The right time to start the preparation for Civil Services Exam 4

This is one of the most asked questions on Quora and several other forums I come across almost every day. ‘What is the right time to start IAS preparation?’ So, here I am compiling all my thoughts to guide you all the dedicated Civil Services aspirants on this very important question so that you begin your preparation at the right time and in the right direction.

Ok, let’s go one by one. So, is there really any right age and a right time to start IAS Preparation? If we look at the age criteria which UPSC has set for general candidates, it is 21 to 32 and the candidate must be a graduate to appear in the examination. And a very wise suggestion we have been hearing from our elders since childhood is, always focus on one thing at one time to excel in that one thing. So, yes, there is a right time to focus completely on IAS preparation and nothing else, which we are going to discuss now in this article.

There are many students who set their goal to become an IAS officer while pursuing 10th class, on the hand, there are many students who realize their dream later on life after completing graduation or while pursuing their careers in well-paid jobs. So, yes, there is no right age to realize your dreams, as, at some points or another, destiny too plays an important role. If we look at the success stories of candidates, most of them were seen admitting that IAS was not their first aspiration, rather they wanted to become something else, but somehow they found interest in IAS at later stage of life; while, on the other hand, there are many candidates who decided to become an IAS officer while they are studying at school. But, once you realize the dream, there must be a set time to begin the preparation.

Students who are in 10th Standard

As we mentioned above, one thing should be done at the one time excellently, so the students who are in 10th standard wondering what the right time to begin the preparation is, I would like to clear them all, this is not at all the right time to begin the full-fledged preparation for IAS. If you are in school, your focus should be on school studies. But if you are clear about your goal at merely this age, then hats off to you students! This is a plus point for you, as 10th standard NCERT books help form a base which helps the most during full-fledged preparation. So prepare well for 10th standard, and simultaneously you will be preparing for IAS Exam too. You don’t need to be worried about your mains optional at this stage, rather see in which subject you are good at, see your interest level, see which stream you would like to take after 10th, and accordingly form a stronger foundation for your IAS preparation.

Students who are in 12th standard

For those who are pursuing their 12th or have completed it and aiming at Civil Services Examination, I would like to first congratulate them. You have realized your dream at this age, and you have ample of time to prepare well for the most coveted Civil Services Examination. If you are pursuing 12th, focus on that first, your priority should be doing well in school first, and simultaneously you will be forming base with NCERTs of class 12th. You can judge your interest level on the subject at that stage to decide your optional subject, but in case you are unable to, need not worry, that can be taken care after completing the 12th class.

Those who have completed their 12th can go for their full-fledged preparation along with graduation as it will give you ample of time to prepare well and appear for the exam right after completing your graduation. You can either join 3 years course which most of the IAS academies provide or can go for self-studies while pursuing full-time graduation. Although, joining a 3 years course would be advisable, as it will help you begin your preparation from the basics under experts’ guidance. Students who are opting for self-study must first get a fair idea of the syllabus and exam pattern before beginning the preparation. If not regular coaching, opting for right study material from a reputed IAS coaching institute would also help you begin your preparation at the right direction

Students who are undergraduates and graduates

If you are undergraduate or a graduate and aiming to crack IAS in the subsequent years, then this is the perfect time to begin the preparation. The first year or the second year’s students can join the 2 years courses which most of the academies provide, or if you do not want to join coaching, you can go for self-studies as well. This is the perfect time to know in which subject you are good at, and can choose your optional subject basis on that. This is the perfect time to develop a habit of reading a Newspaper every day, manage your time well to prepare for both (the graduation subjects along with subjects required to study for Civil Services Exam). This is the time to study NCERT books simultaneously.

And those who have completed their graduation can join coaching for 1 year without having a second thought. Self-preparation is also an option, but experts’ guidance here is must, as you must aim to crack the exam as early as possible. Target your first attempt to be your final attempt for crack this coveted examination, as the more time you will get into the service, the more you will get the exposure and get higher positions in the services at an earlier age.

Aspirants who are working professionals

Those who are working professionals, and are confused whether to leave the job or begin the preparation simultaneously, I would like to tell clarify here that preparation can be done while pursuing regular job. So it completely depends upon the candidates, where he/she wish to leave the job and devote time completely to the preparation or would like to simultaneously do the preparation with regular job. Many academies provide special weekend batches for working professionals, which can help them prepare well under experts’ guidance. So the right time for you to begin the preparation is ‘NOW’, without delaying it even a day more.

What all need to be prepared for IAS?

Now, the question is what is to be prepared for IAS.

So first of all, get a fair understanding of the syllabus. Civil Services Examination consists of 3 stages, viz. Prelims, Mains and Interview. Prelims consist of 2 papers, GS and CSAT. And Mains consists of 1 English paper, 1 language paper, 1 essay Paper, 4 papers of GS and 2 optional papers of 1 optional subject. In the GS paper there are various conventional subjects like History, Geography, Polity, Science and Economy apart from current affairs and general awareness. Apart from these, current affairs are important which students must be prepared for.

What to prepare during the school

Most of the important part of the GS syllabus like History, Geography, Economy, etc. is prepared through NCERT books. So forming a strong base with NCERTs is good from the school level itself. Besides, you can prepare for current affairs, stay updated with new inventions, technology or other important news and build up your knowledge base which would greatly help you later during the full-time preparation.

 Recommended Reference Books for Prelims

  • Laxmikant for polity
  • NCERT class 10th to 12th for Geography
  • NCERT class 11th and 12th and Economic Survey for Economics
  • Shankar IAS for Environment and Ecology
  • Spectrum for Modern History and Old NCERT for Ancient History
  • NCERT of class 11th for Art & Culture
  • Newspaper, AIR, Yojana, and current affairs compilation to cover the dynamic portion of the subject and Current Affairs

Recommended Topic Books for Mains

GS Paper 1

  • History: Spectrum, Bipin Chandra and NCERT of 11th class
  • Society: Newspaper and current affairs compilation
  • Geography: NCERT of 11th and 12th class, Newspaper, Current Affairs compilation
  • World History & Post Independence India: Online resources and videos are enough along with Bipin Chandra’s India after Independence

GS Paper 2

  • Polity: M. Laxmikant, Read Supreme court judgments, constitution articles and current affairs compilation
  • Governance: M. Laxmikant (5th edition) along with online resources
  • International Relations: Newspapers, MEA (Ministry of External Authority) website
  • Analysis: Online Magazine – Diplomat, Economic and Political Weekly

GS Paper 3

  • Economics – Economic Survey and self-made notes through current affairs compilation
  • Agriculture: Stay abreast with subsidies, Irrigation system, Govt. Schemes and make notes from Lok Sabha
  • Infrastructure and Energy: Current affairs compilation
  • Disaster Management: NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) guidelines


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