Prelims for Indian Administrative Services

Herein I am reproducing three articles from quora which would be useful for the preparation of prelims exam i.e. General Studies in a short span of time

Q.1 How important can YouTube be for preparation of the Civil Services Examination?

YouTube + The Hindu >
Online preparation at its best!
YouTube has become a very important part of our lives these days and as far as CSE is
concerned, there is no dearth of online lectures virtually on all the topics. You can go
through following videos on YouTube during the course of your preparation:
Vinay Lal’s YouTube channel: Page on
This is one of the best sources from where you can study comprehensive Indian
history. He is an assistant professor of history at UCLA. Following courses are
available on YouTube:

1. History of British India (20 Lectures)
2. History of Indian Civilization (26 Lectures)
3. Political and Cultural History of Contemporary India (20 Lectures)
4. The Global Indian Diaspora (20 Lectures)

Samvidhaan by Rajya Sabha TV:
It gives you an insight into the Indian constitution in a best possible way.
This will surely make you proud of our constitution.

You’ll find very few sources that deals with the history of India after 1947. This is one
of the most reliable one.

There are many more to gain from YouTube which are beyond description. I’ll advice
you to subscribe to following channels in addition to above:

>Documentaries HD Channel: Page on

>National Geographic: National Geographic

>Nat Geo TV: Page on

>History Channel: History Channel

>Animal Planet: Animal Planet

>Crash Course: CrashCourse

>Rajya Sabha TV: Rajya Sabha TV

>CEC UGC: Cec Ugc

Following channels may be very helpful during the course of your preparation. They
focus on UPSC preparation only:

>UPSC Preparation: UPSC preparation


>Mahesh Kulkarni: Mahesh Kulkarni

>Unacademy: Unacademy

In addition, innumerable documentaries are available on YouTube which can really
provide you with some great knowledge. Just search for them using relevant keywords
but make sure that the video you’re watching is from reliable source and has
considerable amount of research in it because wrong knowledge is worse than no
knowledge at all.

Q. 2 How should I prepare to crack IAS 2015 in my first attempt without any coaching?

Note: Here I assume that you’re very determined and motivated to be an IAS officer
and currently you stand at zero level of preparation. I’ll skip the optional subject part as
it will require another big answer. I’ll keep the time frame in mind (approx 6 months
are left).
First of all, go through the last six months’ newspapers extensively (preferably The
Hindu) because a lot of things have happened during this period. Read very carefully
each and every editorial and try to form your rational opinion on those topics. Don’t
stop reading newspapers until you qualify the exam.
Start reading ALL NCERT books from Class VI to Class X. Read them in three passes.
First, reading them like a novel. Second, read them very carefully and third, read them
while making notes. Ultimately, your notes will prove to be the best book you possess.
I’ll come to notes making later in this answer. Selective reading is required from Class
XI and Class XII. Read all the chapters from History, Political Science, Geography and
Economics. Some chapters from Chemistry, Physics and Biology are required to be
read. Read them in the same way I described earlier. Keep revising your notes
regularly. Taking them out only a day before exam after making them won’t be much
If you put this much of effort sincerely in these six months, you won’t face any
problem in qualifying prelims. I don’t think you have time to read any reference book
or even you need to as far as general studies is concerned. It is just a hype created by
masses. Now let’s come to the writing strategy.
While making notes, keep 10% rule in mind which states that if the source material has
100 words, your notes should NOT exceed 10 words i.e., 10% of the source material.
writing. The best way to start doing so is, pick up your NCERT book, open any chapter
which you’ve read and attempt the questions given at the back of the chapter. Believe
me, the questions are really good. After attempting them, start solving previous years’
questions. Before that, know what the keywords mean. How examine is different from
critically examine or how analyse is different from examine.
Finally, solve some mock papers. Enroll into any test series by a good coaching
institute (if possible). Get your answers to be reviewed by someone in your reach who
specializes in that topic, take their feedback very seriously and work upon it. Start
writing your opinion to the best of your ability which covers the asked topic
comprehensively because ultimately, it is your opinion which carries the maximum
marks in exam.
No matter how much you read, but if you don’t write, you won’t be able to qualify
mains. So write write and write. Keep writing until your hands give up!
I would like to conclude the answer with the timeless words by Robert Frost:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep…
Have faith in yourself. All the Best!

Q. 3 Right now I am doing my masters but I am planning to take the civil services exam in 2016. I
can afford four hours of study time daily. What are some good ways to use these hours judiciously?

I would like to start the answer by telling you that if you sincerely devote 4 hours daily
for the next one and a half years, no doubt you’ll qualify the exam with flying colors.
I assume you’ll start your preparation from scratch and reading newspaper (except
editorials) don’t come under those four hours.
Don’t take up NCERT books now. This line may sound awkward but there is a reason
based on experience. Watch documentaries on YouTube as much as you can especially
about ancient history and geography for three hours daily (75% of your available time)
because these are two subjects we all find difficult to visualize while reading from any
book. Devote remaining one hour reading editorials. Keep making notes
simultaneously and form your opinion on each and every happening you come across
during this time (I’ll tell you how to make notes further in the answer). After some
time, take up a reference book (still not NCERT) like India after Gandhi (I personally
loved this book) and read it in two passes. First read it like novel and second, read it
very carefully and while making notes.
Now you take up every NCERT book from Class VI to Class X. First, read those books
like a novel. Enjoy all the happenings you come across. Now since you’ve already
watched the documentaries, it won’t be much difficult for you to visualize even the
paleolithic age and different colors of India (that’s why I advise you to watch the
documentaries first). During second pass, read the books very carefully by analyzing
every new thing you see while reading. In the third pass, make notes and your
opinions. Very selective and careful reading is required from Class XI and Class XII
books. Keep reading your optional subject simultaneously.

Now after this, devote yourself completely into newspapers and writing practice. If
you’ve analyzed this year’s mains general studies’ papers, you must have noticed that
almost all the questions asked your opinion about the happenings which took place in
India within the last one year. Remember that your opinion carries maximum marks in
any answer you write. Start solving mock papers and enroll yourself in any good test
About notes writing, follow 10% rule which states that your notes should not exceed
10% of the total number of words present in the source material. This way you’ll be
able to express yourself while being within the prescribed word limit. The good thing
with you is that you’ll be left with enough amount of time to practice writing answers.
This is the most important part of your preparation, make use of it to the best of your
ability. Without writing practice, no matter how much you read, you won’t be able to
qualify mains (you may get through prelims though). So write good answers and get
them evaluated by your teachers or mentors who specialize in that subject.
The problem with most of the aspirants is that they devote maximum amount of their
time to read rather than to write and this is something which creates the difference
between selected and not selected candidates. Make sure to write your answers as
beautifully and comprehensively as you can. This comes only via practice. Solve as
many mock papers as you can.
You may find this answer useful as well: Avinash Mishra’s answer to How should I
prepare to crack IAS 2015 in my first attempt without any coaching?
I conclude the answer with the following words by Emily Dickinson:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain…
I hope after becoming the IAS officer, you’ll ease many lives’ pain. All the best!

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