Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This Section is a compilation of frequently asked doubts by the aspirants. The answers given at various places have been compiled together for quick reference. Before asking any doubts, please go through the entire section. You would find most common queries answered. Otherwise, you can always ask us if something is still there to ask.

You can read IAS Myths too for some fundamental clarifications.

  1. Which newspaper is preferable if I do not get The Hindu? After reading newspaper is it better to cut and paste the article or write down its important points separately ? How to make notes from newspapers, Magazines etc.?

It is always desirable to read The Hindu. The content and quality, relevance to Civil Services Examination, one gets in The Hindu is incomparable to other newspapers – especially the editorial section.

When you find that an article has many important points to jot down, it is more convenient to cut and paste the article in your notebook. However, if the volume of the important content is manageable, writing it on the notebook has its own advantages. In this way, you will remember the news for long. Moreover, the words that you write on the notebook will become a part of your written vocabulary. And, this would give you a decent amount of writing practice daily. It is preferable to organize notes in different sections like Social Welfare, International Affairs, Economy, Science and Technology etc. Don’t try to write exhaustively. Just jot down quick points and keep them organized. Focus on ‘ideas’ instead of facts.


  1. What kind of notes are better- Handwritten or typed?

Both have their advantages as well as disadvantages.

Hand written notes can give you the much-needed daily writing practice as mentioned earlier and you can remember things for long. But it requires a lot of time and it is difficult to organize them, as articles keep appearing from different genres here and there.

Typed or copied notes, on the other hand, can be made and organized easily within a fraction of time. But, it will be difficult to remember issues if one has not typed them and merely copied them from other sources.

It finally boils down to individual preferences, convenience and time constraints. If one is not short of time it is always advisable to make handwritten notes.


  1. For Answer writing challenges should I write them in the notebook and then type them here or directly type here?  


Writing and then typing is of immense help. It is perhaps the best writing exercise. You remember things for long. And, more importantly when you write things slowly using the keyboard, you get to analyse your own writing style and the quality of your answer. Besides, you get a chance to edit your answer accordingly if you are not satisfied with your writing quality. If you repeat this exercise a number of times, you would find your answers getting better and better every time.


  1. All this reading paper, analysing information, practising answers, making notes seem to take a very long time? Is it worth to spend so much time or do I actually need to spend so much time?

Reading the newspaper, analyzing it and writing notes naturally takes a lot of time for everyone. But, with regular practice and matured understanding this time would gradually reduce to manageable levels. However, you must not spend more than an hour on note-making in any case. Avoid making notes of NCERTs and other static books, if you are not blessed with unlimited time. Do this only when information is coming from diverse sources/Newspapers/Magazines which you would find difficult to revise at a later stage of your preparation. You would realize the true value of note-making at the last stage of your preparation when examination nears. Giving time to note-making is like laying foundations for your preparation and knowledge. The stronger the foundation is, the higher and resilient the building would be.


  1. I am confused about reading the newspaper. When I read editorials I feel everything is important. What to read and what to skip?

Initially it takes time to identify important issues. Go through the syllabus many times, understand the demand of the examination and scan previous year question papers. It would help you immensely. As you get more and more mature in your preparation, it would take lesser and lesser effort. You can have a look at the initiative “Current Events” to know what sort of articles are important. Besides, more importantly, with the initiative “Secure-2014” this task would become much easier.


  1. Preparing for Civil Services is like an ocean for a new aspirant, I feel blue that where should I start with and how to continue my journey. How should I manage such a vast syllabus? How to start the preparation? How to plan the preparation? What is the importance of planning in all of this?

Your preparation would contain four threads broadly. Read them daily.

1)Current affairs – Newspapers, Magazine(Yojana, Kurukshetra), PIB features etc.
2)Static GS – NCERT, Advanced books(e.g. Ramesh Singh, Laxmikanth), Internet
3)Optional paper
4)Practicing questions- Secure 2014, Daily/Optional Answer writing challenge etc.

For the first thread, you may not read journals like Kurkshetra, Yojana  now. Start reading them when you have finished the basics of GS.

