How to Prepare for UPSC? Complete 1 Year Strategy Which Might Help You


Hey, aspirants here in this post I will discuss full one year plan for UPSC. There is saying if you failed to plan you are planning to fail. This post is your guide and answer to how to prepare for UPSC in one year.

So here in this post, I will give you an idea about how you can plan for this years UPSC exam. Next years prelims are on around 31st May. It means that you have approximately 300 – 330 days depending on when you are reading this post. You have approximately 420 days before mains exam. (Today is 29th June) and mains exam will be somewhere around the end of September 2020.

So, we will make a plan for the next 420 days. We will divide this 420 days into 4 phases.


Also, take note that I am not imposing this time table on you. You can just take an idea and as always make your plan according to your needs.

Before starting a video I want to tell you some points.

 Points To Remember – How to Prepare For UPSC

#1. Do not start preparation without a clear strategy

For a week or see read toppers blog, their interviews, their approach to tackle exam. You can search over YouTube. Here is the list of resources which might help you-
  1. Kanishka Kataria UPSC CSE 2018 AIR 1 –> booklist and strategy.
  2. Akshat Jain UPSC CSE 2018 AIR 2 –> strategy and booklist.
  3. BLOG –> Why your first attempt is your best attempt?
  4. Tina Dabi AIR 1 UPSC CSE Topper –> How to plan your day? 

Before starting your preparation I would suggest giving maximum time to build your strategy. 1 week or so. Once you made the plan do not fall back. Go all in.

Note: Do not follow anyone blindly. Use this above resources to build your own strategy.

#2. Do not destroy your hut for toppers bungalow

You know yourself better so device a strategy which will work for you. Once formulated your plan do not deviate from it.



#3. Have Deadlines to Achieve Your Goals. Push Yourself

Goals should be achievable in a given frame of time. Strive for your goals. Even if you achieved 80% of your targets, this is a success. If a certain thing is not working analyse what is going wrong and do minimal changes. But stick to your plan.
No, let us talk about broad targets.

What Should Be Your Target?

Our main target will be to score good marks in mains examination, but before that, we have to ensure that we qualify for mains. So scoring good marks in mains and enough marks in prelims will be our first target.


All other goals are components of the first target – let us talk about them one by one-

  • Complete General Studies for mains before January. You should be ready with 200-250 words on each topic or subtopic mentioned in UPSC syllabus.
  • Complete optional before January i.e. One reading of all the topics mentioned in the syllabus and own notes.
  • Reading the daily newspaper and current affairs
  • Sufficient answer writing practice before prelims
  • Writing 8-10 essays before prelims
  • Score sufficient marks to crack the prelims
  • Self-evaluation from time to time. It means finding out what works for you and what not. Taking quick decisions and move on.
Now this will be our targets. To achieve this you will devise a plan. There will be four phases. We will cover these phases in 420 days. This is important this will help you in preparing a proper one year plan. So without wasting time, let is begin-

4 Phases of UPSC Preparation

  • 1st phase: Day 1 to Day 120 –> Building a Base + Reading NCERTs + Choosing Optional
  • 2nd Phase: Day 121 to Day 210 –> Consolidation GS + Optional + Practicing full length test
  • Buffer Period: For latecomers. You can catch up with others in this period. Also, those who have started earlier will get extra time for filling the gaps.
  • 3rd Phase: Day 241 to Day 330 –> Focus on Prelims.
  • 4th Phase: Day 331 to Day 420 –> Focus on Mains

Coaching or No Coaching.

It is your personal decision. If you have the money you can spend it there. But money is not an issue.

  1. Time: This is a game of time. It becomes difficult to manage time if you are going for coaching. Furthermore, they will impose their time table on you which may work for one, but it never works for anyone.
  2. Role: Also role of coaching is only 5-%, maximum of 10%. Rest depends on self-study.
  3. Concepts: If faculty is good he will teach you concepts in a lucid manner. But these concepts can be learnt through NCERTs in short amount of time.
  4. YouTube: In this age of IT information is free. You will find many channels on YouTube which will clear your concepts just like that. But it comes with a drawback. You have to be disciplined otherwise you will end up a wasting a lot of time.
  5. Availability of Lectures: Insider news is that lectures of many good institutes are available on telegram channel. There are audio lectures, there are full-fledged videos, also you can get classmates. This is all I can say.

