How to start UPSC preparation from zero level

“The only thing that stands between a person and what they want in life is the will to try it and the faith to believe it is possible.” ― Rich DeVos


Hello everyone, this article is about UPSC preparation from zero levels.

It will be helpful to those who are planning to start UPSC preparation. This article will also be very beneficial to those who are in class 10th, 12th, or graduation.

In this article, we will explain the exam pattern, how to prepare for this exam, and the best books for this exam. We will also include some of the recent trends in UPSC preparation (i.e online platforms like Unacademy and YouTube) apart from the traditional tuitions and coaching.

So Let’s start the topic;

Everyone wants to do a good job in the future and UPSC provides a platform that gives an opportunity to serve the country. It provides a handsome salary, job security, name, and fame. You can use your innovative ideas to serve the nation.

UPSC preparation can be done through three methods first one is the is traditional method second one is the modern method and another one is a mix of both.

Let’s start from the traditional method in which students study offline like tuitions and coachings, focus on mug up, and mainly dependent on the physical sources. However, the use of the internet, online books, virtual classes are some of the modern trends in UPSC preparation. Nowadays you can not fully rely on the traditional or the modern method alone, Instead, you need to use both in a balanced manner.

Now we shall discuss about the phases of the exam. There are mainly three phases in the UPSC exam

  • The first one is the prelims (or preliminary exam) which is objective in nature.
  • The second one is the mains which are descriptive in nature.
  • And the third one is the personal interview.
In the prelims exam, there are two papers (Paper 1 and Paper 2);
  • paper 1 is related to GS means general studies
  • paper 2 is related to CSAT which is qualifying in nature 

In paper 1, topics are like History, Geography, Polity, Biodiversity, Economics, Science & Technology, and Current Affairs are included.

There will 100 questions with 200 marks. For every wrong answer, there will be a penalty of one-third marks.

Paper 2 is of qualifying in nature and a total of 80 questions will be there and you have to bring a minimum of 33.33% out of 200 numbers to qualify in this paper. Questions from English comprehension, maths, reasoning, and analytical thinking are mostly asked in this paper which is up to the 10th standard level and it checks your mental ability.

Recommended books/magazines for Prelims preparation are;

Recent trends of UPSC show that if you are bringing 100 to 115 Marks in paper 1 of G.S you will be able to write the mains surely.

If you crack prelims then the next phase will be mains. You can get a 2 to 3 month time period between the prelims result and Mains exam which is not sufficient. Hence, you are advised to prepare for the mains exam from the early stage itself.

The mains papers will test the student’s ability to present his/her idea in a fixed time limit and word limit. It will judge the intellectual level as well as concept clearance in that particular topic/subject.

In mains exam;

  • paper A will include the local language which is 22 in number given in the eighth schedule of the constitution
  • paper B which is of English language, will check your level of English and

Both Paper A and Paper B are of qualifying in nature and marks will not be added to your merit but you have to pass these exams. Both papers carry 300 marks each.

Now for merit in mains exams;

Paper 1 (essay);

Recent trends in the essay show that it includes philosophical topics as well as the current issues of national and international importance.

However, UPSC does not provide a broad syllabus for the essay but it is expected from the candidate to have a very clear concept and knowledge base on the topics.

there are total of 8 topics, from which you have to write two essays from Section A and second B (125 X 2 marks)

I recommend (if possible), join Trump IAS by Vikash sir. He’s a very good mentor in the field of essays.

paper 2 (GS 1);

It includes the history section like heritage and culture, history and geography of the world, and society-related problems.

You can start from NCERT like history class 8 to 12th class NCERT, Geography  9 10 11 12 NCERT, and Indian society class 12 for basic knowledge building. Thereafter you can read the below-mentioned standard books.

some standard books for paper 2;

  • spectrum for modern India
  • RS Sharma NCERT ancient India
  • Medieval India by S Chandra
  • Introduction of Indian art class XI
  • For geography GC Leon

For society, you can read mains 365 of vision IAS magazine or only the society section of IAS YouTube channel.

Paper 3 (GS2); 

This paper includes Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social justice, and International relations.

If you follow M Laxmikant for this paper. It will cover most of the topics except International relations but with the help of this book, you have an eagle eye on the current issues of national and international importance. But you need to combine your book with the topics in news. You need to regularly read the new judgments of the Supreme Court & High court to understand the view of the Constitution. You can also read NCERT for your basic foundation.

For international relations, you can follow vision IAS 365 of mains and world affair YouTube Channel as well as only IAS YouTube Channel.

Paper 4 (GS3);

This paper is mostly current related which you can cover from any monthly magazines but for the economic section, you need to have some basic ideas. Some of the topics related to this paper are Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security, and Disaster management.

For the economics section, you can read NCERT 11th and 12th class (for standard reference) and you can Refer to Sriram IAS Institute economics notes.

For Environmental issues, you can use Sankar IAS Book

For Security & Disaster Management and for the current issues on the Environment, you can use some online sources like newspapers or uncademy and some of the YouTube channels.

Paper 5 (GS4);

Paper 5 is related to Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. It was included in the syllabus after 2010.  Questions related to the dilemma in the real-life situation like as an officer how you are going to balance your personal and private life as well as personal and public life.

I recommend the book “A Practical Approach to Ethics Integrity & Aptitude for Civil Services Examinationswritten by DK Balaji Sir who is an IAS officer. This book provides a practical approach with standard definitions of some of the terms as well as it included the example of the real-life situation in contemporary times.


Now before moving forward I must suggest something;

If you the read newspaper on daily basis, it makes your knowledge deep on a given issue or topics. Your views should be balanced, must not be biased and you need to avoid political tussles.

If you are not able to read the newspaper on daily basis, I must suggest that please read any monthly magazines like vision IAS. It is easy to categorize in sections and easy to understand. You should also make a view on the global report as well as Indian relation and stand of our country. Remember some facts of report, committee, judgment, case, convention, data, and suggestions.

you can watch the debate on Rajya sabha TV and if you can follow only Ias daily editorial discussions with the world affairs YouTube channel and study IQ YouTube Channel it will be better for your understanding the topics.

Above all, please make sure you are revising and writing it on a page with limited words. Do not write everything as making notes but summarise what you learned and listen in your own word.


Please watch this video to understand the UPSC Civil Services Exam Pattern, Syllabus & Eligibility Criteria.


Now Next syllabus is your optional

You can choose your graduation subject as your optional or some evergreen subjects in UPSC like political science and international relations, Geography, Sociology, and Anthropology, etc.

If you are a technical person and have confidence in your subject then you can choose it. Technical subjects are also good and you can score very well. I have seen people who score  330 out of 500 in maths, Mechanical Engineering.

The optional s subject should be chosen wisely, based on some of the following criteria such as

  • The interest of a person
  • Availability of teacher or material
  • Trends of score in UPSC and mutual benefit with other GS subjects

you can choose your Graduation subject if you have a good understanding level and confidence

Now accessibility, availability, and affordability are important for the preparation of UPSC.

If you are able to afford you can take coaching as well as you can assess material easily

If you are in a remote area and not able to access the coaching, you can use YouTube as a friend, guide, and your mentor. There are too many online platforms available for you to guide and provide materials.

Above all, consistency and determination provide you courage and confidence to sail the UPSC through your hard work.


All the best


I would like to say one thing.


“you don’t have to worry about burning bridges, if you’re building your own”― Kerry E. Wagner


This article is written by;

Mr. Pankaj Kumar Gupta

(Email ID: [email protected])