Cracking the UPSC Civil Services Exam: A Step-by-Step Guide

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) Civil Services Examination is one of India’s most prestigious and competitive exams. Every year, thousands of aspirants dream of donning the coveted title of an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, or another prestigious role within the civil services. However, the journey to achieving this goal is arduous and challenging.

How to Crack UPSC? A candidate must have firm determination, perseverance, and consistency to crack the IAS Exam. Union Public Service Commission conducts the Civil Service Examination to recruit suitable candidates for IAS, IPS, IFS, and other related services. UPSC only gives 6 attempts to General category candidates for cracking the IAS Exam. Therefore, every candidate aims to crack the UPSC Exam on the first attempt.

One of the biggest challenges a candidate faces is keeping the preparation on the right track. As per statistics, lakhs of candidates apply for the IAS Exam every year, out of which only thousands make it to the Mains exam and thereafter for the Interview. In this article, we have tried to answer how to crack UPSC in first attempt in an extremely comprehensive way.

Table of content

1. How to Crack UPSC?

2. How to Clear UPSC Prelims in First Attempt?

3. Tips to Crack UPSC Mains in 3 Months

4. Top 10 Strategies to Become an IAS Officer

How to Crack UPSC?

Candidates who wish to get an answer as to how to crack UPSC must understand the importance of NCERT books. Students must carefully read the basic NCERT Books for UPSC from Class 6th to 12th. We will provide you with some of the sure-shot strategies you must follow.

Following some easy preparation strategies, tips and tricks can be helpful for those searching for how to crack IAS exam. The experts have curated techniques to assist the aspirants in scoring well in the exam.

Best Habits to Crack UPSC Exam

To get the best tips for how to crack UPSC, before starting the preparation for the exam, one of the foremost things to do is to get acquainted with the syllabus, which includes the Prelims and the Mains Syllabus.

UPSC full form is Union Public Service Commission, and the exam, one of the hardest tests in the nation, requires something other than preparation. The exam consists of two stages:

  • Civil Service Examination (Preliminary) (Objective Type) to select candidates for the Mains entrance exam, and;
  • Civil Service Exam (Written and Interview) to select candidates for different departments and positions.

The best way to improve your chances of clearing the UPSC exam in the first attempt is to remain consistent, follow a well-planned study schedule, revise frequently, and test your level of preparation.

  • Though it is important to complete the syllabus timely, it is more important to revise and attempt UPSC mock test to test comprehension.
  • To begin with, be clear about the UPSC Exam Pattern to ensure that your planning is systematic and productive.

UPSC Paper Pattern

The preliminary exam consists of two objective MCQs paper-set (General Studies and CSAT) with a maximum score of 400 points (200 each). The Prelims round is for screening purposes only; scores obtained in the Prelims are not considered for determining the candidate’s final rank.

  • The number of candidates eligible for the Mains Exam is approximately twelve to thirteen times the number of vacancies estimated to be filled during the notified year.
  • Only applicants declared qualified by the Commission for the Prelims are permitted to appear for the Mains examination.

How to Clear UPSC Prelims in First Attempt?

With discipline and dedication, UPSC Prelims can be cracked in one go. Both the Prelims and Mains exams are primarily integrated. The Prelims stage checks upon the conceptual and factual information of the candidate.

Mostly the Mains syllabus of the UPSC exam overlaps with the Prelims syllabus, leaving a few topics. Considering if an aspirant has a dedicated one-year plan to crack UPSC Exam, he or she can follow the time-table given below:

Month 1

The first month should be spent reading about the exam and the syllabus along with understanding the essence. Be sure of the whole exam pattern. Following this, the aspirant should start reading a newspaper that offers quality content and helps to prepare for current affairs.

  • Candidates are also advised to visit BYJU’s Exam Prep daily for news analysis and exam-related info and news.
  • After this, get hold of all the required UPSC Books and start preparing.
  • One can also seek guidance from mentors or seniors who are in the phase of preparation.

Months 2 – 5

The next two months should be spent reading the fundamental books of the General Studies papers, including NCERT textbooks. Start your reading so that both the Prelims and Mains portions are covered.

  • Systematic revision, along with solving mock papers, builds up confidence for the examination.
  • Current affairs are important at every stage; so make notes as you read the newspaper for current affairs.
  • The latter part of this time frame should be focused on completing the syllabus at least once.

Months 6 – 8

During this phase, you should decide on your Optional Subject for UPSC. Review your interested subject’s PYQs, question trend patterns, and selection rates. Once the optional is finalized, you should start studying for your optional subject and continue your GS preparation.

  • This is also the right time to join a Prelims Test Series, to access the level of preparation.
  • It is advised to practice mock tests from at least two sources.

Months 9 – 12

During this period, one must also start with the answer writing practice for the Mains exam. Continue your newspaper reading and emphasize editorials to gather good and unbiased opinions/views on a single topic.

  • The reading of topics can be complemented with government magazines for UPSC like Yojana and Kurukshetra.
  • Due to time constraints and considering the cost-benefit ratio, reading the standard summaries of basic reports, such as the ARC report is instructed.
  • At this time, one should also join a Mains Test Series.
  • By the end of this phase, you will have appeared for your Prelims exam.

