I will share my story and the strategy that I followed to clear the coveted Civil Services Exam in the first attempt.
First of all, let me tell you a bit about myself. Civil services was never childhood dream. I did not start preparing from my school days and if anyone tells you that you need to start preparing from 8th standard, it is a myth and do not take them at face value.
I did my B.Tech from College of Engineering, Trivandrum in Kerala. After graduating in 2015 I was working with ITC Limited, as a mechanical engineer. It was during my stint at ITC that I decided to prepare. So, I put in my papers in the June of 2016 and started preparing from July 2016.
Term of preparation:- I started my preps from July 2016 and wrote Prelims in June 2017. So that is a total of 11 months of focused preparation before appearing for CSE 2011.
So let me now come to the topic of how to crack civil services in the first attempt.
These are some prerequisites that anyone should have before starting their preparation.
Should one attend a coaching class to clear Civil Service Exam?
This is perhaps the first decision any civil service aspirant will have to make before starting your preparation. Now this is highly subjective. Given the huge amount of online content that is available now-a-days it is perfectly possible to clear the CSE without joining any coaching institute.
But I had enrolled at a coaching centre in Kerala. I did so because, at the start of my preparation I had absolutely no idea about the exam or how to prepare for the same. So for me some amount of guidance and handholding was necessary for me.
Now I should add a word of caution here. Even if a candidate decides to join some coaching class there is only so much classes can do (at best say 20–30% of the work might get done in a classroom), it will entirely depend on how much effort that you put in that will decide your result.
What books should I read?
This is again a very subjective topic and there is not a single comprehensive book list that will help you clear this exam.
NCERT Text books of history, geography, economics and polity from class Vi to XII are a must read in my opinion. Reading these books will help you cover and basics and create a strong foundation which you can supplement with your further reading. Personally almost 60% of my knowledge base for the static subjects come from NCERT text books.