How should you start IAS exam preparation? Read this beginner’s guide for success in the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE).
Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the dream career of millions of aspirants in the country. The same is the case with services like Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) etc. Recruitment to about 20 services including IAS, IPS, IFS etc is conducted via a common exam called the UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE).
Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is the Central Authority that takes care of the entire recruitment process.
Confused about how to start IAS Preparation? Explore ClearIAS Courses
ClearIAS offers multiple courses. However, the best-selling course preferred by most beginners is ClearIAS Prelims cum Mains (PCM) Course.
ClearIAS PCM course is an umbrella program which offers most of the resources of ClearIAS like video classes, mock exams, study materials etc in a single package.
The PCM Course of ClearIAS offers almost everything you need to crack the UPSC CSE like:
- Instant access to 700+ Hours of Expert Classes (recorded) which cover the entire UPSC CSE GS syllabus of Prelims and Mains
- Automatic Access to the latest Current Affairs Classes (Live or Recorded)
- Doubt Clearing Sessions
- Personal Mentorship
- Easy-to-learn Study Materials (PDF)
- ClearIAS UPSC Prelims Online Mock Test Series
- ClearIAS UPSC Previous Year Re-Take Exams
- Interview Guidance etc.
We also offer sub-sets of the PCM Programs to those aspirants who wish to subscribe to smaller packages. The popular sub-packages are the PMB Program and the PMB+ Program.
For those students, who cannot afford ClearIAS PCM, PMB, or PMB+ Programs, ClearIAS has conceptualised the TTT Approach to clear IAS – which includes 3 Ts (tools) – Textbooks, Test Series, and Techniques.
ClearIAS Prelims cum Mains Online Course: Admission Open for 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026
Admissions are open to the ClearIAS Online Courses which are valid until UPSC CSE 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026.
1. UPSC Online Coaching: Target CSE 2023 – ClearIAS Prelims cum Mains (PCM) Course
2. UPSC Online Coaching: Target CSE 2024 – ClearIAS Prelims cum Mains (PCM) Course
3. UPSC Online Coaching: Target CSE 2025 – ClearIAS Prelims cum Mains (PCM) Course
4. UPSC Online Coaching: Target CSE 2026 – ClearIAS Prelims cum Mains (PCM) Course
Book a FREE UPSC Mentorship Session with a ClearIAS Expert
Is your ambition to become an IAS, IPS, or IFS officer?
Do you want to surprise all by cracking UPSC CSE in the shortest possible time?
Register now for a free UPSC Mentorship session with an expert mentor of ClearIAS!
How should you start IAS preparation?
First of all, you should decide how will you prepare for UPSC CSE – whether it will be entirely by self-study, by practising mock exams or by attending expert classes.
In all cases, ClearIAS can help.
ClearIAS provides online study materials, online mock exams, and online classes.
With respect to Government Services like IAS, IPS, IFS etc, the earlier you get into the service the better will be your career prospects and promotions.
ClearIAS values time as a crucial resource and all our efforts are directed at guiding candidates to succeed with minimum time.
Which approach you should choose for your UPSC preparation depends on how fast you want to become an IAS, IPS, or IFS officer.
This question is also dependent on the candidates’ age, financial capacity, and value perception of time.
UPSC CSE Preparation: 3 Approaches
There are three popular approaches adopted by UPSC aspirants.
We will discuss the positives and negatives of each of the approaches.
Finally, we will also see what ClearIAS recommends.
Approach 1: Self-Study
It is possible to crack UPSC CSE by self-study. However, this ‘Text-book based approach’ by self-study is more time-consuming when compared to preparing with the help of expert coaching and proper resources.
In recent times, it’s rare to see an aspirant who secured a top rank in UPSC CSE in his/her first attempt entirely by self-preparation, unless he started his/her preparation very early.
This is because covering the vast syllabus of UPSC CSE entirely by self-study takes a lot of time – usually multiple years.
Also, the candidate should be highly disciplined and self-motivated to pursue the path of self-study. It has been observed that most aspirants who prepare alone without guidance tend to lose focus soon. It’s not uncommon to see aspirants in the UPSC preparation field for 3-4 years but not finished half of the UPSC topics by self-study.
Working professionals or college students who have only a few hours to invest daily in UPSC CSE preparation should not depend solely on self-study. They should seek an approach which will help them cover topics faster and in an efficient way.
