Top 10 UPSC Preparation Mistakes That Almost All Civil Service Aspirants Make and How To Avoid Them

This article gives you insight as to what UPSC preparation mistakes you should avoid.

Any aspirant regardless of their academic background can realize the dream of clearing the Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC) civil service examination (CSE) and join the most prestigious services of the country by working hard. 

But there are a few mistakes that most UPSC CSE aspirants make and thus fails to reduce the constraints and the gap between them and their goal. 

Top 10 UPSC preparation mistakes every aspirant makes and how to avoid them

  1. Not sticking to the Syllabus-One of the biggest myths every UPSC CSE aspirant carries with him/her at some point in time is that the syllabus of CSE is unlimited and they can ask almost anything. In most cases, this is true, but taking your eyes completely off the curriculum can prove fatal in the long run and can cost you your resources, time, money, and energy.

    Most of the aspirants start without going through the syllabus prescribed by the UPSC and within no time find themselves in no man’s land. The curriculum is the roadmap to prepare their strategy accordingly to start their preparation. It should be the Bible or law of order for any aspirant’s medium of preparation for this exam. Therefore, the syllabus needs to be followed more seriously and in a more detailed oriented way.  

    Note- To understand the syllabus in more details, visit- UPSC CSE Syllabus. 
  2. Not referring to previous years’ question papers- The syllabus is usually considered the roadmap, similarly referring to the last year’s question papers is like indicators for the right turn at the right time during the journey of the UPSC CSE preparation, which all most all students realize very late while preparing.  

    Every step of training should be followed by an instant reference to the questions asked in recent years (both prelims and mains) about the respective article. This helps the aspirant to strategize his/her preparation following the latest trends of the questions put up by the board. 

  3. Collecting books- The first people did when you told them – you are preparing for a UPSC exam- They start recommending books- the Mukherjee Nagar and Old Rajinder Nagar are often termed as the ‘Mecca and Medina’ of UPSC CSE preparation and the local markets are flooded with various books and recommendations of numerous authors and publications. However, only handpicked books are genuinely relevant to the adequate preparation of the examination, and most of the students end up piling up books in their room, which is a very wrong way of preparing for the exam. An aspirant should consult professional and only the seniors who have cleared the examination, to avoid wasting your time and money on the useless books that are irrelevant to the syllabus. 
  4. Underestimating NCERT’s- This is the most microscopic mistake committed by almost a considerable majority of the aspirant competing crowd. Ignoring NCERT books and directly jumping on a heavyweight paper can be the ‘beginning of the end’ of your UPSC CSE preparation.   For example, if an aspirant instantly starts up with DD Basu for Indian Polity and Constitution of India, he/she is going to end up in more confusion. Instead, the preparation has to be steadily initiated with essential reference from Class 8-12 NCERT books on social science textbooks, a subject which is popularly termed as ‘civics’. 

    Note- Basic concepts need to be reliable, to understand the most significant concepts- that’s why we follow a pattern from 1st to 12th standard- so to read the NCERT’s, click on the link- 
  5. Lack of writing/written practice- The preliminary stage of the UPSC  examination is not considered as the primary mode of selection criteria for the final merit list for the selection. The Mains stage of the exam is the ‘main’ part of the whole UPSC CSE selection process and which does not only require mere writing answers in a most fundamental way, but the aspirant has to write an in-depth explanation with the reliable basics and with a fluent flow of knowledge, facts and wisdom precisely and skillfully. 

    Lack of written practice and writing skill, which aspirants find it to be the most challenging part to overcome, if not rectified within the correct time, is a sure guarantee of failure. 

    Writing practice daily stringently and rigidly is a must. However, for positive results, aspirants must stick to exam-oriented writing instead of blogging which will increase the typing skills instead of writing skills. 
  6. Unlawful manner of choosing optional subjects- Avoid choosing optional subjects based on the availability of the books and study material in the market. Select the topics that are of your interest rather than following the ongoing marking and scoring trends of the subject, etc.

