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How to prepare for IAS exam after 12th?

To join Civil Services is a dream of millions of students. This is indicated by ever increasing number of aspirants, year after year. There was a time when civil service exam (CSE) preparation was concomitant with post-graduate students. The trend then shifted to students who had completed Bachelor’s degree. But today, awareness level of students is much more and there is no ambiguity in their minds about what they want to do. Therefore, those who have civil services as their goal of life start preparing for CSE immediately on completion of 12th class, alongside bachelor’s degree studies. However, many students get overwhelmed by the syllabus and lose sight of their goal midway. This blog is to help students understand the requirement of CSE, what is expected of them and how they should prepare for IAS exam after 12th.

CSE preparations after Class 12

There are two broad models for a student to prepare for IAS after Class 12:

  • Do regular graduation from any university and join weekend course for preparing for CSE.
  • Do graduation through distant learning program (many acclaimed universities are now offering very good options) and join a regular course for CSE having classes on weekdays.

Both the choices are equally good and both the models have produced candidates who have excelled.

Take the case of Tina Dabi, AIR 1 in CSE 2015. She was pursuing her graduation from LSR college in Delhi and preparing for the UPSC CSE simultaneously. She prepared for general Studies through Rau’s GSI course Weekend Batch.

In our education system, duration of graduation varies from three years to five years depending upon the type of course. Most of the professional courses like Engineering, medicine etc. are between four to five years whereas most of the graduation programs offered by Universities are for three years. Since the minimum educational qualification for CSE is bachelor’s degree and most of the aspirants are from three-year graduation programs, we will discuss the issue from the perspective of a three-year undergraduate student.

For smart aspirants, college is the best place to start preparing for IAS exam. Three years of college will give enough time to prepare well and one can reap the benefit of starting early.

The first decision which an aspirant has to take is to decide in which stream he/ she has to do graduation. Since Humanities subjects form the core of CSE syllabus, those who do graduation with humanities subjects will certainly have a slight advantage, especially in optional subject. Humanities subject such as Geography, History, Political Science, Sociology are popular optional subjects. But by no means this should discourage any non-humanities background student. Optional subject choices offered by UPSC cater for students of all streams.

An aspirant who has started graduation will have 3+ years’ time to prepare. The plan for an under-graduate student should be to prepare for GS subjects in the first two years of graduation and to prepare for Optional Subject in the final, third year. Those who are pursuing a professional course of four/ five years will have additional advantage of time availability.

It is important to understand that in addition to academic component of CSE preparation, there are few more important things which an aspirant must focus on. These aspects need lot of time, persistent effort and devotion. These are: –

Guidelines to prepare for CSE after school

  • Inculcate Reading Habit: Current Affairs is the most important component of CSE syllabus. Having a good grasp of current affairs is obligatory for any aspirant. One must develop a habit to read a newspaper, magazines on a daily basis. However, reading everything from first page to the last page will not be a prudent way to read. An aspirant must know what to read in newspaper.
  • Learn to make opinion: Your skill of forming an opinion on issues will be tested in Essay paper and specifically in Personality test. And this is something which can’t be developed overnight. It needs to be cultivated slowly and diligently. An aspirant must think of how and why of things. We all have opinions on the issues. Our opinion could be at divergence from the majority however it is important that opinion is based on sound logic and rationale. It is also important that one should be able to articulate opinion well on paper and also while speaking.
  • Develop art of multidimensional thinking: Pick up any issue that is currently in the news and try to objectively analyse it from all dimensions. Every issue has a social dimension, political dimension, institutional dimension, cultural dimension, environmental dimension and economic dimension (SPICEE). One must be able to analyse an issue from all these dimensions. This will help broaden your horizon. So, next time you read a question, your mind will automatically start creating multiple threads around it. (SPICEE is Rau’s approach for mains Answer Writing)
  • Develop Writing Skill: The second stage of CSE i.e. the Mains exam is subjective in nature where one has to write subjective answers. At the face of it looks easy cause all of us have been doing this all through our academic life however it needs more skills. In fact, one has to unlearn lot of things to learn the art of answer writing in Mains. And the unlearning of past 15 yrs of answer writing verbosity is not easy! In Mains exam, one has to write answer within the specified word limit. In case the word limit is exceeded, it will attract penalty in terms of negative marking. One has to structure the answer within the word limit and also within the specified time. For one question one gets about 8 to 9 minutes where one has to read the question, structure the answer and write it down. So, it is important that one must develop writing speed and also write on a diverse range of topic so as to develop your writing abilities on a variety of topics.
  • Improve Communication Skill: This skill set also needs time to build. Communication skill plays an important role during the personality test as it reflects confidence. Having knowledge but not having the skill to share or present that knowledge is not of much use.
  • Participate in extra-curricular activities: UPSC is looking for aspirants who have a well-rounded personality. Kind of Jack of all; Master of none. In addition to having a good intelligence quotient (IQ) the aspirant should also have a desirable Emotional Quotient (EQ), team spirit, leadership qualities, good communication skills, confidence, courage of conviction etc. To inculcate all these qualities, one has to take active participation in extracurricular activities such as sports events, debates, cultural activities etc.

