How to Start UPSC Preparation From Zero Level At Home?

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One of the most demanding exams in the country the UPSC exam is known for its vast syllabus and its rising competition the exam takes a heavy toll on the minds of the young aspirants and demands great focus and determination from all its candidates, in order to prepare for the exam many aspirants begin their preparations in their early teens just to have an upper hand over the competition, this enables students to have a greater chance of competing with others and prevail. The UPSC exam has become one of the most prestigious exams and the most desired competitive exam. Students from all corners of the country apply for the exam with the hopes of making it to the end and becoming successful IAS officers, IPS officers, IRS officers, or whatever their goal is. However, with the rising competition and the increasing need to have a better UPSC coaching institute in the country, and with students getting more and more worried about the exam, the need for a better understanding of the UPSC is much required among the aspirants of the country. Let us discuss what UPSC is and how you can prepare for the UPSC from the comfort of your house.

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What is UPSC ?

The Union Public Service Commission or the UPSC is responsible for recruiting individuals who are willing to work for the government as government servants, these individuals are some of the best in the country and are extremely dedicated towards the country, the role of these individuals is decided by the UPSC after they clear the exam, the UPSC recruits individuals for government services such as IAS, IPS, IRS, and many more. The UPSC conducts civil service exams once every year and has witnessed a record-breaking high in the number of applicants from the past few years, students in huge numbers are applying for the exam and are preparing for the exam. The exam is one of the most arduous exams and it is not easy to clear the UPSC exam on the first attempt however there are some instances where candidates have been able to clear the UPSC exam in their first attempt and have achieved great success in their exams, the vast syllabus of the exam and the great competition is quite intimidating however there are some who take all of this as a challenge and often prevail, as the UPSC exam requires a mindset of achievers. With the right mindset and the right dedication one can clear the UPSC exam with great ease, requiring candidates to be focused at all times, and being a nationwide exam the UPSC attracts students in the thousands and is highly competitive.

UPSC Exam Pattern 2021

With the great competition and the highly competitive students who have been preparing for the exam for years, the UPSC has an exam pattern that is designed to test the abilities and skills of each of its candidates at all levels, the exam is known as one of the most competitive and the most arduous exam in the history and has an exam pattern that assesses and analyses candidate’s intelligence. The exam is conducted in two stages Prelims and Mains and the third stage is Interview, in order to clear the UPSC exam a candidate must clear all three stages with great marks and show great competency levels, to understand the UPSC exam and how to prepare for it one must first understand the UPSC exam pattern this will help you and give you a better perspective about the exam and will assist you in getting proper information and ways in which you can conquer the UPSC exam.

The UPSC Prelims exam is a qualifying exam and conducts a total of 2 papers, both of these papers are of a total of 200 marks each and a total of 2 hours of duration each, being a qualifying exam the sole purpose of the Prelims exam is to sort out the best candidates for the civil service posts and only let the competent candidates through for the next exam. Clearing the Prelims exam is necessary for candidates to move to the next paper which is the Mains exam. 

Paper-I General Studies: Conducted with the aim of testing the general awareness of the candidates, the GS Paper I is the first exam of the UPSC exam and tests the skills and knowledge of the candidates, and UPSC related current affairs. The GS Paper I tests the knowledge of the candidates in a wide range of subjects such as – Indian Polity, Geography, History, Indian Economy, etc. 

Paper-II CSAT (Civil Service Aptitude Test): Consisting of reasoning and analytical questions the CSAT test is conducted with the sole aim of testing a candidate’s aptitude and their reading comprehension and decision making skills, the decision-making skills test does not attract any negative marking it is conducted just to screen the candidate’s skills and abilities. 

Paper Subjects Total Marks Duration
I General Studies 200 2 hours (9:30 AM-11:30 AM)
II CSAT 200 2 hours (2:30 PM-4:30 PM)

UPSC Mains – 

Known as phase 2 of the UPSC exam the UPSC Mains exam consists of a total of 9 papers, candidates who have cleared the Prelims exam with great marks are allowed to appear for phase 2 of the UPSC exam that is the Mains exam. Conducted with the aim to test the academic talent of a candidate in full depth and their abilities to present their answers in a proper way and in a readable way, with a good overall presentation of answers there is a good chance that the candidate might be able to score some marks for the answer writing skills and answer accuracy. The Mains exam consists of a total of 9 papers out of which 2 papers are qualifying papers, the structure of these qualifying papers are as follows – 

Essay – 100 marks

Reading comprehension – 60 marks

Precise Writing – 60 marks

Translation: English to compulsory language – 20 marks

                   Compulsory language to English – 20 marks

Grammar and basic language usage – 40 marks

Below is a table of the rest of the 7 papers that are in the Mains exam-

Paper Subject Marks
Paper-I Essay (can be written in any language the candidate chooses) 250
Paper-II General Studies – I (Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society) 250
Paper-III General Studies – II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice & International Relations) 250
Paper-IV General Studies – III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management) 250
Paper-V General Studies – IV (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude) 250
Paper-VI Optional Subject – Paper I 250
Paper-VII Optional Subject – Paper II 250
Total Marks 1750

UPSC Syllabus 2021

The vast syllabus of the UPSC exam is surely intimidating at first but with a proper understanding of the whole syllabus, anyone can properly strategize their approach for the exam and begin their preparation from there. One must understand the UPSC exam syllabus in full understanding in order to comprehend it and prepare their own strategy that will lead them to achieve great success in the UPSC exam. Let us discuss the UPSC Syllabus for both the Prelims and the Mains exam. 