Now, you know how to prepare 1,3 and 4. For 2 start from NCERT books – 6th to 12th for every part of the syllabus. They would help you build a basic understanding. Once you have a basic understanding, move on to advanced books such as Laxmikanth, Ramesh Singh etc.

Prepare long-term plan and then divide it into several short-term goals. Then further divide them into daily and weekly targets. For e.g. if you plan in the long-term to finish economy in 2 months, then divide the total number of pages in the book with the total number of days that you have. This then becomes your short-term goal. It is just one approach towards planning, not the one best way. Different aspirants my approach the preparation differently.

However, planning your preparation is absolutely important. For, in lack of it you would be lost in this vast ocean. It would help you to keep track of your time and coverage both. Stick to this plan religiously and you find your preparation more organized and easy.


  1. What is the difference between Prelims and Mains preparation? How to integrate both of them?

Essentially the whole process of preparation is integrated. The preparation for this examination can not be done in phases. Prelims, Mains, Interview all test understanding in different forms. The only difference is in the level of detail and approach. In prelims, the questions are objective and do not demand your personal opinion and breadth of thinking. But, it is the case in Mains and Interview.

Therefore, while reading any topic, an effort must be made to understand it conceptually, get some important details, analyze it multi-dimensionally and then form and opinion about it. Such an approach transcends the individual phases of the examination and you will be able to tackle anything.

A useful framework of thinking can be to think about anything by asking these questions – What, Why, Where, When, Who and How? It is called the 5W1H principle and is applicable very widely. It is very useful in all the three phases of the examination.

  1. There are too many sources to consult? How to read all of them? I am confused.

There is no need to read too many sources. They will only confuse you amid the paucity of time one is generally faced with. Choose few good and relevant sources wisely (see the Preparation Guide) and then stick to them even if your friends follow other sources. It is not about reading the best or reading everything from everywhere, but extracting the most from whatever good you read.


  1. Are NCERT books important?

They are the “most” important. Questions often come directly from NCERTs in both Prelims and Mains examination. Besides, they give you a basic understanding of issues broadly from different dimensions, which is the most important during preparation. No aspirant can ignore them.


  1. My English is poor. How can I improve it?

Try these posts:




One simple suggestion: There is no short cut. Read good newspapers seriously and serious literature very seriously. Also, read standard texts. Try to move gradually. You can not learn English in just a few weeks. It will take some time.


  1. Does one need to have very good English to write good answers in Mains examination?

To write good answers, you need to have a) good understanding of the issues and demand of the question and b) a decent level of English to express your message clearly. This exam is not a test of your language, but that of your communication skills. Use simple sentences and write clearly so that the examiner can understand your message without much effort. And, he understands exactly what you want to convey.

It is preferable to have a good vocabulary as it helps you to express your thoughts concisely. It also helps you to think quickly and connect across situations and concepts. But, you do not need to be an expert. Follow the links given in the answer to the previous question, you would get the message.

  1. The word ‘basic’ means different things to different people. What is basic understanding actually in the context of this examination? UPSC mentions that it also tests ‘Depth’ of understanding? How can it test both basic and depth of understanding at the same time? How deep one should go?

It is true that the word ‘Basic’ is quite subjective in nature. But, the meaning of this word would become clear if you finish all NCERT books upto 12th standard with understanding. Then go through the previous year questions to finally understand what level of understanding UPSC demands from you. UPSC requires generalists. A generalist is a person who knows less and less of more and more. It means that you need to have a detailed and in-depth understanding of some crucial areas, and a basic understanding of others. This becomes increasingly clear as one matures in the preparation.


  1. I often lose track while preparation. I can not study regularly. I do not even know if i am on the right track or not? How to keep motivation high?

What you require is not guidance, but light. The light which would clear all the misconceptions in your mind. The fact is that few prepare for this examination systematically, rigorously and continously. And, they number in a few thousands. If you can give the same amount of systematic effort, there is no reason why you will not crack this examination.

