FAQs on UPSC IAS Exam Preparation
It is a common issue that many serious candidates across India are facing. But you don’t need to be scared. There are still 60-65 days left before prelims. Moreover you were doing well in March- April – 2020. It is easy to bounce back. All it needs is re-starting studies with high intensity for 10-15 days. This brings back the confidence.
As you have already prepared for prelims. Remove the unnecessary burden of fear and keep your mind clear. Sit down and make a list of the topics and test papers that you need to attempt and revise before going for prelims and accordingly make a plan for next 2 months.
You can plan your time like this:
- 1st day – 5-6 hrs
- 2nd day – 6.5 hrs
- 3 day and 4th day – 7 hrs
- 5th day 7.5 hrs
Like this you can increase it upto the optimum level of 8-10 hours or more.
For prelims 2020, you can focus on the last 1 year current affairs. I.e. June 2019 to September 2020. However, if you have studied the current affairs of months preceding June 2019, please do revise them also as UPSC has a tendency to ask questions from the previous 2 years.
First attempt is the best attempt. Being a fresher to UPSC civil services examination, you can actually give your best shot provided your preparation is good and confidence is strong. If Prelims-2020 is your first attempt, focus more on revision of basics and solving of mock tests more and more.
You can get a detailed strategy here in the following video where our Prelims experts discuss the issue in detail.
UPSC has started importance to ancient and medieval history in Prelims. You can expect 6-7 questions on them.
The standard source for Medieval History is
- Old NCERT (7 and 11 class)
- New NCERT
- Our Pasts – II – Class VII
- Themes in Indian History – II
In case you don’t have time then Tamil Nadu book for History may help you in solving basic questions of Medieval History. Please don’t read all the books mentioned above. Stick to one source and revise it couple of times. Then, you can look into additional sources.
Make a list of terms related with ancient and medieval history, and group them in categories.
For example group the terms related to administration at one place. It will help in memorizing them in an easy manner.
You can then go ahead and create mnemonics.
Also, it’s better to remember by sticking to one primary source again and again so that you can build pictorial memory. For example, if you keep reading Buddhism topic in an NCERT textbook again and again, your sub-conscious mind will remember key words and concepts very well (provided you have underlined or note down such words).
But remember that you should not spend huge time remembering facts here. Give most of your time for getting conceptual clarity. Whatever facts, UPSC has covered in its past papers and what we have covered in our mocks are more than sufficient.
Stick to the standard sources, past UPSC prelims papers(20 years), NCERT + Bipin Chandra + Spectrum. Most of the prelims questions can be solved through them. If some questions come that you might not have seen try to use logic and common sense.
For example, if it’s a question related to Gandhi, if you have read modern India in depth and understood the personality of Gandhi, you can eliminate options easily. These questions are difficult for all and most students either leave them or mark it wrong. Our focus should be on getting most of the basic questions right . Always prepare for prelims keeping the cost- benefit ratio in mind.
Same goes with questions on Buddhism, architecture, ancient Indian philosophy etc.
These tests if revised multiple times will be sufficient in addition to your own class-notes/self-notes made on static topics and current affairs. These tests can come to your rescue when you have very few days to prepare for this exam. If you are starting one year before prelims, you must read basic books such as NCERT etc to get the depth needed to clear this exam. Relying on ONLY test series must be the last resort.
Revise them thoroughly (minimum 4 times) + we have provided our previous test series on your portal. You can practice them especially for those subjects which need more attention.
In addition to it, do practice UPSC previous year papers(20 years). Categorise these questions and read them repeatedly. You can also practice from our books: –
Practice + multiples Revisions are very necessary for this exam. In fact repeated revision of same source pays highest dividend.
Normally, UPSC asks around 12-13 questions from polity .Most of them can be answered by studying Laxmikanth and revising it multiple times and practicing mocks. W.r.t those questions which are abstract, if you have read ncerts like Indian constitution at work and democratic politics, please revise them again.
If you have not studied them , then it’s not prescribed to study them now .Stick to Laxmikanth , even those abstract questions can also be answered from it .Always prepare keeping in mind the cost- benefit ratio and the amount of time available .
