Frequently Asked Questions related to IAS Exam and Preparation: Target IAS 2018 and Beyond

All your queries related to IAS Preparation answered in this article:


  1. Can Civil Services Examination be cleared only through multiple attempts?

Response(s): Not necessarily. With proper planning and smart work for a considerable time, it is possible to clear the exam in a single attempt as well. It is possible even if it’s your last possible attempt!


2. There is so much hype around the examination. Is it so tough?

Response(s): Most of the hype is unwarranted. It is true that the exam is tough, but not as much as it is hyped. With careful planning and selective reading, preparation indeed becomes comfortable and fun. It has to be that way.



3. Do we need to study everything under the sun?

Response(s): No, this is one of those basic misconceptions. True that huge amounts of information is required, but not everything. There are limitations to the topics the exam expects one to be good at. Try not to measure the amount of subject one has to cover. Take it as it comes. Confine it within the limitations of your plan, time and energy/efforts.


4. Do we need to do hi-funda and scholarly like preparation for the subjects?

Response(s): Not at all. What is required is simple basics and a slight depth into the concepts, in each of the subjects. No specialized and scholarly research is expected out of you.



5. How many hours do I need to study?

Responses(s): A good preparation is beyond just the number of hours one studies for. Yet a minimal amount of efforts are required to cover the vast amount of information. We do not want to quantify any number of hours, but however long it takes to cover all the topics for conceptual clarity, one has to devote that much time.



6. Is it necessary to make notes? And how to make it so that we can revise before the exam?

Response(s): One has to make notes if she is comfortable doing so, if you are such a person who prefers to revise from quick pages at the last minute before the exam etc. Making notes is not mandatory. If one can read from the textbooks and internet and can somehow revise it in his own way, making notes is redundant.


7. How to read and make notes from ncert?

Response(s): For ncert books, try to read them as a novel, do not try and remember everything. They are meant to be understood and digested. They may also need multiple readings, to definitely understand well.


8. From which month one should revise current affairs/magazine/newspaper for main exam?

Response(s): For the main examination, current affairs could be revised from the starting of the year, may be February-March would be a good time.



9. How much time one would need to pass this exam in first attempt?

Response(s): It takes a consistent effort for at least one / one and half years to be ready for the exam. Of course it took me more than that.


10. Are interviews really a deciding factor? Even if someone does excellent in mains, still interview can ruin his chances?

Response(s): Yes. Every stage has its own importance. Interview is very important.


11. Some unfortunate aspirants are not able to crack this exam in their whole life and some students can do this twice! While working as IPS. What do they do different?

Response(s): For those who are not able to crack the exam in any of their attempts, it is their wrong decision. Please keep in mind that the UPSC expects to take the best of the talent not everyone. So, even if someone is highly committed, sincere, honest etc., UPSC might still won’t take him. One has to be really good at assessing himself, and improve. Anyways, for those who get it more than once, it’s easy, they know they can do it, they are ready to improve and learn, they are ready to invest time and efforts, they have a plan and they approach it with utmost commitment.


12. Does age factor matters for the exam? If someone is at wrong side of 20s (28, 29 years), will that be a negative point for him?

Response(s): No. Age does not matter significantly. Even in the interviews, there are no direct evidence that age has worked negatively for any aspirant.


13. What should be the length of answers? Would there be any penalty in marks if we cross the maximum length?

Response(s): There won’t be any penalty for just crossing the maximum length. But yes, if you cross by a large margin, the examiner might take it as a bad instance of not following the instructions and can penalize. On the other hand, why does one has to cross the maximum limit, nowadays the paper is getting so long that finishing the paper in the prescribed time is becoming tougher. So, instead of wasting time in writing extra words in an answer, try to utilize that time in attempting another question. Ideal length of the answer should be the provided word limit for the answer. You can always finish the answer below the maximum limit if you feel there is nothing else to write. Do not try and just fill words.



14. Should I go for core subjects?

Response(s): Any subject is fine as long as you are interested in them.

Core subjects are a definite choice to take.


15. If an aspirant is a science graduate, what were the possible reasons for taking anthropology or other social sciences?

Response(s): Whenever we select optional we have to know the following points

1. Length of syllabus
2. Availability of sources/material, institutes, and seniors 3. Easiness and help in GS the subject can make
4. Interest in the subject (very important)


16. A very basic doubt, I wanted to clarify as to how different government websites are to be made use of? I am unsure about what to read and what to weed out.

Response(s): Any link containing relevant data, fact or information from examination point of view or recent news may be useful. Many of the important web resources have been populated in this document. Please look at the web links section. You may find some of the information as repetitive of what you have covered in newspapers and magazines that may be escaped. But at least you will be sure that you have covered everything.