UPSC Prelims Syllabus-

  • Syllabus for GS paper
  • Current events of national and international importance
  • 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, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity, and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization
  • General Science
  • Syllabus for CSAT paper
  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, order of magnitude, etc., class X level) Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, Data sufficiency, etc., Class X level)

 UPSC Mains Exam Syllabus-

The UPSC Mains exam consisting of its 9 total papers is the most important stage of the exam as after clearing the Mains exam the only stage that is left is the Interview which is conducted in the official office premise of the UPSC in Delhi. Clear the Mains exam and understand the whole syllabus to prepare a strategy. With the right mindset, anyone can achieve great success in the UPSC exam and with the right strategy, you can achieve the best marks in your Mains exam. 

  • Paper-I: Essay, the essay can be written in any language the candidate chooses.
  • Paper-II: General Studies 1, Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
  • Paper-III: General Studies 2, Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations. 
  • Paper-IV: General Studies 3 Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security and Disaster Management. 
  • Paper-V: General Studies 4 Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude 
  • Paper-VI: Optional Subject paper 1
  • Paper-VII: Optional Subject paper 2

The Mains exam has 2 optional subject papers and the syllabus has a list of a total of 48 optional subjects from which a candidate can choose 2 subjects, the list includes literature of different languages, the full list of the optional subjects is given below:

Agriculture Zoology
Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science Assamese (Literature)
Anthropology Bengali (Literature)
Botany Bodo (Literature)
Chemistry Dogri (Literature)
Civil Engineering Gujarati (Literature)
Commerce & Accountancy Hindi (Literature)
Economics Kannada (Literature)
Electrical Engineering Kashmiri (Literature)
Geography Konkani (Literature)
Geology Maithili (Literature)
History Malayalam (Literature)
Law Manipuri (Literature)
Management Marathi (Literature)
Mathematics Nepali (Literature)
Mechanical Engineering Odia (Literature)
Medical Science Punjabi (Literature)
Philosophy Sanskrit (Literature)
Physics Santhali (Literature)
Political Science & International Relations Sindhi (Literature)
Psychology Tamil (Literature)
Public Administration Telugu (Literature)
Sociology English (Literature)
Statistics Urdu (Literature)

Eligibility criteria for UPSC 2021

Before applying for the UPSC exam one must first clear the eligibility criteria of the UPSC exam, the Union Public Service Commission, and set eligibility criteria in order to sort the best of the best candidates and candidates who are eligible for the competitive exam and only allowed to apply for the exam. Candidates who fail the eligibility criteria are not allowed to apply for the UPSC exam, the reason for failure could be anything from age to education qualification, although the UPSC has eligibility criteria that factor in a wide range of candidates from all corners of the country, however, understanding the whole eligibility criteria is crucial.

  1.     Age exemptions for different categories:
  • 5 years – SC/ST
  • 3 years – OBC
  • 3 years – Defence Services personnel
  • 5 years – ex-servicemen including Commissioned Officers and ECPs/SSCOs who have rendered at least 5 years Military Service as of August 1, 2020.
  • 10 years – Blind, deaf-mute, and orthopedically handicapped persons
  • 5 years – in the case of ECOs/SSCOs
  • 5 years – in the case of ECOs/SSCOs who have completed an initial period of assignment of five years of Military Service as of 1 August 2019 and whose assignment has been extended beyond five years and in whose case the Ministry of Defence issues a certificate that hey can apply for civil employment and that they will be released on three months notice on the selection from the date of receipt of the offer of appointment.
  1. Education Qualifications: Any regular or distant graduation degree, a candidate must hold a degree of any university which is established by an Act of Parliament or deemed as a University under section 3 of the university grants commission act.
  2. Age limit of candidates: Candidates must be minimum of 21 years and a maximum of 32 years of age as of August 1, 2021. A candidate must be born not earlier than August 2 1989 and not later than August 1, 2000.
  3. Number of attempts: All candidates are allowed a maximum of six attempts in the IAS exam. However, it may be noted that the restriction of the number of attempts is not applicable for candidates belonging to the SC/ST category. Also, candidates belonging to OBC and Persons with Benchmark Disabilities categories are allowed a maximum of nine attempts in the exam. If a candidate appears in any one paper of the IAS Prelims Exam, then it is deemed that he has made an attempt in the IAS exam.

Best Tips & Tricks for UPSC Exam Preparation

Like most of the candidates begin your preparation in their early teens or as soon as you realize that you want to go for the civil service exam, the UPSC is one of the most arduous exams in the country so you better begin your preparation as early as you can. Focus on the sole goal of achieving excellence in the exam and prepared to succeed in the exam, the competition is fierce and one must acknowledge the fact that the exam will cause you to lose all your social life, however, there is a silver lining which is there is no other greater feeling than achieving great success in the UPSC exam. Gather as much study material as you can and prepare for the exam with the help of mock tests, previous year question papers, solve as many sample papers as you can these will help you improve your performance greatly and will help take your preparation to the next level. Consider meditation, and include it in your daily routine. Meditation has been proven to be of great help as it helps calm down the mind and helps in improving retention skills greatly. Choose a coaching institute that is well known and provides great quality education. A coaching institute can greatly enhance your overall preparation and help you prepare for the UPSC exam with ease, take advantage of all the features and facilities that a coaching institute provides to students and prepare to prevail in the UPSC exam. 


We hope that the information and tips we have provided you in this article are helpful for you in figuring out how to prepare for the IAS examination at home.  You can also gain inspiration from the IAS toppers who have topped in the IAS examination without any external help. IAS examination is one of the toughest examinations in which the candidate should have a good dedication and should do proper hard work to achieve success in the examination. We have mentioned every important detail about the preliminary examination in this article. We hope that this article is helpful for you. If you have any query or question you can contact the mentioned below.

Frequently Asked Questions on UPSC Exam Pattern

10 Questions


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