How to Prepare for UPSC Before Graduation

Civil Services Examination, also known as, IAS exam is conducted by UPSC every year to recruit suitable candidates into administrative services. You should have completed your graduation to become eligible for write this exam. However, since the upsc syllabus is extremely extensive, most aspirants kick-start their UPSC preparation before the graduation.

Hence, in this article, we will discuss how to prepare for UPSC before graduation. It is important to understand different nuances of this examination to make your preparation effective. We will look at how to kickstart your preparation from the very scratch in this article. Let’s get started

How to Prepare for UPSC Before Graduation


UPSC Civil Services Examination is one of the most prestigious exams in India. Every year, around 10 lakh students appear for the examination yet only a few hundred achieve the feat. The difference certainly lies in the strategy and approach towards the UPSC Civil Services examination.

In this article, we will look at how to prepare for UPSC before graduation to crack the exam right in the first attempt. The first and most crucial step while starting with the UPSC preparation is understanding the exam. To understand the exam better, make sure you read through the following:

  • UPSC Notification
  • UPSC Exam pattern & syllabus
  • UPSC Previous year Question Paper

After reading these three things you’ll have the basic understanding of the expectations of this exam. It will allow you to prepare for this exam even more effectively. Now, let us look at step-by-step preparation strategy for the UPSC exam.

Shortlist resources and booklist for UPSC Preparation

The ultimate UPSC Booklist has always been the talk of the town! To make your preparation easy, here is the suggested booklist for UPSC Prelims syllabus and UPSC Mains syllabus. Our recommendations are based on what our UPSC Gurus and past year toppers’ suggestions:

Stage & Paper Booklist
UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Examination (General Studies - I)
  • NCERTs (6th-12th)
  • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • Certificate of Physical Geography by GC Leong
  • Oxford World Atlas
  • Indian Polity by M Laxmikanth
  • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  • Facets Of Indian Culture (Spectrum)
  • Environment and Ecology by Neeraj Nachiketa
UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Examination General Studies-II (CSAT)
  • General Studies Paper 2 For Civil Services Prelims Examination (TMH)
  • Past Year Papers For General Studies-II
UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination (GS-I)
  • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • India After Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • Ancient India by RS Sharma
  • History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra
  • Facets of Indian Culture (Spectrum)
  • Geography of India - Majid Hussain
  • World Geography- Majid Hussain
  • Oxford Atlas
UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination (GS-II)
  • Indian Polity by M Laxmikanth
  • Constitution of India by DD Basu
  • India’s Foreign Policy by Rajiv Sikri
UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination (GS-III)
  • Indian Economy for Civil Services Examinations – Ramesh Singh
  • Challenges to Internal Security of India by Ashok Kumar and Vipul
  • IGNOU Notes on Disaster Management.
  • IGNOU Notes on Cyber Security
UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination (GS-IV)
  • Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude by Subba Rao and PN Rao Chaudhry
  • Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude – M Karthikeyan
  • Ethics in Governance: Innovations, Issues, and Instrumentalities – Ramesh K Arora

Note: Although these books are often recommended for Civil Services Examination, most of them are not tailor-made for this exam. Hence, be extremely syllabus-specific while reading these books. By no means, do you have to read any book cover to cover! Skip the irrelevant chapters as per the scope of the UPSC syllabus.

Choose the optional subject diligently

Optional Subject in UPSC Mains plays an extremely important role in being a “score- differentiator”. It contributes towards 500 marks in the Main Examination. Hence, you must choose your optional carefully. Ideally, choose an optional subject that you’re interested in and confident about. If you’re in a dilemma about optional selection, here are a few things to consider. Your optional subject should be that:

  • You Have Studied Earlier (in graduation/postgraduation)
  • Has A Compact Syllabus
  • Has Significant Syllabus-Overlap With General Studies:
  • Has Easily Available Resources

Some of the subjects that are stream-neutral and stands true to all the above points are:

  • Sociology
  • Philosophy
  • Public Administration
  • History
  • Geography
  • Almost all Literature Subjects

Have a month-wise study plan

Methodical study comprising timetable and routine is the key factor to ensure selection in UPSC. Hence, prepare a feasible month-wise study plan covering the entire syllabus along with revision and stick to it.

Here’s a blue-print of how your 12-month Prelims focused study-plan should look like:

Month Area of Focus Additional two hours
May First Reading of NCERTs of all subjects Glance through Previous Year Papers of Prelims +Main
June Optional Sub Paper-I Revision of NCERTs
July Optional Sub Paper-II Revision of NCERTs
August General Studies - I Revision + Answer-Writing
September General Studies -II Revision + Answer-Writing
October General Studies - III + TS Revision + Answer-Writing
November General Studies - IV + TS Revision + Answer Writing
December NCERT Revision via Compilations + TS Monthly Current Affairs Revision (June-July)+ December
January History + Polity Monthly Current Affairs Revision (August-September) + January
February Economy + Budget + Annual Economic Survey Monthly Current Affairs Revision (October-November)+ February
March Geography + Art & Culture CSAT Practice + Current Affairs (March)
April Previous Year Papers Final Revision + Test Series CSAT Practice + Current Affairs (April)
May Revision through Mock Test Papers CSAT Practice through Mocks + Current Affairs (May)

Note: Ideally if you are starting your preparation a year in advance, you should start with UPSC Mains Preparation. Further, break down your monthly plan into weekly and daily schedules for ease of preparation. Ensure that you read newspapers daily. Make sure you incorporate revision, answer-writing and full-length mock tests in your study plan!

Revise Consistently

Revision is literally the backbone of UPSC preparation. UPSC, as you know, has an extensive syllabus. Hence, mere syllabus completion would mean nothing if it is not backed by consistent revision. A few tips for ensuring efficient revision:

  • 50-10 Minute Rule: A time-tested revision rule according to which you read new information for 50-minutes and 10-minutes for quick revision immediately. Immediate revision will fix the information in your mind for a longer duration.
  • 08-02 Hour Rule: According to this, from the 10-hour study window, dedicate 2 complete hours for revising all that you’ve studied in the day. Jot down in bullet points all the broad topics that you’ve studied and revise the details in your mind. It will also gradually train your mind to memorize and resurface the information in a systematic manner.

In addition to these, incorporate revision as the agenda of some days in a month to focus solely on revising the information that you’ve read so far. Consistent revision will ensure better conceptual understanding and maximum retention.


UPSC Civil Services Examination is not a very difficult exam, however, it is an extremely lengthy and comprehensive exam. You should start with the exam as soon as possible to ensure you’re able to crack it right in the first attempt. We hope the tips shared in this article effectively helps you in enhancing your UPSC preparation.

Should you need further guidance, you can explore PW’s UPSC courses that are curated by expert mentors and educators with years and years of experience in training UPSC aspirants.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.1. Can final year students in graduation apply for UPSC?

Ans. Yes, final year students can apply for this exam. However, by the time of selection, you should have completed your final examination and should be rendered pass in the said exam.

Q.2. Can I clear UPSC without graduation?

Ans. No, you cannot appear for UPSC without a valid graduation degree from any recognized university in India.

Q.3. How can I start UPSC preparation during graduation?

Ans. You must start by reading through the upsc syllabus and upsc previous year question paper. It will give you an idea to devise your preparation journey. If you need any help, you can also enroll in PW’s online UPSC preparation programs.

Q.4. Can I start preparing for UPSC after 12th?

Ans. While you can start preparing for the exam right after class 12th, you’ll be able to appear for it only after the final year exam.

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