Preparation Strategy and Tips for UPSC Mains General Studies Papers

The Union Public Service Commission conducts the Civil Services Exam (CSE) in India, which is a nationwide competitive examination (UPSC).

The UPSC selects qualified candidates for positions in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS), Indian Forest Service (IFoS), and other allied services through the Civil Services Examination.

It is considered to be one of the most reputed and toughest competitive exams in India. As a result, lakhs of students take the Civil Services Exam each year, with just 750 to 900 candidates making the final merit list (depending on the vacancy).

The exam is held in three stages – Civil Services Prelims (Objective Type), Civil Services Mains(Descriptive Type) and Personality Test/Interview. Those who clear the Prelims are eligible to take the Mains, and those who qualify the Mains are called for the Interview interview, which is the final stage of the selection process.  The final Merit list is determined based on the candidates’ performance in the Mains and Interview.

A solid foundation in general studies is essential for cracking the civil service exam and for the career ahead. This is because the job position necessitates people who have a comprehensive awareness of what is going on around them.

In terms of the exam, your general knowledge base will immensely impact your score in the Prelims, Mains, and Interview.

On that note, let’s discuss a few crucial tips and strategies for general studies preparation to improve your chances of cracking the upcoming civil services exam.

Indian History 

Indian history and culture carry a significant amount of weightage in both UPSC prelim and mains exams. Let’s discuss how to prepare history for upsc prelims and mains exam.

  • The importance of pre-modern history (i.e., history prior to the arrival of Europeans) has shrunk. This is why you must focus more on the national movement (the 1800s-1947).
  • Bipan Chandra’s book India’s Struggle for Independence is a fantastic choice. Read it from beginning to end.
  • The expansion and decline of other Europeans, the expansion of the British empire, and the administrative development in India throughout the British period must all be studied ( 1650-1857).
  • To make short notes, try to get some books on Indian history. Short notes can benefit you a lot in this section.


For geography, only use NCERT books. Students who do not have geography as a subject option are not required to study it in depth. Go through:

  • NCERT Class XI (Indian Geography)
  • NCERT Class XI (Fundamentals of physical geography)
  • Make a note of important points and unfamiliar terms you come across in the newspapers and google them.

Indian Constitution

Any excellent constitution book will suffice. The book that many experts recommend is D.D. Basu’s ‘Introduction to the Constitution of India.’ Read it from beginning to end.

Indian Economy

  • Some basic banking and economics terminologies, such as repo rate, reverse repo, CRR, and SLR, must be learned.
  • Read a good book on the Indian economy, such as Dutt & Sundaram Indian Economy or Uma Kapila’s Indian Economy: Performance and Policies. Take notes with the strategy to score 20-30 marks.
  • Download the most recent Economic Survey of India and make notes as you update the statistics.
  • Lastly, follow the budget, read its summary, and keep track of related news. 

General knowledge and current affairs

This is when newspapers and current affairs magazines prove useful. This is likely the most crucial section, and if you don’t know how to prepare current affairs for upsc then it could become a daunting task for you. 

  • Read reputed English newspapers like The Hindu, Hindustan Times and Frontline. As they are less cluttered and offer a balanced perspective to the reader. Go through the stories of national and international importance as well as read daily editorials.
  • Learn about recent Government policies and programs, emerging technologies, inventions and discoveries, a list of Nobel laureates in the field of Physics and Chemistry, and more.
  • Make notes and be thorough with at least the last six months to one year of current affairs before the exam.
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