To sum up, even though self-study per se is cheaper, it is not recommended for aspirants who value time as the most important commodity in life.
Approach 2: Learning with the help of UPSC Mock Exams
Many aspirants, who realise the importance of practice for success, learn by integrating mock exams into their preparation.
This method of ‘Test-based Learning’ is faster than ‘Text-based Learning’.
As part of the ClearIAS Test-based approach, we help aspirants learn by taking 40 online mock mock exams.
In this method, other than adopting mock exams for practice, the whole learning is done by the aspirant himself.
Even though this approach is more efficient than solely depending on textbooks for preparation, you can learn faster and more focused if you get to chance to learn directly from expert faculties – online or offline.
Approach 3: Learning with the help of expert UPSC Coaching
There is nothing to be ashamed of about taking proper training to improve your knowledge and skills.
UPSC Coaching – online or offline – will help aspirants learn topics faster. It will save precious youth years.
This will give you all the required resources in your arsenal like study materials, mock exams, guidance, expert classes for every subject, and techniques to boost your marks.
However, not all coaching is the same.
There are a few coaching platforms which give quality guidance and exam-oriented training. Having said that, there are hundreds of platforms/institutes which do not add any value to aspirants despite charging lakhs of rupees as fees.
Methods adopted by many traditional coaching institutes are not helpful to crack the latest requirements and changing patterns of UPSC.
Aspirants should keep this in mind before joining any coaching.
Don’t go just behind mass trends or advertisements.
Try to assess the quality of coaching and credibility of the faculties yourself.
You may also check previous toppers’ reviews before joining any programs.
Self-Study + Smart-Study = Success
You might have heard this quote ‘It takes two hands to clap‘. This is true with respect to the success in the UPSC CSE as well.
No coaching platform can make a lazy student IAS, IPS, or IFS officer.
Unless the student’s effort matches the coaching, there won’t be good results.
When your individual effort meets the right training, you get exceptional results.
Proper guidance and the right practice are crucial for success in every field. This is particularly true in academics and competitive exams.
When it comes to competitive exams, classes by expert faculties and guidance by top mentors always give candidates a great advantage.
ClearIAS is led by the expert Civil Service Trainer and popular author Alex Andrews George, who is well-reputed for his unmatched training and teaching methodologies.
Along with Mr Alex Andrews George, 15 other expert faculties are part of the ClearIAS Team behind the Prelims cum Mains (PCM) Program.
In our experience, we have seen a combination of self-study by aspirants along with the smart-study training of ClearIAS produce great success.
ClearIAS Online Classroom Program is loved by aspirants for the equal emphasis given to Knowledge and Exam Skills.
Our unique training and smart work approach will sharpen your potential and help you crack UPSC CSE much faster.
Besides, this will help you save a lot of time, effort, and money.
The Smart Approach Recommended by ClearIAS
Please find the 7-steps we recommend for aspirants to succeed in the UPSC Services Examination.
- Step 1: Join ClearIAS Online Classroom Program (ClearIAS Online Classes)
- Step 2: Prepare Notes based on ClearIAS Classes
- Step 3: Self-Study (Learn ClearIAS Notes, NCERT Textbooks and Standard Textbooks)
- Step 4: Take ClearIAS Prelims Online Mock Exams
- Step 5: Take ClearIAS Mains Mock Exams. Polish your answer writing skills
- Step 6: Learn the Optional Subject
- Step 7: Participate in ClearIAS Interview Program
Note: Once you join ClearIAS Online Classroom Program (ClearIAS Classes) you will get detailed guidance and personal mentorship regarding all stages of UPSC preparation.
ClearIAS: Self-Study OR Smart-Study – We have got you covered!
ClearIAS is a reputed online learning platform trusted by toppers since 2012.
You can read testimonials of ClearIAS online students who emerged as UPSC toppers here.
Our methods and approaches are different. We focus on smart work which helps aspirants to crack UPSC CSE faster.
It is the vision of ClearIAS that no candidate should be left out of the UPSC competition due to financial constraints.
ClearIAS offers expert UPSC Coaching and better features at less than half of the fees charged by many traditional coaching institutes.
Further, along with our premium resources which help in smart study, ClearIAS also provides a lot of free resources for self-study.
