job & exam at the same time but it can be made manageable by arranging the scattered moments of your daily routine. It’s the skill of time management, which immensely helps you in your entire preparation phase of exam and beyond.

Besides time constraints, there are always some responsibilities which collectively make your journey of preparation quite tough. You have personal social events like party, wedding, cremation ceremonies etc. social or personal responsibilities like wife/husband and/or babies (if you are married), parents, relatives, etc. and professional responsibilities like target completion, company’s expectations etc. All these responsibilities persist in your life and the scope for preparation of CSE never exists. The only way is to deliberately snatch the time and create a place for preparation of the exam.All these responsibilities will persist all over your life and there never exists any scope for preparation of CSE. You must snatch the opportunity or create one.

The most important question, striking every working professional’s mind, is that ‘Is it possible to crack Civil Services Exam while doing job?’.

The answer is ‘YES’

“You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen.”- Michelle Obama.

It is our belief and it is evident from the previous years’ results also that many working aspirants have managed to crack civil services while doing their job.


The answer is ‘Efficient Planning, Constant Guidance & Your Determination’

 “One decision can change your life.”

It is not any dramatic dialogue which only happens in an unreal world. We firmly believe that your only one decision can really transform your life, shifting you from your current desk to India’s most prestigious post- IAS.

But this decision expects from you a firm determination- the determination to stick to your decision & to overcome any kind of hurdles challenging you at successive stages of your preparation.

We like to quote here the slok of Bhagavat Gita:


(A confused mind leads to his own destruction)

Now be ready to read a strategy to pacify your anxious mind but only on one condition. If you believe that the below plan will work, it will definitely work. But if you have any doubt over the very basic fact: ‘it is possible to crack Civil Services Exam while doing job?’, you will never ever crack the exam while doing your job.

Benefits of Preparing while working

Financial support: Preparing for UPSC while having a job gives you financial freedom to some extent. You won’t have to think twice before buying any study material.

Change of environment: After some time, studying continuously becomes monotonous. If you are working you meet new people outside the UPSC domain which helps in breaking the monotony.

Back up: It gives confidence as there are back up options as you have work experience.

High chances of selection: There is a higher chances of selection for a working UPSC aspirant. UPSC Interview panel looks working professional as a more favourable candidate over non-working/full-time aspirant.

Key Sources you will need while preparing for exam



Integrated approach of Prelims & Mains:

  • Start preparation with Mains as very few topics of Prelims have to be prepared exclusively. i.e. Ancient & Medieval History and General Science which can be prepared before Prelims.
  • Make plan on two distinctive pillars.
    • Things to do before Prelims
    • Things to do between Prelims and Mains.
  • Your plan should have monthly, weekly and daily milestones. Completing every milestone on their predefined timeframe will gradually boost your confidence level.

Collect few resources as much possible

  • Read only one book/source for a particular topic.
  • Large number of books will only make you pressurised while preparing. Few authentic resources make it possible to revise them multiple times and improves your chances of selection.

Choose right optional

  • The rational decision for choosing Optional subject should be made. Right selection of Optional subject determines your selection in final list to a great extent. How to select right optional paper is discussed in the previous part of the strategy.

Save time on purchase of Newspapers or Magazines on daily basis. You should subscribe their e-copy and avoid wasting time on their physical purchase.


Every day dedicated 4 hours of preparation time needs to be allocated. Gradually, if feasible try to increase preparation time as per your strength. You should always try to increase your study time day by day. Also, try to minimize distractions to the maximum. Stay away from social media and other distractions.

On the off days, studies can be stretched to more than 12 hours a day and you can still take some time off to relax and rejuvenate yourself to study rigorously for the next week.

Before going to job

  • Try to wake up early morning (4:00 am) and complete more than half of your reading. Spend every minute of your preparation with concentration and focus. Mornings are best for working professionals as chances of getting disturbed in morning is almost zero.
  • Make notes and use online tools for that. Remember, you don’t have to make detailed notes rather a kind of short one liners (for short news) and 4-5 important points for every topic/news. [some people are not in the habit of notes making and they simply underline the content and try to understand the topic]. To make note or not will be separately discussed by us.
  • While reading a book, you can try sticky notes or make notes by simply underlining or highlighting the important things.
  • Reading a hardcopy newspaper can be replaced with soft digital copy. You can subscribe the e-edition of important newspapers. If you are in the habit of reading a hardcopy, then remember to read the whole newspaper within 1-1.5 hrs (develop the speed).

