How to Prepare for UPSC Preliminary Examination – Tips and Strategy

As per the new pattern, there is no optional subject to be chosen for the screening/preliminary test. The new syllabus comprises two compulsory papers of 200 marks and of 2 hours duration each.

The paper 1 will be General Studies which includes Current Events of national and International importance, History of India and Indian National Movement, Indian and World Geography —- physical, social and economic, Indian Polity and governance —- constitution, political system, Panchayati Raj, public policy, rights, issues, etc., Economic and Social development — sustainable development —- poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social sector initiatives, etc., General issues on environmental ecology, biodiversity, climate change and General Science.

Paper 2, on the other hand, is new to the aspirants though more than seven years have passed since its introduction into the preliminary examination. Also known as Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT), this will include aptitude skills comprising Comprehension, Interpersonal and Communication skills, Logical Reasoning and Analytical ability, Decision making and problem-solving,  General Mental ability, Basic Numeracy, Data interpretation and English Language comprehension skills.


Start the preparation such that you have no doubts about clearing the examination. You will do it. Yes, you will do it.

PAPER 1: General Studies

While reading, try not just to mug up; conceptual clarity is what the prelims demands. If your concepts are clear, you would find it easy to recognise the right answers and eliminating the wrong ones. So, before memorising, try to understand the concepts. Solve as many papers as you can. The more you do, the better would be your grasp on the subject as well as on the trend of the setting question. Solving previous papers would do you lots of favours:

a. Time management,

b. Minimising negative marking,

c. Boosting confidence, etc.

The paper-setters usually don’t follow a standard form of allotment of questions for various topics mentioned in the syllabus. Hence, it is more convenient to stress on the topics which are common for mains examination as well. These areas include Modern India, Polity, Indian Economy, Geography, Current Events and General Science.

Let’s try to plan these areas.


To get a general understanding of Indian History from ancient to medieval, the NCERT books (11th and 12th standard) can give a good start. Modern Indian history has to be covered extensively. For ancient and medieval history, stress upon only a set of aspects (and related persons). These selected aspects include literature, arts (drama, music and dance), architecture, and last but not the least, Indian culture. Three books, one each on Modern India, Indian Culture and Indian persons may prove handy as far as the preparation of history is concerned. For model questions, refer to Arihant and Tata McGraw Hill (TMH).


Here, you need to stress on Constitution, various acts and amendments, and the general political concepts. Important books for this topic include Indian Polity by Laxmikanth, Introduction to the constitution by D.D. Basu and TMH synopsis for Polity.


A lot of sources are available in the market on this subject necessitating the selective approach. Some of the books you can choose from include: Physical Geography of India (NCERT 11th), Land and People (NCERT 11th), TMH Geography synopsis, Ecology of environment by P.D. Sharma.

Indian Economy:

The economy needs a conceptual understanding of all the basic concepts. You need to cover the current topics in economics as well. The important books include NCERT books, Five-year plan booklets, ESI, Dutt and Sundaram, Mishra and Puri, Umila Kapila. Choose your books and revise them as much as you can.

General Sciences:

If you are a student with a scientific background, you need not prepare for this section. However, the preparation should be done to make sure you are well with the basics. Questions may also be asked from applied and current sciences. For a good preparation, NCERT 6th to 10th standard science books, Science section of the Hindu, Science Reporter, etc., is enough.

Current Affairs:

Current affairs are to be given a huge preference. They are to be read religiously as they would prove to be of paramount importance not only for your prelims but for mains and for the personality test as well. It is better if you can jot down important points on a daily basis and prepare your own notes. For covering the current affairs, magazines like Chronicle, Frontline, and CSR are suggested. The Hindu is to be read daily (selective sections and articles). Internet surfing for the current news and happenings is also necessary.

General Knowledge:

Get a book or two for covering this. Tata McGraw Hill is my suggestion along with Lucent’s GK. This needs to be complemented by a yearbook.


Firstly, I would suggest you go through the syllabus and the previous papers for this paper. Secondly, my suggestion would be to practise the mock tests.

The most important skill tested here is the speed and accuracy you possess. And the only way to achieve high speed and accuracy is to practice.  Practise reading, writing, speaking, communication skills. Learn vocabulary and language and if time allows you, read novels. I suggest reading comprehension and practise maths and other fields of aptitude from some of the books enlisted here.

  1. Reading Comprehension for Civil Services Preliminary Examination (Second Edition)
  2.  Interpersonal and Communication Skills by Arun Sharma
  3. Logical Reasoning, Analytical Ability and General Mental Ability for Civil Services Preliminary Examination
  4. CSAT Decision Making and Problem Solving and Interpersonal Skills for Paper – 2
  5.  Basic Numeracy for CSAT General Studies Paper II
  6.  Data Interpretation & Data Sufficiency

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.