How To Prepare For UPSC IAS Prelims 2021

How To Prepare For UPSC IAS Prelims 2021: Union Public Service Commission (or widely known by its acronym UPSC) Examinations are qualifying examinations for various civil service posts conducted in India. This vindictive examination is really not for the fainthearted but with proper diligence and smart learning, this particular monster would not be impossible to take down either.

UPSC Prelims is an important phase of your UPSC Journey. It is the first hurdle which you need to clear in order to become an IAS Officer. If you are thinking that UPSC Prelims 2021 will be easy then you are wrong. UPSC is known for doing things differently. So, expecting an easy paper might not be a good thing.

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In this article, we are going to discuss how you can boost your preparation for UPSC Prelims 2021. And will give you an ideal strategy, book list, timetable to crack the UPSC Prelims exam within 6 months.

The Civil Services 2021 preliminary exam will be held on June 27, the UPSC has notified today. The exam notification will be released on February 10 and application submission window will be active till March 2, 2021. The main exam for Civil Services 2021 will be held in September.

On the face value, the syllabus for this examination consists of everything that you have studied till high school as general education. But this doesn’t even scratch the surface of it as ‘general studies’ is nothing but an umbrella term for an otherwise vast amount of universal knowledge. They expect you to dig deep and then deeper still to understand every core concept that we have been fed as children.

Almost like derivations of mathematical theorems that we did to understand the logical basis in which the theorem came to be. This would make you a well informed and rounded person who can make excellent decisions that every civil servant has to make.

Know the UPSC IAS Exam Pattern

The whole process of the UPSC examinations is divided into three rounds- Preliminary, Mains, and Personality Test/Interview. The Preliminary Round is used to test an individual’s current affairs and general knowledge and their ability to perform well in a short period of time. This is the basic knowledge that every aspirant must study extensively not only for the Preliminary round but also for their Mains.

Prepare Yourself and Make a Schedule

The first step to starting your UPSC preparation making up your mind because the whole process needs you to sacrifice a lot in life. From leaving your job to cutting back on other activities in life to study day and night. The preparation for the exams is extensive and draining but it is important to be systematic and rigorous in your approach.

Last-minute cramming and crash courses are not generally recommended for this kind of examination as at least a year-long preparation is required. The usage of study plans and guides is imperative. You should set a timetable according to your personal capabilities before your preparation and make sure you stick to it. Making a timetable will ease your preparation and make it more streamlined. With small set goals and planned learning, you would work more efficiently and complete the syllabus faster.

News and Current Affairs Reading

Religiously follow the newspapers and current affairs for your UPSC as it one of the key factors of the UPSC exam. Every civil servant is required to be proficient in knowing the country and the world very well. The questions in the exam are either directly or indirectly connected to the current affairs so you cannot hope of clearing it without studying the news meticulously.

Choosing an Optional Subject

Choose your optional subject very wisely based on your interests instead of on which paper is more scoring as your opinions and writing presentation is what fetches your scores. An interest and a passion for the subject is reflected in your answers and will be more attractive than an objective approach.

Some of the factors to keep in mind before selecting an optional are:

  • Interest in the subject
  • Prior knowledge in it/academic background
  • Overlap with the GS papers, past and mock
  • Availability of coaching
  • Availability of study material

Study Material and Book Lists

The first and foremost book recommended for UPSC is the NCERTs. NCERT books are known for their concepts and thus are good for laying your foundation down. Aspirants can get basic concepts and theories from NCERT textbooks. These books provide information very coherently. Moreover, they are reliable too as the source is the government itself. There have been instances of getting questions straight from NCERT in the past too.

Practice Papers and Mock Tests

It’s important to practice writing answers as the questions asked are generally descriptive types that could take up too much time if attempted on the spot with no prior practice. Also to understand the pattern of questions and to be able to predict the kind of topics that would be covered, it is best to solve past and mock papers. It will also help in gauging how much progress you’ve made.

The battle to succeed in Civil Services Exams is long and hard. There will be many obstacles in the way. You have to maintain your determination and work towards your goals. Revision is also a very important part of the journey. You will also have to alter plans according to the situations that arise however it’s not impossible. Stick to your dreams and you will be able to get to the end.

How To Crack UPSC Prelims 2021 Exam in 6 Months?

We will be discussing the strategy differently to Graduates and Working Professionals. This is because both are in different situations. Now, let’s assume that the UPSC Prelims Exam is in May 2021 and we are in December 2020. So, the strategy will be as follows:

How To Prepare For UPSC Prelims 2021?