IAS Preparation Strategy after Class 12

  • Broadly, the first and second year of your college should be devoted to preparing for General Studies (GS) subjects of UPSC Prelims and Mains exam through a GS Integrated course.
  • In the mid of second year or third year, one should start focusing on Optional subject as well. By that time, after having studied GS subjects, one would also get clarity on what Optional Subject one should take.
  • This decision is very critical as Optional Subject has two papers in Mains and it plays a very important role in your overall merit position.
  • Most of the Optional Subjects can be easily prepared in four/ five months’ time.
  • Third year of graduation should also be devoted to revising, practising answer writing and taking Test Series to practice and to know about grey areas in your preparations.

Best course after Class 12 for IAS

Rau’s IAS General Studies Integrated courseWeekend Batch (available both in Hybrid/Online and On-Campus modes of teaching) has been specifically designed keeping in view the learning requirements of college students.

College students prefer to study in weekend batches through Online classes to manage both college as well as IAS preparation. Online classes lend college students flexibility to attend all IAS classes and complete all coursework comfortably.

Here are some important highlights of our GSI Hybrid/online course in Weekend batch:

  1. Weekend Live-Classes: Lectures will be telecast live on Sat for 04 hrs and on Sunday, for 08 hrs. Weekend classes will give you ample time to consolidate and revise what has been taught in the week after.
  2. Flexibility to catch up on classes: Although lectures will be streamed real time, these lectures will also be made available as recorded lectures (for a period of 7 days only) which can be easily accessed by working professionals at the time of their choosing.
  3. Duration of 2-3 years: This way, aspirants can learn at an easy pace while tending to the responsibilities of their jobs/studies alongside.
  4. Doubts Solving: Each lecture session will be for 120 mins, in which last about 20 mins will be devoted by the faculty to clear doubts of students. Doubs can be asked within the live class or even afterwards using the class discussion forum.
  5. Peer Learning: Interact with Rau’s experts and fellow UPSC aspirants to discuss your ideas and get your doubts cleared.
  6. Study material: The course includes soft copies and hard copies of course study material like blue workbooks, two years’ subscription to Rau’s monthly current affairs magazine (Focus), Prelim revision books (Prelims Compass) and Mains revision books (Mains Compass).
  7. GSI Class Tests, UPSC Prelims Test Series, UPSC Mains Test Series are all part of the course and will be made available as per the course plan.
  8. Flexibility to take tests online or offline tests in the Rau’s exam hall (right now located at Delhi, Bengaluru and Jaipur campuses) in simulated test conditions (on opening of lock down), on any day of the week.
  9. UPSC Revision for Pre & Mains: Quality Improvement Program (QIP) videos will be made available before Prelims and Mains respectively for the purpose of revision.

