How to prepare for IAS prelims without coaching

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) which is also known as "संघ लोक सेवा आयोग". UPSC is India's premier central recruiting agency. It is responsible for recruiting, appointing and conducting exams for All India services and group A & group B of Central services. The commission is monitored by the Constitution for appointments to these services of the Union and All India Services.

UPSC is required to be consulted by the Government in matters relating to the appointment, transfer, promotion etc. The commission is answerable to the President of India and can advise the Government too, through the President. Since UPSC is a constitutional authority and it is amongst the few institutions which function with both autonomy and freedom, along with the country’s higher judiciary and the Election Commission.

The UPSC is headquartered at Dholpur House (New Delhi) and functions through its own secretariat. Arvind Saxena is the current Chairman of UPSC. It was established on 1 October 1926 as "Public Service Commission", later it was reconstituted as "Federal Public Service Commission" by the Government of India Act, 1935. Finally, it was renamed as Union Public Service Commission.

Table of contents

Steps to Prepare for IAS Exam

Before stepping into the steps involved to crack IAS Exam, set the right tune as the exam process is highly competitive for aspirants and is separated into three distinct parts. We will guide with the steps to prepare for IAS Exam and through diligent preparation and Knowledge, you can increase your chance of probability to serve as IAS

Make yourself familiar for each exam

By getting familiar over the topics on each syllabus and part of the exam the aspirants can concentrate on the scoring areas and start for an earlier preparation for the IAS Exam.

The Indian Civil Service examination is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) every year. The examination schedule is announced usually during the month of January or February. The selection is done in 3 stages.

The three stages of IAS exam are as follows

  1. Civil Services - Preliminary Examination - Objective Type (Qualifier)

  2. Civil Services - Main Examination - Written Test

  3. Interview / Personality Test

The General paper consists of 100 questions and the General Ability Test contains about 80 questions.

Understand the competition and prepare the mindset for it

The IAS exam is considered to be one of the toughest exams in the country. With a huge syllabus and increasing competition with each year of about 10L aspirants taking the exams, only 1% are chosen for IAS. So keep your mind and body trained in an optimistic way that you can crack the IAS exam with the right guidance and hard work

Focus the subject on your passion and familiarity

The knowledge of the aspirants may vary on each and individual. Knowing one's strength on each subject can help to focus on the important topics to be covered and in considering the weakness, the candidates should put on more effort in subjects they find difficult and schedule extra time to prepare for them

Read Newspaper to gain knowledge in Current Affairs

Reading Newspaper keeps you well informed about a country's economic situation, sports, games, entertainment, trade and commerce including the Current Affairs. The key idea for aspirants preparing for IAS is to focus on political and economic sections, both the national level and international level. Listening to All India Radio (AIR), Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha make increase your knowledge in Current Affairs

Refer Previous year UPSC Question papers

Reference of previous year question papers plays a big-time role in the preparation of IAS Exam. By reviewing over those papers, the aspirants can get familiarize with the type of questions asked and can understand the format of the question paper

The steps involved in Note making are given below

Note making procedure

The aspirants in order to track their progress should maintain a habit of note making. Every important topic discussed under previous year question papers should be noted as a draft or mnemonics. This habit makes them improve his/her performance and helps it as a tool for revision before the UPSC prelims and Main examination.

Mock tests

Mock tests are in similar to the final exams with the same paper pattern only the marks doesn't count. It is very helpful in knowing your strength and weakness and helps in giving better results on time consumption per question. The candidates should attend numerous mock tests and evaluate them and by it, he/she can come to know their knowledge in the subject and improve them efficiently.

Performance Analysis

This is an important part wherein students should analyze their performance in mock tests periodically. By the help of the performance analysis, the candidates can track the progress of their preparation. The performance analysis helps the candidates to know their strength and weakness and work hard to achieve in IAS exam

Book Reading

Reading books in the genre classic literature, historical biographies help to thrive knowledge in the field of study for IAS preparation can help to cover varied topics on related subjects. The confusion of Which book is best for IAS prelims? is cleared here

Additional tips for IAS exam preparations

In addition to steps to prepare for IAS examination, we have included some useful and effective tips to be followed during IAS exam preparation which are listed below

Time Management for IAS exam preparation

Time management is essential in everyone's life and as from the saying Time and Tide wait for no man, time should be considered as an important factor by students and aspirants who are preparing for IAS exam.

