How To Prepare For UPSC Prelims And Mains Together Like An Absolute Pro!

how to prepare for upsc prelims and mains together

UPSC Civil Services Examination is conducted in three different stages – prelims examination, mains examination, and personal interview.

The big dilemma that aspirants usually face while preparing for IAS Exam is how to be prepared for all three stages, especially, whether to prepare for UPSC Civil Services Exam Prelims and Mains together or separately.

Prelims are just a qualifying exam and UPSC Mains is for testing your conceptual clarity and has a weightage in the whole Civil services examination.

So the question of how to prepare for UPSC prelims and mains together is a genuine one.

It’s not easy to clear mains in a shorter period of time, unlike prelims. However, it’s also a fact that Prelims and Mains exams although have different approaches but the same foundation. The whole UPSC CSE is a journey in itself and every stage has its own importance.

This article talks about how to prepare for UPSC prelims and mains together.

The Integrated Approach For UPSC Prelims And Mains

“It’s all about your approach,” says Yogesh Ashok Rao Patil (CSE-AIR-63-2019).

He further says that “If you see the syllabus, the subjects are similar. Just you have to twist the preparation. Once you are done with prelims, you just have to twist the preparation according to mains.”

The integrated approach for UPSC Civil Services Exam is all about molding yourself according to the given situation and examination pattern.

The subjects are similar, but the approach and pattern are different.

UPSC Prelims demands objectivity which contains facts, figures, and data. Whereas IAS Mains requires your subjective capacity i.e., critical thinking and the capacity to analyze things with a perspective aided by different facts and figures.

Broadly the same syllabus with a different approach. Both seem quite different which is why many aspirants wonder how to prepare for UPSC prelims and mains together.

Some Key Points Regarding The Integrated Approach Of IAS Prelims And Mains

  1. Understanding the area of the UPSC 2022 Syllabus which overlaps both Prelims and Mains.

  2. UPSC CSE Mains is the universal set and prelims is the subset of it. Therefore, a one-time preparation with planning covers almost all of the syllabus.

    Here, is an example of questions from prelims and mains respectively. Both the questions are from Polity and Governance area with a similar outline. If you can strengthen your base of Governance and Indian Polity then you are going to answer the Mains part also. This will help clear some of your doubts about how to prepare for UPSC prelims and mains together.
With reference to the Constitution of India, consider the following statements:

a. No High Court shall have the jurisdiction to declare any central law to be constitutionally invalid.

b. An amendment to the Constitution of India cannot be called into question by the Supreme Court of India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?  (UPSC CSE PRELIMS, 2019)
The High courts of the state have equivalent jurisdiction with the Supreme court in most of the cases. Comment. (UPSC CSE MAINS)
  • Data grasped during the integrated preparation of Prelims and Mains can be used to substantiate answers in the essay-type question paper for the UPSC Civil Services Examination.

    For example- if there is a question about Drought then it becomes mandatory to use facts, figures, and data related to droughts while doing the analysis of the situation of Drought in India.

You can find these kinds of questions in the UPSC Civil Services Exam so now you might have some clarity on how to prepare for UPSC prelims and mains together.

What Are The Needs For Integrated Prelims And Mains Exams Preparation?

There are several topics in the IAS Prelims and Mains sections which overlap, with the Mains section being more in-depth. That is, by preparing for one, you can prepare for the other.

The topics covered are similar. What makes it different is the pattern of questions in the question paper. This section will help you clarify how to prepare for UPSC prelims and mains together.

  1. UPSC Prelims phase focuses on your understanding of the concept while the UPSC Mains exam focuses on the analysis of the concept. UPSC Mains phase is subjective, so it focuses on analysis and current affairs.

  2. Aside from overlapping, the subjects are also inter-linked. It necessitates even more integrated planning.

  3. By studying all of the topics concurrently, you will gain a better understanding and be able to provide a more comprehensive response to questions. That is your key to a higher score.

  4. The main reason for combining prelims and mains preparation is time constraints. The time difference between the Prelims and Mains stage is minimal. You don’t have enough time to learn new things. You have no choice but to revise.

  5. An integrated approach ensures that you have a solid foundation for all Mains topics as well as for the optional subject. So, after the preliminary exams, all you have to do is go over the topics again and practice as much as you can.

Here we discussed the need of having an integrated approach. The next section shows what subjects overlap in UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam.

Overlapping Areas Of Subjects In UPSC CSE Prelims And Mains Syllabus

Indian and World GeographyGS PAPER-1
History of India and the Indian National MovementGS PAPER 1
Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Panchayati Raj, Rights Issues, etc.GS PAPER 2
Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Inclusion, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.GS PAPER- 1,2 & 3
Current Events of National and International ImportanceGS PAPER- 1,2 & 3
General Issues on Environmental ecology, biodiversity, and climate changeGS PAPER- 1 & 3
Science & TechnologyGS PAPER- 3
Overlapping Areas of Subjects Between Prelims and Mains

Let us now move on to how to prepare for UPSC Prelims and Mains together using the integrated approach.

Integrated Approach For UPSC Prelims And Mains Preparation

Management Of Topics

UPSC CSE Syllabus is vast. Therefore, for an integrated preparation you need to break down the entire syllabus into micro-levels while managing your time.

After that, creating connections between different topics will help to grasp the complete curriculum.

If each micro-level is represented by a dot, the next step is to connect those dots and comprehend how they are related.

This is significant because good answers are those that understand how one topic is related to others.

Examine previous years’ question papers to learn how to make connections between subjects. For example- The economic topic of poverty is linked to the social topic of population.

Building A Strong Conceptual Base

“What the eye doesn’t see and the mind doesn’t know, doesn’t exist”

-DH Lawrence

We can easily interpret from this quote that without having a sound base, we can’t further comprehend.

Studying for UPSC CSE Prelims lets you create a base through which you can easily contemplate the questions given for the Essay section and UPSC CSE Mains section.

A preliminary exam gives you a vision, and with that vision, you can create a masterpiece in Mains. You’ll excel in the exam if you develop a strong conceptual foundation in each subject.

When using an integrated approach, try to delve deeply into each topic and comprehend it from every possible angle.

Choosing A Practical And Analytical Approach

Trends from several years show that the Civil services exam questions are neither direct from the books nor straightforward because being an IAS officer demands analyzing situations and devising practical solutions.

So, when studying for the Preliminary exam or Mains, go beyond theory.

Recognize how that information can be used practically. You will be able to answer any question during the Prelims and Mains phases if you do this.

Basic theoretical knowledge is useful, but rather than just understanding the “what,” study a topic with the “why” and “how” in mind because analyzing any given situation with the facts and figures is the key requirement in the UPSC CSE.

Improving Your Writing Skills

The final step in the integrated prelims and mains preparation of UPSC CSE is to form a solid answer writing practice. Improve your ability to respond in a focused manner.

You should be able to answer all of the sub-questions and provide facts or case studies to back up your answers.

If you need help in creating micro-plans and strategizing a study plan, consider the Examarly app which is built to help you with such situations!


We have to understand that UPSC CSE is a tough exam. It is an exam that eats a whole year for one attempt.

So considering this fact, it is important to have an integrated approach while in the preparation phase. We provided every step in this article to build an integrated preparation strategy.

We hope, by the means of this article, you got to know how to prepare for UPSC prelims and mains together. Wishing you all the best in your journey to success.

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