Part-8 Time Management and Other Vital Issues

Ideal Time to Start Preparation; How to manage Prelims and Mains? Reading Hours; Ideal day of preparation? Coaching; Note making; Mock Test; Writing practice; Hindi or Vernacular languages; Plan your own strategy; Implement your strategy.
By IT's Research & Analysis Wing
May 02, 2017

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

Ideal Time to Start Preparation; How to manage Prelims and Mains? Reading Hours; Ideal day of preparation? Coaching; Note making; Mock Test; Writing practice; Hindi or Vernacular languages; Plan your own strategy; Implement your strategy.

Time Management

time management

Start preparation before one year of the exam:

Keeping in view of the vast syllabus of the examination, one should start preparation before around one year of the exam [from Prelims]. This is a generalized and ideal statement. However, it all depends on your choice or selection of books/references, reading speed, daily hours of work etc.

In the last few years, many toppers cracked the exam by starting their preparation just before few months of the prelims exam. However, without knowing their background, their previous attempts, their experiences with the exam, one should not conclude that their method would work for everyone.

This is our common experience that when we get to know about one year of preparation we panic. For that, we can make a detailed list of requirement of the tasks and break it into small tasks. This gradual process of achieving small tasks will one day bring you a grand success.

Prepare Prelims and Mains simultaneously:

Under the revised syllabus of the examination, almost all topics of Prelims General Studies paper are covered over three papers of Mains General Studies. Only few topics are needed to prepare exclusively for Prelims like General Science and Ancient & Medieval History. So your preparation of Mains General Studies papers automatically covers Prelims G.S. paper.

Here we suggest you that you should first complete subjects like Polity and Economy as these two subjects will help you in better understanding of current issues appeared in newspapers.

6-8 hours of regular studies is enough:

Again, it all depends on your choice or selection of books/references, reading speed etc. You should not quantify preparation into number of hours. Only quality study matters a lot in the exam.

Here we like to clear a myth regarding exam preparation that 14 to 18 hours of reading is a must to crack the exam. These are totally misguiding numbers. Students generally study for such long hours just before few days of the exam. These kind of days are very few in numbers in an aspirant’s preparation span.

Organise your each day:

An aspirant`s everyday should be well planned and systematically organised. The day should be equally divided into studying various subjects and topics so that every relevant topics gets covered.

Within 6-8 hours of study time (change according to your convenience)

Morning: Newspaper reading and note taking. Reading newspapers early morning will give a fresh start to your day and boost your interest in preparation and note taking to collect key facts at one place and for quick revision. Followed by NCERTs.

Afternoon: Read standard references for General Studies. Followed by preparing for your optional.

Evening: if required CSAT preparation, Quick revision of your whole day preparation. Read PIB news, Watch RSTV or DD News. End of day.

You should prepare a detailed plan covering all activities of your life including reading. Firstly, prepare a two or three months’ reading plan. Then divide three months into one month, into weeks, into days and finally into hours.

Plan for everything apart from reading like wake up time, refreshment/enjoyment, family time, friends’ time, social work if any, your daily meal, exercise or yoga etc.

For stress management practice yoga, go to gym or exercise and sleep adequately.

Note making

There is no compulsion in making notes of all that you read. Note making completely depends on your availability of time, your way of studying and revision. If you are in favour of note making, here are some tips:

Note making is of two types-

Offline notes


Online notes:


  • Offline notes can be made by simply underlining with pen or highlighting texts with highlighters. You can also use sticky notes. While making offline notes, you should note down only keywords and not just copy-pasting long sentences. This kind of short notes helps you in your revision before the exam.


  • When you are reading any online sources like newspapers, websites etc., you can make notes by using softwares like Evernote, Microsoft Office OneNote etc. These softwares provide options to underline, highlight, use sticky notes etc.
  • You can also use the facility of Mind Maps available online. Mind Maps help you to interconnect various issues and to understand an issue in all its possible aspects. You can check IASToppers’ initiative on Mind Maps here.

Mock Tests

Many times, you feel that while solving mock questions, you get to know a totally different perspective which you could not get while reading. To secure good marks in both the Prelims and Mains, you need to solve as many mock questions as possible.

Here you should be cautious while selecting a set of mock test papers as good quality questions help you to get a good command over fundamentals and also enrich your knowledge.

mock test

In course of practicing mock tests, you would come to know many kinds of mistakes which can be easily solve at this stage of practice before appearing in the actual examination. You can check IASToppers’ initiative providing mock papers here.

Writing practice

For Civil Services Mains, answer writing practice is the most essential element to secure good number of marks.

There is a common ideology prevailed among aspirants whether newcomer or senior, writing practice should start only after completing the entire syllabus. When aspirants somehow manage to complete the entire syllabus, then a question of its revision strikes their mind. In the end, aspirants fail to secure good marks in Mains because they did not start their writing practice earlier.

In the descriptive examination like Civil Services Mains, aspirants need to express all that they read during their preparation phase in a very few minutes. Practicing answer writing helps you to recollect all points and concepts in a short time. Your thought process will surely gets improved as you practice more number of UPSC Mains like questions.

While starting the answer writing, there is a common feeling among every aspirant that their presentation of answer is not up to the mark/improper/not appropriate.

Don’t worry, this is a common phenomenon. When one starts to learn swimming, one might have a fear of drowning. So in that case should one give up to learn swimming or persist to learn? The same logic is applicable here also. If you ignore practice of writing answers, you will never ever be able to perform well in the examination. So start practicing without any hesitation or confusion as early as possible.

Now here the question comes of how to start writing practice.

  • Get a basic idea of few things before directly jumping to write an answer.
  • Start reading previous years’ Mains questions with authentic source of their ideal answers. While reading previous years’ question-answers, observe what kind of questions UPSC has asked, make note of the directives in the questions like comment, critically analyse, elucidate etc. so that you understand what exactly the question demands.
  • Try to write answer without time limit at initial stage. Practice one or two questions a day and then increase the numbers with your growing confidence and interest.
  • Compare your own points if you have already read on that particular topic,
  • Think how can you improve the given ideal answer by modifying structure or by replacing your own points.

This kind of warm up practice will make you ready to face mock questions.

This is the end of the part-8. In the next and last part, we’ll discuss in detail about strategy especially for working professionals.

We hope you like all articles and find them helpful. Please like and share.

Thank you

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