More than the effort, you need to understand ‘why’ do you want to get into the services? If it is a childhood dream or passion or something else, then what exactly is it in the Services that attracts you towards it. With some difficult sessions of introspection, you would get the answer. Once you are clear with the “Why” part, the “How” would automatically come out. In fact, this whole website is about the “How” part of the Civil Services examination. But, if you are not clear with the “Why”, the internal drive required to persist in the preparation would not come easily. And, you would sway in one direction or another. The “Will” is hidden in the “Why”. Get the will and 50% of the journey is covered.

Some aspirants regularly contribute highly motivating articles on this website. Whenever you feel low, just browse through the “Motivation” section or read some topper’s blog. It will definitely recharge you batteries.


  1. How to prepare according to the new pattern?

It is very important to understand that there is nothing new or old in this examination. UPSC is very unpredictable and can change gears any time. What was new a year ago would become obsolete by the next year. Therefore, focus should only be on understanding the syllabus. All strategies are rendered futile when you sit in the examination hall and you see an entirely new pattern in front of you.

Please go through the Preparation Guide, know what you have to read and how you have to read. Then, go through this article . It would answer all the queries related to this question.


  1. How to use India Year Book published by Publication Division every year?

The India Year Book, published annually, is helpful from two aspects. One, it helps you gain an overall idea of important sectors in India. And, two, it contains nearly all important government schemes/programmes/policies related to welfare and development. You will be able to find some important decisions of the government which you may have missed while reading. It should be read selectively keeping in mind the demands of the syllabus. Questions keep appearing here and there from the Year Book.


  1. Many students get low marks in Prelims Paper-II. My friends told me join some coaching in Delhi for Paper-II. What should i do? How to prepare for paper-II?

If you want to score good marks in Paper-II, you can do the following.
1. Cover TMH CSAT manual quite selectively- General Ability, Maths, Decision-making etc. You can solve other books of Arihant, UPSC Portal too. Only one, however, would suffice.

2. Solve Good Comprehension questions from the internet ( etc.)- it is not up to the mark in the TMH manual. You must try to solve high level comprehension questions so that handle the easy ones comfortably in the examination. Some good questions have already been covered in a new initiative (Comprehension and Reasoning). You can solve the questions given there too.

3. Practice some free tests from  and other websites that offer free mock test for CSAT. You do not require a separate test series for it nor any coaching. The questions are very basic in nature.

If you practice rigorously and regularly, there is no reason why you would not score well in this paper.


  1. Does the age of an aspirant affect his/her selection chances?

We understand this peculiar concern. But, last year(2012) there were 4-5 candidates aged 30+ in the top 25 list. Average age of IAS+IPS officers who are trained at LBSNAA is 28 yrs (male), so majority who topped lie in the age group of 27+, hence the logic that less marks is awarded in interview to aged candidates is baseless. Also, your experience doesn’t matter much if you can satisfy them with your honesty and personality. Don’t go there with preconceptions. Go there to have a lovely discussion with good old people. And, of course, the marks awarded in Prelims and Mains have no connection at all with your age.

With friends don’t discuss about board members, their previous records, their character, their appearance, their background etc etc – it is useless and makes you prejudiced. They will have certain parameters and they will award marks accordingly. Never worry about what happens inside the interview hall – it will be cordial and a pleasant experience provided you go there with open mind.

See age profiles in the following documents. Absolutely there is nothing to worry about age.


  1. Is there individual cutoffs in Mains examination papers?

The UPSC notification for Civil Services Examination 2013 mentioned that UPSC has the discretion to fix cut-offs to individual papers as well (and not just the final overall score). You have heard it correctly.


  1. Can one prepare for this examination while being in job?

It is possible to crack this exam even when you are employed full time. It may take 2 years or more. But you will clear if you prepare well for this exam using the precious ‘Four Hours’ you have every day.

Also, don’t have the self doubt – “Probably can’t but is it possible?” – start with an optimistic orientation towards preparation. Don’t look at the result even before you have put the effort. If you have to be an IAS officer, you will be one day, provided you constantly prepare for the battle never losing the focus on your goal.


  1. There is no content for Aspirants preparing in Hindi medium. What to do?

Though this won’t be a foolproof idea, but you can still use Google Chrome to translate the whole page in Hindi. Just Right Click on this page and choose ‘Translate to English’. After that you will have a bar at the top of page that will give you various options to translate page in different language. You can choose Hindi then. There will be a lot of grammatical mistakes but this is the maximum you can extract from this website presently.

