Are Coaching Classes Needed to Crack the Civil Services Examination in 2021?

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), is India’s prestigious central recruiting agency. It is usually responsible for appointments to and examinations for All India services like- Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and group A & group B of Central services. In contrast, the Department of Personnel and Training is the central personnel agency in India. 

The Civil Services IAS examination is considered as one of the toughest competitive examinations conducted by the UPSC for recruiting officers for all Indian administrative, civil services. 

Yes, you can clear UPSC Civil Services Exam without any professional coaching classes. 

We have nothing against professional UPSC coaching if you can afford it or if you have a lot of time to prepare- you can opt for the coaching batch that can last for months, to prepare accordingly. But, there are a lot of students who cannot afford to join the professional coaching- be it because of the financial reasons, or maybe just because they just don’t have enough time. 

  • UPSC can be cleared without joining coaching classes. To get started with UPSC preparation, you should have some idea about the nature of the service, etc. And If you are good at self-study, you can clear UPSC without any coaching.
  • Because if you are not getting relevant and latest strategies as per the notification and the guidance as per your requirements from a coaching institute, then there is no meaning of attending coaching classes. 
  •  Whether classroom or outside the classroom, an excellent guidance is required to start preparing for the exam, and there are many online resources with the help of which you can get- Syllabus as per the latest notification, Previous years question papers, study materials and even notes- to understand the nature and pattern of the exam and for preparing an exam strategy accordingly.  

Note- For more details, click on- UPSC CSE Syllabus 

Before deciding to select the mode of your preparation, one needs to understand –  a few things, such as: 

  • Are they beginners, or is this the first attempt of theirs? 
  • Do they know anyone who can help them professionally, even without the coaching? 
  • Do they have all the resources available to self-study- like stable internet connection, or maybe a laptop to watch tutorials?  
  • Do they have good connections- like with someone who has already cleared the UPSC? – If yes- then he/she can opt for self-study and prepare their strategy as per their requirement. 

 But there are a few people who need professional coaching classes, and now the question is  

1. Who needs the coaching classes?

  • Those who are not able to understand the UPSC syllabus, nature and exam pattern 
  • The one who has no idea of what the exam is about, like – the nature, pattern , etc. 
  • Someone who cannot follow a self-disciplined method of studying 

 2. Why does anyone need the coaching classes?

  • Coaching is necessary to study in a disciplined manner and to studying systematically. 
  • It is required when one has no idea how to engage in preparation. 
  • Coaching with getting expert insights and guidance 

Note- to know more success stories, visit- 

Coaching Class For Civil Services

Are coaching classes necessary for cracking the Civil Services IAS Examination?

Most often people ask, Is coaching necessary and it’s understandable too. Many candidates who begin their Civils preparation are clueless about this exam’s demands, and most cannot simply afford to go to cities just to take coachings.  

There are a lot of misconceptions regarding whether to take professional coaching for Civils ServicesSo let take a look at these points. 

hink of an elite cricket sportsman like Sachin Tendulkar- Does he have a professional coach when he just started playing? No, he didn’t. But can we say he had professional coaching, if not a personal coach- Yes, we can.   

But can you say he succeeded because he had coaching? Of course not. Because even if you take coaching classes, you need to self-study or revise, you need to train and suffers day in day out, practices consistently to learn and improve your knowledge and skills. You need self-discipline, hard-working nature and the burning determination to clear the exam. 

Note: This post’s focus is on self-study and keeping beginner candidates in mind, by coaching, we mean the physical classes. Mock test series, coaching notes, and mock interviews at coaching institutes are distinct and can be taken at home with the help of a stable internet 

Same goes for Civil Services coaching as it merely helps you; it does not ensure you will clear the exam. You have to study on your own to understand the basics for which you have to self-study, consistency because the hard work you put in your study table matters far more than what you do in the coaching class. 

So if you are attending coaching institute, take their notes regularly, but you do not excessively focus on the notes and neglect standard required books for UPSC. A lot of aspirants, make this mistake of depending on their coaching notes disproportionately— and they barely read any book 

Note- Always remember that not more than 25-30% of your preparation should depend on coaching notes. It’s a myth that you cannot crack UPSC without coaching. I have seen people who have put in 35% of work by themselves and have cracked this exam. So it depends on your belief/skills, self-discipline and your basic level of knowledge to determine whether you need coaching or not. 