Important Links for a Beginner
- IAS Exam Eligibility
- UPSC Syllabus
- UPSC Exam Date
- UPSC Exam Results
- UPSC Previous Year Question Papers
3 stages in UPSC Civil Services Exam
UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) consists of 3 stages.
The stages are (1) Preliminary Exam (objective) (2) Main Exam (written) and (3) the Interview (personality test).
Road Map for success in UPSC CSE: ClearIAS Recommendation
Step 1: Join ClearIAS Online Classroom Program (ClearIAS Classes)
Right guidance and proper training can greatly increase your chance of success in the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE).
If you are serious about your UPSC CSE preparation, we strongly recommend you combine your self-study efforts with the smart training provided by ClearIAS.
There are different plans for Prelims and Mains.
For those aspirants who are looking for a 1-Year long program to build their foundation of both Prelims and Mains really well, ClearIAS offers Prelims cum Mains (PCM) Integrated Programs.
ClearIAS Prelims cum Mains (PCM) is a mega package that includes almost all products/services necessary for you to crack UPSC CSE like:
This is the flagship program of ClearIAS which involves live classes and recorded classes.
ClearIAS Online Classroom Program (ClearIAS Classes) offers almost everything you need to crack the UPSC CSE like
- Live Classes
- Recorded Classes
- Personal Mentorship
- Study Materials (PDF)
- ClearIAS UPSC Prelims Online Mock Test Series
- ClearIAS UPSC Mains Mock Test Series
- ClearIAS UPSC Mains Anwer Writing Practise (AWP)
- Interview Guidance etc.
Step 2: Prepare Notes based on ClearIAS Classes
ClearIAS Online Classes are two-way interactive sessions.
We strongly recommend students take down important points discussed in classes in their respective subject notebooks.
This not only increases their attention in online classes but also greatly helps them in learning and revision.
We strongly recommend the revision of class notes on a daily basis.
Step 3: Self-Study (Learn ClearIAS Notes, NCERT Textbooks and Standard Textbooks)
ClearIAS greatly reduces the hard work of aspirants and help them prepare in a focused manner. However, self-study is really crucial for success.
As mentors, we guide aspirants on how to channelise their self-efforts to remain more efficient and disciplined.
ClearIAS Live Classes are usually for 2 hours per day. For an aspirant who studies 8 hours per day, there are 6 hours left in the day. This time, we recommend aspirants use it for self-study – but in a focused manner.
Aspirants are recommended to go through (1) ClearIAS Notes (2) NCERT Textbooks and (3) Standard Textbooks as part of their self-study.
To remain efficient in preparation, we recommend aspirants to attend ClearIAS Classes from Monday to Friday and take ClearIAS Mock Exams Saturday or Sunday based on ClearIAS Timetable. However, our study plan is flexible. Students are free to attend classes or exams whenever they are comfortable doing so.
Step 4: Take ClearIAS Prelims Online Mock Exams
Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. – Vince Lombardi
Aspirants need perfect practice of model exams of UPSC CSE Prelims to get adapted to the requirements of UPSC. Regarding this, ClearIAS provides 4 types of mock exam packages.
- ClearIAS Prelims Online Mock Test Series – General Studies Paper 1
- ClearIAS Prelims Online Mock Test Series – General Studies Paper 2 or CSAT
- ClearIAS UPSC Previous Year Questions Re-Take Exams – General Studies Paper 1
- ClearIAS UPSC Previous Year Questions Re-Take Exams – General Studies Paper 2 or CSAT
Note: Once you join ClearIAS Online Classroom Program (Ultimate Plan), you will get access to all four packages as part of the ClearIAS Prelims Test Series (worth more than Rs.10000).
Step 5: Take ClearIAS Mains Mock Exams. Polish your answer writing skills
As part of the ClearIAS Ultimate Plan, ClearIAS will conduct UPSC CSE Mains Answer Writing Practice (AWP) sessions. This involves expert training and feedback on how to write a high-scoring answer (quality improvement).
Once aspirants learn the methods to write a well-structured answer, we will conduct Mains Mock Exams.
ClearIAS Mains Mock Test Series are model exams simulating actual UPSC CSE Mains with expert feedback.
Step 6: Learn the Optional Subject
With respect to CSE Mains, UPSC allows candidates to pick an optional subject from about 50 subjects mentioned in the UPSC Syllabus. This includes subjects like History, Geography, Political Science, Anthropology, Public Administration etc.
