Prelims is the first stage and considerably the most uncertain for most of the people. Maximum number of elimination happens at this stage. However it is important that we focus on the things that matter to get through this stage. We do not need great scores. All we need is 1 mark more than the cut off and we are through to the Mains.

My focus had always been clearing the cut off instead of hitting the big scores. I had prepared extensively for 2017 Prelims but could get only one month for 2018 Prelims as I had my CSE 2017 Interview towards the end. I usually had 8-10 marks more than the cutoff.


* Do not take Prelims lightly. This stage requires very extensive reading of all the major sources and reading list for UPSC.
* Dedicate the last 2.5 months before the prelims to the prelims. Do not think of studying for Mains and Optional at this stage.
* After a lot of trial and error, I felt "70-30 strategy" suited me the most to get optimum score in prelims.
70-30 Strategy:
> It simply means getting 70 questions right and 30 wrong -> leading to a score of 120.
> It is very difficult to identify exactly the questions that you would be getting right in the examination hall, especially when the question paper is towards the tougher side.
> Attempting only 70-80 questions with the hope of getting at least 65-70 correct never worked for me. It works for some.
> The goal here is to maximize the number of correct answers to 70. The more questions you attempt, the greater the chances for you to touch 70 correct answers.
> However it also increases the chances of getting the answers wrong. But always remember, the cost of negative marks is far lesser than the benefits of +2 for a right answer. My advise would be to attempt as many questions as you can. We will come soon to the way to do it.
> For example:
You have attempted 80 questions. You get some score.
Now if you attempt the remaining 20 with a bit of logic and common sense, there are chances that:
  • Case 1: Worst case: All 20 questions are wrong. -> Highly unlikely since you have come prepared for the exam, attempted mocks and have the experience of solving MCQs.
  • Case 2:  Around 16 Questions turn wrong and only 4 correct ->  -10.66 +8 = - 2.6
  • Case 3:  15 wrong and 5 right -> -10 + 10 = 0
  • Case 4: less than 15 wrong -> positive add on to the scores
So the extra risk is worth taking. Only leave the questions that you have no idea about, extremely factual and where no educated guess work is yielding an answer. Usually 7-8 such questions are there. They must be left.
However the prerequisite for this is a lot of practice, mocks and reading. During the initial phases if you try attempting all the questions, then you will most likely end up in negative zone.

* Start reading the basic books and build up your base for Civil Services.
* The basic reading list includes:

  • Ancient History: Nitin Singhania + Tamil Nadu class 11 History Book + NCERTs
  • Modern History: Spectrum
  • Geography: Spectrum/GC Leong + NCERT + Geography through Maps
  • Science: NCERT
  • Polity: Laxmikanth
  • Economics: NCERT + Sriram IAS Economics Booklet
  • Environment: Shankar IAS Environment + NCERT
* Once the basic reading is roughly done. Start looking at the past year questions especially for Polity, Geography and History. Either you can buy New Vishal Book of topic wise past year questions or use the Vision IAS Mobile app to solve the past year questions. 
* Getting answers right do not matter at this stage. Start getting the hang of the topics and types of questions that is being asked. Go back to the chapter or the topic from where questions are asked. Read the chapters again. If something new is asked which is not in the readings, write them down on the margin of the book or in your 'Prelims notebook'.
* Start reading the Current Affairs - from the magazines of Vision IAS or Insights. Glance the facts in the newspaper such as Hindu in 30-40 minutes maximum. Reading newspapers helps you in keeping track of the events and keeping things in the memory. However, the current affairs magazines should be the primary source for current affairs.

* Start solving mock test papers. Vision IAS and Insights is what I followed.
Mock Tests are like mobile games. The more you play, the better you get at it.
* Prepare a notebook exclusively for Prelims. Preferably online on OneNote or a ring folder if you are a hard copy fan. 
* Segment the notebook in to various sections such as Polity, Geography, History etc
* Further create sub sections and consolidate the facts related to the Prelims.
Focus on the hot topics on which UPSC is very repetitive such as Reports, Committees, Animals in news, Places in News, Tributaries of rivers etc.

