The Secret to clear UPSC Prelims: RRR strategy

3R stands for Read, Revise and Repeat.


Reading is the basic and first level of preparation in any exam. So it is even more true for the UPSC examination. It is at this point that many students want to search for shortcuts and read less. Please don’t fall for all the “advertisements” that are flooded in the coaching industry about shortcuts.

Tell it aloud to yourself that it takes hard work to clear this exam and I am ready to grind and work like hell until I see my name in the final list, the holy pdf as many call it.  Why telling it aloud is important is because you are preparing your mind to put it through hard times and now the mind will ask you to search for short cuts but will try to prepare itself for long hours of studying.

So once you have made up your mind to work hard, the next important thing is to plan your studies smartly. Mind you, your hard work and smart work should overlap and should not be seen as mutually exclusive. So how to make a smart plan. Let me help you! If you consider the following three subjects such as Polity, Economy and  Environment. In the last 3 years, these three subjects together yield more than 45 questions in prelims. So it’s plain and simple that if you want to have any chance of clearing prelims you should be very proficient in these subjects.

The other two subjects are Modern India and Geography (Including both static and Places in News). These two will easily together fetch another 25 questions.

So do the simple math 
45+25=60 questions

Just by studying these five subjects, you can answer 60 questions. This itself will help you clear prelims single handedly. But the students don’t like simplicity. They want to complicate their preparation by running after different materials, trying to master current affairs and what not. I remember that this situation of the students can be aptly summarized by a quote “Simplicity is the Ultimate sophistication”. Trying my bit in humor 🙂

So it is a sincere and humble request to all students to make sure you are a master in the above five subjects mentioned. So the next question is about the reference of material to these above-mentioned five subjects. Here is my advice

(Only one source is enough. Repeat the same source 10 times instead of reading 10 different sources)

Top Priority Subjects NCERTAdvance Book
1. Polity1. Constitution at work 
2. Political Theory
2. Economy 1. Macroeconomics Any one source of your choice that you feel is good.
3. Modern India6-10th NCERT(It will have ancient and Medieval concepts – But it is a good read)Spectrum
4. Environment 12th Biology – Only the 4 chapters of Environment and Ecology[Make a list of topics from last 7 years of UPSC environment questions – these are selected topics that you study from any source of your choice]

For example: Climate Change or Corals are repeatedly asked so they become your topics to read from any source.
5 Geography 6-10th standard
World Physical Geography 
Indian Physical Geography
India, Economy and People
Climatology concepts and World Mapping from any source and anyone Youtube channel respectively. 

[Dynamic aspects of World mapping – pick it from any magazine that published “Places in News” for an entire year
Pillars of Prelims

These five subjects are your core/pillars to success. Without mastering them, do not jump to other subjects or current affairs.

Finally you cannot skip other subjects as well. Once the top priority subjects are done i.e. the five subjects mentioned above, then read the rest of the subjects. My reference to these subjects would be:

Subjects NCERTAdvance Book 
Ancient and Medieval 6-10th NCERT Tamil Nadu History book or [Any one source of your choice that you feel is good]
Art and Culture An Introduction to India Art Just Study these themes:Architecture, Paintings, Music, Dance, Buddhism and Jainism and Cultural developments in Medieval India.
Science and Technology8th and 9th NCERTQuestions on recent technologies are asked. For that, read any ONE current affairs magazine. [All recent technologies in the last one year]
International Institutions and World Affairs N/AInternational Institutions such as SCO, UN etc. can be read from any institute magazine.
World affairs like Yemen, earthquake in Syria and Turkey can be read while studying current affairs.

Now comes the favorite topic of “How to study current affairs?” The advice here is before reading current affairs, know its importance. 15 questions come from current affairs, even if a person has sincerely done current affairs everyday for 365 days, it is difficult for that person to answer more than 10 questions. So putting effort on such sections which gives us very less returns is useless.

So Should you not read current affairs? NO! Definitely you should read it. Skipping any subject or current affairs completely and outrightly is not advisable. So our advice for current affairs is, two months before prelims, the entire coaching industry will flood the market with yearly compilations of current affairs. Take up one and mind you, only one source and read that yearly compilation as many times as possible. With this strategy, you may score close to 7 out of 15 questions.


Many students start solving multiple choice questions (MCQs) in the beginning itself. Or several coaching “experts” will tell you to solve 50-100 questions daily. This is not an effective strategy. The reason is, after solving you will not know which are your strong areas and which are weaker areas. All the areas will look weaker because you have not revised but directly jumped into solving questions. Please avoid it!

READING is a must.
REVISION must follow. 
SOLVING should shadow your REVISION

Revision is done in two ways, books and question paper.  First revisit the same source that you read initially to understand the subject. For instance let’s say the subject is polity, then revise Lakshmikanth. Don’t do any other source but only the source that you initially chose to do. Also integrate the current affairs of polity. For instance, Polity PT365.  After revising Polity, then take a test. Mind you, solving a test right after a revision is very important. After solving, analyse the mistakesyou have made so identify which topics are your strong areas and which are your weak areas. Like this for every subject. Revise the subject and take the test for all subjects. 

Once all subjects are done vis-à-vis revising and taking tests. Then comes the last level of your preparation, i.e. Repetition. 


This is the most fun part of preparation. But many students either will not reach this stage or will look at repetitions as boring. It is not true. Repetitions make you understand the subjects with more clarity and also teaches you to apply the concepts you have read in the exam. So this is a crucial and quintessential step in your preparation.

What is repeat? Repeat involves Revising a topic and taking MCQs. The motto is “Revise Fast and Solve Faster”. The more times you follow this “Revise Fast and Solve Faster”, the greater the chances of you clearing.  REPEAT the process till the last but one day of the exam.

The penultimate day [the day before the exam], just relax and just appreciate your mind and the body for all the work they have done. Carry this gratitude along with your confidence for the exam. You will be invincible!!

IASUNIVERSE believes in you!!

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