UPSC CSE Prelims – Strategy for 2021

The UPSC selects only about 15000 candidates for Mains out of about 5-8 lakh people who appear for Prelims, so having a strong strategy for Prelims is important.

Once you have decided to prepare for UPSC Civil Services Examination, the first thing to do is getting to know the examination, its pattern, syllabus, and go through the past papers. You should clearly understand the syllabus and also analyse the past papers. But, only understanding the syllabus and going through the past paper is not sufficient to excel in this examination. You should also be familiar with the pattern of questions asked, the exam environment and elimination tricks for prelims.

1.The Syllabus – The Beginning and The End 

Syllabus is like the direction signs you find in roads. Evolving times had converted into google maps by itself .

In the General Studies section of the CSE Prelims and Mains, there is some overlap in the syllabus. However, the nature of notes and revision mechanism for Prelims and Mains has to be different. Hence, first go through the UPSC CSE syllabus 2021 to see how the various topics are divided between the Prelims and Mains.

CSE Prelims syllabus link –

Following points will help you out,

  1. Know each and every point of syllabus 
  2. Take a copy and paste it in your study room!
  3. Know to orient subjects whenever you come across a topic
    1. For instance : when you hear news of India and China in loggerheads , you should be in a position to orient that news under the syllabus Events of National and International importance in Prelims.

2.The Hindu – Read it or You will regret

have seen many aspirants mugging up the monthly compilations of many private institutions and failing miserably in Prelims itself . All I could say to them is that they left behind the cheat code , and went behind something that is not at all going to work. Your ‘The Hindu’ is going to be your one and only cheat code in this preparation. All though other News Papers add value but you dare not leave behind The Hindu.

Do check out this link – How to Read the news paper

And we also present to you the IBH NewsPaper , a paper that simplifies you preparation delivered daily in you mobile –

Points to note :

  1. Skim through the entire newspaper early in the morning 
  2. Make notes out of editorial – small bulletin points will do !
  3. Know what to read ! – don’t waste time on politics
    1. Read politics only if you have some constitutional or legislative importance
  4. Don’t miss out on the Sports column , I am not asking you to read each and every line . Just know what is happening. Facts may help in prelims and Ethics answer writing 

3.The NCERTs – Back to School

If you haven’t read NCERTs in your schools , then do read it. It is going to be the base for everything. If you’re in a self study mode , you cannot afford not to read these great things. They are crafted so that the concepts flow very easily into our brains everytime we read them.

List of NCERTs to read, Link –

Do follow these points :

  1. Practice notes making from the very beginning 
  2. Make pictorial representation of points 
  3. Flow charts , diagrams , will help you more in revising 
  4. Note down the facts and data – but cross check them as these books were published long back. It’s your responsibility to be updated on this Ministry of Human resource can’t spoon feed you data 😉 !

4.Standard Books – So Standard they are

Once you are done with NCERTs it’s time to sharpen your swords, brains I mean.

List of Standard Books, Link –

Points to note :

  1. Standard books are so standard that you can’t leave them out 
  2. Most of the times questions are directly picked out famous authors like Bipin Chandra
  3. Do know every topic and try to relate the same with what you have read in NCERTs

5.Test Series – Time to Evaluate 

Taking Tests is the only key to crack prelims easily. You can take a 100 MCQ test weekly once when your prelims is some 10 months away and taking one test every 2 days is being advised when the prelims is less than 3 months away.

Points to note 

  1. Subscribe to a test series and make sure take it regularly
  2. Do the followup after every test, with the key and explanation that’s being supplied 
  3. Feel free to talk to mentors to know your weak areas

The key to crack prelims is Elimination – master the art of elimination 

When to take mocks?

The answer to this will depend on your requirements. If you think you cannot plan your studies, you can enroll for any good mock test series and follow their time table.  If you are planning your study schedule on your own, it is best to first complete the entire syllabus and then start taking full length mocks. Having said that, you can also start writing tests that deal with particular sections rather than waiting to complete and take tests on entire syllabus. It really depends on your preparation schedule and comfort level with the syllabus. Remember that, it is never too late to start taking mocks.

The UPSC Prelims cut-off for General Category in GS 1 is normally about 110-120 marks. It is entirely possible to clear the Prelims on the first attempt itself with adequate preparation and practise tests.