    These are the most common ways a lot of students tends to select their subjects in the UPSC Exam, but at the end, these decisions may cause utterly disastrous results if not picked as per the skills and interest level of a candidate.  

    ‘Interest’ towards the optional subject should be the main reason for the thought process while choosing the subject. Have a proper look at the syllabus, go through the previous year’s question papers (3-5 years) and most importantly if you think you can invest time with the subject without looking at the ticking clock, use your inner conscious to answer which subject is a good option for you in the long run. 
  7. Not understanding the crux of newspapers- The Hindu is the best option when it comes to the newspapers for UPSC- don’t focus on too many papers at the same time or don’t try to go through multiple papers in one go – it will reduce the efficiency, and it will increase the confusion. 

    Do not collect and relying too much on the magazines for current affairs (except- The Yojana) – as magazines can be a supplement to a newspaper, but it should not be a substitute for it.  Understanding the importance of ‘how to read’ and ‘what to read’ in a paper is very important as it is a time investment. 

    • Every newspaper has three components if viewed from the examination point of view.  
      •  Events: This gives you facts—for example, the Prizes of the year, etc. 
      •  Issues: This area covers or provides you with the views and reviews and helps to develop your understanding and form an opinion over various subjects related to the UPSC- conventional and contemporary.
        Note- For example, Syrian war crisis and refugee rehabilitation (IR), Naxalism and insurgency in the northeast (internal security). 
    • Gossips: Page 3- Newspaper and articles can be categorized under various segments viz. international, India and the world, business, science and technology, defence, sports, persons in the story and awards which will also enable an aspirant to frame well-structured Essays (Paper I).  

      Therefore, effective utilization of newspaper can provide the boost to an aspirant’s UPSC CSE persistent preparation efforts. 

  8. Not analyzing SWOT– In the long run, students often fails to maintain enthusiasm and often find themselves in the middle of chaos because they follow the wrong strategy for preparation. Before creating a strategy, aspirants need to analysis their strengths and weaknesses so that they can prepare their plan as per their current situation. After analysing the strengths and weaknesses, people need to find the resources that can increase the opportunities for them to get selected by reducing the threats and constraints. 
  9. Lack of proper time management– Time management is a crucial aspect of preparation in any exam and especially when you are preparing for a UPSC exam that has so many time-related constraints. Since many aspirants invest years in preparation for this exam, time management is one of the crucial requirement for clearing this examination which most of the students fail to cope up with a due course of time. Time management can act like a horse or a hurdle; it all depends on the candidate. 

    To clear this exam in a most efficient manner, every aspirant should have a clear understanding between a task and a priority/target which is ‘URGENT’ and ‘IMPORTANT’. The day an aspirant form a strategy after going through the syllabus, it will provide result in a more comfortable prioritizing of short-term tasks and targets to gain long-term benefits. 

  10. Avoiding consistent revision– Revision is the key for a long term success. The secret of getting ahead from other candidates is getting started. But the essence of reliving information on the examination day is to make a habit of retaining the news first. In simple words, students read, read and read but very often don’t revise what they learn which may result in poor information retention and to the point delivery of the facts and figures on the day of examination.  

    Revision is the key. There has to be a very well maintained cohesion between what you read and ‘revise’ what have you read till date. Video lectures, subject audios and group discussions (group study) can prove to be a boon for an aspirant of UPSC CSE. 


In this article, we describe the UPSC CSE preparation mistakes aspirants make and how to avoid them. Every single mistake made while preparing for UPSC can lead to real devastating results, which is why we need to be more focused and detail-oriented while doing so.

Mistakes to avoid

  1. Reading every page of the newspaper- only focus on the syllabus related content
  2. Not understanding the full curriculum in details, instead of focusing too much on big books
  3. Following strategies/footsteps of toppers BLINDLY  
  4. Mastering one subject and leaving other subjects in vain
  5. Not practicing writing skills enough
  6. Ignoring essential topics like current affairs
  7. Reading too many irrelevant things 
  8. Not revising 

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