17. I am really worried about this one. I don’t have a job security right now. And CSE is full of uncertainties, I sometimes feel scared that something bad might happen so, I am not able to gather enough courage to study for whole one year. What should I do?

Response(s): There is a word for it: confidence. You need to have it. And you also need to know little bit about yourself. Honestly, this exam is not for everyone. It is only for those with confidence and who can gather confidence. Make sure you know whether you can prepare and give your complete time and mind to the preparation.



18. How did you keep yourself motivated during the course of the exam? What did you do to overcome that fear? What did you think of, when result was not favorable the first time?

Response(s): It will not be easy to keep oneself motivated all the time. There are huge ups and downs all through. What is important here is to renew ourselves when we fall. As in the batman movie, why do we fall sir? – So that we can pick ourselves up! It is very much a natural process to have ups and down, but just realize that you need not spend long times being down. You have to understand that you felt bad and that’s enough, now it’s time to change the curve back to up, and stay there on the top as long as u can. So practice coming back to normal as fast as you can, and staying lively as long as you can. So, this is the way to overcome fear as well, by realizing that its completely natural to be discouraged, you won’t be afraid anymore of any further down times. Pick yourselves up, u have to do it yourselves.

You are your own inspiration. Your preparation is your motivation. We need to do all this inspiration and motivation stuff, just for performance. There is a good equation that we found in our training:

Performance = Ability * Motivation (efforts), where Ability = Aptitude * Training (Preparation) * Resources And
Motivation = Desire * Commitment

You have to also try and make sure you remove the results out of the equation altogether, for the time of your preparation. You cannot prepare thinking about the outcome. When you are doing something, you need to focus 100 % on that particular thing only, so wait for the results when it comes. And when they come, u see if that suits your preparation, it is again natural to deny the result, and it’s natural to be disappointed. But again the same rule applies, come out of it as fast as you can, and do what you have to do.

This response is not a generic one. But it gives a perspective on how different one can approach the situation.


19. Didn’t you ever feel depressed? Or failed?

Response(s): Won’t be human if we don’t feel depressed. We all feel it, all the time. At least, many times. It’s not so important to see whether one is depressed or not, or will stay motivated all the time. The more important point is that, how fast you can get out of that low times. That defines your fighting spirit because, you are going to be depressed many times, u have to make sure you get out very soon. The faster you get out, he better the results would be.


20. I don’t have any guidance, and from a poor family. Would that be disadvantageous?

Response(s): Honestly, some guidance would help learn from their experiences in a quicker way. But there need be no regrets. Being poor is disadvantageous only in its financial aspects. Rest assured, you have all the chances of making it to the merit list, just like anyone else.



21. How can we remember so many things, so many points to write in the 20 marks or 30 marks questions?

Response(s): It is impossible to remember so many things through mugging up. The only way is to try and understand and get conceptual clarity. This will make sure most of the information is retained in your mind. Frequent revisions, studying from the same books/material is one good way to remember more. Practice answer writing through recollecting concepts instead of raw data and practice constantly.


22. What is ethics, integrity and aptitude means?

Response(s): These relate to the moral behavior of a person, a civil servant in the examination’s perspective, and they are essential for the working of all the civil servants. Ethics in work, in governance, in politics is the prime topic of discussion and controversy in the country at the moment. Integrity is in peril with many scams and corrupt practices. The need of the hour is a bunch of young, honest and efficient men who has the right aptitude to deliver. Such ideas are all to be tested through the recently added GS paper.


23. What are the important magazines and newspapers to be read?

Response(s): You may follow any one monthly magazine out of the following: Competition Wizard, Chronicle and Civil Services Time. It is always better to see these issues every month and decide after looking at the content as to which one is beneficial. Apart from one regular magazine you must follow Yojana and Kurukshetra. Frontline and The Economist are optional reads depending upon whether you find something interesting therein. However, they are not mandatory. Newspapers: The Hindu and Indian Express. (Try to make point wise brief synopsis of relevant articles.)


24. Which are the NCERT textbooks that have to be gone through?

Response(s): NCERT (old) for Ancient, Modern and Medieval History.

NCERT (New) for Geography- X to XII.

You may start with the newspapers and magazines right now and then depending upon the availability of time divide it accordingly for GS and optional.



25. Do I need to prepare from CAT books for CSAT?

Response(s): Not required. Basic aptitude, logical reasoning and reading comprehension would suffice. We tried to provide some resources to help in CSAT preparation. Please take a look at the relevant sections.


Courtesy: Successful Candidates


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