How to Prepare for Civil Services Examination?

This article is a compilation of suggestions, strategies and tips for civil services examination preparation. It covers various important topics which can help you to get the most out of your general preparation. No specific examination is discussed here. So, it is applicable to all competitive exams including Civil Services Examination and state civil services exams like APSC Combined Competitive Examination (APSC CCE) or simply Assam Civil Services Exam.

Civil Services Exam Preparation:

Examinations test our ability to use the acquired knowledge. During an exam you sit at a desk for two to three hours, concentrating and writing in your best possible speed. Your preparation determines how well you perform in the exam. There is no shortcut to success. You need to work hard to achieve success. But simply working hard is not enough to crack Civil Services Examination. Cramming is also not enough to perform better in such exams. You need to develop a right mindset, study smart and follow a plan to achieve success in such exam. Following are some important focal points for civil services exam preparation. Some important points which candidates may consider while starting or continuing his/her preparation for competitive exams.

1. Right Mindset:

Learning is a complex process. Everyone has individual differences that affects the learning process. Some learns easily while some takes more time to grasp new things. But that doesn’t mean that a slow learner can’t achieve success. Having right mindset is important in every aspect of life. With the right mindset, you’ll be able to find your capabilities, identify your motives and perform better in exam. How to develop your study mindset?

  • Know yourself. Find out your pace of learning, identify your weakness and know your strengths.
  • Set a goal. Keep yourself motivated by that goal.
  • Think positively. With positive attitude, it is easy to develop a winner mindset.
  • Don’t get frightened. Civil Service Exams are no different from any other tests. It is being cleared by people just like you. So, there is no reason that you can’t.
  • Your past success or failure will have little bearings on your performance in upcoming exam. Remember that and don’t let yourself bogged down by negative thinking.
  • Visualize yourself sitting in the exam hall, writing a paper with confidence. This will help you in overcoming exam anxiety.

2. Start Early:

Preparation for civil service examinations should be started early. Start at least one year ahead of the publication of notification. If you are really serious about becoming a civil servant, start your preparation today.

  • Get familiar with the examination structure. For example: APSC CCE has three stages. Prelims is objective type while Mains is a subjective type examination.
  • Collect Syllabus and some past papers of your probable optional papers. Get an idea about the topics to be covered and types of questions asked. Also consult some experience holders or friends.
  • Decide on your optional subjects. Don’t select one simply because it was your graduation subject. Some subjects require extensive study. Taking such subjects might cost you in the form of less preparation time for General Studies. That’s dangerous.
  • Collect some good books, question papers and study materials.
  • Start your journey. Enjoy it.

3. Proper planning:

Planning is very important for success. Most of the hard working candidates fail just because of lack of planning. Without planning all you efforts might go in vein.

  • Know the pattern of your exam. Identify the special topics or areas covered in each paper. For example: General Studies paper covers History, Polity, Science & Technology and others. Align your preparation to cover those specific areas separately.
  • Know your learning speed. Make a list of your textbooks, reference books and study materials. Work out a time needed to cover each topic or subject.
  • Prepare a schedule for studying. Be sure that it allows enough time to study each subjects or paper. Allot the best time of the day for your study. And stick to your schedule!
  • Learn about the strategies followed by toppers. Try to implement them in your preparation plan. For example: group discussion.
  • Have a backup plan.

4. Smart Study:

Simply working hard is not enough to crack competitive examinations. You need to study smart. Identify your ideal study environment, find out your best timings and start studying.

  • Clear basic concepts. With clear concept you can easily answer any question.
  • Refer only selected few good books. Don’t ignore the basic books.
  • Don’t read too many books on same subject or topic.
  • Study your books and study materials thoroughly. Study regularly.
  • Never force yourself to study. It should be voluntary.
  • Learning is more interesting and useful when we use more sense. Lean through video, audio, flash cards etc.
  • Do not hurry. Trying to read fast and cover the whole syllabus within a short period of time would yield nothing.
  • Read your newspaper religiously. Newspaper is the best source of information. It will also help you in improving your English.
  • Refer magazines and Internet resources. Don’t use Internet mainly to find new topics. Instead use it to clear your doubts and learn the basics of the topics that you are studying.
  • For prelims, solve as many MCQs as possible. You can use Internet to find old question papers and mock tests.
  • In case of General Studies, prepare for Mains right the beginning.
  • Make notes of your own. Prepare notes from newspaper cuttings, Internet resources etc.
  • Discuss with friends. Help others in clearing concepts. Forming a small study group often helps.
  • Use memory techniques to memorize data and useful information. Example: creating a visual image to represent the key points of a topic. Or forming acronyms by using the first letters of a group of terms.
  • Revise efficiently. Refer your notes. Focus on constant evaluation of your standard by solving previous question papers.
  • Practice writing. Your score depends on your ability to write efficiently in legible handwriting, that is too within the prescribed exam hours.

