A Beginner’s Guide on How to Clear IAS

IMP: Civilsdaily IAS Prelims 2018 Test Series Module Launched – Click here

If you have come across this page via a simple google search on “How to Clear IAS” or “How to Prepare for Civil Services” or any related SOS call on this mother of all examination, then we can safely deduce 2 things –

1. We are sort of getting famous (or at least we would like to think so!)

2. You have already made up your mind and probably want some really basic – quick tips to start with – just to see that you get the initial things correct OR you are the done with the 9to5 job – start up idea nahi hai – life mein kya karein junta and you are thinking of giving Civil Services a shot!

If on the other hand, you are a regular reader at this website, you would agree that it’s a customary job of every self respecting IAS Prep site to give out occasional gyan on how to clear IAS!

Update #1: Prelims Paper 1 Syllabus for UPSC

Fair enough? In quick points then, here are the 5 commandments that will do well to get started with the IAS Prep. Advanced gyan later!

#1. Start slow, Build on your strengths & Focus on Environment & Biodiversity

Preparing from civil services is like taking an extended sabbatical from regular life and getting on a train to Hogwarts  Wasseypur to take on an unprecedented enemy. One day you are casually browsing through articles such as this and the other day you have 10kg worth of material piled up on your study desk!

You might have cleared the gruelling JEE or that unnerving CAT, got a stellar rating in those demanding corporate jobs or a magna-cum-laude certificate from a US university BUT nothing, virtually nothing overwhelms you like UPSC does!

So, take things slow. It’s a long race and you need to develop an appreciation for the syllabus. This could be a start of something good – you will get to know policy matters, economic realities and the sad social reality of the country you live in and you might just be able to connect with your surroundings and grow a new found love for India in general!

Except maybe for environment & biodiversity – We are yet to find a person who loved mugging up all the national parks and endangered species for the love of god! So, please have a headstart on E&B – Keep a tab on all small, big enviro related things in the current affairs and make a note in a copy – most of the questions are asked from the current affairs.

A more comprehensive post on how to tackle E&B has been written by Satish (CSE 2014: AIR 97) – How to Approach Enviro & Biodiversity?

#2. The Old and New NCERTs and then a few more Books!

Remember the time when you used to scoff at civics – that thin, small, parchment sized book which used to form a meagerly 20% part of your SST syllabus in class 9th and 10th? Of course you do!

That non-existent subject now forms a big part of the UPSC Syllabus in a new avatar – The Indian Polity.

Remember those moral science classes you used to have where the teachers tried hard to make an adarsh balak out of you? Yes, no? Well, UPSC has made a full fledged GS Paper out of it – Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude.

So, what’s the point? 

The point is that this is the time to pay homage to the old gods and new those NCERTs and quickly brush up on the concepts. Do not waste time hankering between old or new books. Get hold of the new NCERTs – go through them briskly – they are easy to read, are less boring and may delude you into believing that clearing IAS is a cake walk!


That’s where you need to graduate you to a bit heavier books – Laxmikanth for Indian Polity, Bipan Chandra for Pre and Post Independence and so on. We will furnish the reference books in a separate post and link that here soon.

#3. Don’t over indulge on daily news. Not just yet. Build your basics first

We made the Civilsdaily Android App for one reason and one reason alone – To make Current Affairs more approachable. So, keep up with the daily Newscards on the app – you will slowly get a hang on the events of national and international importance.

Once you cover the NCERTs and build some command over the static part of the syllabus, you will be able to understand news better. You would understand what Raghuram Rajan mean by rate cuts, what’s going on with India and the world or why is there so much clamour about the Judicial Appointments System.

That’s when the real magic starts! That’s when you will be able to attempt questions better and bring out better analysis points!

Update #2: Read our 3 point strategy post on Newspapers for IAS Prep

 #4. Discuss, debate and regroup!

The golden rule is this – You will learn more from your peers than from your teachers. This held true in college and this holds true even now. But why’s that?

We tend to have our biases and blind spots in life. We give more importance to some subjects, some themes (even at the expense of leaving out on other exam related important stuff) because that’s just how we are. And here is where your peers come to save you – their take on some issue could complement your learning and vice versa.

You are more likely to remember those passionately argued points on labour laws or women issues than the ones mentioned in the XEROX booklets at Karol Bagh.

The whole idea of this expansive UPSC syllabus is to make the future bureaucrats more sensitive about the various issues plaguing our country and having passionate aspirants in your study groups help!

#5. Choose your Optional wisely

All men are equal but some are more equal than others… And the 2 papers worth 500 marks @ IAS Mains are dedicated to the optional which will make or mar your chances. For some it’s a continuation of their graduation subject and for some it’s a whole new science (or arts if we should be precise).

A good optional also serves as a good breather for the time when you feel overwhelmed and over-annoyed with all the GS around! So, take your time and test the waters before zeroing on one. We will come to your rescue with posts from some of the IAS Rankers on how and why they chose their optionals. Some of them are –

For the benefit of our readers, we have compiled some 30+ posts written on the theme of “How to clear IAS”. Please click through this collection to read more –


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By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

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