How To Prepare For UPSC CSE Exam 2023

Union Public Service Commission conducts the Civil Services examination every year. The commission has already released the notification for the 2023 exam.

 According to UPSC, in the 2022 preliminary exam, more than one million students registered for it. Among these, only about 13000 students qualified for the mains. The examination process is competitive, but you can see your name by starting your preparation early.


There are two successive stages: i) Prelims and ii) Mains and Interviews. Let us guide you step-by-step:

Step 1: The Preliminary Examination:

The prelims exam is not just ‘step 1’ but also one of the most important. It decides your journey by giving you the key to the next door. The exam consists of two objective-type compulsory papers of 200 marks each. 

  • Syllabus & Pattern: You must go through the UPSC prelims syllabus to build an understanding of the examination pattern. Focus on micro-detailing of the subjects. It is the core area.
    • General Studies Paper I: The duration of this paper will be 2 hours. It will be on the first shift of the day. It consists of 100 questions,  two marks each. 
    • General Studies Paper II (CSAT): The duration will be 2 hours. It will be on the second shift of the day. It consists of 80 questions, 2.5 marks each. You need 33% marks to qualify.
  • Understand the competition: You must understand the nature and demands clearly to be able to compete. More than a million students register, and this trend is increasing every year. Only 1% of the qualifying students are recommended for the IAS cadre. uploadarticle.com
  • When to begin: You must start the preparation at least eight months before the prelims. Make sure you build a strategy that involves realistic goals. The earlier you begin, the more relaxed you will be on D-day. The planner must give you enough space to brainstorm. Remember that success is a ladder, not an escalator. 
  • Optional: Optional is not a part of the prelims stage, but it is wise to prepare your optional paper along with it. You must have in-depth knowledge. Keep yourself updated with the recent happenings related to your optional. The optional knowledge will be assessed throughout stage two: Mains and interview. So, start early.

Newspaper: You cannot afford to miss this. Make the newspapers your best friends. Newspapers will help you cover the current affairs for the UPSC exam. Pick the previous year’s papers, and you will notice that many questions are based on a news article or some editorials published. So, make it your best friend. 

Diverse Subjects: Many students are overwhelmed looking at the diversity of subjects prescribed by the UPSC. The hard work you put in a long time in these subjects will not just result in qualifying for the first stage but will build a strong foundation for the upcoming one.

The subjects are:

  • Current events of national and international importance.  
  • History of India and Indian National Movement.  
  • Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World. 
  • Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.  
  • Economic and Social Development-Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, and Social Sector Initiatives, etc.  
  • General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization.  
  • General Science. 

Previous Year Papers: Review the previous years’ papers for the format. The content will change, but the format is the same. Reviewing PYQs makes you familiar with the pattern and gives you an estimate of the demands.

Books on the syllabus: According to the syllabus, you will need to read books to strengthen your base. 

  • NCERTs: NCERTs for the prescribed subjects are your first go-to. You cannot skip them. These will lay a strong foundation. 
  • Many study materials of the best IAS coaching in Delhi are available online and offline.

Mock tests: Practice makes the students perfect. There is no substitute for practice. Give as many mock tests as possible to test your knowledge. Studying without giving tests will not win you the ticket to mains. 

  • Set a timer: This will help you solve the paper in a time-bound manner
  • Complete your paper in a single sitting
  • Review your mistakes: This will help you identify your weak areas, and then you can prepare them well.

Step 2: The Main Examination

The main examination is for assessment of the intellectual traits and in-depth understanding not the plethora of knowledge and memory skills. 

  • Read the Syllabus: You must read the syllabus for each paper.
    • QUALIFYING PAPERS: The duration of these papers will be 3 hours each:
      • Paper‐A (Indian Languages): You will select one Indian language from the languages included in the Eight Schedule of the Constitution. 
      • Paper‐B (English): This paper will be of 300 marks. The broad pattern would be Precis Writing, Usage and Vocabulary, and Short Essays.
  • PAPERS COUNTED FOR THE MERIT: The pattern of these would be essay-type. The total duration and maximum marks for each would be 3 hours and 250 marks respectively.
    • PAPER‐I (Essay): The candidates will write essays on various topics. 
    • PAPER‐II (General Studies‐I): Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
    • PAPER‐III (General Studies‐II): Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.
    • PAPER‐IV (General Studies‐III): Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management
    • PAPER‐V (General Studies‐IV): Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude
    • PAPER‐VI & PAPER VII (Optional Subject Papers I & II): Based on the selected optional.

Papers II to V will test your general awareness of the subjects, basic understanding of the issues, analytical ability, and views on conflicting goals, objectives and demands. You must write per your understanding and with effective and structured expression.

  • Build your understanding: Understand how reading in detail is important for the main exam. A detailed analysis of the topics is required for this paper. To write an answer covering all the aspects, one needs to utilize the knowledge gained from the prelims. Build your point of view for scoring more.
  • Role of Previous Years’ Questions: The role of PYQs in acing UPSC mains examination is not negligible.
    • Helps in identifying the key areas of the syllabus
    • Boosts confidence 
    • Drives you into the tough mains exam atmosphere
    • Helps you score more
  • Read Newspaper: Current Affairs are the way to score more in the UPSC examination. This can be done with the help of a newspaper. You can use this news to add value to your notes. It gives you the most important thing: accuracy. While writing in a structured 


  • Practice answer writing: Practice as many answers as you can. This will refine your answers. 
    • Try writing on multiple topics. 
    • Stay close to the subject of the essay
    • Structure it in an orderly fashion
    • Focus on integrating your views 
    • Make your expression effective and to the point
    • Practice with Timer: Always use a timer. Using a timer will help you write in a timebound manner. This will help you stay relaxed in the main exam.
  • Review Your Answers: When you get your answer evaluated, you get another perspective to add to your answers. Any subject-matter expert can help you write an effective answer and to add a few more dimensions. Ask your friends or college professors to review your answers. You can join any answer writing program for better evaluation. 

Remember that getting an honest evaluation is important. Stay away from flattery. 

Step 3: The Interview

The objective is to assess intellectual qualities, social traits and interest in current affairs.

This is required to check if the candidate is suitable for a career as a public servant.

  • Mock Interviews: Prepare well for the interview beforehand. This will keep you at ease in front of the interview panel.
    • Ask your friends to act as a panel and interview you
    • Watch the toppers’ mock interviews online
    • Stand in front of a mirror and watch your expressions and posture
    • Join mock interview courses
  • Dress Appropriately: Dress professionally for the interview. This will boost your confidence. Put on clean and fit clothes. Appearance tells a lot about one’s personality.
  • Eye Contact: Maintaining eye contact while addressing shows you are confident and attentive. Attention to detail is the required trait of the candidate.
  • Confidence: Your confidence speaks volumes about you. The panel might try to test your patience. You have to stay composed and answer calmly.
  • Value of Honesty: Honest opinion and answer is the most sought value. Never try to trick them with a lie. Remember that the panel consists of members with demonstrated experience in their respective fields. They can easily tell if you are not being honest. Show your best honest self.

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