  1. With the new pattern of Mains in place, have 2 marker questions become worthless?

Two marker questions are not fully redundant yet as they would be helpful in Prelims (not personalities or awards), but something related to Science and Technology, or economy.


  1. In the new Answer Cum booklet introduced by UPSC in Mains examination, is there enough space to write answers? Is it ruled or unruled?

The booklet was unruled for Mains 2013. For a 200 words question, three sheets are usable. Therefore, there is nothing such as space constraint. It is only words and more importantly time constraint.


  1. I am not aware of many things right now. I can not write good answers now. How should I use Secure-2014?

First, build some knowledge. It is of little use to write answers without even knowing the basic concepts. When you feel you have covered some relevant content for GS, then answer the questions here. Otherwise, you will always feel demotivated that you do not know this or that.

You should adopt two pronged strategy:

1. Every day study basic materials too – try to understand basic things from basic books.

2. Try to answer secure-2014 questions based on references, your own research (don’t spend more than 15 minutes on a question) and your residual knowledge. Initially you will write worst answers. Don’t compare them and feel dejected. Keep writing. After ten days you would be surprised to see the change in you. Believe us. We have seen many here getting better and better.

You can’t remember everything. You don’t have to. UPSC tests your Basic Understanding. If you practice consistently, you will get clear understanding of all topics as our questions are designed to think you in a multidimensional way.

The key is to stay in the race at any cost.


  1. In how much time can one prepare for this examination?

1-1.5 years of time is sufficient depending from person to person, but only if you have the right guidance. In the absence of correct guidance, you would be lost. Understand the demands of the examination, plan your preparation and then execute it religiously.


  1. Wouldn’t it be better if the aspirants’ answer be given marks or rated by stars?

It is important to understand there is no one way of writing answers and therefore no one answer can be rated higher than others or vice versa. It is the comments on the answers which matter and which highlight the shortcomings of an answer. The star/marking system discourages comments which shakes the very idea of writing answers here i.e. peer review. It is not about the marks or the number of stars you get, it is about what you learn at the end of the day. If you keep learning, good scores are a mere by-product.


  1. Do you have any plans for providing e-material(paid) for pre cum mains as some of the sites are doing?

It should ideally be your own hard work. Nothing can substitute hand-written or self-compiled notes.


  1. I am planning to give this examination after 2-3 years? What should I do in between as starting preparation so early may dry out my batteries at the most crucial last phase of the preparation?

Good to know that you are planning early for this exam. As you have plenty of time, you can focus on building a strong foundation needed for this exam. Cultivate the habit of reading two newspapers every day (The Hindu and Business Standard). Start writing about current events. widen your knowledge about India and the world by reading extensively from standard books – you can go through this post for Must Read books – (

This exam is more about your aptitude, attitude, integrity, understanding of the society, awareness about the national and international events and critical perspective on them. Finally it is more about your concern and empathy for the society too.

So, cultivate these important traits for three years. Then the exam will be a cakewalk for you. Use every day productively.

  1. Is it true that top rank goes to only those writing this examination in English? Any bad news for other medium candidates or it is only a myth ?

It is true, but people writing in English medium are also more in number. Last year(2012) Rank 8 went to an aspirant from Hindi medium. Your knowledge is much more important than the language you write in. It is ultimately about expressing your thoughts on paper. Is any language lesser when it comes to expression.?


  1. Can average students with low marks in their school/graduation crack this examination?

There are many people with not so bright academic records who have secured top ranks. Your academic record matters nowhere in the exam. All you need is a pass certificate in your graduation.

Also, you don’t have to worry about if someone with poor academic record has cleared this exam or not. You must think that you are going to clear this exam and show everyone that it’s possible to top in this exam with poor academic record too.

Your poor academic record doesn’t have anything to do here unless you yourself are not confident about scoring high in this exam by working hard.

If you are asking poor academic record would affect interview score, then answer is No. It has nothing to do with it.