As an optional subject varies from candidate to candidate, this is not included in the ClearIAS Ultimate Plan. ClearIAS Ultimate Plan covers everything except optional paper (ie. the General Studies portion of Prelims and Mains along with CSAT in Prelims and Essay in Mains). Aspirants should study optional subjects separately. They are free to either join ClearIAS Optional Coaching or learn the subject by self-study.
Step 7: Participate in ClearIAS Interview Program
ClearIAS Interview Program includes classes for personality development to score well in the UPSC interview. This is also included in the ClearIAS Online Classroom Program (Ultimate Plan).
For UPSC Interview, your bio-data (Detailed Application Form or DAF) is the most important thing. Try to figure out the most probable questions from the DAF. ClearIAS Team can help you with DAF analysis. Once you register for the ClearIAS Interview program, we will send you a list of the 30 most probable questions based on your DAF.
Also, take ClearIAS mock interviews to polish your communication and presentation skills.
All the best!
Text Books, Test Series, and Techniques: Success in UPSC CSE
Success in UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) = 50% Knowledge + 50% Skills (Strategies).
ClearIAS is a self-study + smart-study online portal for UPSC aspirants. We have been giving equal importance to the knowledge part as well as skills. Our unique products like ClearIAS Online Classroom Program and ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series incorporate both subject-knowledge as well as exam skills.
If you join ClearIAS Online Classroom includes the best use of all our recommended products like Test Series, Text Books, Techniques and Personal guidance.
3 ClearIAS strategies for success in the UPSC Civil Services Exam
For best results, we strongly recommend aspirants follow the three methods developed by ClearIAS in their UPSC preparation.
- ClearIAS Prelims-cum-Main Integrated Approach: By this method, we intend for aspirants to prepare for Mains and Prelims in an integrated manner. Overlapping topics should be combined. Non-overlapping topics (subject only for Mains) should be identified and learned separately. By following this method, aspirants will be ready to face the Main exam much earlier than other aspirants who start solely from the Prelims syllabus.
- ClearIAS TTT approach: We advise you to make ‘T-T-T‘ ie. ‘Textbooks’, ‘Testseries’, and ‘Techniques’ as the core part of your preparation strategy
- ClearIAS Test-based approach: Mock Exams are the fundamental basis of the ClearIAS learning program. Our method of training is such a way that aspirants learn by taking mock exams. ClearIAS Test-series – which integrates learning with test-taking – combines textbooks and techniques to make aspirants exam-ready at the earliest.
Download and Install ClearIAS Mobile Apps (FREE)
Install ClearIAS Learning App, ClearIAS Test-Prep App. and ClearIAS Classes App. You will get a lot of free study materials and guidance articles from these three apps. The apps will make your preparation quite easy and focused.
UPSC Exam Dates
Usually, UPSC conducts the Civil Services Preliminary Exam in June. The Main Exam is usually conducted in September. The Personality Test takes almost 3 months to finish. UPSC conducts the CSE interview (or personality test) in the months of February – April.
The notification for UPSC Civil Services Examination for 2022 will be published on February 02, 2022. You can apply for UPSC CSE 2022 between February 02, 2022, and February 22, 2022.
- UPSC CSE 2022 Prelims Date: June 05 2022 (Sunday)
- UPSC CSE 2022 Mains Date: September 16 2022 (5 days)
- UPSC CSE 2022 Interview Date: January-March 2023 (expected)
- UPSC CSE 2022 Final Result Date: April 2023 (expected)
Check UPSC 2022 Exam Calendar for details.
The notification for UPSC Civil Services Examination for 2023 will be published on February 01, 2023. You can apply for UPSC CSE 2023 between February 01, 2023, and February 21, 2023.
- UPSC CSE 2023 Prelims Date: May 28 2023 (Sunday)
- UPSC CSE 2023 Mains Date: September 15 2023 (5 days)
- UPSC CSE 2023 Interview Date: January-March 2024 (expected)
- UPSC CSE 2023 Final Result Date: April 2024 (expected)
Check UPSC 2023 Exam Calendar for details.
New to ClearIAS.com? Find how we help you clear IAS through self-study and online preparation
Congrats on reaching the right place to learn!
ClearIAS is one of the best user-friendly websites. ClearIAS website is used by more than 1 million aspirants every month.