Prioritize your study plan

A perfect plan is where all it starts and well the aspirants preparing for IAS exam should prioritize their study subjects based on the level of difficulty they face as in if the student finds Geography quite difficult, then he/she should focus on more time in that subject for understanding.

Set realistic/achievable targets

Make a short, realistic and achievable plan and note that dramatic planning leads to procrastination. In short, if you're planning to study 10 chapters in history; plan one of each and set a target for 10 days with a day or two to a threshold at times due to unavoidable circumstances like family emergencies, health problems etc

Follow the Divide and Study method

The Divide and study method is an important factor for IAS aspirants. While preparing for the exam never try to read in a single set as this may lead to losing interest in the subjects and tends to skip of pages. Try to break the topics and understand each topic clearly.

Avoid procrastination

Try not to postpone the study plan or while reading an important topic as the cost of it is severe. Students/aspirants should stick to their plans and follow plans accordingly with a determined mind and self-control


Self-control is a difficult art to master and one who does can conquer the world. That's right; Students shouldn't waste time in unproductive activities like hanging out with friends, unwanted discussion, regular spending time to watch movies and it's best to avoid activities like this to get desired results.

Stress Management for IAS exam preparation

Listed below are some of the few stress management tips to be followed for your preparation of IAS examination

  • Indulge in right physical activity for at least an hour
  • Get enough sleep (6-8 hrs a day)
  • Have a balanced diet
  • Meditate for about 15 mins every day
  • Effective time management
  • Maintain a stress diary
  • Take rest at regular intervals

IAS Strategy tips

Everything needs a strategy and the strategy tips you play has an important role in the IAS preparation exam

  • Be an early bird
  • Understand the UPSC exam structure
  • Read important books suggested by IAS toppers
  • Read all the NCRET books from 6th to 12th standard
  • Newspaper reading is must and listen to AIR, Loksabha and Rajyasabha for Current Affairs
  • Concentrate on every official website of Government of India 

After going through the article about the preparation of IAS exam, students/aspirants may have a question about in relation to the preparation for the IAS examination and below we have listed some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) in relation with the IAS exam.

IAS is a dream career of many young people in India. Almost everyone has tried their best to clear the UPSC. If you are a student who is ready to work hard and have less knowledge of how, to begin with, the preparation. Then you have come to the right place, this article is for you. It also helps you to clear the common doubts such as

  1. How to fill the UPSC application form? 

  2. How do you become an IAS officer?

  3. What is the minimum percentage required in graduation to qualify for IAS exams?
  4. How many IAS are selected per year?

  5. What is the duty of an IAS officer?

  6. How long will it take for an IAS to become a collector?
  7. Can I pass IAS without coaching?

  8. How can I start preparing for IAS prelims?

  9. What are the subjects in IAS prelims?

  10. How Many Hours of Studies per Day is required to Clear the IAS Exam?

  11. What are the Tips to improve the quality of studies for IAS exam

  12. How many attempts are there for IAS?

  13. Can I clear UPSC in the first attempt?

  14. Is classroom coaching bad?

  15. What should a good IAS coaching centre do?

  16. Which book is best for IAS prelims?

  17. Which newspaper is the best for UPSC preparation?

  18. IAS Toppers who have not taken coaching

How to fill the UPSC application form? 

The steps to fill the UPSC application form is given below:

Step 1: Registration Part 
Visit the official website and click on the link to apply for UPSC Civil Services
Enter your details Name, Gender, Category, Nationality and other personal details.
Click on Submit button
You are redirected to the payment step

Step 2: Payment of Application Fee
Choose the payment method between online or offline mode
Offline mode includes downloading the Pay-in-slip provided on the page and paying in cash at the nearest branch of State Bank of India during working hours of the bank
Online mode includes payment through debit/credit card or net banking
If you choose Debit Card, enter the Card number, Validity and CVV number
If you choose Credit Card, enter the Card number, Validity and 6 digit special PIN number
For net banking, enter the account details of the bank account
Click on pay now post filling the details
You are redirected to the Part II of the UPSC Online Form

Note: This step is not applicable for candidates who are exempted from paying the fee.

