Smart Work for IAS Preparation

Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort makes all the difference. This article is written with a special focus on the doing smart work for IAS preparation. The importance of this discussion is at a time when there are a wide variety of resources available around every aspirant to make him/her get confused.

Hard work vs Smart Work

Hard work vs Smart Work

Hard work may help you to complete your tasks but you may not be able to do so efficiently, and that’s where smart work comes into play.

In school, we would have come across both hard workers and smart workers. Hard workers would study the entire year, make notes and prepare hard for examinations. Smart worker completes the urgent and important task first and leave the rest for later. Smart workers would pay more attention to their final goal and clear the examinations in flying colors spending less time, energy and money!

ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series

Know what to study and what not

There is no shortage of books, materials or coaching in the market, but there is no proper guidance regarding what to study and what not. The root concept of smart work for clearing IAS exam lies in the same – knowing what to study and what not. You may also check the article Strategy and Books for Early Birds To Clear IAS Exam if ‘civils’ is a long term plan.

Utopian model of Civil Services Preparation:

Book Collector

If you are thinking that you need to read N number of books (the big ones you know, with near size of a pillow where N is a variable which starts only from the smallest possible 3 digit number), attend IAS classroom coaching at ABC institute, BCD institute and XYZ institute for specialized classes for each subject, browse 15-20 websites and prepare notes from 5-10 newspapers and magazines each day to clear IAS, you are probably wrong. The exaggerated actions highlighted above are Utopian cases, which are neither practical nor necessary to clear Civil Services Exam. Even if an imaginary person does all what is stated above, there is still chance that he/she not clear Prelims/Mains.

So what matters in UPSC IAS preparation is not the quantity (volume) of materials one had gone through, but the quality of learning and revision done. Besides, aspirants should develop personalized strategies knowing their strengths and weaknesses, as general strategies might not work in individual cases.

‘Collector’ or ‘Book Collector’?

Learning is not complete without practice

As books in physical form are an indispensable prerequisite for IAS preparation, candidates should not worry spending a few bucks on the necessary books for UPSC exams. In-fact from the very beginning aspirants should keep aside a sum of around Rs. 5000-10,000 entirely for basic books, magazines and newspapers. But what are the essential books for IAS preparation? Don’t worry. We shall help.

Two versions of candidates can be observed if we keenly analyze the book buying habit of aspirants. The first group are extremely reluctant to spend on books, though they are happy to spend thousands on coaching classes (without any use), drinks, latest gadgets or parties.

The second version of aspirants consider being a book collector as the prerequisite for becoming an actual collector. Rooms of these guys can at any time beat any central library in terms of quantity of materials 🙂

We at suggest a middle path. Though books are life long assets and the money spend on books can be seen as an investment, you should also consider the time factor. You have only limited time and UPSC does not expect you to read all the text books and magazines available in the market.

So candidates are advised to adopt a basic minimum program in the case of books and study materials that should be bought. Depending upon on time available, you may expand your book base from this basic minimum.

Even the minimum book list (listed below) might look exhaustive for some of the aspirants, but unfortunately we can’t help that. The one year long UPSC exam cycle expects you to go through at least these basics. 🙁 After all, you are doing smart work for IAS, and not any school exams! 🙂

Smart Work for Clearing IAS: The strategy, books and study materials

Smart Work For IAS

Download ClearIAS app for overall guidance:

ClearIAS™ was started with a vision of quality, but affordable online education, giving stress to self-study. ClearIAS has released free mobile apps (android apps as well as iPhone apps) as a complete self-study package for free. Our android app has already crossed 3,00,000+ downloads.

Buy recommended books for IAS preparation:

Clear IAS Online Shopping

Don’t forget to get copies of NCERT books from class 6-12. A detailed list of useful books needed for IAS preparation is available on

Enroll for ClearIAS Prelims Mock Test Series:

ClearIAS UPSC Prelims Test Series: Boost Your UPSC Prelims Score!

As you may know, only when tested in an exam atmosphere with negative marking, you can improve the ability to deliver in the actual exam hall. Try for free the UPSC Prelims online mock exams by ClearIAS in the new innovative platform which integrates learning with test-taking. You would be surprised to find how fast you can learn.

Write ClearIAS Mains Mock Tests for free:

Proper answer writing practice, good understanding of the latest UPSC syllabus and familiarity of current topics are important prerequisites of clearing IAS mains in flying colors. It is with this aim of equipping aspirants with the latest requirements of UPSC mains exam we launched our UPSC Mains Test Series. Join our free online mocks which focus on answer writing practice.

Keep in mind the important tips for IAS interview:

IAS interview is a half-an-hour exercise which can change your life. A high score in UPSC interview can sometimes create a difference of more than 100 marks with fellow candidates in just under 30 minutes. Read our UPSC interview tips.

What not to Study for IAS?

As we have covered the minimum materials (under basic minimum program!) one should study for clearing IAS, let us cover another most important area – What not to Study for Clearing IAS. You should never spend much time on the areas listed below. ( These details are never worth the time of a serious UPSC aspirant!)


  1. Bollywood and all the other “filmwoods”- Don’t spend time remembering the pet names of actresses, music director’s uncles’ names, gossips, latest flops and masala stories.
  2. Sports – Names of sports persons might be asked for 2 or 5 markers if they had made any notable achievement, but don’t spend time remembering all the centuries of Sachin, sixes hit by Gayle, IPL purple caps etc. Remember that you are going to write UPSC exam and not any Crorepathi shows in Television.
  3. Politics – Neglect the entire local/state politics news. Just brief through central politics news, but there is no need to mug up the details of stories.
  4. Names of Uganda President, Currency in Kiribati etc unless these makes headlines during the year.


In short, right materials along with a focused approach in alignment with the UPSC syllabus and previous question papers is the mantra for clearing UPSC exams with minimum time, effort and expense. Hard work without focus might not help you, but smart work in the direction required by UPSC surely will!

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