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  • Writer's pictureSonal Goel

Civil Services Preparation Strategy

My Dear friends, I have been receiving various queries from aspirants for preparation of Civil services. Even though I cleared the UPSC exam long time back in 2008, however sharing few of my insights. Just Remember while you start your preparations, civil services examination by UPSC still remains the toughest exam in the country & competition is very high. So give your efforts with full dedication & commitment.

Sonal Goel IAS, 2020

1. Why do you want to join civil services? What is your goal in life? Identify what drives you. It should be clear in your mind, why you want to join Civil services . This burning purpose will keep motivating you during your preparations. Begin with End in your mind.


  • Respect

  • Charisma

  • Connect with society

  • Opportunity to work with masses at very young age

  • Job diversity

  • Job security

  • Work at grassroot level & bring an impact in field; in life of people at large

  • Always at forefront in times of any crisis/Disaster that nation faces. For eg. Recent Covid-19 pandemic.


  • Frequent transfers

  • Political interventions

  • Unstable family life

  • Dynamic paraphernalia in which an officer has to work- Factors like - media, judiciary, NGO’s, civil society organisations, citizens at large .

Thus, the reason for you joining the civil service should be very clear in your mind as it will enable you to sustain motivation during preparation.

2. Have a plan - B in life / Fall Back Career Option By plan-B I mean that it should be clear to you that if you would not be able to clear the civil services, what would you do? This is not to demotivate you, but to make you have a realistic assessment. This exam is still the toughest in the country. More than 10 Lakh applicants fill the form each year for Prelims, however only a few 100’s get final selection. So when you are investing 2-3 prime years of youth, with all energy, resources it should be clear to you that if you don’t qualify; what else is the career opportunity? In terms of higher education, professional studies or job. It’s even more important for families I would say, so that they become financially independent in life. 3. Best Time/ Age to Start UPSC Preparation ? See the UPSC Website for exam notification - to be clear about eligibility criteria, age, no.of attempts, etc. School - some aspirants are clear during school days that they want to join civil services. They can brush up NCERT’s & also develop basic understanding of issues relating to society. Read newspapers, magazines, focus on general studies. Graduation - In addition to above, one can also choose the optional & see the basic topics in that subject. If it is the same as graduation, then not major issues. If it's different from graduation, then knowledge on a subject equivalent to graduation at least is required. So start with basic. Post Graduation/Job - It’s important to decide how you will balance your studies with post graduation studies or job. Try to make a schedule in which you are able to devote a few hours daily/weekly to civils preparation. 4. Strategies To Prepare For Exam See the recent UPSC notification to be sure about the eligibility criteria, age, number of attempts can be given as per category, etc. Once you are clear, decide how many years you are willing to devote to this process. Minimum 2 years is required - 1 years before prelims & 1 years during exams. When you start preparing - divide the time available - into months - weeks. Know the UPSC Syllabus well - go through previous 3 years past question papers to know about the exams pattern. Choice of optional is Important. 12 Months Strategy - IAS : Assuming JUNE 2022 is Prelims Phase 1 - May to October (combined studies : overall foundation laying for Prelim/ Mains) Phase 2 - November- February (Mains Focus - Answer writing etc.) Phase 3 - March - May (Prelims Exclusive) Phase 4 - June 2022 (after Prelims, again focus on mains study)

5. Stage Wise Preparation - Preliminary - MCQ - Objective Test ; CSAT (Both subject for 200 marks each) Extensive knowledge A. Prelims -

Paper 1 : General studies Paper 2 : Aptitude Test (comprehension, newspaper reading, current affairs, etc. is very important), Logical reasoning ability ,Mental ability, Basic numeracy upto class X level PAPER II - is the qualifying paper with minimum 33% marks B. Mains -

Subjective Type Paper (I-V), well educated person will be able to answer them without specialized study Optionals - level higher than Bachelor Degree & lower than Masters Degree MARKS - 250 x 7 = 1750 PAPER I - Essay PAPER II - History, heritage, geography PAPER III - Governance, constitution, Policy, Social Justice, International relations PAPER IV -Technology, Eco- development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security, Disaster Management PAPER V - Ethics, Integrity, aptitude PAPER VI & VII - Optional subjects Mains marks are most important for deciding your selection & Rank Try to make your own notes, which you will use during revision . Practice Answer writing - keep updates of current affairs through newspapers magazine It’s important to reproduce what you comprehend on a topic/issue clearly in the exam Solve previous years question papers (Last 3 years/max) Or Mock test series - Don't become a researcher - PHD nahi karni hai, exam crack karna hai Repeated revisions are a key . I’m deliberately not mentioning any specific name of book here. C. Interview

