How much time is required to clear UPSC CSE Examination

UPSC Civil Service preparation needs more patience and hard work than any other competitive exam because the examination process itself can take almost one year covering three stages of Prelims, Mains and Interview. Most aspirants want to know how much time should be taken by them for UPSC preparation. They look into the forums and try to decipher as to how much time students, who cleared UPSC, took.

The syllabus of UPSC is ever-increasing making the time management tricky as never before. Sometimes, despite studying for 10-12 hours, candidates are unable to achieve their daily goals and suffer from depression and anxiety. It has often been said that a consolidated study of 16-18 hours per day is imperative to crack IAS Examination. Similarly, the misconception has also been not to get involved with any other thing in life to seriously prepare for the IAS Examination. However, preparing for IAS does not mean alienating and isolating oneself from the world. In fact, the preparation would not go smoothly by living life in isolation and by cutting down the leisure time. One must pursue his/her hobbies and interests wholeheartedly.

The question ‘How much time is required to prepare for IAS exam’ seems like a personal question. After all, the time taken to complete a certain task depends on the individual and his/her calibre. If you think you are faint-hearted, better start preparing for IAS soon – it makes you stone-hearted.

Generally, the time that is taken to prepare for UPSC exams is around 10 to 12 months. There have also been a number of candidates who have cleared the examination in 6 months and for some of the students, even 6 years have proven to be less.

As per UPSC eligibility criteria, UPSC instructs that candidates should have a minimum graduate level of educational qualification. Thus, candidates are eligible to write UPSC civil service exam either during their final year of graduation or after completion of graduation. Few aspirants start their civil service exam preparation during their initial college years. During their college days, they would have laid a strong foundation of all general studies subjects and read all NCERTs. Hence, for most of them, one year after graduation is more than enough to crack the UPSC exam.

Most of the aspirants start their intense IAS preparation only after completing their graduation. Students who begin their UPSC preparation after completion of graduation tend to take more time in understanding basic concepts and examination process. So, for them, it would take minimum 1-2 years of preparation to crack this UPSC exam.

There are many aspirants in India, who prepare for IAS exam while they are working. For them balancing work and preparing IAS exam is difficult but still, they manage their time to crack UPSC exam. The time period for working candidates varies depending upon dedicated time allocated for IAS preparation along with consistency.

The main factors that play an important role in time management during UPSC preparation are:

UPSC Syllabus


Candidates have to keep in mind that the syllabus of UPSC-CSE is vast. There are two sets of prelims papers. The subjects of prelims Paper I include the current events which are of both national as well as international importance, the Indian History along with the Indian National Movement, Indian Geography and World Geography, the Indian Polity, Environment and General Science.

The subjects of prelims Paper II include Comprehension, Interpersonal Skills, Analytical Ability, Logical Reasoning, Decision Making or Problem-Solving, General Mental Ability, and Basic Numeracy along with Data Interpretation. The Current Affairs part keeps on expanding.

 Check the UPSC syllabus here.

UPSC Exam Format

There are three stages in this exam with each stage eliminating a certain number of candidates. The three stages of the UPSC exam are:

  1. UPSC Prelims exam: Two objective papers (held in June).
  2. UPSC Mains exam: 9 descriptive papers (held in October).
  3. UPSC Personality Test: UPSC Board Interview.


The Competition

It is not an exaggeration to say that the competition in the civil services exam is intense and immense. Lakhs of aspirants take the IAS prelims exam every year. At the end of the journey, only about a thousand candidates make it to the final list of selected candidates. If you desire for the top-ranked services like the IAS and the IFS, the competition is even greater since you have to secure a pretty high rank for these services. The UPSC civil services exam is not an ordinary exam where you study hard for a month or two and get the result you want. You have to go the extra mile in order to trump your competition.


Regular Revision and Practice

When you consider the vastness of the IAS syllabus, you would probably be worried about retaining all that you read during the course of the exam. This is why revision becomes highly important for the UPSC exam. Only regular revision ensures that you recall at least 85% of all that you study. Apart from regular revision, you need to practice mock tests. Taking mock tests will give you a feel of the exam and help you gain speed and improve your writing skills.


Quality not Quantity

It is not the quantity of time, but the efficacy and quality of time which matter the most.  An aspirant must not study just for the sake of studying and calculating the duration. Ideally, an aspirant should study for 9-10 hours around the year with intensifying it to up to 12 hours prior to a month of the examination. However, the more important thing is to maintain consistency. Even if an aspirant studies for 5-6 hours daily, he/she must do the same throughout the year, with extreme discipline and commitment.



Taking out some time for relaxation and entertainment go a long way in ensuring non-monotonicity while preparing for the examination. These are some of the vital components to support a candidate’s organised and steady study, failing which a candidate may succumb to the pressure and hard effort.

In UPSC Civil Service exam preparation, one cannot fix the standard time limit for Preparation. There are many examples of aspirants who cracked UPSC exam in their very first attempt and also students who cracked in his/her last attempt.

If the student is completely dedicated and hardworking in the UPSC IAS preparation, then the time limit is not a matter at all, candidates won’t spend time worrying about the irrelevant matter, they will only target on getting their name listed in the FINAL merit list of UPSC recommendation.

We hope, your name also appears in that list in coming years.

All the best!!!


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