But still many toppers have joined coaching in past. You can read their views regarding that. Without indulging in further debate focus on the topic of this post.

FIRST PHASE: Building a Base + Reading NCERTs + Choosing Optional :

    • Here we will create a strong foundation for further preparation. In these 120 days, you will finish NCERTs, decide your optional and complete 50-60% syllabus of optional.
    • General approach for GS: Base (NCERTs/ Class-notes)—> Standard book —> Consolidation using newspaper and facts.


Those who have decided their optional and going for GS coaching

If you have decided optional and going for coaching class then revise what is being taught in coaching classes and dedicate rest of time to optional.

Those who have not decided optional and going for coaching

Not decided optional then revise what is being taught in class and read NCERTs of respective subjects. It will create a base. You will also realise your inclination towards each and every subject. And gradually decide optional according to your inclinations. Take 1-2 month. Once you have decided your optional you can give it top most priority at this time.

Those who are not going for coaching

Here you are the pilot of your plane. You are on the driver’s seat. If you are not going for coaching then you have the advantage of managing your time according to your own needs.

Now, remember one thing, the role of coaching can be fulfilled by NCERTs as they are the best and unavoidable. Look NCERTs cab replace coaching but coaching material cannot substitute NCERTs you have to read NCERTs. NCERTs are important. NCERTs are the soul of your preparation. I have mentioned the list of NCERT at Instagram handle and telegram channel.

So in the month of July, Aug, Sept, Oct you will be reading NCERTs, Revise your class notes if you re going to one, Considerable amount of optional is done. Also, you are reading the daily newspaper simultaneously.

How to Prepare Optional?

You have decided your optional right. I hope you have gone through previous years papers as well. Now regarding booklist, I will suggest use google. Or read toppers blog and their strategy and booklist. This will be the best approach regarding preparing optional.

Importance of Newspaper

Read the newspaper from day 1. You can read Indian Express or The Hindu both are good. Do not read political news. You can use a syllabus pdf to decide what to read and what not. Also from time to time have a look at the previous year’s question papers. In the beginning, it may take a considerable amount of time but stick to it.

Should I practice answers in Phase I?

  • Depends on your own choice in this phase. If you are comfortable writing answers write one or two answers daily within a limited time. If you are not comfortable then no worries read NCERTs and create a strong foundation. Try to summarise editorials, make notes. For ten minutes try to write an answer to one question from what you have studied in a day, gradually increase no of questions as you feel comfortable. You can take questions from UPSC PYQP, NCERTs also have questions at the end of each chapter, you can also use an online platform like insights but do not waste more than 10 minutes for each question.
  • At the end of October, you are done with NCERTs of history, polity, economy, geography and science. Also, 50-60% of your optional is done. And you are reading the newspaper daily without fail.

SECOND PHASE: Consolidation GS + Optional + Practicing full length test

  • In this phase, you will read standard books, like Laxmikant for the polity, spectrum for Modern India, a lexicon for ethics, Nitin Singhania for Art and Culture, Selective reading of Pavneet Singh’s book for International Relations. I have mentioned all standard books.

Basically, you have to read these books and consolidate each topic of syllabus.

Complete Optional in Phase II

Complete optional i.e. read each topic mentioned in the syllabus of optional at least one time from standard books. Make your notes for each topic which will come handy after prelims. Also, solve previous years papers of optional.

Full-Length Test Series


  • In this phase, you have to stop answer writing and join a full-length test. You can join any coaching test series for mains that you like. If you cannot afford then there are other ways which you can use. You can download test and self evaluate. But you have to give a full-length test in this phase.
  • It is difficult to write an answer. Though you have built a strong foundation right. You have dedicated 4 months of your preparation here. So whether or not you like it you have o give it try. Don’t just give try do this step properly.

The more you sweat in Training, the less you bleed in Battle.

