how to prepare for UPSC exam
Source: spunout

Focus is a prerequisite for all the exams in the world and becomes all the more important when it is UPSC prelims. It is often advised to aspirants to study 18 hours a day, which not only is highly impractical but also requires a lot of focus. While we can’t tell you ways how to have the perfect focus for studying 18 hours each day for more than a year, we have got you covered for ways to stay focused while preparing for UPSC exam.

1. Set Out a Plan

Focus increases manifold when one has a plan for achieving a goal. An aspirant knows that there are three kinds of paper that each one has to appear for and other such things. But knowing things is not enough. It is important to lay a roadmap about how you wish to prepare for it. Hence, start by setting out a plan for the preparation.

First of all, consider how much time you have left before the exam. Ideally, a student must start serious preparation a year and a half ago from the date of the exam. Next, divide your months according to the various kinds of preparation strategies that need to be applied.

It is impossible to crack the exam if you have only learned the syllabus and not practiced the paper before. Hence, divide your months in a way that you have enough time to thoroughly study the syllabus as well as to practice mocks and previous year’s question papers.

Make sure that this plan of yours is not just cooking in your head. Write it down on a sheet of paper. Fill in every minute detail. Also, be practical and do not plan out unrealistic goals. Keep the sheet of paper somewhere with your syllabus so that you can visit it at least once a day. Doing so will remind you of what you have planned for yourself, and hence, your focus will not deter you.

2. Vision Board

You may paste a copy of your overall plan on your wall in the format it has been written down. Or you can convert it to a vision board. A vision board is a piece of paper that has some pictures stuck on it. These pictures are symbols of things that you plan to achieve for yourself in a given period.

They are not straightforward pictures. They have a deep meaning attached to them that only you can understand. For example, you want to practice as many as 30 past-year prelims papers. You won’t stick a text saying 30 prelims paper. Instead, find a picture that is reflective of that, like 30 written on a piece of paper that has a P written on it.

A vision board can be directly stuck on the wall. It is aesthetic, unlike a piece of paper with handwriting on it. Also, people won’t be able to question or taunt you if you can do what you have written down because the pictures only make sense to you. There is also a sense of personal belongingness. And last but not least, when you see those pictures every day, you will feel motivated.

3. Copy of Syllabus

Another way to not let your focus waver is to stick a copy of the syllabus right above your study table just like doing your programming homework. In the first place, it will work pretty much as a vision board does.

Next, you won’t have to spend extra time searching for the copy now and then. It will be easier to mark out sections that have been done, that need to be revised, that are difficult to understand, etc. Having proper knowledge of how much is yet left to be achieved will keep you charged for the rest of the journey.

4. To-do Lists

To-do lists are small task lists that one makes the night prior or right in the morning before starting the day. It lists out all the tasks that one needs to get finished in the coming 24 hours.

The step that should precede a to-do list is a daily timetable that records how many hours are to be given to newspaper reading, how much on current affairs, how much extensive reading, etc. To-do lists specify what exactly is to be done in those hours of each day.

It is impossible to plan specific elements for even a month. You can only have overviews because you never know when an emergency will strike. To-do lists are made each day to maintain practicality in the approach of preparation.

You know exactly how much you did the previous day and what needs to be done today. Plus, writing down things on a piece of paper keeps reminding you of what awaits your attention.

5. Journaling

The UPSC prelims preparation is not just about doing the syllabus but also about managing stress. Many people consider it a gamble because luck has a huge role to play in someone’s selection; it is not always hard work. Stress can be a big reason why people lose their focus.

They may feel demotivated at times which will naturally lead to wavering focus. A good way to manage stress is to let things out. You may talk to a friend, to your parents, to your partners, etc. However, if you have no one, which can be the case for many, start journaling.

Journaling is just documenting what you feel. Take a break, pick up your pen, and just write down your worries. You will feel better, and hence, you will be in a better condition to focus.


Listed above are some ways through which you can remain focussed. However, remember that it is not always about doing. Sometimes, you just have to do nothing, sit back, listen to your favorite music, and relax. UPSC prelims aspirants panic so much that, more often than not, they forget that they are humans too. They are not machines that just need a charger to work.

Our brains get tired and feel saturated. These two provide the perfect reasons for a brain freeze which means you won’t be able to focus. Hence, do not take unnecessary stress or study for 18 hours a day. Your mind needs rest, so allow yourself to limit the timing of studying to not more than 18 hours a day. Make sure your timetable has slots for recreation too!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How much time is needed to crack the examination UPSC Civil Services?

Though it depends from aspirant to aspirant. However, one year is considered to be an ideal time if preparation is done with dedication and honesty. On average, 10-12 months are required to comprehensively prepare for this examination.

2. What are some essential things that need to be kept in mind while preparing for UPSC?

  • Follow a schedule
  • Understand the syllabus
  • Manage time effectively
  • Revise frequently
  • Avoid negative people
  • Build a habit that can refresh you

3. How to stay focused while preparing for the UPSC Civil Services examination?

Set out a plan because a plan will help you to manage your time. With the help of a plan, you can easily monitor your time and performance. Find out where are you distracted and then analyze what you can do to handle such things. Moreover, proper sleep nourished food, and regular breaks will add value to your preparation.

4. How to deal with stress while preparing for UPSC Civil Services examination?

Managing stress is crucial while preparing for an examination like UPSC prelims. Though you cannot avoid it still there are some ways in which it can be handled. For instance, make use of journaling and which is a document where you can write what you feel. This will help you out and let you know about your worries.

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