Cracking Civil Services Exam in First Attempt : Detailed Guide

Candidates are hopeful they can crack the UPSC Civil Services Exam in the first attempt. The Civil Services Exam (CSE), conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), is believed to be the most stringent exam in the country. Every individual who is interested in the IAS Exam knows that preparing for Civil Services is the most challenging task and requires a lot of dedication, strategies and hard work to stay on track.

When the aspirants feel that it’s time, many enthusiasts ask for any possible way to crack the exam in their first attempt. Clearing the UPSC CSE exam in the first attempt is very hard and somewhat impossible for average students. However, one can make it if they are ready to make the commitment such as -devoting all the time for the preparations.

To understand the UPSC exam pattern, one needs to understand the exam syllabus. It will help you in eliminating wasteful efforts like reading unnecessary topics, and hence the strategy will keep you on track.

  • How you start is far more critical than when you start. You need to know precisely what you have to do and prepare intensively for the available duration of time. Your approach towards preparation is critical, and ideally, one should not waste much time calculating a number of months/years needed to clear the exam. 
  • Whatever time you have at your hands; you need to make the best use of it. A lot of people cribbing about how less time they have to prepare, and how they might be left behind in the race by those who are preparing for more extended periods. This is a self-defeating attitude and needs to be discarded. Whatsoever time you have for preparing, consider that to be more than enough and give it a shot.
  • Don’t postpone your attempt just for the sake of gaining more time. This is a problem with many people, some of whom I know personally. That more time will give you a better chance to clear the exam is just an illusion, and you need to steer clear of it.

Note: For more details on 2021 interview schedules, you can visit the official UPSC website.  

When to Start Studying for the Civil Services Exam

  • The ideal time to start preparing is at least 9-10 months before Prelims.
  • A candidate who is working while preparing for the exam has to devote at least 5-6 hours regularly for studying.
  • Don’t rely and focus too much on online/internet-based notes, self-study matters a lot.
  • Join coaching if you think you require more professional notes or study materials.

How to Crack UPSC Civil Services Exam in the First Attempt

  1. Identify Your Strengths – Endeavouring the toughest exam in the country is a big deal. It requires the aspirants to understand their strengths and weaknesses to make the most out of this one month and to continue preparing with a positive attitude. Everyone will have a talent, like some can memorize facts in less time, etc.

    Try to identify them with a personal SWOT Analysis. This will give you an in-depth understanding about where you are standing today and the steps you will need to reach towards your target goal.
    • Note: SWOT Analysis is an analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses. Opportunities and Threats.
  2. Familiarize yourself with everything – Having a strong base with the facts and theoretical concepts alone will not help you when it comes to Civil Services. Candidates have to change their entire approach depending on the situation and question. To do this, they should know every aspect of the exam, including the format, nature and syllabus (regarding their desired post).

    Due to time constraint, never ignore the basics because it will cost you a lot in the exam- to know the facts in the long term, you need to have a strong understanding of basic concepts. We suggest you familiarize yourself with the Civil Services exam pattern, approach towards CSAT and general awareness questions.
  3. Plan your studies – Once you have decided to prepare for the Civil Services prelims exam in one month, the first thing to do is to organize/plan your studies accordingly. It’s always good to start the preparation with the most comfortable exam or something you are familiar with like- paper-II Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) because you are already familiar with some of the basics. It will hardly take three to four days to cover the theoretical concepts, which will also boost your confidence to start with.  

    The syllabus for IAS Civil Services is like an ocean, and they’re always a better book or a well-detailed course, and just like that, there is no end to the preparations. Therefore, aspirants should work on perfection rather than merely covering the topics for the sake of preparing them. Give at least three days to each subject in the general awareness paper.
  4. Be clear about your goal – Motivation is the primary criterion here. If you come here for some fallacious reasons like earning more money, one day or the other you are going to get demotivated.
  5. Form a timeline – Decided when are you going to sit for the exam and work towards that goal and cover as much of ground as possible.
  6. Analyze – Start by reading online about the people who have cleared these exams. Take a look at their strategy. Special attention must be paid to the section where they analyze what they did in the attempt in which they were unsuccessful. Also, examine your own ability. How much can you memorize? What is your retention capacity?
  7. Be flexible – This exam is not an exam of knowledge only but an exam of values. Accept that you will have to change yourself during the preparations. You have to get yourself ready to be placed in some of the critical positions in the country’s administration.
  8. Form a concrete strategy – Which textbooks will you read? How will you read them? How will you organize material? All these things must be answered from an individual assessment. Be honest and form a realistic strategy.
  9. Stick to your commitment – Once you have formed the strategy stick to it no matter what. Never compromise on it. Read what you decided you would read. If you decided that you will read yojana every month, you have to do it. If you miss it, force yourself to read it next month.
  10. Do not make coaching an end in itself – If you feel that a particular class is unhelpful, avoid going. Don’t have a jolly good time instead of reading the same subject at home. People tend to believe that since they have paid money, they need to “extract everything”. You have paid money to get knowledge not to attend classes. Remember the end purpose.

Note- The optional dilemma- Do not go by market rumours. Make a shortlist of optional you consider taking. Read necessary materials of the same and decide on the merit of your own interests and abilities.


In this article, we discuss the tips and tricks on how to clear the UPSC CSE in the first attempt. We also discuss the syllabus and criteria for UPSC exam.

It’s important to note to give yourself periodic assessments – give yourself tests regularly, if you find a subject relatively weak read a standard text on it. Do not overthink and over strategize. Just take a book and start reading. Brute force your way into the list. This will also ensure that since you are focusing on the relatively weak subject, over time, your all subjects will become strong. It is a good sign if your relative weakness keeps on changing. It shows you are working on yourself.

Areas covered in this article

  • What is UPSC CSE
  • Process and eligibility criteria
  • How to crack the UPSC CSE exam in one’s very first attempt?

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