IAS Gyan


How to Start UPSC Preparation from Zero Level?

3rd April, 2024 Miscellaneous


Preparation for UPSC CSE can make you eligible to crack any of these vacancies.

Despite that, whenever the question of appearing in UPSC CSE (Civil Services Examination) or State Govt administrative exams arises, most people hesitate. They doubt their abilities.

Do you find yourself in a similar league? Don’t worry.

This article discusses everything you need to know on how to start UPSC preparation from level ZERO. Stay with us.

Define the “Zero” Level

In this article, level ‘ZERO preparation’ means people who are, for the first time, planning to sit in competitive exams for officer rank government jobs. You can be:

  • A student studying in college,
  • In your final year of college,
  • College graduates planning your future course of action, or
  • A working graduate, aged below 32, planning to sit in UPSC CSE for the first time.

Understand the UPSC CSE Exam Pattern

For every serious UPSC CSE aspirant, knowing the exam pattern is the first step. It helps take a structured approach in your preparation.

UPSC conducts a 3-stage process for screening, selection and appointment of officers in all India civil services cadre:

  1. Preliminary examination or Prelims (objective type questions)
  2. Mains examination (written test)
  3. Personality tests (personal interview)

UPSC Prelims comprises:

  • General Studies (GS) Paper 1. It covers subjects of studies like history, geography, economy, polity, general science and current affairs. Qualification
  • General Studies (GS) Paper 2 or UPSC CSAT. It covers basic numeracy, logical reasoning, language comprehension skills and decision-making skills.

GS2 is a qualifying paper. It means you must score a minimum of 33% marks out of 200 marks. Otherwise, you will not qualify Prelims, irrespective of your score in GS1 paper.    

UPSC Mains comprises 9 papers, including 2 language papers.  

  • Paper A is a compulsory Indian language.
  • Paper B is English.
  • Paper I is the Essay type.
  • Paper II, III, IV and V belong to General Studies.
  • Paper VI and VII are on optional subjects of your choice.


You must score the minimum cut-off marks (which is 25%) in compulsory language papers to qualify UPSC Mains exam. Otherwise, the rest of the papers will not be counted. 

Personality test assesses candidates shortlisted in Mains for their 

  • Interpersonal communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ethical values
  • Confidence level
  • Overall leadership qualities

Learn about UPSC CSE Syllabus

To say the least, the UPSC CSE syllabus is comprehensive.

Both Prelims and Mains papers check college-level knowledge and critical understanding of the respective subjects. It is not sufficient to know the facts and figures. You need to learn the implications and application of that information. 

Does it sound intimidating? Don’t worry. It is easier to grasp than it seems. You just need to follow a structured approach for your UPSC preparation.   

Thousands of civil service aspirants who began with the question “how to start UPSC preparation from zero level” have already cleared Mains with flying colors.

You can do it too. 

Finalize Your Choice of Optional Subject

We have already discussed that UPSC Mains Paper VI and VII are optional subjects. You need to select 2 such subjects out of the list of 25. You can also select any of the major 22 Indian languages as one of your optional papers.

Things to consider for selecting optional subjects:

  • Subjects that overlap with the syllabus of General Studies papers
  • Length and depth of their syllabus
  • Your previous knowledge of the subjects
  • Your personal area of interests
  • Accessibility to study materials and UPSC online coaching for the subjects

You can check https://upsc.gov.in/sites/default/files/Engl_CSP_2017.pdf for a detailed syllabus of optional subjects.

Research on Study Materials and UPSC Online Coaching

If you have reached this far in the article, you are seriously considering a career in civil service jobs.

Congratulations! Half of the job is done.

It is now time to sort out the actual question—how to start UPSC preparation from zero level. That means you now need to search for study materials, courses and coaching facilities.

Digital revolution has made UPSC preparations a lot easier. You no longer need to move to other cities to attend classes or meet your teacher. Everything is available right on your smartphone.

This makes joining one of the best online coaching for UPSC more important.

Any comprehensively designed UPSC online coaching can take care of subject-wise classes, practice tests, regular guidance and motivational coaching.

Create a Study Plan

A well-structured study plan is the key to UPSC success. It includes:

  • Subject-wise long term and short-term goals
  • Long and short-term deadlines
  • Daily study routine
  • Practice time
  • Revision time
  • Self-assessment breaks
  • De-stressing breaks

Practice Tests and Revision

Practice and revision of what you have studied is absolutely important. Otherwise, it is easy to lose track of the vast UPSC syllabus. 

Besides, UPSC Prelims and Mains practice tests help keep track of your improvements. You can actually measure weaknesses and strengths in your preparation and take preparatory steps.

Stay at the Top of Your Motivation

UPSC conducts CSE Prelims around May-end every year. Mains examination takes place in September and results get published, usually in January or February in the following year. Then, personal interviews take place between February and April.

So, anyone serious about cracking UPSC must have a long-term view.

It will cost at least one and a half year of dedication, intense concentration, and determination.

You should also be mentally and physically ready to prepare for the next attempt, in case the current one fails.

Years of consistent tenacity always pay off.


Civil service jobs are a super lucrative career option. They tick all the boxes in the checklist that any graduate or college going person can think of—working for people, bringing a positive change in the world, job security, work-life balance, post-retirement benefits, and, of course, a decent pay package.

If the question of how to start UPSC preparation from zero level was bothering you, it is time to get rid of the hesitations and indecisions. Check https://www.iasgyan.in/. They offer some of the best online coaching for UPSC CSE, like Prelims Mirrors (UPSC Prelims Open Mock), Demo Test For UPSC CSE and UPSC Classroom Programme