Reading a newspaper

In office

  • Short breaks could be used wisely like listening to short videos of any topic related to geography, history, environment etc. Some topics, take for example in Geography can be understood easily by watching the videos which cannot be understood theoretically for instance the working of Dams and reservoirs.
  • If possible, do not tell colleagues about your preparation as it gives you unnecessary burden and pressure. Colleagues question and their comment can make you feel demotivated so avoid it if possible.
  • Use the travel time (metros, bus and cars) for reading important topics online. 
  • Since this exam tests articulation more than knowledge, try to discuss issues and other things with colleagues who are knowledgeable. That way you can develop clarity of thought.
  • If possible, keep a copy of India Year Book and Student Atlas in your bag so you can swiftly refer various facts while travelling or while having teatime.

After coming back home:

  • Spare at least 30 minutes for revision of the stuff read in that day.
  • Set a manageable reading target in evening as sometime it gets difficult to read in evening due to office fatigue and stress.

Three-pronged Strategy to Clear Prelims in one go

Qualifying prelims is not just the way to appear in Mains Exam but it is also a huge confidence builder for the rest of preparation period. It makes you known of your potential and brings you in the smallest group of serious candidates. Failing many times in Prelims demotivates often and sometimes candidates give up the preparation even leading to negative effects on their life. Therefore, what if Prelims could be qualified in one go or in a single attempt.

Here, we introduce a three-pronged strategy to crack Prelims in one go.

  1. Conceptual clarity
  2. First, build your fundamentals with tests on NCERTs, ICSE, CCRT, and TN Board Books. These books are important to bring in the desired clarity in concepts, theories and ideas.
  3. Second, enhance your undesrstanding with tests on standard reference books. These books enhance the clarity level with detailed explanation and in-depth coverage of any given topic which gives your mains answer writing an edge over others.
  4. Practice Mock Tests
  • Mock testshelp you to gauge your weakness so that it can be fine-tuned by you.
  • It improves the speed of solving the MCQs.
  • It gives you the real examination environment where pressure remains huge and you have to perform well.
  • It improves your confidence in your preparation. You can check that you are going in the right direction or you just need to change your plan.
  • Mock tests cover all the possible dimensions of a topic.
  • Practicing the real time test papers before actual UPSC exam with full mock-length tests.

3. Revision, Revision and Revision

  • Revision is the most essential part of the preparation which can get you through the UPSC exam.
  • It is so important that in absence of it many student fails to recall the studied topics in Prelims and Mains and ultimately lose in the end.
  • Revision cannot be ignored and an aspirant should develop this habit as soon as possible.

Four pronged Strategy for Mains Examination

Below four stages of our strategy helps you to secure a good rank in the examination. These four stages show that in what manner you should prioritize your subjects of Mains examination.

First Stage: Optional subject

Out of 1750 marks of Mains written examination, your Optional subject covers 500 Marks. Generally, toppers score in the range of 275-325. So, we suggest you to focus on your Optional subject intensively and prepare to score as much as 300. This will be the game-changing strategy for you as it was the case for many toppers in the past few years.

Second Stage: Essay & Ethics

Next, you should focus to score more in two papers of Mains I.e. Essay and G.S. Paper-4 ‘Ethics & Integrity’. For ethics paper, you can easily score in the range of 110-140 marks out of total 250 marks which demands clarity of concepts and your answer writing practice. You can easily score above the range of marks with minimal efforts.

For Essay paper, you just need to strengthen your General Studies preparation. You should religiously follow our every initiative targeting General Studies as well as all the above mentioned books. At the end, you should practice by writing as many essays as possible. For example, 1 essay every week. By the end of the preparation, you would have practiced enough essays to perform exceptionally well in the exam.

Third Stage: GS Paper-1

General Studies Paper 1 of Mains is almost conventional in nature. It has many topics directly related to Prelims GS Paper-1 topics. So, prepare them by connecting Prelims and Mains topics. Here, you should score more than 100 marks. [We know how difficult this target is, but you should make it your targeted score and prepare accordingly.]

Fourth Stage: GS Paper-2 & 3

Lastly, the remaining papers of Mains i.e. General Studies Paper-2 and Paper-3 are almost current in nature. You just trust us for these papers. Religiously follow our every initiative and take part in answer writing competition (Daily initiative) on daily basis starting very soon on IAStoppers Plus. Just follow this strategy and you can score more than 90 marks in each paper. [Again, we agree this is a difficult task, but you should make it your targeted score and prepare accordingly.]

Use compressed current affair material from online resources such as IASToppper’s Daily current affair material and make short notes out of them. This can be done within 1 hour.


In this article, we hope we are successful to give all a working aspirant seeks. Before doing anything further, we suggest you to re-read whole article and then make strategy to your success.

We are happy to help you.

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