Step 3: Registration Part 
Post receipt of the fee payment, fill the other details of the IAS Application form
Enter the choice of IAS Exam Center
Enter the qualification and other communication details asked correctly
Post verification, click on submit to proceed to the next step

Step 4: Uploading the Images
Click on the link or blank space provided to upload the photograph
Browse the location of the image and select the image
Click on open/upload
Check if the image is opened correctly and clearly
Repeat the same steps to upload the image of the signature
Click on “I Agree” to approve the declaration and submit the complete IAS Online Form.

How do you become an IAS officer?

Anyone who is a graduate in any discipline from a UGC recognized university can appear for the UPSC examination. First, the candidate should clear the preliminary examination being held in June-July each year. The results will get published in mid of August. If you are shortlisted then clear the main examination which will be held in October every year, after which you will be qualified to the personal interview. The personal interview will be held in the month of December every year. Finally, the results are announced in May. A lot of time and hard work is required to become an IAS officer.

  • Stage 1: Preliminary Examination (Popularly known as CSAT)

There are two papers in Prelims exams – namely Paper I and Paper II.

The paper I tests you on General Studies and Paper II test you on Aptitude. Qualifying Paper I will make you eligible for appearing for the Mains examination. Paper II is only to analyze you and not qualifying nature. The marks scored in Paper II are NOT added for the overall merit of the Civil Services Preliminary Examination.

  • Stage 2: Main Examination (Also known as Mains)

The Main Examination will consist of a written examination. The written examination will consist of 9 papers of conventional essay type i.e descriptive in nature.

  • Stage 3: Personal Interview

Candidates who obtain minimum qualifying marks in the Main Examination as may be fixed by the Commission at their discretion, shall be summoned by them for an interview for a Personality Test.

What’s the minimum percentage required in graduation to qualify for IAS exams?

There is no such requirement, the only requirement is to pass all the subjects of the bachelor's degree. The students who are in the final year of the graduation can also apply for UPSC exams. It is important to note that it is one of the toughest exams in India. The candidate needs to be hardworking and should have sound knowledge in the subjects.

A candidate applying for IFS exam must possess a bachelor’s degree in one of the following: animal husbandry and veterinary science, botany, chemistry, geology, mathematics, physics, statistics and zoology, or a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, forestry or engineering from a recognized university.

How many IAS are selected per year?

As per the previous data, around 180 candidates were selected in 2016 while in 2015 around 175 candidates were selected. The number of candidates selected varies each year and depends on the difficulty level of the exam. We can expect an average of 150 to 180 candidates per year. In fact, it is the difficulty which makes it more attractive to get into services such as IAS, IPS, IFS and so on. Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) has a capacity of imparting training to 180 IAS officer-recruits a year.

What is the duty of an IAS officer?

Function/ duty of an IAS officer broadly includes

  1. Collection of revenue and function as Courts in revenue matters.

  2. Maintenance of law and order.

  3. Function as Executive Magistrate.

  4. Function as Chief Development Officer (CDO)/ District Development Commissioner.

  5. Supervision of the implementation of policies of the State Government and Central Government.

  6. To travel to places to oversee the implementation of policies.

  7. Supervision of expenditure of public funds as per norms of financial propriety.

  8. Give shape to policies in the process of policy formulation and decision making at various levels such as Joint Secretary, Deputy Secretary and so on.

  9. Handling the daily affairs of the government which includes framing and implementation of policy in discussion with the minister-in-charge of the respective Ministry.

How long will it take for an IAS to become a collector?

It depends on the state where he/she is posted after clearing the UPSC exam. In some states, a minimum of 9 years of service in IAS is required for the post of collector whereas in some states an IAS officer with 4 to 5 years of service are also appointed to the post. At first, Candidates will be undergoing training for 1.5 years, then 2 years probation period as SDM (Subdistrict Magistrate) and an additional 2 years as a Deputy Commissioner.

Here are the stages to become Collector

  • Clear the UPSC exams such as Prelims, Main exam, and Interview.

  • Serve Probation period as sub-collector for 2 years.

