7 Steps to Prepare UPSC Prelims and Mains Together

Written By
Insight Delhi, IAS
Written By
Insight Delhi, IAS

7 Steps to Prepare UPSC Prelims and Mains Together

Discover the ultimate strategy to conquer the dual challenge of Prelims and Mains with ease and achieve exam success!

Preparing for both Prelims and Mains exams is no easy feat. It requires efficient time management, meticulous planning, and a well-rounded approach to cover the vast syllabus of both exams. This comprehensive guide aims to help you navigate this challenging terrain, enabling you to prepare for both Prelims and Mains simultaneously. So, let us delve into the step-by-step process of mastering this dual challenge!

"Unlock your true potential by mastering the art of preparation for both prelims and mains exams. A foolproof guide to conquering the ultimate dual challenge!”

Understand the Exam Structure

Before diving into the UPSC preparation, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the UPSC exam structure. Familiarize yourself with the UPSC Prelims and Mains syllabus, carefully analyzing the UPSC exam pattern and marking scheme. This will help you identify the key focus areas that need prioritization in your preparation.

The UPSC 2024 Civil Services Examination will be conducted in three stages:

1. Preliminary Examination:

  • Objective type exam with two papers
  • Paper I: General Studies (200 marks)
    • Current events of national and international importance
    • History of India and Indian National Movement
    • Indian and World Geography
    • Indian Polity and Governance
    • Economic and Social Development
    • General Science
  • Paper II: Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) (200 marks)
    • Comprehension
    • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
    • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
    • Decision-making and problem-solving
    • General mental ability
    • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level)
    • Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. - Class X level)

2. Mains Examination:

  • Subjective type exam with nine papers
  • Paper A: One of the Indian Languages (Qualifying) (300 marks)
    • .Translation from English to the chosen Indian language
    • Essay writing
    • Comprehension
    • Precis writing
    • Paper B: English (Qualifying) (300 marks)
    • Essay writing
    • Comprehension
    • Precis writing
  • Paper I: Essay (250 marks)
    • Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will have to demonstrate their ability to think critically, present their ideas clearly and concisely, and write grammatically correct English.
  • Paper II: General Studies I - Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society (250 marks)
  • Paper III: General Studies II - Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations (250 marks)
  • Paper IV: General Studies III - Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment and Disaster Management (250 marks)
  • Paper V: General Studies IV - Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude (250 marks)
  • Two Optional Subjects (250 marks each)
  • The two optional subjects can be chosen from a list of 26 subjects provided by the UPSC. Candidates should choose subjects that they are familiar with and that they believe will help them do well in the exam.

3. Personality Test (Interview):

  • The personality test will be conducted by a board of interviewers and will assess the candidate's suitability for a career in civil services. The interview will test the candidate's mental alertness, critical thinking, leadership qualities, and overall personality.
Also Read - FAQs – UPSC GS Mains Test Series
Step 1 - Create a Study Plan

A well-structured study plan is the backbone of your preparation. Set realistic goals for your daily, weekly, and monthly study schedules. Allocate specific time for Prelims and Mains preparation, making sure to strike a balance between revision, practice, and coverage of new topics. This will ensure comprehensive preparation for both exams simultaneously.

Step 2 - Build a Strong Foundation

Establishing a strong foundation is vital for success in both Prelims and Mains exams. Start by strengthening your basic knowledge and conceptual understanding of the subjects. Identify common topics between Prelims and Mains and focus on mastering those first. Utilize reliable study materials, textbooks, and online resources to supplement your learning.

Step 3 - Synergy of Learning and Revision

Efficiently integrating learning and revision is key to retaining the vast amount of information required for both Prelims and Mains exams. Utilize study materials, notes, and resources that cater to both exams. Practice simultaneous time-bound mock tests for both exams, enabling you to develop a familiarity with the question patterns.

Step 4 - Implement Smart Study Techniques

Employing smart study techniques can significantly enhance your efficiency and effectiveness. Optimize your note-taking strategy to facilitate quick revision and recall. Utilize mind maps and flowcharts to connect concepts and ideas, aiding in better understanding and retention. Engage in active learning through group discussions, debates, and quizzes to reinforce your understanding of the subjects.

Step 5 - Enhance Writing Skills

Strong writing skills are crucial for excelling in Mains exams. Practice answer writing for Mains-specific subjects, incorporating insights from your Prelims preparation as well. This will help you integrate both exams while honing your writing skills. Seek feedback from mentors or peers to improve your writing style, technique, and content.

Step 6 - Regularly Assessing Progress

Regularly assessing your progress is essential to identify areas of improvement and modification in your study plan. Review and analyze your performance in mock tests for both Prelims and Mains. Identify your strengths and weaknesses in both exams to tailor your preparation accordingly. Adjust your study plan and strategies based on this assessment to optimize your preparation.

Step 7 - Manage Stress and Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

Preparing for both Prelims and Mains simultaneously can be mentally and physically demanding. Adopt stress management techniques such as meditation, exercise, or engaging in hobbies to maintain a calm and focused mindset. Ensure a proper sleep schedule to enhance concentration and productivity. Balance your study time with leisure activities to avoid burnout and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Also Read - Fee Structures of Top 10 IAS Coaching Centers in Delhi


The UPSC interview is indeed the final frontier on your journey towards becoming a civil servant. But with thorough preparation, a strong mindset, and the ability to showcase your uniqueness, you can conquer this hurdle and achieve your aspirations. Embrace the interview as an opportunity to highlight your personality, knowledge, and potential. So, go forth with confidence, and may you unlock the doors to a fulfilling career in civil service!