You should complete at least one test series and revise it at least 3 times. On a daily basis practice around 200-400 MCQs. Regarding Sectional wise test- practice for those subjects in which you feel less confident. And give a full length test as many as you can. Main approach must be Questions to Concepts i.e. solve MCQs first and then read content.
We have to look for new schemes, keywords and concepts like nudging, missing women, trends in economy and any new terms(reports, schemes, concepts, international organisations) related to ongoing pressing socio-economic issues such as poverty, hunger etc.
We have covered these in our InsightsIAS Prelims test papers. You can practice them or cover Economic Survey and Budget. Try to read from summaries of economic survey.
Your understanding should of that level where you can read and understand the Economic Survey without breaking your head.
To gain that much knowledge, you have to finish the basic economic concepts from class 11 and 12 NCERTs. Those concepts will help you understand and relate to Indian Economy and current affairs. But initially go through past year UPSC prelims questions on economy. You can refer to Ramesh Singh to get more insights about important topics frequently asked in examination.
Moreover, we explain economy concepts in-depth in our test series synopsis.
Practice, Practice and Practice of solving huge number of MCQs is the key to enhance prelims related skills.
While attempting questions you need to be attentive towards those questions to which you have less knowledge.
- Try to study each statement and use logic to mark it correct or incorrect. Use common sense while attempting the questions
- For example, if a question is based on identifying a national park in a state then you can try to link it with the name of it. Usually the names are helpful in establishing the identity of the areas. You can distinguish easily between names of northern and southern states. Likewise you can relate it with other common factors like geography, common news or any other factor to which you can relate the topic with.
- Secondly while analysing these questions (solution), see to what extent your logic was correct. If you have identified the correct reason then it will boost your confidence and if the actual reason is different then you will be able to align yourself with the correct manner of thinking.
So practicing with an approach of learning the skill as well as knowledge is important
As already said practice around 200-400 questions on daily basis.
You can also read our articles regarding enhancing skills related to Prelims:
- Follow our INSTA plan for CSAT. Practice from there. For additional practice you can follow any CSAT book available. Mostly, same questions are given to them. For arithmetic you can follow books like R S Aggarwal.
- You can follow our telegram channel for CSAT
INSTA – CSAT 2020: https://t.me/INSIGHTSCSAT
You can watch this video too:
- If you are an insights student then you have access to our previous CSAT paper test series on your portal.
Focus on areas such as –
- Buddhism and Jainism and Indian Philosophies
- architecture – temple as well as forts, etc.,
- Music and Dances including Folk music and dance – (important ones + those in News)
- Literature – (try to remember the important ones)
You can do it from Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania and NCERT for Class XI – Fine Arts
If you have covered old and new NCERT then remembering Art and Culture will be easy.
For prelims 2020, you can focus on the last 1 year current affairs. I.e June 2019 to September 2020. Keep a single source and revise it multiple times. You can refer to our current affairs compilations (download here). If you find reading current affairs compilations bulky, then go for current affairs Quiz compilations (download here).
Also, focus more on current affairs related questions that we have covered in our prelims mock tests. They are very important.
If you can answer 60 to 70% of current affairs questions, it is good enough to clear prelims. Don’t focus on perfection, focus on progress to reach a good enough level.
Follow the Insta Revision Plan. Solve and revise all the questions given under it. It would be the best approach. If you are willing to make a plan yourself then you can allot certain days for each subject like 5-7 days for polity, 7-8 days for geography and ecology. Likewise allot time for each subject and make a timetable for them. Here, you may revise our subject-wise prelims mocks for extra practice.
Do put Current affairs in your daily timetable + MCQs for practice.
- Current Affairs magazine is necessary for both prelims as well as mains.
- While studying the current affairs first go through the content and on each topic try to frame some questions like what is it, why it happened etc.
- It will help in developing interest in that topic and you will be able to understand the topic well. Also mark important keywords and points. They will be helpful in quick revision.
- For certain topics – facts based you can make notes also like – list of national parks in news or places in news, or IUCN status of species etc.
- Some additional points if you find can be added in the magazine itself like updates on any topic, etc.
To be safe you must cover syllabus entirely. However, for Prelims-2020 you can give bit more weightage to economy and related developments.
However, subjects like Polity, Ecology, Economy, Modern India and Geography have a high weightage in the exam all the time. So, give equal importance to all of these without fail.