  • Serve as deputy commissioner for 2 years.

Can I pass IAS without coaching?

Of course "yes", “Can one clear IAS Exam without coaching?” This is a common doubt occurred to the students who wish to appear for IAS examination. And the answers by the IAS toppers vary according to each person. However, in the online age, Yes, one can assure that any hardworking student can tackle the IAS exam without coaching. There are many instances of candidates who cracked IAS without going any coaching – without spending sleepless nights and truckload of money at any coaching institutes. Such Students must read IAS toppers without coaching.

How can I start preparing for IAS prelims?

“How can I start preparing for IAS prelims?” This question arises in the mind of every student about the initial step to be taken in order to appear for the IAS exam. The primary step to be taken is to understand the changing requirement of the UPSC and proceed according to the requirement and syllabus.

The steps to be followed in order to get into the right track are:

  1. Understand the requirements for the current year
  2. Check the exam syllabus
  3. Know the exam pattern
  4. Analyse the subjects that you need to concentrate more
  5. Know the exam date and allocate time for each subject accordingly.
  6. Gather the resources e.g NCERT, Online Video lectures, etc.
  7. Read/Watch the toppers interview once in a month.

What are the subjects in IAS prelims?

The preliminary exam consists of two multiple-choice question papers carrying 200 marks each, a total of 400 marks. The question papers are set in both English and Hindi. The duration of each paper is 2 hours. Paper I is counted for the merit rank in the prelims and Paper II is a qualifying paper and just need 33% of marks.

Here is the syllabus for GS Paper (Prelims Paper I)

  • Current events of national and international importance.

  • History of India and Indian National Movement.

  • Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.

  • Indian Polity and Governance - Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues and so on.

  • Economic and Social Development - Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives and so on.

  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change - that do not require subject specialisation General Science

Here is the Syllabus for CSAT Paper (Prelims Paper II)

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. - Class X level)

How Many Hours of Studies per Day is required to Clear the IAS Exam?

As it is one of the toughest exams, there are some people who claim to study 15-16 hours per day while there are also aspirants who have cleared the exam studying just for 6-7 hours in a day. There is no perfect answer to this question as it completely depends on your health conditions and brain capacity. All it needs to clear the UPSC exam is dedication and continuity.

It is advisable to look after health by reducing the hours of study. There can be serious effects on your health due to lack of sleep. One more thing to remember is that preparing for IAS exam is a long drawn process and thus you will have to invest at least a year for the preparation and motivated throughout.

What are the Tips to improve the quality of studies for IAS exam?

Here are the tips to improve the quality of studies

  1. Understand the concepts rather than byhearting them.
  2. Study as per the pattern of UPSC.
  3. Take regular breaks instead of studying continuously for hours.
  4. Students may follow a 40-10 or 57-17 study pattern (Scientifically proven).
  5. Study with utmost concentration avoiding distractions.
  6. Give the body the required amount of sleep that is 7 to 8 hours a day.

How many attempts are there for IAS Exam?

A general category candidate can appear for the IAS exam up to 6 attempts. One important factor to note is that the age of the candidate should be between 21 to 32 years. The OBC candidates get 9 attempts till the 35 years of age. The SC/ST candidates can appear any number of times till 37 years of age.

Can I clear UPSC in the first attempt?

Yes, with proper planning. Only one in ten clear the IAS exam in the first attempt. Proper planning should be started 3-4 years before the actual exam. The candidate must understand the fact that the commission is aimed at picking the best and brightest candidate of the country, hence prove yourself as the best candidate.UPSC is not only an exam, its the lifestyle!

There are some advantages and disadvantages for first-time attempters. The advantages are full of energy and positive attitude and the disadvantages can be misguidance, negative influence, not aware of the right books. The one who can plan and start preparing considering both the advantage and disadvantage of the first time attempt can be successful in the marathon.

Is classroom coaching bad?

It depends on the institution joined by you. Checking the profile of IAS toppers we can interpret that there are candidates who cleared the exam with and without coaching. Some left the job for the preparation and some cleared the exam while working. The time is taken for the preparation also varies according to your concentration level and dedication.