Because if you know what books to read, what coaching notes to refer to, and from where to get the previous year’s question papers, and by reading them you can understand the subject completely, then that’s good, and you don’t need coaching. 

On the other hand, if you are clueless about the resources, and about the exam process and nature or the books you need to study, coaching institutes will be a good idea. But like I said, you still have to read books, create notes and put in the work to outshine your competition. 

How helpful are coaching notes, and can they substitute books?

NCERT and other relevant books are essential because they are written from the ground up to teach us about the basics, and they form the foundation of your concepts. Once you read books, reading notes will become much easier 

The coaching notes fail to give you an in-depth understanding as they focus on such a big perspective. All you get are some fragmented concepts which don’t stick for the long term in your mind. For long-term objective, we need a topic’s context, which is why you should always start with standard books. 

While reading notes, remember these: 

  • Notes are helpful for a revision, and they are easy to revise before the exam. But they can never substitute standard books or other in-depth material. 
  • Always map your strategy to read your notes onto the chapters and topics in the syllabus. Most of the coaching institutes do not cover the syllabus because of the time constraints. So when you see a topic which is not covered well in your notes, read them on your own from other sources like the internet and make notes accordingly.  
  • Notes and material usually come in handy to cover a particular topic, such as, for a topic like Govt. schemes, it’s better to read a compilation booklet  .

How Helpful are Mock Test Series at Coaching Institutes?

Many aspirants commit one big mistake: they read and revise, over and over, but never practise, because practice is essential for UPSC’s Mains exam pint of view. For ex-The examiner who is checking your copy will have no idea about the number of books, you’ve read. Your answers are all based on which he can determine your skillset and value – So, practise it and perfect it. 

Note- Take Mock tests and test series as they help in practising and it will train you to get the hang of how the actual exam works, etc. 

Because if you want to run a marathon, you cannot simply show up on the day of the final race and expect to run 42 km— it needs prior rigorous training and experience in the sense of practice. Same goes with the Mains exam- By joining a good mock test series, you will get to practice, and it will prepare you both Prelims and Mains Exam. 

Things to consider before signing up for UPSC CSE Coaching Classes

  • If you’re a beginner and this is the first time you will take the UPSC CSE, then firstly you should go through ncert’s history, geography, polity, economy, science as the first phase focuses more on the General Studies.
  • Along with the books, you should also start reading newspapers like- The Hindu or The Indian Express, every single day until you appear for the exam.  
  • Now, you have to go through with UPSC CSE Syllabus – this is very important along with the previous year questions of prelims as well as of the mains. Just analyse the pattern and the nature of the paper because after doing that, you will be able to explain the pattern and form a strategy accordingly.  
  • Now, you need to decide if you will prepare with self-study or get help by signing up to UPSE CSE Coaching Classes.
  • After determining, you should choose study materials according to the syllabus and previous years’ questions analysis. You should select study materials that could cover the syllabus topics.

5 Questions to ask before signing up for any coaching class

Here are five questions one should ask before joining any institute, and these will help you decide whether you need civil services coaching classes for UPSC Civil Services preparation or just a good self-study plan- 

Question 1: Can you prepare for the exam on your own without civil services coaching classes?  

In UPSC Civil Services Exam, aspirants are required to study a variety of subjects, and it takes a lot of time to cover everything. An while may be an easy task for some candidates to study all subjects by themselves after preparing a strategy, others may find it challenging to do so accordingly. Coaching institutes, on the other hand, provides you with the guidelines that offer a study plan, and it covers all the subjects/topics. 

Question 2: Do you understand the pattern and nature of the UPSC CS Exam?  

The syllabus/pattern of the UPSC Civil Services Exam is very vague, and it covers all the posts and ranks, it is essential to understand the pattern and nature of all the posts and ranks, so that you can choose and prepare accordingly. The right strategy at the right time for the right subject is required to clear the exam. 

Coaching institutes help you with the professionally created strategy after analyzing the success pattern of their previous toppers, etc. They also provide you with the series of mock tests and access to last year question papers – so if you want the strategy that is already structured as per the requirements of 2020 exam then taking a class is the right option for you to study in a focused and strategized environment. 

Question 3:  The most critical question to ask while deciding upon the civil services coaching classes is – Can you plan on your UPSC CSE strategy, or can you mind map your study plan?  

Given the vagueness of the syllabus, it is essential to plan as per the UPSC CSE 2020 nature and pattern. A lot of candidates are incompetent while finishing their curriculum for the UPSC Civil Services Exam, because of – lack of understanding about nature and pattern, lack of proper planning regarding the strategy, etc.

