Best Tips to Prepare for IAS Preliminary Exam

Jul 27, 2015

How many of you aspire to join the Indian Administrative Service? Or, represent the Government of India as a professional? I bet, most of you cannot resist the temptation of a prestigious government job that might be able to assure you a lucrative position in the State or the Union Government.
The key to launching your career as an honorable government employee is to crack the Civil Services Examination.

This exam is an important yardstick for determining your eligibility for the Indian Administrative Service. The Civil Services Exam comprises three distinct stages spanning twelve months, the first of which is appearing for the preliminary exam of the IAS.

A Glance at the IAS Preliminary Exam

Before we start learning about the preparation strategies, first let us have a quick glance at the IAS Preliminary exam. It’s the first step towards cracking the IAS examination. You would be eligible for the second stage of exams, which is the IAS exam – Mains, only if you have cleared the preliminary exam successfully.

In the two papers that the Preliminary Exam includes, you can expect questions belonging to subjects, among others, like:

  • Geography
  • Economics
  • History
  • Environment
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Current Affairs
  • Politics
  • Basic Mathematical Skills

And once you have succeeded in clearing the second stage, finally you would be ready to appear for the interview conducted by the Indian Public Service Commission.

Now, let us discuss some of the best tips to prepare for the IAS preliminary exam.

best tips

#1. Time plays a Crucial Role in Your Exam Preparation

Time, as you already know, is an extremely crucial element that determines your success rates in the IAS Preliminary Exam.

How much time is actually available for you? In other words, is your exam after the next 11 months? Or, is it just after five months or so?

You cannot escape a system of proper planning when you are looking forward to an exam of the standard of IAS Preliminary. This is solely because examinees are required to complete a vast syllabus in quite a narrow space of time.

I can already observe some of you frowning.

You must be perplexed as you are contemplating about how would you actually realize the goal of accomplishing such a task?

Well here is what you can do to manage your time effectively during your preparation:

  • Prioritize your academic objectives
  • Find the topics on the syllabus that carry greater marks than others
  • Focus on those topics to score the maximum

#2. Know Your Syllabus Well Enough

What are there in your IAS Preliminary Syllabus? Are you aware of that?

You should be knowledgeable about all the topics that belong to the syllabus of the IAS Preliminary Exam.

syllabus of the IAS

Read on to discover in details about some of the exam topics.

  • History

This is undoubtedly one of the most significant parts of the exam. Topics covered are:

  • Modern Indian History: Don’t forget to emphasize on the Indian freedom struggle when you are studying about it. It is equally important for your preliminary and also your Mains exam.
  • Indian Culture: Questions from Indian culture and traditions might be asked in prelims as well as during your Mains.
  • Ancient and Medieval History: Ancient History generally carries greater marks as compared to Medieval History. Questions belonging to this session are generally present in the preliminary exams.
  • Economics

While studying this subject, make sure you have not missed out the following areas:

  • Banking
  • Budgeting
  • Resource mobilization
  • Planning
  • Minimum support prices
  • Farm subsidies
  • Patent regime

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  • Geography



Generally, Geography consists of three components, namely:

  • Human
  • Physical
  • Economic

Cyclone, earthquakes, volcanic activities and tsunami, and others represent popular topics of physical geography.

Another significant element of Geography is ‘maps’.

I would suggest you invest quality time in practicing maps. This is due the fact that IAS preliminary exams contain compulsory questions on maps. Also, these types of questions would make it easier for you to score more grades. You can expect a minimum of about four to eight questions based on maps in the Geography section of your question paper.

On the other hand, your Mains exam would offer you questions belonging to additional topics including irrigation, the physical geography of the world, natural resources distributed across the world, and much more.

  • Polity

When you study Politics, you should aim to cover the following areas, among several others:

  • Amendments
  • Basic framework of the Indian Constitution
  • Different procedures of the Parliament
  • Recent judgements of the Supreme Court
  • Environment



Environmental Education is an interesting subject. Students preparing for IAS Preliminary exam must study extensively about the topics related to environment, including:

  • Endangered species
  • Climate change and its consequences
  • Disaster management
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Pollution
  • Conservation of the environment
  • Protocols
  • General Awareness

The following areas are more crucial in the perspective of your Mains exam rather than your preliminary exams. Yet, you must be well-aware of each one of them to ensure that you don’t lose out marks.

  • Books and their authors
  • People who are constantly in the news
  • Contribution of Indians in various kinds of sports and games
  • Biggest, highest, and tallest objects or natural resources, or any other object that elicits interest
  • International Affairs

Well, this is yet another essential part of your IAS preliminary exam’s question paper and the following topics exist in your syllabus:

  • United Nations Organization
  • Indian and its regional, bilateral, and group meetings with its neighbors
  • India and its neighbors
  • Indian diaspora
  • Decision-making and Aptitude Skills

Decision-making skills  are mostly related to the topics and are associated with aptitude, ethics, integrity, and so on. These topics would also be present in your Mains. So, it’s essential that you should be well-groomed in these fields right since the time you are preparing for your preliminary exams.

#3. Prepare for Prelims and Mains

Next, you should be well acquainted with every topic that is a part of the syllabus of your IAS preliminary as well as your Mains exam. Since most of the topics of both such exams are similar, or belong to similar educational ideas, this would prove to be immensely beneficial for you.

For instance, imagine that you are studying Modern Indian History.

You must start learning it right since the death of Aurangzeb and continue till India gained freedom. While you are studying so, you would realize that you have covered almost the entire syllabus of the modern history of India. Not only that, you would also be delighted when you notice that this actually covers a major portion of the History syllabus of the Mains exam.

#4. Study Some Topics Daily

While you are revising for your exams, it would be a wise idea to study about certain topics regularly. This is a great habit that would go a long way in earning you brilliant grades in your exams.

Therefore, I would advise you to dedicate your time and energy to unearthing more and more about some specific topics.

Study Some Topics Daily

Being familiar with these areas would make you more confident for your Preliminary IAS exam and also the Mains.

#5. Solve Mock Tests

Practice ushers in perfection.

Therefore, you should leave no stone unturned in solving sample question papers to enhance your chances of cracking your IAS preliminary exams. Solving mock test papers would give you a good idea about the general pattern of the question paper that you are expected to receive on your final day.

Moreover, it would also highlight your strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, you would be able to identify the loopholes in your exam preparation when you navigate between the numerous questions offered in your mock test papers. This would greatly assist you in working on your problem areas and improving your strengths.

If you attend tutorials that strive to train you for this kind of an exam, do enquire if they offer opportunities for solving mock tests before you join them.

#6. Prepare Micro Notes

The golden mantra for success in exams is: take notes.

So, when your tutor is explaining a particular topic or idea, always make an effort to be attentive and take notes in an exercise book


However, this is not enough. You should also possess the habit of preparing micro notes from the topics that you have been learning about.

Use these study materials during your last-minute revision.

Furthermore, doing so would also come to your rescue when you might be grooming for your IAS Mains exam.

I sincerely hope that these tips motivate you to study hard for your IAS preliminary exams. If you follow all these tips religiously, I am sure you would come out with flying colors in the IAS exam. Wishing you all the very best for your final exams, dear students.

Have a few other tips for the IAS Preliminary Exams up your sleeves? Why not share them with us? We would be delighted to hear from you.

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Article Posted in: Exam Preparation

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