Links to almost all main resources we provide – study materials, pdfs, mock exams, guidance – are provided directly on the home page itself. You can access them from the header and footer menu or using home-page icons.
The following are some of our most popular resources:
- ClearIAS Classes – Online Classroom Program for UPSC CSE
- ClearIAS Exams – Online Mock Exams for UPSC CSE
- ClearIAS programs – Know about all ClearIAS programs for UPSC Prelims, Mains, and Interview.
- Free Resources – Free Study Materials, Mock Exams, or Videos for Beginners
- Premium Resources – Online Classes, Mock Exams, Books, and PDFs for Serious Aspirants
- ClearIAS Study Materials – Easy-to-Learn online notes from ClearIAS about current and conventional topics.
- UPSC Guidance – Learn what to do and what not to do for UPSC Civil Services Exam.
- IAS Books – Buy the books recommended by toppers online.
- ClearIAS ebooks (PDFs) – Fill up the gaps in your learning by downloading ClearIAS PDFs.
- Downloads – Most important notes of ClearIAS are listed in the easy-to-learn order.
- ClearIAS sitemap – To understand the website structure.
- ClearIAS blog – Check our latest updates.
UPSC Civil Services Exam – The Beginner’s Guide To Success (PDF)
Apart from all the resources mentioned above, ClearIAS has also published an ebook (PDF) “UPSC Civil Services Exam – The Beginner’s Guide to Success“. You can download this book for FREE!
The ClearIAS Beginner’s Guide ebook (PDF) covers almost all of the queries of freshers (and even veterans) regarding the UPSC Civil Sevices Exam (CSE). This includes –
- UPSC Civil Services Exam Structure.
- How Should You Start IAS Preparation?
- How to clear UPSC CSE by self-study and online preparation?
- The winning strategies.
- Road Map to Success.
- Prelims cum Mains Integrated Approach.
- IAS Exam Eligibility.
- UPSC Medical Requirements.
- Latest UPSC Civil Services Exam Notification… and lots more.
ClearIAS ebook (PDF) “UPSC Civil Services Exam – The Beginner’s Guide to Success” can be a real game-changer for you!
Beginner’s Guide to Clear IAS Prelims – UPSC CSE Guidance for the Preliminary Exam (Selected Posts)
- A Note Before You Begin IAS Preparation or Coaching.
- Smart Work for IAS Preparation.
- Strategy and Books for Early Birds To Clear IAS Exam.
- How to clear Civil Services prelims?
- How can smart aspirants like you clear UPSC Prelims ‘the smart way’?
- 5 reasons why you should take more UPSC Prelims mock tests
- Civil Service Prelims 6 Month Strategy – How Can You Clear UPSC Prelims in 6 Months?
- CSAT – What is the best strategy to prepare for the CSAT?
- 100-Days Action Plan to Clear IAS Prelims
- How much time will it take to clear IAS prelims?
- IAS Books for Civil Services Prelims and Mains Exam Preparation.
For more analysis and articles on Preliminary Exam, regularly follow the category: Civil Services Prelims.
Beginner’s Guide to Clear IAS Mains – UPSC CSE Guidance for the Main Exam (Selected Posts)
- Strategy and Study Plan for Clearing the IAS Mains Exam.
- How to clear Civil Services mains?
- How To Select IAS Mains Optional As Per The Latest UPSC Syllabus?
- How To Write A Good Essay In Civil Service Mains Exam?
- What to Study for Ethics Paper in IAS Mains GS?
- World History for UPSC Mains: Understanding The Basics.
- Security and Disaster Management for UPSC Mains Exam.
- Indian Society For UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam.
For more analysis and articles on Main Exam, regularly follow the category: Civil Services Mains.
Beginner’s Guide to Clear IAS Interview – UPSC CSE Guidance for the Personality Test (Selected Posts)
- Civil Services Interview – How To Make Sure That You Clear IAS?
- IAS Interview: 25 Golden Tips for Success
- Check List For The Candidates Attending UPSC Interview
- IAS Interview Syllabus: 6 Important UPSC Clues Which You Never Noticed Before
- ClearIAS UPSC CSE Interview Program: Maximize Your Personality Test Marks!
- Up to Which Rank Can An Aspirant Get Into IAS, IPS or IFS?
- Cut-Off Marks for UPSC Civil Services Exam: Trend Analysis
For more analysis and articles on Main Exam, regularly follow the category: Civil Services Interview.
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