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UPSC CSE 2018 – Expert’s Strategy to Kickstart your Preparation

UPSC CSE 2018 Expert's Strategy

Planning to attempt UPSC exam this year? UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam 2018 is scheduled to be held on 3rd June 2018 (Sunday). The official notification will be published on 7th February 2018. If you are an aspirant, you might be already studying from months. However, have you really kickstarted your exam preparation for this year? Here are tips from an expert, a strategy that will help you get started towards this year’s goal. But before we move to the strategy, let’s have a look at the exam pattern and syllabus for UPSC Civil Services Examination 2018.

UPSC 2018 Prelims – Exam Pattern

UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam consists of 2 papers. Both the papers contain objective type questions. Marks obtained in only GS Paper-I are considered for selection in mains examination. Most of your focus should be on preparing for GS Paper-I but at the same time GS Paper-II should not be ignored. Following table shows the pattern of Prelims exam.

Paper Name No. of Questions Maximum marks Time Negative marking Remarks
GS Paper-I 100 200 2 hours 1/3rd
GS Paper-II


80 200 2 hours 1/3rd Qualifying in nature (33 %)

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UPSC 2018 Prelims – Exam Syllabus


  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and Indian National Movement.
  • Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization General Science


  • 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.)
  • Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc.)

UPSC 2018 Prelims – Preparation Resources

  • A Brief History of Modern India by Spectrum.
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography by G.C Leong.
  • Book on Indian Polity by Laxmikanth.
  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania.
  • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh.
  • India Year book 2018.
  • General Studies Paper-II manual by TMH.
  • Economic Survey 2018.
  • Useful online resources such as websites. Click here for 10 best websites for Civil Services 2018. Avail Oliveboard Mocks to practice.
  • Environment for Civil Services prelims and mains by Khullar and Rao.

Expert’s Strategy – Rishav Jha (AIR 162 in UPSC CSE 2015)

Blog Post(Rishav Jha)

In his own words,

“My typical day would start around 11 in the morning and go up to 4-5 in the morning. I have always been a night owl (the rigorous IPS training here in NPA, Hyderabad has unfortunately ended this habit of mine) as I believe that peaceful nights are the most productive time of a day. I never studied for more than 12 hours on any given day and I used to study for around 10 hours on an average. You have to keep in mind that quantity doesn’t matter at all. I would try to sit for an hour and study with the maximum amount of concentration that I could conjure, and then take a 15-minute break. I would repeat this cycle many times a day. During evenings, I would take hour-long breaks, hangout with my extremely limited number of friends, watch a movie or simply take a nap.

Obviously, things were not as smooth and there were times when I would face seemingly insurmountable challenges. The most important challenge was trying and being consistent. There were times when I would feel that my preparation was not going as intended and I would spiral down into phases of depression. To overcome this, I started making plans- long, medium and short term. Long term plan was solely focused on first clearing Prelims and then Mains and Interviews. Medium term plans would be for the next two to three months. But the most important for me were my short-term plans, where I would chalk out in detail what I needed to achieve in the next 15 days. Obviously, there were days when I would achieve my target well within deadline and then there were days when I would miss my target completely. But I would take my successes and failures in my stride and learn whatever I could from them and try and improve myself. Another challenge I faced was to overcome my appetite for instant gratifications. For example, there would be days when I would want to just sleep throughout the day or roam around aimlessly or watch movies back-to-back. But then I would try to remind myself about my goal and I would conjure all the mental strength I could and get back to my work as soon as possible.

Now when I look back to those days, I feel I didn’t do anything special that others didn’t do. I didn’t read anything that others didn’t. Rather I tried to be consistent throughout my preparation phase and never lost sight of my target. I guess I executed my plans quite well through my short and medium terms goals. The result was that a day before my paper, I was quite sure I would do well and then, on the day of the paper, I surpassed my own expectations.

You have to always remember that Civil Service is all about being “Jack of all trades, master of one” (one refers to your optional subject here). You have to always keep a balance between the depth and the range. For example, when you prepare for the current affairs part and you find a piece of news about PSLV launch of ISRO, try and make a short 10-point notes about the PSLV and ISRO so that any probable question with 4 options can be easily handled.

Another point is regarding what to keep in mind and what not to. Don’t go after facts, barring the crucial ones, e.g. number of successful PSLV launches till date. Focus mainly on concepts and get a fair idea about the historical background of any piece of news. If the newspaper or any other source doesn’t provide you with adequate information, go to Google immediately and clarify your concepts.

Always maintain notes. Human mind is extremely volatile and if you just go on reading, you won’t even remember 5% by the time you take your paper. I would make detailed notes of current affairs, both online (in word files) and offline (in notebooks) depending on the source. If I would read something online, I would just copy and paste it in a word file after necessary deletions and additions. Make current affairs notes month-wise so that revisions can be chronologically correct which will help you in getting a holistic and clear concept.

Don’t make notes out of books like Laxmikanth which need to be read cover-to-cover as it is a huge wastage of time and energy. Compile notes out of weight-losing sources like newspapers, because if you don’t, you will end with around 350 newspapers before the exam and trust me, you won’t like the sight of it.

Plan, plan and plan. If 15 minutes of your day is not going into planning, you are not planning enough. Plan for the next 15 days, for the next three months and for the doomsday. Then execute your plans as honestly as you can. If you have to defer your plans for 2-3 consecutive times, know that you are out of the race and you need to pack your bags and leave. To get a feel of how tough the competition is, go to any tea-stall in Mukherjee Nagar or Rajinder Nagar during evenings and look at all the dreamy eyes. More people prepare for Civil Services each year than the combined population of Kiribati and Maldives.

While taking the exam, if you are completely unsure about all the four options, leave the question. But if you can confidently eliminate even one or two options, take the attempt because the probability of getting positive marks from all such questions combined is quite high. Don’t be overtly safe or foolhardy. Given the last few years’ cut-off, it would be prudent to attempt 85-95 questions in General Studies.

Be motivated. Study hard. Have faith in yourself and the almighty. See you in the services-ciao!”

Hope this helps! Now, gear up for the preparation and ace the UPSC CSE 2018 Exam with Oliveboard Mocks!

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