Coaching institutes help you study in a most efficient and planned way to ensure that you can complete the syllabus before the UPSC CSE exam. But if you can – plan and strategize your strategy accordingly and you can even follow up with it- then you are good to go with self-study. 

Question 4: Do you have any guidance from the current UPSC CS Officers or senior players that can help you in any way?  

Candidates who have zero knowledge of UPSC/competitive exams in general and have no guidance from professional coaching institutes, peers or senior players. It is advised to join the institute to make some connections and understand nature more efficiently because that is the right thing to do. 

Note- It is easy for someone to prepare on their own if they are already aware of or know the pattern (as they may have taken the coaching when they first started preparing). Hence, you need to understand your needs and requirements before making the final decision in this regard. 

Question 5: Do you have enough time to prepare on your own?  

Civil services coaching classes take a minimum of 2-3 hours a day for over a minimum of four to five months of preparation. This is quite a commitment, and if there is not much time left before the exam, it is better that you study yourself. Moreover, if you are working while preparing, it would be more advisable not to join a coaching institute.  

Note- However, candidates should remember that joining coaching is not a prerequisite for success. However, it can be helpful. Moreover, even those candidates who do not take coaching are advised to take mock tests to judge their performance against others and recognize their strengths and weaknesses.    

With the increasing availability of resources online, it has perhaps now become more comfortable for aspirants to prepare on their own. 

Civil Services Coaching Classes

If answering all the questions can have helped you in determining whether or not you want coaching, then here are some excellent UPSC coaching institutes- 

If you can do good with a bit of help here are 10 Top UPSC IAS Coaching Institutes in Delhi

  •  40% of the students appearing for UPSC Civil services (CSE) come from different parts of India to prepare here due to attractive incentives and a pleasant environment.  
  • UPSC Conduct Civil Services Examination (CSE) to Recruit civil servants for IAS, IPS, IFS post. In Civil services examination, a most famous Best Job profile is of IAS officer.   
  • UPSC is the governing body for the CSE. The governing body was established in the year of 1922. Civil services Examination (CSE) is a National Level Examination. 
  • Always check for the Batch Size in Coaching Institutes. Don’t focus on the fees and look for their success rate. 
  • Try to speak with their past students. 

    Note- To know more about the ranks and posts, visit- UPSC Posts and Ranks

Clear the Civil Services exam with Self-study

If you are okay with Self-study:

Every year many candidates appear in the UPSC Civil Services Exam(CSE). UPSC CSE exam is conducted in three stages and the second stage, i.e., the mains exam usually begins in September or October. Although many aspirants take guidance/help from coaching institutes(as per their requirements), some candidates prefer self-study. So here are some useful tips on – how you can prepare for UPSC CSE by self-study in an efficient manner. 

Note- Understand the nature of UPSC CSE exam before creating your strategy, click on the link to know more- UPSC CSE 

How to start preparation for IAS with self-study? 

Step 1: Understand UPSC CSE – be it it’s nature or pattern 

If you know what you want and what your target is which you want to achieve, you will be more likely to figure out a strategy accordingly. Understand the UPSC civil services exam eligibility criteria, nature and pattern, etc. and then design your plan. 

Step 2: Memorise the UPSC CSE 2021 Syllabus  

UPSC Syllabus is very vague, and it is usually the biggest challenges for aspirants. So before planning, you need to understand the syllabus in detail. It is essential to internalize the curriculum before creating a strategy because when you start preparing as per the plan, you must be able to understand and relate to what you read. 

Step 3: First, plan your work accordingly and then work your plan as per the strategy – know your strengths and weakness with the help of SWOT Analysis and plan your strategy accordingly  

Once you have gathered/acquired all the relevant information about the pattern, nature and syllabus, now it’s time to focus on a plan that works the best for your preparation as per your current state. It is essential to have a schedule for your homework because there is a great deal of stuff to be studied. Making a proper plan is especially critical for those who want to do self-study. 

Note- When you don’t have professional guidance from a coaching institute or a mentor, you need to follow up with your plan. Because when you are engaged in self-study, you should instil discipline like never before. You should avoid all sorts of distractions. 

Step 4: Create notes and revise and then repeat– Use POMODORO technique for better time management and productivity  

Making notes is a significant part of one’s preparation, and you must build on the point and relevant records when preparing for the exam, whether it is from the newspapers or the from the standard textbooks. Also, ensure to regularly revise what you have learnt to check the progress with the help of mock tests. 