Similar online course is also available for Optional Subjects. Preparation for this can commence at the end of second year of graduation or beginning of third year. Most of the optional courses are for 4/5 months.

We hope that the above information would have cleared many doubts about how to prepare for IAS exam after 12th. GSI Weekend Online classes fit-in easily in the life of a college student.

In case you wish to know more about General Studies Integrated Hybrid/Online course for college students, click the link

To watch how an interactive video lectures are being conducted, click the link

Lastly, one must understand that each person’s motivation and path taken to achieve the set goal is different. One must never compare himself/herself  to anyone else. Every aspirant would have some strengths and some weaknesses too. Don’t ever forget the uniqueness of your own journey. Have faith in that uniqueness!


33 Replies to “How to prepare for IAS exam after 12th?”

  1. The platform you are providing right from the stage of beginning is really awesome,and I was very curious while reading the above part that what might be in the next line

    1. Dear Uttam,

      If you have decided to join Civil Services, the right time to start preparing for the Civil Services Exam (CSE) is the moment you start Graduation course after 12th Class. You must make use of the initial two years of Graduation, which is comparative lean period and you can cope up with the additional time required to prepare for CSE along with Graduation. This advise is applicable for all students of all the streams i.e. Science, Commerce or Humanities.
      In case you want to know more, pls call on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and feel free to speak to any of our Counsellors. There is no counselling fee for this. Good Luck !

  2. From which class I am able to apply for IAS examinations.and can I prepare for it only in one year or can it will be cleared without join any coaching center

    1. Dear Reveti, you need to be a graduate for taking CSE exam. But you can start preparing immediately on completing 12th class and as you start graduation program. CSE preparations need minimum of one and half years of thorough studies. Taking classes from a coaching centre will help you save on time, effort and will keep you aligned to the requirement of CSE. It will also help you to stay focussed. Why reinvent a wheel ?

          1. Ok .sir but ..I wanna know that ..after 12 which subject I chose for B.A. and can I read Lucent’s general knowledge book in B.A. as first step for preparing for I.A.S.

          2. Dear Aspirant, following are the Core themes of CSE syllabus
            Indian Society and Social Justice

            Choose maximum of these subjects in your BA program.
            For Current affairs start reading newspaper ” The Hindu “. Here is a link to our blog on How to read Hindu newspaper

            Also subscribe to our daily analysis of news which is available on you tube free of cost. Its called Daily News simplified (DNS). Here is the link

            Just this much is enough for the time being. Follow this religiously.

  3. Sir I am studying 12th standard and I am on the verge of completing my 12th standard. So please guide me how to prepare for CSE exam during my 3years BA/Bsc degree, as my aim is to become an IAS officer.

    1. Dear Sudheer, we recommend that you start preparing for CSE in your first year of graduation itself. Initial years of graduation are comparatively less taxing in terms of time required for studies. So you must utilise this time. If you are enrolling for a three year graduation program, you must complete CSE preparations in the first two years. This will enable you to focus more on the third and final year of graduation. Also it will allow you to consolidate your preparation, by taking more of Test Series during the third year. In case you enroll for four/five yrs of a graduation program, you can plan your preparations the same way, using the same yardstick. Joining a coaching institute will help you stay focussed and aligned to the requirement of UPSC preparations.

  4. Sir I am in the 1st year of my 5yr law course. Should I start my preparation for civil services from the 1st year itself ? What would be the ideal time to start ?

    1. Dear Siddharth,
      We think that you should start preparing for CSE right from first year. Needless to say, initial years of graduation are less demanding. That is the right time , when you can easily manage to cope up with two academic pursuits. The earlier you finish preparation of CSE, more time you will get later for consolidation of what you have studied, refining notes, making notes short and crisper, revising, revising again, taking more and more test through test series. All this you can do once you have finished preparations in time. Considering the tough competition you are going to face, you dont have the luxury of waiting to prepare later. Start from first year itself.

