How To Start Preparing for Civil Services?

To start the Civil Services Exam preparation, it is not a must to attend any coaching institutes. But good coaching – either online or offline – can be of great help to the candidates for proper guidance and knowledge.

Self-Study (Online Coaching and Books): Pros and Cons -
Self-study can be done at the comfort of one’s own home at less than 10% of the amount charged by many coaching institutes. There are no time/space constraints. This type of approach is suitable for working professionals and all others who feel that classroom coaching is not suitable to them.
However, while doing self-preparation, if not following a systematic approach by referring right books, mock exams, magazines, and websites, one will lose focus.
Follow a good strategy, learn what UPSC toppers did, adopt a test-based approach to learn faster. Take periodic mock tests to evaluate your performance.
IAS Classroom Coaching: Pros and Cons -
Classroom coaching is a good idea provided you are lucky enough to get a good institute and mentors, you can learn a lot from them – directly. But, If not, it may be a time killer!
Besides, there will be the advantage of peer learning and competition, mock tests, analysis, etc.
Time/space constraints, unavailability of coaching outside metros like Delhi, outdated study materials, misguidance, etc. are some problems.

Mistakes to be avoided:

1. Having inferiority complex that you are not from a good college, have lesser grades or started preparation late or did not take the coaching or your optional subject is not related to your graduation. It dilutes your confidence which is very important for cracking any exam not only UPSC.
2. Inconsistency in preparation: Consistency is very important, some aspirants study 14 hours on one day and get frustrated, a human being is not a machine, so do not get frustrated after 2-3 spikes. Daily 7-8 hour study with efficiency in the right direction is enough.
3. Relying too much on the internet may result in wasting your precious time.
Internet is for gaining the edge not losing the edge, it is a double-edged sword.
4. Reading from too many sources for a single topic.
No need to love any topic and show loyalty towards that whole syllabus and all the topics have their own importance according to marks. We are here to crack the exam, so there is a need to cover the full syllabus comprehensively.
5. Not making proper notes of newspapers.
6. Joining too many coaching institutes: Coaching cannot help you to crack this exam after an extent.
7. Not doing answer practice: No book or coaching institutes can give you ready-made answers of UPSC questions. They are dynamic and analytical. So the more you practice such questions, the more comfortable you will be in writing the answer on the d-day.
8. Not having Plan B while preparing for the IAS exam.
Why not prepare plan B, what if not UPSC? It helps us to throw down the pressure.
Be practical. Every year lakhs appear for the exam but only a few are selected, didn’t mean others were not hardworking enough. But there is a multitude of factors that facilitate your success and you can’t control all. So work hard for Plan A but do have Plan B.
9. Wasting too much time on making notes.
Notes making is very important because, without notes or compiling the material, we will face a lot of difficulties near exam time, But we have to make notes discretely.
10. Isolating yourself from the external world.
This kind of people have more tendency to go in depression, do not isolate yourself, its just exam, have some important people in your life with whom you share everything.
11. Not preparing according to the syllabus, you go directionless.
How can we reach the destination without having a map in hand, so always have the syllabus, we have to read every topic according to syllabus, so that we can utilize our time.
12. Doing a Ph.D. on any topic.
Strong command on only a few topics will not help to crack the UPSC exam. So, do not focus too much on any specific topic rather do as much as is necessary and sufficient.
13. Not  enough emphasis on essay
First, we ignore essay completely and later repent citing its worth in mains exam, essay preparation cannot be isolated while reading newspapers observe the writing style of famous writer and note down good points and lines.
14. Becoming complacent after the first attempt.
People lose enthusiasm after 1st attempt and start thinking now there is a lot of time and they never pick the momentum again and start convincing themselves that there is huge role luck and there are a lot of toppers who also cracked in later attempts.
15. Just reading but not thinking.
16. Spending time on the study but not studying.
17. Watching too many videos, just to convince yourself that I am studying but to find later that those videos are of no use.
18. Purchase and start studying after observing what others are studying.
19. Not making micro notes:  Make micro notes for revision, it is very necessary, UPSC preparation is like horse latitudes so throw your horses(means extra things or fodder material, not important for the exam) to take your ship further.
20. Studying linearly without frequent self-assessment, you may diverge from UPSC demand and proceed in the wrong direction, so always keep previous papers and if possible join any topic series to know at times where you lack. Test yourself before UPSC tests you.
21. Reading every book madly from the first page to the last page.
Always try to go syllabus wise, do not waste time in unnecessary reading.
22. Preparing for prelim and mains separately.
23. Planning all the time but not executing it.
24. Getting tensed and frustrated after listening to the roadside discussion.
25. Reading too much but not focusing on revision.
26. Not underlining or making notes while reading: Books are like gold mines, we have to extract gold out of it, So it is important to extract the good points, not underlining is like seeing where the gold is present in the mine and not extracting, Do you think you will be able to remember when you will read the book again next time?

