Tips crack the UPSC civil services preliminary examination

Tips to Crack the UPSC Preliminary Exam

UPSC Preliminary Exam is the first stage of the exam and should never be taken lightly. The preparation should be such that you should not have any doubt about clearing the exam. The prelims should only be a passing phase. If you prepare well for the mains exam and be clear about the basics, then prelims should not be problem. The main focus should be on the optional subject first. At the same time the GS should be done regularly. Since there is well-defined syllabus for the optional, you should prepare thoroughly in all aspects and score as much as possible.

The preliminary exam is a test of recognition. It is sufficient if you can recognise the correct answer from given choices. So if you are strong in basics this should not be problem. Do not spend too much time in memorising facts. It’s fine if you can recognise it. Prepare some mnemonics, which will help you in recognizing the right answer.

One should do as many previous year papers as possible. It will help you in time management and also in identifying the weak areas. Please remember that this practice should be right from the beginning and not in the final stages.

Tips crack the UPSC civil services preliminary examination

Negative Marking

UPSC has taken a right step introducing negative marking to filter out candidates who get selected on the basis of smart guesses and luck. So, the serious candidates should cheer up now. Negative marking make paper more complex. But it is easy for a well prepared students and gives an extra benefit to a genuine candidates.

How to tackle negative marking?

  • Identify the areas of your strength in the question paper. Solve questions from these areas first. Solving easy question will boost your confidence.
  • Don’t waste your time for particular questions. Leave time consuming questions to take up in the end.
  • The definition of intelligent guessing changes now with negative marking. You should tick only those answers which you feel 70% correct.
  • Don’t play any blind and stupid game of guessing.
  • ..Practice…Practice…Mock tests reduce mistake in the exam and prepare you to face real environment in which you can tackle & solve the questions within time limit.
  • Mock tests provide you a platform where you can check your own weakness, mistakes and errors and develop a better understanding for solving different types of questions.

General Studies – Preliminary Exam

UPSC is not following a standard pattern of allotment of questions for various topics. It is becoming difficult now to attempt or even to prepare for complete syllabus. Hence, it is wise to stress on those subjects, which are common for Main Examination. The areas to be taken care of are Modern India, Polity, Indian Economy, Geography, Current Events and General Science. Considering the general nature of the examination the tactics must be to focus on greater rather than intensive coverage giving more stress on subjects, which are common to Main Examination.


The areas to be covered are the history from ancient to modern period. The basic understanding can be obtained from below 10th NCERT books. The focus should be on modern Indian history, which is covered in the mains. The basic knowledge in Ancient India and Medieval India is sufficient.

The NCERT books (Class XI and XII) are good enough for the purpose.

You can refer following books

  • Ancient India , NCERT Class XI
  • Medieval India , NCERT Class XI
  • Modern India , NCERT Class XII
  • Modern India, Spectrum publications


The Constitution and various related aspects should be done well. Some articles and facts should be memorised. It is better to prepare this area well since it will be helpful in mains and interview.

The Indian Polity by Lakshmikanth and NCERT books are sufficient. Also refer, DD Basu.


For Indian Geography

  • Physical Geography of India, NCERT Class XI
  • Land and People, NCERT Class XI For World Geography
  • General Studies Manual by TMH or Spectrum Publications.

For Both Indian and World Geography, follow Prelims issues by Civil Services Chronicle Magazine or Competition Wizard Magazine.


The basic concepts are being asked along with current affairs based questions. The basic clarity can be obtained from the standard books. The current affairs can be studied from Economic Survey and the newspapers.

Suggested Reading:

  • Economic Survey
  • Dutt & Sundaram or Mishra & Puri or IC Dhingra


Some times the questions are asked very difficult that even science students find it difficult to answer. But the preparation should be in such a way that all the basic questions can be done correctly. The questions are also asked in applications orientation.

Suggested Reading:

  • Science and Technology, NCERT Class IX & X
  • What, Why & How books by CSIR.

Mental Ability

Do lot of practice from previous years papers. The preparation can also be made from some standard guide like General Studies Manual by TMH. The speed and accuracy should be practised. Concentrate on permutations, combinations, probability, logical reasoning.

Current Affairs

This has become a very important component. The preparation should be continuous from the sources given in mains strategy. The notes should be focused on the factual aspects that come in the news. Many questions are asked from this area, so prepare thoroughly. The efforts will be useful for all stages of the exam. It should become a part of your daily routine.

Suggested Reading:

  • The Hindu News paper
  • Frontline Magazine
  • Yojana Magazine
  • Competition Wizard or Spectrum Issue on Current Affairs – This is just to make sure that you have covered all the current affairs issues in News Paper.

General Knowledge

Quite a few questions are asked from this area. Some difficult questions are also asked. Do not spend too much time in memorising unnecessary facts. You should have a broad awareness about various fields. At the same time, focus more on areas, which have been asked in the past.

India Year Book – This is important for the prelims and also for some mains two mark questions. But do not read everything given in the book, be logical and concentrate on the basics, which can be asked in the exam. You should prepare notes on the various terms that are given in the book. Do not focus too much on unnecessary facts given in the book.

Manorama Yearbook – This book should also be taken as reference.

For the GS prelims, if you want a compilation of all material at one point then can refer some standard guide like TMH. But do not ignore the NCERT and other books since they give better clarity.

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