UPSC Preparation Strategy for Prelims Exam
UPSC Preparation Strategy for Prelims

UPSC Preparation Strategy for Prelims – IAS (CSE) Exam 2020-21

If you aim to become an IAS officer, then you have to clear three stages namely preliminary exams, main exams, and final interview. These are the three phases of UPSC exams and it is essential for every aspirant to complete the exam successfully. The very first test that an aspirant has to attend is the preliminary exam, usually a screening test to filter candidates for the next stage that is the mains exam. 

When you appear for the UPSC preliminary exam, you will be answering multiple-choice questions in both the papers of the prelims exam. The two papers in the preliminary exam are general studies 1 and 2. The general studies 2 paper is called CSAT. 

Before discussing the prelims strategy let us know about the UPSC prelims exam pattern.

A discussion about Exam pattern

The general studies paper one comprises 200 marks for hundred questions and you will have to complete the exam in 2 hours. There is negative marking as well and it is essential for the students to check your answer before marking. GS 2 paper is very similar to GS1 but this CSAT exam is qualifying in nature.

As mentioned earlier, the UPSC exam comprises two papers namely General studies 1 and General studies 2. You will be attending the subjects for 200 marks and the papers are conducted as an offline exam. You will receive the prelims admit card a couple of weeks before the UPSC prelims exams. You can check the information on the official website of UPSC to know whether your admit card is released or not. 

Coming back to the syllabus, General Studies Paper 1 has 100 questions and the duration of the exam is two hours. 

Negative marking in UPSC preliminary exam

In General Studies paper 1, the negative marking is -0.6 6 marks whereas in General Studies II, commonly called as CSAT the negative marking is – 0.83. The exams are conducted in both Hindi and English. When coming to the CSAT exam, the number of questions are 80 but the marks is 200. The General Studies 1 paper is counted for merit while the CSAT remains a qualifying paper. The cut off marks for UPSC prelims remains around hundred for general category candidates and it can change. 


UPSC Preparation Strategy for Prelims that can be effective while preparations

It is essential for any UPSC aspirant to follow a particular strategy or approach for the exam preparation. Only 15 to 20000 candidates are getting selected to mains exam while nearly 10 lakh students appeared for the preliminary exam. Half a million people are appearing for the UPSC exam for thousands of positions available in the Indian administrative service so it is essential for every student to prepare exceptionally well. 

Quick tips to include in your UPSC Preparation Strategy for Prelims

Here are a few things that you should keep in mind while preparing for the UPSC preliminary exams. 

  • You can create a CSAT strategy after analysing the question papers of previous years. You have to take time for or an effective preliminary exam strategy as the exam preparations is a long term process. Moreover, the General Studies syllabus in the preliminary and mains exam overlaps. 
  • If you have only a few days to prepare for the UPSC preliminary exam, then you can check out the final section which helps you to prepare for the UPSC prelims exam effectively within 3 months. 

Score more than cutoff marks in Prelims 

Basically, the cutoff for the UPSC prelims exam in general studies 1 paper is 110 – 120 for the general category. If you are attending the UPSC preliminary exam for the first time, you can still clear the exams with the required marks. 

However, you have to put maximum effort and continuously practice for clearing the IAS prelims exams in the first attempt. First off, you have to be clear in choosing the right resources for further learning. There is a plethora of study materials available for the students to prepare so it is essential for every student to choose the study materials with which they are going to prepare for the IAS preliminary exams. It is essential to follow reliable sources like the press information bureau, Yojana magazine, and other easy to read sources which will save a lot of time. 

UPSC Prelims Syllabus 

When it comes to the syllabus, you can rely on NCERT books as the concepts will be clear and you can finish the preparation on time. If you have more time, you can now check out other renowned UPSC prelims books of Laxmikant and Ramesh Singh. 


When you practice regularly, you will be understanding the concepts clearly and the probability of making errors in the exam will be predominantly reduced. Moreover, the negative marking in UPSC prelims can deteriorate your actual marks so it is better to avoid negative marking by attending the questions.

Here you will find the complete General Studies 1 syllabus. 

Effective UPSC Preparation Strategy for Prelims in short time

Even if you have got only some time for the preparations of UPSC preliminary exam, you can still complete the preparation successfully by following the below information. 

  • First off, you have to analyse the syllabus clearly and check how much time you will require for completing each and every topic so that you will be able to prepare without any issues. 
  • Once you are done with the syllabus, the next part that requires more attention is current affairs. Right from day one current affairs is one essential element that any UPSC candidate should be well aware of. When you start the UPSC prelims exam preparation, you have to be updated with current affairs everyday. 
  • You will find important information regarding the current affairs in newspapers like The Hindu, The Indian express and Yojana magazine are commonly used by the UPSC candidates for better current affairs preparation. One of the main sources of current affairs is the press information bureau which we acquire directly from the government so this source can be considered as a reliable source. However, it is tough to go through each and every information provided on the PIB website so you can utilise the summaries many online portals provide and you can save time and also understand the current affairs easily. 
  • To save time and effort, you can simultaneously prepare for UPSC mains exams as well. This is suggested because there is a syllabus overlap between UPSC prelims and UPSC mains so you can make use of the time available to finish both the exam preparations. 
  • You must go through the previous year question paper to increase the efficiency of your UPSC exam preparation. 

UPSC prelims General Studies II syllabus

General Studies II is also known as the civil services aptitude test CSAT and it was introduced a decade ago. This part was added to the UPSC civil services exam to evaluate the aptitude analytical and reasoning skills of every candidate who takes up the UPSC exams. 

As CSAT paper is also known as general studies paper 2 in UPSC prelims perspective it is totally a different paper when it comes to 2 mains exam. In the Mains exam General Studies paper 2 is the polity paper

CSAT syllabus includes interpersonal skills, communication skills, logical reasoning, decision making, problem-solving and analytical ability, mental ability basic numeracy and data interpretation. 

These are the important topics that have to be covered while preparing for the CSAT exam. There are special books from RS Aggarwal, MK Pandey and TMH which will help you to prepare for the UPSC preliminary exams especially CSAT. CSAT exam is a qualifying paper and UPSC aspirants have to score a minimum of 33% to make it to the mains exam. 

When it comes to the mark allotment, each question in the CSAT exam will be provided 2.5 marks as the question paper comprises of 80 questions. You should keep in mind that every wrong answer marked will be penalized so it is essential to be careful while providing answers. For each wrong answer, 0. 83 marks will be reduced. If you leave a question blank, then no mark will be reduced. 

The effective strategy to clear CSAT exams

Though CSAT paper is a qualifying paper, it is essential for the students to concentrate more on the preparations. <

Individuals who are good at English comprehension and basic mathematics can brush up their skills. Otherwise, a considerable amount of time should be spent on the improvement of the skills.

Make use of the previous year’s question papers and regularly practice them to do well in the CSAT examination. Also, regular practice will help you to finish the exam on time. Otherwise, you might require more time to complete the exam in 2 hours.

Qualifying the CSAT exam is way to essential as it is one of the criteria to advance through the next stage that is the mains exam.

It might be difficult for the students to complete the maths problems in the question paper. Students can make use of the shortcut methods and tricks to solve the problems on time.

Hope you have got a clear idea of what the UPSC Prelims strategy is up to. You have to utilize the information available above while preparing for the UPSC prelims exam. If you want special guidance, you can check out the top IAS coaching centers in the country.

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