In exceptional scenario, like in CSP 2016 current affairs weightage was high, similarly weightage of history is sometimes seen to be high(in CSP-2019). So your approach should be to cover all the topics thoroughly and comprehensively. Do prepare all the topics (check answers in above FAQs regarding how to prepare effectively).
On an average you should try to score atleast 110-120 marks by the end of the test series. That is, try to correct 70 questions. It will ensure a minimum of 120 marks.
Instead of marks, your focus must be on increasing accuracy rate (number of questions you get right out of attempted questions). Accuracy rate should be 80 percent (i.e. If you attempt 80 questions, 64 questions must be correct).
If you are giving tests for 2021, and has just started with our mocks, then your score should be around 60-70, which should gradually improve to 10o by next 6 months. Two months before prelims your score should be 110+ in all the tests.
- Cover the INSTA Revision modules for 2020 (you can find it on downloads section –
- Solve current affairs Quizzes from January-2019 to present (quickest way to finish important current affairs)
- Solve and remember all current affairs related questions that we have asked in Prelims-2020.
Yes you can definitely clear the prelims. Many have done that in the recent past. But you need to be very disciplined, determined and have to work hard in the right direction.
Make a plan for yourself for the next 65 days in which you have to keep 20 days for revision also. And do practice MCQs – from quizzes, past UPSC papers and our test series papers – daily on the topics that you cover daily.
You should also follow the INSTA revision schedule for the prelims which will help you bring discipline into your preparation. The questions which we give under this plan are of high quality and will cover most important topics for prelims.
Yes it is sufficient but along with it do practice MCQs(300+) on a daily basis for those topics which you feel you are not comfortable with.
But you must revise all these questions at least 2-3 times minimum.
Silly mistakes will cost you marks unnecessarily. So primary focus will be on reducing them.
- Firstly note down how much extra time you take while reading the questions carefully. If time taken is about 10 minutes more, then you can easily reduce it.
- Mark keywords and any specific demand of question (like select incorrect statements) in the questions by using the highlighter. It will help in avoiding the silly mistakes and also repeated reading of the question will not be required.
Secondly, on daily basis, practice 200-400 MCQs. it will increase your speed and accuracy in 2 ways
- Basic questions + concepts will be clear to you and mistakes will be reduced.
- Speed will also increase.
- You will get the sense of the traps laid down in questions and would be able to identify them and avoid silly mistakes.
Both should be done. Revise the textbooks/notes(any one source) thoroughly and practice 200-400 questions on a daily basis. You can devote 60 percent time to solve questions and 40 percent time to read texts/notes.
However, more emphasis should be on Questions to Concepts i.e. solving MCQs more and then reading content.
- Firstly lets us try to analyse this issue properly. You have to mark answers with different coloured pens, when you are facing such questions. Then count how many such questions were correct and how many were wrong. Most of the time we don’t count correct questions in our analysis and just focus on the incorrect ones. This makes the problem seem to be bigger than it really is and affects our confidence.
- Secondly, while marking responses to such questions try to justify your response. Don’t rush through those questions but try to spend some time on that statement and see if there are any reasons for marking it correct or incorrect. Your response should be based upon reason.
- Then you have to see the answer and check whether your reason for marking the response was correct or not. With practice you reasoning for such a statement will become aligned with the expected response.
Such types of questions tend to check your clarity about the topic. So you should study thoroughly. More such questions in exams means the difficulty level of paper is high. So if you feel in any question that clarity is very less then you should consider the option of leaving it.
Along with the knowledge, the skill component is important for the examination (Especially in recent times since CSP-2016). Please refer to this video for how to effectively use and develop the skills for examination.
Yes. Insta PT covers comprehensively most important topics, designed on the lines of UPSC’s demand thus helping the aspirants to answer most of the questions.
Please refer to this video. It will surely help you.
Since only two months are remaining, you should focus now on prelims.
Before starting the studies just go through these videos which will provide u more insight
Firstly, take section wise tests which will be based on a few chapters. After these sectional tests, take full length tests.
After every test, make sure you refer to the synopsis and make short notes from it. Identify your strengths and weaknesses based on scores, and go back to your basic sources and revise them again.