5. Deal with Procrastination:

When it comes to studying, getting started is the biggest obstacle for many. Procrastination is one of the root cause and worse enemies of student. Are you delaying your studies without any valid reason? Ignoring the important things, you usually do the least important things? If yes, that is procrastination. Fear of failure, distractions, lack of motivation and many other things fuel procrastination.

  • Motivate yourself. Praise yourself after completing each chapter or topic.
  • Avoid distractions and learn to concentrate.
  • Find the best study spot for your study. It could be your balcony, study room or even a library.
  • Also identify probable bad spot and try to avoid them. For example: crowded hostel rooms, room near a busy road etc.
  • Create a study plan to cover the syllabus. Divide it into smaller parts. Start with shorter sessions.
  • Change your attitude. Reward yourself after completing a chapter or topic.
  • Start the day with least liked topics.

6. Mental preparation:

Preparing yourself mentally is very important for exam preparation.

  • Open your minds to learning.
  • Be positive. Positive attitude increases your chances of performing better.
  • Start your preparation early. This will improve your memory and lower stress before exam.
  • Clear your concepts. Study each and every topic in details. Learn to co-relate events or facts with real life.
  • Stay cool. Study your books and notes calmly. Trying to cover a lot of things within a short period of time would lead to nothing but disaster.

7. Physical Preparation:

Physical fitness directly affects the performance of our brain. Your body is used to certain patterns and schedules. Don’t alter them during your preparation.

  • Maintain regular sleep schedule. Get normal amount of sleep everyday. Avoid whole night sessions
  • Maintain your normal eating schedule and eating habit. Stay hydrated.
  • Continue your regular exercise schedule. If exercise is not a part of your normal daily schedule, don’t start now.
  • Get your vitamins. If you are on a healthy diet, no need to go for supplements. Otherwise, it is wise to get some supplements by consulting a doctor.

8. Coaching and mock tests:

Coaching is not essential. Yes, coaching institutes can guide you and help you in clearing concepts or doubts. But they are not going to write the exam for you. So, pay attention to self-preparation. Mock tests or test series are very helpful in preparation for civil services exams. Usually coaching institutes provide such materials. But if you can also get them online or from friends. Get some good mock test and try them yourself, seriously.

9. Time Management:

Preparing for Civil Service would need a lot of efficient time planning and management. Everyone has same 24 hours in a day! It’s up to you how you use and manage it. Efficient time management is crucial for exam preparation.

  • Distribute time for all the papers.
  • Allot extra time for your weaker subjects.
  • Prepare a daily time table and follow it.
  • Set targets. Example: Cover a topic within one week, complete a section in one month etc.
  • Don’t waste your time on least important or useless topics.
  • Also don’t spent lots of time on your favourite topics.
  • Stop hunting for new information or new study materials.
  • Avoid unnecessary wastage of time by following selected few books or study materials.
  • Prepare yourself for the real exam by taking tests. Start with old papers, then mock tests. Otherwise it will cost you badly.
  • Learn to priorities your tasks. Example: You can solve the short questions first.

10. Relaxation, motivation etc:

It is hard to keep stress away from exam preparation. But you must try to lower your stress. Otherwise it will hamper your preparation.

  • No need it panic! Learn to relax. Take short breaks.
  • Spend some time on recreational activities.
  • Don’t stay isolated. Mix with friends. Going out with them for a movie or tea won’t harm you.
  • Rumors or speculations about result date or cutoff increases anxiety. Do not pay much attention to such news.
  • Stop worrying about your results. Continue preparation.