      1. Sir I need guidance on how to go about preparing for CSE from the 1st year. Do you provide counselling sessions? I would like to avail the service.

        Thank you.

        1. Dear Mr Siddharth, we have been conducting weekly on-line counseling sessions for civil services aspirants on almost every Sat, for past few months. Next online counselling is planned for 20 Feb. Kindly check our website { } for the same. There is no counselling fee for these sessions and you can register yourself for the next session free of cost. You can call 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counselors on tele, in case you wish to. Good luck.

  5. Sir
    I am going to finish my class 12th.
    I am confused about degree I need to choose I am an MEC( math,economics, commerce) student. Could you give me some suggestions regarding this.

    Also a query, will weekend session be enough when compared to regular session?

    Thank you sir.

    1. Dear Aspirant, we would recommend you to do graduation in the stream/ with subjects, which are of your interest. UPSC syllabus is stream neutral. Many many PCM, PCB students have also been successful. However, if you feel that you have equal interest in Humanities subjects, you can choose Humanities stream for doing graduation. Bottom Line :- Do not change your stream just because you want to appear for CSE. Hope this advise will help. In case you still need to know more, pls call on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of your Counsellors. There is no counselling fee for this.

    1. Dear Ms Syeda,
      Yes, you can prepare for IAS exam. The stream in graduation (Science/Commerce/Humanities) is in no way linked with your eligibility for IAS exam. The only requirement (eligibility criterion) for appearing for the exam is to be a graduate with a Degree.

    1. Dear Mr Arjun, our sincere advise for you is, start preparing for Civil Services Exam (CSE) right from the first year of graduation. Do not waste time. Right now you should focus on class 12th. In case you need any further advise or counselling, pls feel free to call on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors. There is no counselling for this.

  6. Sir, I’m a 12th class student and a aspirant of UPSC. I wanna do my graduation in B.SC Mathematics, can I apply for cse exam ?? Also I wanna know what’s the minimum time in which I can prepare for CSE doing weekend classes (for IAS exam) ??

    1. Dear Disha,
      Yes, you can do BSc (Maths) and appear for CSE. The qualification eligibility criterion for CSE is Graduation in any stream. We would like to give you just one important advise and that is, that you must start preparing from the first year of graduation itself. Do not waste precious time. In case you need any further advise or counselling on this, you may call on Tel: 011 – 4078 6050 and speak to any of our Counsellors. There is no counselling fee for this. Good luck and Godspeed !

  7. Is it good to have mathematics as an optional subject in CSE? Also can I prepare for IAS while doing regular college ??

    1. Dear Disha, all subjects are equally good. The only factor which should guide you in choosing Optional Subject is, your interest in that subject. If you love studying a particular subject, that is the best one for you. And of course you can prepare for CSE alongside your graduation. We urge all aspirants to start preparing for CSE from the very first day of graduation. Don’t waste this time. Ideally, you should complete your CSE studies by the end of second year of graduation. Third year should be kept for consolidating CSE Notes, taking tests through Test Series and revision.
      Good luck and Godspeed !

  8. Respected sir/ma’am, I am a student of Class 10.
    How should I continue after 10th to become IAS Officer? Sir, also mention the best college for 11th and 12th as well as graduation.
    Thank you!

    1. Dear Aditya, for now focus on Class 10th. It is too early to start preparing for CSE. If you take Humanities in higher classes and study subjects like History, Geography, Pol Science etc, study them very well. These are the core subjects for CSE. You can start serious formal preparations for CSE once you start Graduation. And then you must start from the first year of graduation itself.

  9. Sir I am studying second year bsc(maths, physics, computer science) and I want to choose public administration as optional subject for upsc. I haven’t started preparation yet . please tell me how can I start my preparation and is public administration an easier optional for non humanities and arts students?

    1. Dear Santoshi, all subjects are equally difficult and equally easy too. If you have no interest in an easiest subject, you will find it difficult. And the most difficult subject, which you love will be easiest for you. The only criteria to select an Optional Subject should be your interest in that subject.

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