Use Newspaper to Consolidate Notes

  • In this phase, you will be more comfortable reading the newspaper. Now you have to use magazines and newspapers to consolidate your notes. You can identify facts, arguments and fodder which you can use in mains answers. You have to organise your notes according to your syllabus topics. I can make a dedicated video on this topic you can ask in the comment section if you need guidance regarding that.

Write 6-8 Essays Before Prelims

Get hold of previous years essay papers of UPSC and write them. It is better to write UPSC papers than joining test series since they are free and more authentic than Zolchaap test series. Write 2 or 3 essays every month.

What About Ethics?

Ethics is more about thinking. You can do one thing, identify each and every topic mentioned in the syllabus and google it. Watch videos to understand the topic. Now make notes in your own words. Define in simple language give an example from the lives of famous people. Also, read toppers answers.

To conclude,

Now you have completed and consolidated optional and GS topics mentioned in the syllabus, you are giving mains full-length test, you have made your ethics notes, and you have written total 6-8 essays.

Third Phase:  Focus on Prelims

Revision + Practice, 3 months are more than enough.
  • Now Forget about ethics, optional, essays. You can continue with mains test series (if you are confident with prelims performance.

IMP – Prelims Test Series

  • Now buy test series or get printouts from photostats. Later is best if you are doing it from home. Now be disciplined and give test series. Make sure you are solving it seriously with a proper stopwatch.
  • Treat it as an actual prelims exam. Give test professionally.
  • Analyse test series properly. Find out what went wrong. The analysis is crucial in introspection. Just giving test series without analysis will result in wastage of time.

Significance of Atlas

Revise atlas, find out tricks to remember places, do revise atlas every day. Make notes on your atlas. It will help you in the prelims exam. Give daily 10-15 minutes for the atlas.

Some General Tips for the Third Phase


  • Revise static books i.e. standard books that we have read in the second phase.
  • For prelims, there are 3 important pillars
    1. Revision: Test Series and Newspaper. Also analysis of test series. Re-reading NCERTs and reference books.
    2. Concepts: 1st and 2nd phase will help you
    3. Current Affairs —> Test series and notes compilations
  • Still, UPSC Prelims is unpredictable
  • Do not go for multiple books. Read one book multiple times.
  • Solve previous years questions.

Fourth Phase – Focus on Mains

  • Master your optional — Revise multiple times. Give mock test. Read toppers answer copies. Optional can make or break your future. Target more than 300 marks. Last years topper Kanishak Kataria got 350+ marks in optional. So you can get an idea that how important optional can be.
  • General Studies: Revise current affairs topics. Solve previous years papers to get a fill of UPSC. Also, you will be able to find out what type of questions are asked. Check toppers answers.
  • Test Series: GS Mains 10 full-length test. Peer group or self Evaluate. Try to give 2 tests in a day like UPSC exam.
  • Also, focus on your strengths. You know yourself better. At this time you will realise what are your plus points. Is it optional? is it ethical or is it GS? Focus on your strength and work on your weakness.
  • We will talk more about the fourth phase after prelims.

Big Disclaimer: Do not follow anyone blindly. Not even me. Make your own strategy

Most important thing
  • revise –> revise –> revise
  • Consolidation is key.
  • Frame sentences it will help in real time exam like introduction and conclusion and so on.

Important Links

  • Youtube Channel: Click Me (For strategy, booklist + free lessons on history, polity and geography)
  • Telegram Channel: Click Me (For notes, pdf and so on)
  • Instagram: Click me (DM if you have any relevant doubt I will reply)
  • Booklist: Click Me (Standard books that I mentioned)
  • UPSC Syllabus PDF: Click Me
  • Previous Years Question Papers: official site
  • WATCH: World History Lessons: Playlist \

WATCH: Complete One Year Strategy Video

Click on the image or click here.

click on image to watch video


  1. “A change in Quantity also entails a change in Quality”, once quoted Engels Friedrich. It is so apt for this article by the blog shared by Indiashastra. This blog is like a asset for all students preparing for their UPSC examination. A methodological approach to learning through phases can help achieve better results has been emphasized beautifully in this article. Thank you.


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