So, what it takes to crack a civil services examination? Right mindset, Starting Early, basic clarity, a plan and time management? We know, it is impossible to cover all the points relevant to preparation. Probably there are far better suggestions for effective exam preparation. Still we suggest that new aspirants go through the above points, at least once. Please excuse us for mistakes. Feel free to point out mistakes and provide your comments, suggestions, ideas, strategies etc. Share your experiences. We will update this article based on your feedback.

40 comments in “How to Prepare for Civil Services Examination?

  • I’m Ajay Indwar basically from Assam Karbi Anglong district. My qualification is BA (graduated from Assam University Silchar in the year 2015). I’m looking for Civil Services job.

  • Md.Wazedul Islam. on

    This article is very motivative and necessary key to success in such tough Examinations,thanks a lot sir,I’will follow it as much as I can.One more request sir,can you provide me a list of complete best books and study materials for the preparation of APSC exams?

  • it’s a important topic for me and will motivate me ,thanks a lot for ur valuable suggestion

  • This is seriously a inspiring article. Thank you for the motivation.

  • For a new aspirant the above mentioned Suggestions are most important and Valuable to crack any Civil Service Exam.


    i have shifted my gear of preparation to the top level after reading this.really motivated thnk u sir

  • Dear sir/madam,
    I m a student of art’s from Assam and i m preparing upsc and apsc. For this purpose i needs the refarence books. And i m a assamese medium student that for i needs english fluency up.
    So, above these purpose the refarence books and your attention is required and thus my oblise.
    Your follower…

  • really inspiring and helpfull guide for APSC aspirants. sir, I am a student of TDC 6th sem…. i wanna crack APSC 2018… but i hv one problem I am from Assamese medium so my english fluency is not up to the mark, give me suggestions how I study smart to achieve victory in APSC exams.
    thank you team for your valuable works

  • Dear Admin
    Here I got some true useful tips regarding APSC for the first time so thanks a lot for this support. Sir I have a humble request please can you do one favour? Sir it would be much better if you provide us some preparation tips/ how to make a study planner for the APSC ( Prelims & Mains) exam 2017. I will wait for your reply sir please if you can manage some time for my request.
    Thanks a lot

  • shabir Iftekhar Ahmed on

    Hello admin,
    Really confused how to get started?Study General Studies or the optional subject. I don’t believe in coaching instituted as i feel wasting precious time.Please advice some valuable books to help me in my preparation .Tanks and waiting for your’s respond.

  • Kirtismita Baruah on

    The valuable words of this article are so inspiring.Being a newly opener of this unseen journey,I hope this will help me a lot while reaching my dream destination.Thankyou so much.

  • @Dibyajyoti Bora,
    With thorough preparation for UPSC, one can easily clear APSC prelims. Continue your preparation and use your free time to update your knowledge on Assam.

  • Dibyajyoti Bora on

    hlw sir……i am preparing UPSC for 2021-22 bt i also intrstd in APSC………i am using some books like eco by ramesh singh 7th editn,polity by M.lxmiknt, Wazard geo 4 GS by JOJO Mathu,govrnc by M.lxmiknt,CONTITUTION by DD BASU,Envirntment by SHANKAR IAS ACADMY,CULTURE-THE WONDER THAT WAS INDIA………….histry………………….etc……… bt SIR,can i apre apsc with UPSC syllabus….

  • Disha choudhury on

    This article is a kind of real motivator.
    Anyone can get boosted up if he/she reads it.

  • Frederick hanse on

    Iam from biotechnology back ground, but i wanted to creak upac exam so what are the main things i must do ,and go ahead any idea from you dear sir, mam
    Thank you
    ABOVE i dea are really good, i like it i will try for that

  • Dhritiman Bharadwaja on

    there is very less guidance on apsc online. this is an eye opener. more such articles will be deeply appreciated. btw can neone tell me the probable date on commencement of application n the date of exam

  • HIMANSHU B.Gohain on

    This is the first post i read after i decided to crack the civil service exam and those tips and suggestion has really motivate me.So let the chapter begin from TODAY…………

  • Amanur Hoque on

    Really very good suggestion..thanks

  • @John,
    Yes, you can take history. It is not necessary to take subjects of graduation.

  • hello admin
    i want to know
    that i am a btech pass out in electronics
    but i want to take up history.
    can i??
    and for mains history and political science

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