UPSC General Studies Recommended Books
Basic Books:
  1. NIOS course books for classes XI and XII on - Ancient India, Medieval India, Modern India, National Movement & Contemporary World and Culture of India. (All these are available in PDF format on internet)

Advance Level Books:
  1. India’s Ancient Past by R.S. Sharma published by Oxford University Press
  2. A History of Ancient & Early Medieval India by Upinder Singh
  3. History of Medieval India (800–1700 AD) by Satish Chandra published by Orient Longman
  4. History of Modern India by Bipin Chandra (2009 Edition)
  5. India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra & Others
  6. India After Independence (1947 - 2000) by Bipin Chandra & Others
  7. From Plassey To Partition And After by Sekhar Bandopadhyaya

World History:
  1. The Story of Civilization, Part 2 by Arjun Dev, NCERT
  2. Contemporary World History for class XII (Old NCERT Book)
  3. Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe

  1. Certificate Physical & Human Geography (Oxford) by Goh Cheng Leong
  2. NCERTs (New Editions)
  • XI Standard: (1) India - Physical Environment (2) Fundamentals of Physical Geography
  • XII Standard: (1) India - People & Economy (2) Fundamentals of Human Geography
3. School Atlas - Orient Black Swan
4. Indian Geography by D. R. Khullar
Social Issues
  1. XI Standard NCERT on Indian Society (Chapters on Unity & Diversity and Population Issues)
  2. XII Standard NCERT (Chapters on Communalism, Secularism and Urban Issues such as Poverty, Housing, etc.)
  3. The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper

Indian Polity
  1. Constitution of India at Work (Class XI) NCERT Publication
  2. Indian Polity by Laxmikant
  3. The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper
  4. Yojana Magazine

Governance Issues
  1. From Government to Governance by Kuldeep Mathur
  2. Ethics in Governance, ARC Report
  3. Citizen Centric Administration (Chapters 2, 5, 6, 7 & 8 only and box items in the report)

Developmental Issues
  1. Human Development Report & World Development Report
  2. Panchayati Raj in India by Kuldeep Mathur
  3. The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper
  4. Kurukshetra & Yojana Magazines

International Relations
  1. India’s Foreign Policy Since Independence by V.P. Dutt
  2. The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper

Indian Economy
  1. Indian Economic Development XI Standard NCERT
  2. Indian Economy by Sanjiv Verma
  3. Introductory Macro Economics XII Standard NCERT (Ignore all diagrams & mathematical formulas)
  4. The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper
  5. Economics Dictionary published by Collins & Penguin
  6. Economic Survey 2017 - 18 & 2018 - 19 (to be out in Feb 2019, only recommended chapters)

Ecology & Environment
  1. Certificate Physical & Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong (Second Half of the Book)
  2. XII Standard NCERT Book on Biology (Chapters pertaining to Ecology)
  3. India Year Book (Chapters on Environment)
  4. Chapter on Climate Change from Economic Survey
  5. The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper

Security Issues
  1. India’s Security in a Turbulent World by Jasjit Singh, published by National Book Trust of India
  2. The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper

Science & Technology
  1. VIII, IX, X Standard NCERT books on Biology
  2. The Hindu or Indian Express Newspaper
  3. Monthly Magazine ‘Science Reporter for Science & Technology’

Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude
  1. Ethics in Governance, ARC Report
  2. Lexicon by Chronicle Publications
  3. The Book on Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude published by Access Publication

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