Step 5: Get the help from your professional networks, whenever needed – Follow the footsteps of previous IAS officers and learn what strategy they used to clear the exam 

Many aspirants who have not opted for any coaching. The internet is the best resource for you to find like-minded individuals – in the groups or forums. So whenever you are in doubt, get in touch with them and clarify your doubts, etc. You can also share notes and opinions. This strengthens your preparation and also increases your pace of progress. 

Step 6: Use online sources – mock tests and small series  

The internet is the best thing that has happened to human beings; it is a treasure of study material for the ones who cannot afford to access high-quality degrees and resources. And now, with the unlimited resources, one can easily plan and strategize their plan and then accordingly study for it. 

Step 7: Remember to take breaks – Plan your strategy so that you won’t overtire yourself and to focus only on the appropriate subjects/topics  

Use POMODORO Technique– After half an hour of study, you must take a short break to refresh your mind. Then come back to your studies withing 10-20 minutes, follow the same pattern until you have achieved your daily target hours.  

Note- You need to allow your mind and body to rejuvenate at regular intervals in order to keep on studying more efficiently. So whenever you find some free time, indulge in your hobbies, watch a funny video or anything that can refresh your mind, etc. 

Step 8: Have faith and stay motivated 

It takes a lot of commitment and confidence to prepare on your own for UPSC CSE. But if you are committed and serious about your studies and if you have an excellent strategy planned as per the nature of the exam, you surely will be able to get the success. 

Note- Also check the success stories shared by previous IAS aspirants. 

UPSC CSE Syllabus Resources and Book Recommendations by Professionals

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For the Prelims and Mains: 

  1. For CURRENT AFFAIRS: THE HINDU newspaper + VISION monthly compilation + VISION 365
  2. For HISTORY:
    • ART AND CULTURE – 11th ncert’s – An Introduction to Indian art
    • POST-INDEPENDENCE INDIA – Nitin sang wan notes
    • SOCIETY will be cover from current affairs
    • 11th + 12th class ncert’s (2+2)
    • G C Leong book (physical geography)
    • Oxford school atlas for map
    • PMF IAS online
  4. For POLITY:
    • 11th NCERT’s
    • 2nd ARC Report summary by VISION IAS
    • International Relation and social justice will be cover from current affairs.
  5. For ECONOMY:
    • NCERT’S from class 9th-12th
    • Indian economy by Sanjeev Verma
    • Online website – Investopedia and Arthopedia
    • NCERT Biology Class 12th- last four chapters
    • Shankar IAS environment book
    • PMF IAS
    • Internal security and disaster management by ASHOK KUMAR and VIPUL
    • 2nd ARC 3rd Report – crisis Management (summary)
    • NCERT’S books of – 9th and 10th
  10. For ETHICS:
    • 2nd ARC 4th Report – Ethics in governance (vision summary)
    • Lexicon book
  11. Complete VISION IAS MATERIALS for supplement purposes

Important Guidelines:

  • You don’t have to read the resources line by line. Just prepare topics according to the syllabus and previous year questions analysis.
  • Whenever in need of search on Google for any topic. 
  • Try to make your short notes for every topic mentioned in syllabus. It will be helpful in quick revision before the examination. 
  • Just focus on an integrated approach for preparation rather than separate preparation of prelims and mains. 
  • Start ANSWER WRITING PRACTICE from the very beginning of your preparation. Just read the newspaper’s editorial thoroughly and write answers on that topic. Don’t forget reading alone is 50% work. Your success depends upon your remaining 50% work, and that is writing. 
  • Read and form notes according to the syllabus;
  • Write to improve your writing skill and time management
  • Practice and revise to enrich your answer with valuable contents. Take note of how much time it took you to do everything.  
  • If you know what your weaknesses and strengths are, you will be able to cover the whole syllabus along with your optional subject. 


We have nothing against professional UPSC coaching if you can afford it or if you have a lot of time to prepare- you can opt for the coaching batch that can last for months, to prepare accordingly. But, there are a lot of candidates who cannot afford to join the professional coaching- be it because of the financial reasons, or maybe just because they just don’t have enough time. 

Areas covered in this article: 

  • Is coaching essential for UPSC Preparation? 
  • Who needs coaching or who doesn’t? 
  • How can we prepare for self-study? 

Note: Click here for things to check before signing up to any coaching service.