Hence the answer to the question “But is classroom coaching bad?” lies within you. It entirely depends on your ability to push yourself and how efficiently you can allocate your time for studies. For any type of exam, the teachers at the coaching institutes provide you only the guidance which is only 5%, rest 95% of the result depends on the candidate. But be careful, before joining any institute students must go through the reviews.

What should a good IAS coaching do?

There are two things, a good IAS coaching institution can do:

  1. Knowledge (Providing required study material)

  2. Guidance (Strategies by the experienced person)

  3. Competition and timely occurring tests

A good institute or coaching centre should be able to provide these two things. Knowledge is the basic thing you will be gaining from the institute and that alone will not be enough as there are many other depending factors like the time limit. The strategies to clear the IAS from an experienced person is also an important factor expected from an IAS coaching institute.

Which book is best for IAS prelims?

Here is the list of highly recommended books for IAS Prelims:

  • NCERT Books Set for UPSC Exam

  • History Of Modern India by Bipan Chandra - History

  • India’s Struggle For Independence by Bipan Chandra - History

  • India’s Ancient Past by R.S. Sharma - History

  • History Of Medieval India by Satish Chandra - History

  • The Wonder That Was India by A.L. Bhasham - Culture

  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania - Culture

  • Geography of India by Majid Husain - Geography

  • Oxford School Atlas - Oxford - Geography

  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong - Geography

  • Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations by M. Laxmikanth - Polity

  • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh - Economy

  • Economic Survey by Economy

  • Science and Technology in India by TMH - Science and Technology

  • Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure by Rajagopalan - Environment

  • Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Mains by Khuller - Environment

  • India Year Book - Current Affairs

  • Manorama Yearbook - Current Affairs

  • ClearIAS Current Affairs Capsule [Monthly MCQs] - Current Affairs

  • CSAT Paper - 2 Manual by TMH or CSAT-II - Arihant - CSAT - Paper 2

  • Analytical Reasoning by M. K. Pandey - CSAT - Paper 2: Analytical Reasoning

  • Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning by R. S.Aggarwal - CSAT Paper 2: Reasoning

Which newspaper is the best for UPSC preparation?

The newspaper is useful in covering the most important topics comprehensively with a diversity of views. It is also useful in using language in a good manner for better articulation of views in mains. The Hindu, Times of India and Indian Express are considered as the best newspapers among the candidates preparing for IAS as these newspapers are simpler and easy to extract proper points for notes making for current affairs and also helps to improve the language.


Lakhs of youngsters in India aspire to become an IAS officer. It is a totally different league when compared to other professionals considering the authority and benefits enjoyed by them.

Here are some of the benefits enjoyed by the IAS officers:

Residence: IAS officers generally get huge houses as residences with services such as maids, cooks, gardeners, security guards and so on.

Security: Due to the high profile and dangerous nature of the job, IAS officers and their family are provided with security guards. They can also get STF commandoes in case of serious concern like life threats.

Study Leaves: IAS officers can get leave up to 2 years for the study purpose. They can also choose courses from the reputed foreign universities and the cost of the course will be undertaken by the government. Only the officers who have completed 7 years of service are allowed with this facility. It is also mandatory to serve as IAS officer for certain years after the completion of course.

Job Security: It is not easy to fire an IAS officer and the process requires extensive investigations.

Lifetime Pension: The IAS officer enjoy lifetime pension after the retirement from the service. They are also hired in private companies after their retirement from the government service.

As you can see from the above the benefits of an IAS officer are attractive.

IAS Toppers Who have not taken Coaching

The list is too long, but we have tried to cover the IAS officers who have a struggling background and have not taken coaching.

Here is the list of those IAS toppers

IAS toppers without Coaching
Name Year AIR
Hasan Safin 2017 570
Jayant Mankale 2018 923
Tapasya Parihar 2018 23
M Sivaguru Prabakaran 2017 101
Surya Kant Dwivedi 2015 242
Ansar Shaikh 2015 361
Kuldeep Dwivedi 2015 742
Sweta Agarwal 2015 19
Nirish Rajput 2016 370
Hrudaya Kumar 2014 1079
K Jayaganesh 2013 156
Govind Jaiswal 2006 48

Hope this article has cleared the doubts of candidates who are ready to start preparing for IAS exam. All the best for your future.

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