How Much Time is Required to Prepare for UPSC CSE Exam?

UPSC Civil Service preparation, the mother of all examinations in India, needs more patience and hard work than any other competitive exam because the examination process itself can take almost one year covering three stages of Prelims, Mains and Interview.

UPSC Civil Service preparation, the mother of all examinations in India, needs more patience and hard work than any other competitive exam because the examination process itself can take almost one year covering three stages of Prelims, Mains and Interview.

How Much Time is Required to Prepare for UPSC CSE Exam?

Syllabus: Candidates have to keep in mind that the syllabus of UPSC-CSE is vast.

Prelims Paper I-(200 marks), Duration: Two hours

  • 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.

Prelims Paper II-(200 marks), Duration: Two hours

  • 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);


  • UPSC Exam Format: There are three stages in this exam with each stage eliminating a certain number of candidates. The three stages of the UPSC exam are:
    1. UPSC Prelims exam: Two objective papers.
    2. UPSC Mains exam: 9 descriptive papers.
    3. UPSC Personality Test: UPSC Board Interview.
  • Competition: the competition in the civil services exam is intense and immense. Lakhs of aspirants take the IAS prelims exam every year. At the end of the journey, only about a thousand candidates make it to the final list of selected candidates. If you desire for the top-ranked services like the IAS and the IFS, the competition is even greater since you have to secure a pretty high rank for these services.
  • Revision and Practice: Only regular revision ensures that you recall all that you study. Apart from regular revision, you need to practice mock tests.
  • It is not the quantity of time, but the efficacy and quality of time which matter the most.
  • Taking out some time for relaxation and entertainment go a long way in ensuring non-monotonicity while preparing for the examination.

Ideal time:

Let us take 2023 as the year in which a candidate wants to sit for the CSE and 2022 as the year previous to the one in which a candidate wants to take the CSE.
Start your preparation in June of the previous year if you wish to appear for the Prelim exam the next year. Begin your preparation of the optional subject, from the second week of June to October( 4 months) of the year 2022 and General Studies for both Prelim and Main exam from June of 2022 to March of the year 2022 and take the Prelim exam in May or June of the year 2023. Prepare for the CSAT in either October 2022 or in January 2023.
After taking the Prelim exam, from June to October of the year 2022, you can revise your optional subject and GS and prepare the Essay paper before taking the Main exam.
The period from January to April and June to October of the year 2023, can be used to take a test series for the optional subject for the Main exam.

How Many Hours to Study for IAS?

There are some aspirants who claim to study 15-16 hours per day while preparing for the UPSC exam. And, there are others who clear the exam studying just for 6-7 hours in a day. There is no perfect answer to this question and the candidates should decide for themselves the number of hours of studies per day considering their own capabilities and requirements.
To figure out a routine for IAS preparation, candidates should assess their own strengths and mental stamina. It is important to sustain the initial interest and energy throughout your preparation time, until you clear the civil services exam. That is why aspirants are suggested to take it easy on the number of hours of studies and focus more on the quality than the quantity.

Time management tips:

  • Schedule in important activities and free time, too. You can even set deadlines a few days before actual due dates to allow a margin for emergencies.
  • Create a master schedule
  • Start daily assignments early – leaving assignments until the last minute is stressful.
  • Avoid multi-tasking – divided attention is an inefficient way to learn. Focus on one task at a time for maximum productivity.
  • Reduce distractions – put away unnecessary devices such as mobile phones, and switch off social media notifications. Distractions can also come from internal feelings such as hunger or tiredness, so ensure they’re getting adequate sleep and have snacks and water on hand.
  • Take regular breaks – working on something for too long can lead to lost focus. Short breaks every half hour or so can help them to recharge.
  • Set time limits – such as “finish Buddhism chapter by 3.30pm”. This prevents tasks eating into time allocated for other activities.
  • Keep a clock placed visibly before you – to stay aware of current time.
  • Avoid perfectionism and fussing over unimportant details.
  • Use your downtime well. This tip should be used with wisdom and moderation though, as time for relaxation and rest is also essential.
  • Reward achievement – when accomplished important goals, don’t forget to celebrate. Possibilities include TV time, a small treat.

Initially aspirants can begin by taking small steps, setting smaller targets be it in terms of the syllabus to be covered or the number of sittings or the time to be devoted. Following proper sources and having proper guidance is another important aspect. Fixing self-accountability is very important. Proper time management will not only help the aspirants ace the civil service exam but also help them lead a life of contentment and happiness!!!



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