UPSC Civil Services Examination: Way To Go

Strategy, after all, is for maximising the effect of the efforts. Since a lot of the Prelim and the Main syllabus is common, one needs to go with an integrated approach

The crème de la crème of the country is the Civil Services. Though there are lakhs of aspirants, many brilliant students do not make it. The reasons have to do with not being able to keep their ear to the ground and adopt the right strategy. It has to do with the method of preparation. Equally crucial is the choice of the Optional subject.

Choosing the Optional

One might have done brilliantly in graduation in a certain subject, but it might not be the best for the UPSC Civil Services. This issue crops up particularly when the subject is not available from the UPSC menu (electronics); or needs time when one doesn't have so much of it as they may be working ( physical sciences); or social sciences is what they always yearned for and got a chance now.

Optional makes a lot of difference and  choosing the right optional might be the key to cracking the exam.

- Follow the trend. If a lot of candidates are making it with a certain subject for a reasonable period,1-2 years, its seasonality/scorability is established. It is unique to the UPSC

- Recognise your strengths. E.g., if writing skills are good, it is good to go ahead with social sciences

- Choose what interests you. Candidates will always work harder on a subject of their passion and interest

- Overlapping with the GS Mains subject will help reduce the burden of learning twice. But do not stretch it too far as the methodology for the GS and Optional differ substantially and getting the two mixed up can cause loss in both 

- Choose the Optional subject that has standard study material available.

- After collecting enough pluses and minus for the ones you shortlisted, go by interest and instincts


- Write in a comfortable language

- Choose English as a medium if you are ok in the language. It does not need more than plus two standard of expression. The reason why English scores is that standard reading material is available


- Another pointer that would help ease your nerves would be choosing an examination centre you are familiar with. Familiar surroundings would help you be more at ease while attempting the paper

- You must be careful while reading the address on the admit card. Two or more centres might have the same name with a different address. It is always better to recce the place beforehand

The strategy

Right strategy is critical. It is so, as we have seen above, to choose the Optional, Medium and the Centre. Now for some more inputs on preparation strategy. Strategy, after all, is for maximising the effect of the efforts. Since a lot of the Prelim and the Main syllabus is common, one needs to go with an integrated approach. Finish one or two readings of the Optional well before the Prelims exam - at least six months before the Prelims so that it can be revived after the Prelims in the gap between Prelims and the Mains exam.

One requires roughly 300 hours of classes per subject to master it. The practice of answer writing should be done daily religiously. Makes one ace the exam as it helps them develop legibility, speed, familiarity, prioritisation and the right flow.

Revision of the subject matter periodically strengthens memory and builds confidence. Remember, all these rules help navigate. Walking is entirely yours.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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