For example: 
In the above illustration, I am trying to consolidate list of all the important committees in one place.
Every time I solve a test paper and come across a committee, I write down in this Committee page under Polity.
Similarly under Polity you can create pages such as -> Department and Ministries;
Under Geography, pages can be created such as -> Rivers and tributaries, Dams and rivers etc.

PHASE 4 [Final 30 days]
* Sit down everyday to write a mock between 9:30 to 10:30 in the morning. Do it for at least 15-20 days before the exam. It will enhance your thought process to make logical guesses. 
* Keep consolidating to your Prelims notebook every time you come across anything important during this phase especially from the current affairs booklets and mock tests. Takeout 30 minutes at night to revise the additions. Do not read the newspapers at this stage.
* Revise. Revise and Revise. The basic books and the current affairs booklet. 
* Revise the topic wise VisionIAS PT 365 and Insights PT Current Affair Booklets.
* It is completely alright if you have not solved many mock tests. At this stage, almost all institutes take out 60 days plan and Revision mock tests. For example IAS Baba 60 Days revision or Insighst Revision Test. Do them without fail. It is these questions from where there is maximum chance that you can get a hit at prelims. Unlike regular mock test series, only relevant questions are placed in these modules towards the end. 

* Watch this video by Shankar sir:

* Read this "Intelligent Guessing" technique by Insights:
Insights Intelligent Guessing


* The best weapon that you can carry with yourself in the examination hall is Common Sense. Do not overthink. Think very generally on as to why UPSC has asked that question. Try to read in between the lines and try finding any bluff if it is there.
* Always go for the general and most basic answer to be on the safe side. Do not get too technical with the options. For example:
CSE 2018 Prelims Question:

Here in this question:
Generally CAR indicates the proportion of the capital amount that banks maintain as the healthy capital.

However, technically CAR is a RATIO and not an AMOUNT. That makes statement 1 wrong. But UPSC has gone with general interpretation and given statement 1 as right. 

* Do not think of the score while attempting the paper. Rather focus on optimising the attempt so that there is no regret after the paper.
* All questions are not meant for you to get it correct. Learn to ignore a question and move ahead. There will be around 70 doable questions. That must be your target.

* Majority of the questions you will be doing for the first time in the examination hall. Work them out instead of panicking. There would be enough questions in the paper that can be worked out to get you through the cut off.

# PRELIMS + GS Video:


  1. can't access for prelims related queries..

    1. Its updated now. I'll add more points. Permit me sometime.

  2. Hello sir..
    Pls suggest how to plan for prelim in remaining 40 days..
    Which areas should be focuseed.??

    1. Please refer to the Phase 4 of preparation above. Best of luck !!

  3. sir plz share your detailed strategy for prelims ?

  4. Hello sir ,is current affiras from insite are enough or have to do something additional plz help me out because I cannot have any newspaper here.

  5. Hello sir can u start an online plateform for answer writing evalvation especially for those having economics as optional.
    We people are facing lot of inconveniences due to lack of any reputed economics test series or any coaching.
    I hope u will look into the matter and be abide by that for the sake of students of economics. Sir there are online plateforms for history polity sociology but no plateform at all for economics. Plz be gracious on us

  6. Planning strategically to clear prelims of an IAS exam is the most smartest move, giving a candidate more time and helps cover all portions in a more systematic way rather than rushing in the last minute. Thank you Mr. Kumar for giving just that in this blog. It is a must read for every student seeking to clear their prelims in a comfortable way. Similar help is also provided by good IAS institutions like

  7. Hello Anurag Sir,
    I am confused about from where to get my answer checked to get the best out of the sources from which I can write more better, please suggest something, is there any way or purchasing a paid series is only option?

  8. Hello sir,
    How to go with the ancient history notes

  9. hello sir
    will u please provide whole onenote link


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