Post UPSC Prelims Exam Strategy

After attempting the Prelims round, a candidate gets a fair idea of where he/she stands. To access the performance in the Prelims, one must start with the revision of the Mains syllabus.

  • Give adequate time for revision.
  • Without it, you cannot recollect whatever you may have read.
  • Solving PYQs and mocks does the value here!

Tips to Crack UPSC Mains in 3 Months

Mains exam demands not only our memory and intelligence but also endurance. Revise and practice daily for at least 6 hours to be accustomed to the answer writing pattern. Usually, aspirants tend to focus on revision and ignore practicing.

  • The examiner marking the booklet will only grant marks on the points that make sense or are factually correct, so practice perfect answer writing.
  • A candidate should ensure that all topics related to the IAS syllabus and current affairs are comprehensively covered.

6 Proven Ways to Crack UPSC Mains

Focus on quality rather than quantity of topics. Just keep the following points in mind before appearing for the UPSC Mains Exam:

  • Use the internet extensively; the target is to gain knowledge through books or the internet;
  • Go through the past five years question papers to understand the breadth and depth of questions UPSC usually asks;
  • Try to superimpose current affairs with the GS Papers;
  • For the ethics section, try presenting famous case studies or examples;
  • In GS, you might come across questions on topics that were not previously prepared; you still must try to answer and mention the basic points related to them;
  • Try inculcating maps, flowcharts, and mind maps for better answer presentation. This saves time and conveys the answer in a more presentable way.

Top 10 Strategies to Become an IAS Officer

The interview step is the last and final leg of the preparation journey for the Civil Service Examination. Although the final merit is prepared by the combined score of the Mains Examination and interview rounds, the trend suggests that the top scorers of the interview round are also the top scorers of the UPSC exam.

To crack UPSC Interview in first attempt, one needs to follow the UPSC interview preparation tips. Below are the top 10 recommended tips for clearing all the UPSC rounds in first attempt.

1. Clear your Basics

As a candidate, one must be clear with the basics. The basics lay the foundation of the subject. It is always advised to get a hand with the detailed UPSC syllabus before starting the preparation. Limited resources with exhaustive revision play a crucial role in the selection for the IAS exam.

2. Learn Current Affairs

Current Affairs is an integral part of the Civil Service Examination. The relevance of current affairs in the exam can be accessed because it is an indispensable part of the preparation. To score well, one must have a basic understanding and conceptual clarity of news events nationally and internationally.

One should always prefer quality over quantity; for that, a candidate can consider reading The Hindu or The Indian Express. A candidate should get hold of the Best Current Affairs Youtube Channel for UPSC to learn even the most difficult concepts with ease.

3. Practice UPSC Question Paper

Solving the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers gives conceptual clarity about the IAS Exam and the difficulty level. Solving PYQs also helps in time management and allows a candidate to get an idea of what areas to focus on more to clear UPSC in the first attempt.

4. Peer Review and Proper Guidance

Review is mandatory. Candidates should review their answers at least 3 to 4 times before taking the exam to develop the confidence to crack UPSC in the first attempt. Proper guidance from mentors and exhaustive practice is valuable for qualifying for the exam.

5. Aptitude Test

Candidates often overlook the CSAT exam during their preparation. To clear the aptitude test, one needs to have intense practice and be well-versed in the UPSC CSAT Syllabus. The main topics for aptitude tests are comprehension, mental ability, logical reasoning, etc.

6. Prepare your DAF Thoroughly

In the IAS Interview round, questions can be picked up from the Detailed Application Form, ranging from personal information to academic background. The DAF serves as the motivation for all the primary questions that are asked in the interview phase.

7. Take Multiple Mock Interview Tests

Rehearsals with the mock interview before the actual interview help in avoiding mistakes. Expert mentors and seniors can assist in that. It is crucial to solve several mock papers of both Prelims and Mains to track your improvement and understand your weaknesses.

8. Think and Answer

The Interview panels check on the behavioral and emotional intelligence of the candidate. Situational questions must be answered within the scope of the constitutional power that your preferred service holds.

  • If you do not know an answer, be calm and composed and simply pass the question.
  • An important thumb rule for IAS Interviews is not to lie or fabricate your answers with false information.

9. Dress Neatly

It is always advised to look presentable on the day of your interview; hence, make sure you dress in formal attire. For men, a light-colored shirt and dark trousers look professional. A simple churidar or saree is recommended for women aspirants.

10. Good and Proper sleep

A stressed mind never performs well. Stressing might reduce efficiency, so sleep well and avoid taking unnecessary loads! Maintaining good wellness during your preparation is required to excel in these exams. Studying late at night can deter one’s circadian rhythm.

Proper deep sleep of nearly 8 hours is very much necessary. As the saying goes, All work and no play make Jack a dull boy; the same is true with sleep. Better consistency, grasping, and retention power are possible only when the mind is fresh and works properly.


Cracking the UPSC Civil Services Exam is a challenging but achievable goal with dedication, perseverance, and the right strategy. Remember that success may not come overnight, and setbacks are a part of the journey. Stay motivated, learn from your mistakes, and keep moving forward. With the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle the UPSC Civil Services Exam and embark on a fulfilling career in the Indian civil services.

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Aditi Jamwal
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