It’s an overall personality test (P.T.) (MARKS 275) It tests communication skill, presence of mind, reaction to stress etc. Work on your C.V. properly- your background, your education qualifications, native place, place of education, work, hobbies, etc. Work on personality grooming Prepare responses why you want to join civil services What changes in system you foresee should be clear Don’t enter into an argument with the interview board. They are well experienced people. If you are not confident of an answer, politely admit that you are unaware of it. Don't get into an argument with the board. It should be well reasoned if you put forth a particular viewpoint. Just be natural; don’t bluff. Stay grounded For practice appear in mock interviews/ group discussions

6. How to stay focused towards your Goal ? This exam is a long drawn process Count the number of months/weeks/days you have. Break the number of months & strategise. ESSENTIAL RULES ---> Self discipline is very important Inner motivation/drive - Positive approach to study Know your strength & weakness well - Self awareness Prioritize the studies as per your weak & strong areas (with target of improving score) Time management is important Breaking tasks/ Goals into achievable units (short term & long term) Take adequate breaks in between Staying calm is very important -if demotivated, spend time with your friends, family, on hobbies Be focused - be selfish in your time - meticulous, judicious utilization of time is important.

7. Some common Concerns Pertaining To CSE (common questions)

Q. How many hours to study for exams - At Least 10-12 hours ? Later, around the exams around 15-16 hours with dedication Quality time is more important than quantity. Q. How to choose optional ? It can be the same or different. Some deciding factors can be - from graduation interest/academic background of candidate Contribution of optional subject towards G.S. studies syllabus Study material availability in subject Performance/ score of optional in past 3 years Q. Medium of language in UPSC - Choose the language in which you can express your thoughts well Can be Hindi/English - both are equality scoring Q. Is coaching necessary for IAS? It depends on your approach. Some candidates feel more comfortable - some not Also not effective coachings are available in all cities/ towns. Especially for candidate hailing from rural background, it may not be easy for shifting to other locations for coaching. Look out for Online study materials/ lectures available. Group studies also can be done. Q. Is Social media necessary ? Those who are seriously preparing, they should refrain from social media; unnecessarily don't waste time. See E-learning websites/channels/apps which help you in preparation. 8. How to face failures - what if not civil services?

Success rate is less than 1% ( But remember it’s not the end of the world) Back up career plan is important You gain much knowledge & experience in preparation - try to put to use other avenues You can appear for other competitive exams, including in govt, State PSC exams etc. You can also contribute towards nation building through other options like becoming an Entrepreneur, setting up own business venture & generating employment, form NGOs / civil society organisations etc & contribute in implementation of flagship schemes & programmes of government –Swachha Bharat abhiyan, Beti bachao beti Padhao, Jal shakti Abhiyaan, women empowerment, Save environment , blood donation, respect for senior citizens, women safety, Child abuse, Drugs trafficking, etc. Also shoulder responsibility with govt during any kind of crisis/ disaster. 9. Message to youth/ Conclusion Stay focussed Remember 3C’s - courage - conviction - consistency Love what you do & do what you love You can be the ‘You of your Dreams’, if you show dedication & perseverance Youth are the key agents of social change, economic development, technological innovation, etc. harnessing it. Contribute towards sustainable development in the nation . I always remember proses - तुम समय की रेत पर छोडते चलो निशाँ देखती तुम्हे जमीं देखता है आसमां कौन कहता है आसमां में सुराख नहीं हो सकता एक पत्थर तो तबियत से उछालो यारों Keep telling yourself - I can, I will ! The Game is not Over, till I Win Give your Best & Realize your Dreams ! ALL THE BEST !!

Sonal Goel IAS

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Shivam ensure IAS
Shivam ensure IAS
Dec 07, 2023

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bharat patadiya
bharat patadiya
Apr 21, 2022

Thank you Ma'am


Jun 05, 2021

thank you ma'am.... For great knowledge

But I have questions


Jun 05, 2021

thank you ma'am.... For great knowledge

But I have a question


Jun 04, 2021

Thank you❤🙏🙏 so much mam. It really inspires us.

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