How to start UPSC CSE preparation

A simple 5 step guide with examples.

Table of contents

Step 1 - Read the syllabus

Make sure you understand what each word means.

Ex: Prelims syllabus for Paper 1 contains

Indian and World Geography - Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.

Do you know what economic geography means here?

If you're not sure - Google it.

You can read the entire Prelims and Mains syllabus here. Be thorough, don't be in a rush. Google anything you don't understand.

Step 2 - Select your sources

Now that you're familiar with the syllabus it's time to select your books / courses that will help you cover those subjects.

Prefer books over all others as it's harder to cheat with books. You can always sleep in classes and it will still show that you covered the lecture.

Once you select your sources, stick to them like your life depends on it.


You don't want to do a PhD. You want to remember things to clear an exam. It's MUCH BETTER to read the same book 5 times than to read 5 different books for any particular subject.

This will help optimise your recall.

Step 3 - Start Reading

This is the hard part. A lot of people have done the first 2 steps and then they hit a wall. They can't sit to read, they can't focus.

That's normal. That's how it's going to be for the first few weeks for most people.

Embrace the struggle with your attention and be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

And in the meantime, stop looking for:

  • Shortcuts to complete polity, history etc.
  • Shortcuts to answer writing
  • Shortcuts to cover current affairs.

START READING. There are no shortcuts.

Step 4 - Test and revise

If you've read the basic books once, time to test what you've read.

Tests are a means to an end. Don't be fixated on getting 100 or 120 marks.

Focus on:

  • Your most common mistakes
  • Your strong/weak subjects
  • Are you making factual errors?
  • Are you making conceptual errors?

Use them to understand your preparation and make changes as needed. The mistakes you make in tests will tell you what you need to revise.

For more details:

Step 5 - Current affairs

You need to cover AT LEAST 1 year of current affairs. That is if you're giving Prelims 2023, then from June 2022 onwards.

3 ways to cover CA:

  • Newspaper + self notes
  • Current affairs magazines
  • Compilations (ex PT365)

Choose any one method & stick to it. Revise these frequently. Otherwise, no matter which method you choose you will forget what you've read.

For more details:

Prelims Essential Course + Mentorship

Best Teaching.

Everything you need in one course

  • Mentorship
  • Lectures - Live + Recording
  • Prelims/Mains/CSAT Test Series
  • Current Affairs
  • Answer Writing Guidance
  • Daily Practice Questions
  • CSAT - Complete coverage
  • Covers all prelims and mains syllabus
  • Crisp value addition material.

Intensive Course for UPSC 2024.

Previous Post

Next Post