For Graduates

  1. In the month of December, you have to buy the books for UPSC Prelims. 
  2. You need to study between 7-10 hours daily. This will assist you in covering the syllabus quickly. Also, it will prevent burnout and you would not feel exhausted.
  3. Then you have to start reading books starting from NCERT’s to other recommended books like Laxmikant, GC Leong,etc. Your main aim should be to study these books as fast as you can. There is no need to read multiple books for the same topics.
  4. After taking the first reading of every book, you need to take another reading of those books. This time, make notes along with reading while underlining Important Things.
  5. When you have made notes, revise the notes alone. There is no need to read the book again and again. Since, questions in Prelims are usually static. Therefore, make your notes crisp and to the point.
  6. Complete the first reading within 1-1.5 months. 
  7. After reading books, you need to practice mock tests. Do join a good coaching Institutes Test Series. Apart from this, past year papers will be of great help for you. Mock tests will help you in analysing your weak areas. Now, when your weak areas, try to improve them by devoting time to it.
  8. In the last two months, your focus should be on revising more and more topics. This will definitely going to benefit you if you will do this exercise diligently.
  9. Divide your daily work into small targets, achieve your daily and weekly targets. When you do this, it will encourage you. Therefore, Reward yourself by watching your favourite movie or reading your favourite book every 15 days.

Download: UPSC Prelims Question Paper (2010-2019)

For Working Professionals

Since you are working you will find at most 5-6 hours daily. Your aim should be to maximise the output at that time. On the other hand, weekends are a boon for you. You have to plan your weekends properly. Because wasting that time will bring troubles for you. Your timetable should be like-

  1. You wake up early and have at least two hours in hand to study general studies subjects just before you get ready for work. 
  2. During office hours, go over current affairs. You will get time to read the news and do that bit done at the office itself on a daily basis.
  3. After work, continue preparing for GS or Optional papers. You will at least utilize 2 hours for this.
  4. After dinner, get  an hour in hand to go over and revise everything you studied for the day.

Now i will be sharing what preparation tips you should follow-

  1. Complete the First reading of all the books in 2 months. In the next two months, skip NCERTs and read Recommended Books only. While doing so, make notes of the same.
  2. In the last two months your main focus should be on practicing mock tests and revising your notes as much as possible.
  3. Since you have less time, you should not waste your time.

Is Coaching Important For UPSC Prelims 2021?

I believe that Coaching is more and less depend upon your past knowledge of these subjects. There are many candidates whose base is not strong. As a result Coaching becomes important for them.

Those candidates who have prior knowledge of the subjects can take coaching if they want to. It solely depends upon you whether you want to join a coaching institute or not. But, whether you are joining a Coaching Institute or not, Do join a Mock Test Series. It will give a boost to your UPSC Prelims Preparation. Mock Test helps you in analyzing yourself. That’s why it becomes important.

UPSC Prelims Exam requires proper attention. Many candidates fail to clear the Prelims itself in their few attempts but many clears it without coaching. In short, this exam is easy for those who are dedicated and hardworking. 

How to Make Time Table for UPSC Preparation?

How Discipline Can Help You Crack UPSC Civil Services Exam

UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam 2020 Complete Study Material GS Paper-1

Subject Books/Study material
Indian Polity Must Read Book (Covered NCERT Also)

GRASP IAS Book/Notes
Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh articles

Macroeconomics – NCERT Class XII

Indian Economic Development – NCERT Class XI

Economic Survey (Selective reading from Prelims perspective)


The Hindu

Internet for understanding concepts (Investopedia, Google, YouTube)

Ancient History of India
Old NCERT by RS Sharma

Medieval History of India
Old NCERT by Satish Chandra (Selective Reading)

Modern History
A Brief history of Modern India- Spectrum Publications

India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra (Selective Reading)

NCERT by Bipan Chandra (For the period 1700s to 1857)

Indian Art and Culture
An Introduction to Indian Art – Class XI NCERT

Indian Art And Culture by Nitin Singhania

Centre for Cultural Resource and Training (CCRT) material

Heritage Crafts: Living Craft Traditions of India -NCERT

Environment and BiodiversityShankar IAS Book/ GRASP IAS (MYUPSC.COM) Book
General Science
General Science Books

Class IX

Class X

The Hindu/Indian Express (Note down and read about the latest scientific terms, discoveries and inventions frequently mentioned in news)

Google & YouTube
Fundamentals of Physical Geography XI NCERT

India: Physical Environment XI NCERT

Fundamentals of Human Geography XII NCERT

India: People and Economy XII NCERT

Certificate Physical and Human Geography: GC Leong


Google & YouTube

Govt Schemes  
Govt schemes: GRASP IAS (MYUPSC.COM)
Previous Year Papers
General Studies 1 (10 Years Papers)

CSAT (10 Year Papers)
Current Affairs
The Hindu

Indian Express


All the best !!

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