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UPSC Exam Strategy 2023 by Toppers | How to Start Preparing for UPSC

The Complete Guide for Those Aiming For UPSC CSE 2023

UPSC exam strategy for those attempting UPSC CSE in 2023

This exam strategy is aimed at those aspirants who will give their first or next attempt in 2023.


There are three stages in the exam: Prelims, Mains and Interview. Your final ranking (according to which various premium services like IAS will be allotted) will depend upon the cumulative marks (out of the total 2025 marks) you obtain in your mains (1750 marks) and interview (275 marks)Prelims is only a qualifying stage for the mains exam.

  • UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern: Prelims is an objective paper with two parts: GS Paper I and CSAT. CSAT is only qualifying as you are required to score only 33% (passing percentage) in the exam. Your GS Paper I’s score will determine if you clear the cut-off to give the mains exam or not.
  • UPSC Mains Exam Pattern: Mains is subjective, and there are 9 papers out of which two are qualifying just like CSAT. The remaining 7 papers will contribute to your overall score of 1750 marks.
    The optional that you will choose will be at this stage. And there would be two papers of it. There will also be four GS papers (History, Polity, Geography, Environment, Ethics etc.) and one Essay Paper. These 7 papers will contribute to your overall score.

Apart from these 7, there will be two qualifying language papers.

The interview remains the same wherein it will be of 275 marks and they’ll analyse your personality for the civil services.

Check the detailed official UPSC CSE syllabus here.


  • UPSC Exam Strategy for Optional: make sure that you decide your optional as soon as possible so that you can start studying for it.
    Important things to consider while choosing your optional:
    1) the subject should be of your interest
    2) the syllabus should be manageable + resources should be easily available in the market
    3) since the questions asked in the Optional are usually of graduation-level, it is preferable that you choose the subject that you had in graduation. However, this is not important if any other subject fulfils points 1 & 2. After choosing your optional, make sure that you immediately start studying for it. Aim that you are able to go through the reading of the entire basic books within the next few months.
  • Right now, your priority should be on completing your basic books. Collect the resources for your prelims and mains, go through all the books. For example, completing Polity through Laxmikanth as soon as possible will leave you with more time for revision and practising mock tests.
  • Since most of you would be starting fresh, it is important to note that there are a lot of resources in the market for every topic of the 5-6 general subjects like history, economy, polity, it is important that you do not get distracted. Focus on limited resources but maximum revision.
    This mantra is advised because it is difficult to memorise everything under the Sun. Therefore, you need to keep your resources limited.
  • UPSC Exam Strategy for Current Affairs: Take any monthly CA compilation and follow it religiously. Current affairs are an integral part of your UPSC exam as you will see many questions in Prelims that can be answered directly because of your awareness of CA. For example, the MPLAD Scheme that was previously asked was in news a lot of times because it was suspended during that time (Covid-19).Ideally, a monthly compilation is preferred over yearly, because of the depth of information that can be covered.
  • After you are done with the basic GS subjects, you can start attempting daily quizzes to solidify your knowledge.

To summarise, you need to focus on these things for the exam: GS + Current Affairs + Daily Quiz + Optional

You can add mocks to this list later when you are done with your syllabus. Mocks are very important for the exam. Aim that you give at least 50 mocks and are able to revise them on time as well.

All of this might sound exhaustive to some but trust me all of this is very doable if you dedicatedly focus your time on the exam. Since you are required to memorise a lot of information, the revision must not be ignored.

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Indrajeet Singh
Indrajeet Singh
The mastermind behind IQuanta, Indrajeet Singh is an expert in Quant and has devised some ingenious formulae and shortcuts to significantly cut down on the time taken to solve a problem

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