How to Plan for IAS Preparation - IAS Preparation Steps

by Dumbledore

Before starting your IAS preparation read these useful tips to know the basics of IAS exam preparation.

IAS Preparation

The Indian Administrative Services (IAS) exam is the doorway to a career in the Indian Civil Services - the most reputed and rewarding career in the public sector in India. Lacs of candidates appear for the IAS Prelims each year but only a few manage to clear it and appear for the Mains exam. Still fewer manage to make it to the interview. Such is the level of this examination. IAS preparation requires the right approach along with right effort. These tips for IAS preparation list the steps to begin preparing for IAS exam the right way.

Understand the IAS Exam

The Pattern, Syllabus, etc.

The IAS exam is a three step process consisting of Prelims, Mains and Interview. You need to clear the previous stage to qualify for the next. For instance to be eligible for the Mains you should crack the preliminary exam first. 

Next, the Prelims is only qualifying in nature which implies the marks scored in the Prelims are not considered for final rankings. However the Mains and Interview are both scoring and marks are used for deciding the final ranking.

The Prelims consists of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each. You can read the new Prelims syllabus to know more. IAS aspirants who clear the Prelims are eligible to appear for the Mains which consists of 2000 marks with two optional subjects of 600 marks each, one common general studies (GS) paper of 600 marks and one essay paper of 200 marks. Apart from this, there is one language and one English paper compulsory to all candidates which are not scoring but qualifying in nature. If you don't clear these language papers your optional papers are not evaluated.

The preliminary exam is usually held in the second or third week of May every year while the Mains starts in the last week of October and continues for 20-25 days. The results are declared in March and interviews begin in the last week and continue right till the last week of April. The final results are then declared in the first or second week of May before the Prelims. This completes the IAS exam cycle. 

With this basic understanding of the IAS exam let's move on to the steps to take to begin your IAS exam preparation.

Assess the Time in Hand

Before deciding to appear for the Prelims assess the time available for preparation. Generally 10 months is adequate for preparation for a complete beginner, however it may vary depending on your knowledge base and grasping power. If number of attempts is not a hindrance, you may appear for the Prelims even with 4-5 months preparation to get a hang of the examination.

If you begin your IAS Preparation a year in advance it's even desirable. 

The next step is to divide the time among different subjects and topics. For this you should be aware of the Prelims syllabus and plan accordingly. Read a good newspaper daily and make small notes for current affairs as current affairs based questions can fetch you easy marks in the first paper.

If you feel the need for guidance don't hesitate to enroll for a good coaching class as the prepared notes can reduce the time spent in note making considerably. Another advantage of coaching for IAS exam is that it imparts the right direction to your efforts and provides a sense of urgency in your preparation. Also you can share tips and best practices with other students which might not be possible if you study in isolation. Still, coaching is a matter of personal choice and need and there's no universal rule whether one should or should not seek coaching for IAS preparation. 

Refer the Right Books and Study Material

Many IAS aspirants waste unbelievable amount of time reading books and notes referred by their friends and peers but which are not really required. Only read those books and notes for Prelims that are absolutely necessary. Also make a habit of reading the daily newspaper but not for more than an hour daily.

Next, you should know what to read in the books and notes. Some books have to be read from cover to finish while others should be read only in partially. However you read it is a good practice to re-read the same book twice or thrice than referring an array of books on the same subject or topic.

Notes from coaching classes can supplement books but try to get hold of the hand-written notes as these are fresh and incorporate the latest developments in the subject. 

Enroll for Mock Tests

Testing yourself before the D-Day can boost your confidence and also highlight and correct the chinks in your preparation. If possible test yourself constantly every month by solving the previous years papers to track your progress continually. 

There are also various test series available online and in major cities like Delhi, Chandigarh, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad etc. First, inquire about the quality and reputation of the coaching institute from peers and seniors before you enroll for test series or coaching as there are many fraudulent names involved in the IAS exam coaching market.

Seek Advice from Seniors

Seniors who have been successful in the IAS exam or have at least reached the interview stage earlier can provide valuable tips and suggestions. You can learn from their experience and avoid the mistakes they may have committed. Also you can get valuable tips in time management and answer writing from them which is crucial for success in the IAS exam.

Updated: 01/05/2012, Dumbledore
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saranya on 01/06/2012

Thank you for the article sir. I have a question regarding the age limit for IAS. Please let me know whether the age limit for IAS will be reduced?

Kislay K. Preyash on 01/06/2012

My respected mentor
a very good morning.....
My strategies are in compliance with that of your vision & guidelines.I have not good grip over the following conventional subjects,i.e., 1. indian polity ;& 2. indian geography(physical only) ,at the preliminary level as far as objectivity is concerned ;and 1. the above two subjects to some extent ; 2. current affairs portion ; 3. history of ancient & medivial india ; relation for paper-2. I am trying to cope with inefficiencies with proper utilisation of the time management's concept.I am a bit sort of psychologically and physically ill. Medication of Dr. K.K. Sinha uncle(at Ranchi) is going on .He prescribed the calcium antagonist medicine(FLUNER-10) for me for 6 months period.I am having the complication of persistent headache since june 2011.But now it is much under control.He also gave me an anti-depressant (SENSIVAL-25), as the side effect of the former one is depression.Now-a days i am feeling good with very occassional arousal of symptomatic problem.I came under his medication since CHATAH puja , when i was at my maternal home at hazaribag.
with regards

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