How Much Time Does it Take to Prepare for the UPSC IAS Exam?

The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is a dream job for millions of Indians. Who wouldn’t want to work in the world’s greatest bureaucratic network? More than 10 lakh aspirants apply for the exam every year, yet just a thousand get hired. The most common dilemma all the aspirants have is how much time is sufficient to prepare for the most coveted exam in the country, the Union Public Service Commission’s Civil Services Exam? 

The IAS is considered the toughest, as the exam process itself lasts over a year and consists of three stages: Prelims, Mains and Interviews. In addition to that, the IAS Syllabus is huge and covers almost everything under the sun. Thus, it is usually recommended that one needs 10-12 months of preparation to cover the syllabus comprehensively and understand the exam process. In this article, we attempt to address this pertinent question by taking into account the numerous aspects that influence UPSC test preparation.

Is One Year Sufficient for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation?

One year before prelims and one year during the examination process are more than enough time to prepare for the IAS exam. Having said that, it is important to recognise that the time required to prepare for the test varies based on personal motivation, devotion, time availability, reading comprehension, aptitude and other factors. The common factors that play an important role in the time management for the preparation for the IAS exam are as follows:

  1. Exam format: The exam process is long drawn and lasts a year. It is important to understand that the exam is divided into 3 stages, Prelims, Mains and Interviews and from the date of the Prelims exam to the results of the interview, it takes almost a year. 
  • UPSC Prelims exam consists of two objective papers (June).
  • UPSC Mains exam consists of nine descriptive papers (October).
  • UPSC Board Interview/UPSC Personality Test (April).
  1. Syllabus: The UPSC syllabus is as wide as the ocean. It covers a wide range of topics. Furthermore, the curriculum’s current affairs section ensures that the syllabus remains dynamic.
  • UPSC Prelims consists of 2 Papers: GS Paper 1 and CSAT Paper 2. Paper 1 includes polity, economy, international relations, history, geography, science, security and current affairs, while Paper 2 covers reasoning, quantitative aptitude and English comprehension.
  • UPSC Mains has a total of 9 papers
    • GS 1- History, geography and society
    • GS 2- Polity and international relations
    • GS 3- Economics, security, disaster management and science & technology
    • GS 4- Ethics and integrity
    • 2 Language papers which are qualifying in nature.
    • Essay paper
    • 2 Optional papers
  • UPSC Interview: The interview is to test the candidate’s interpersonal skills and understanding of the current issues. 
  1. Revision and practice: Due to the vastness of the IAS syllabus, aspirants are usually concerned about remembering all they read throughout the year. As a result, revision is critical for the UPSC exam. Only regular revision assures one to remember at least 85% of what they study. In addition to regular revision, taking mock tests is also important. Taking practice exams will help aspirants get a feel for the exam, acquire speed and enhance their writing abilities.
  2. Level of competition: The competition for the Civil Services Exam is fierce and massive. Every year, lakhs of applicants sit for the IAS prelims exam. Only approximately a thousand candidates make it to the final list of selected candidates at the conclusion of the journey. If one wants top-ranked services like the IAS and the IFS, the competition is considerably tougher because these services require a high rank. The UPSC Civil Services Exam is not like any other exam, where preparing hard for a month or two is enough to receive the desired result. To outperform the competitors, including some graduates from prestigious universities such as the IITs and IIMs, one must go above and beyond.

As one can see, there is a lot to complete when preparing for the IAS exam. Inevitably, it takes at least 10-12 months for people to thoroughly study for this difficult exam. However, there have been people who would have completed the task in six months. And, sadly, for many, even six years has been insufficient. A variety of things come into play for an exam of this sort. The amount of time required to study for the IAS Exam would be determined by the strength of the internal forces. Sincerity, devotion, commitment, and endurance are examples of internal forces. Needless to say, these variables vary from person to person. 

So, to address the question posed at the start of the article, ‘How much time does it take to prepare for the UPSC IAS Exam,’ it is reasonable to say that the time is entirely dependent on the candidate’s internal motivation along with some external factors. Some people take four years to pass the exam, while others pass it in less than one year.