The advantage of joining a coaching centre for the preparation of civil services examination is that it provides you with proper guidance as well as sufficient study material. However, it is you who has to do all the hard work. You may have to put in a little extra effort to make up for the lack of proper guidance, but is quite possible to prepare for IAS Exam without coaching.
A thorough knowledge of the syllabus and the examination pattern is a must. It is also important to keep track of the changes made by UPSC from time to time. Next comes finding the right study material. There are ample sources for you to refer to. A number of aspirants prefer starting their preparation with NCERT books as it helps them strengthen their basic understanding of the subjects.
Reading newspaper should be an important part of your day. However, it will take a little more than that to keep yourself updated about the events taking place at national as well as international levels. Use the internet! There are a number of websites out there which can be great sources to refer to when preparing for IAS Examination. You may also subscribe to magazines like Frontline, The Economist and India Today, to name a few. Also, visit official government websites in order to keep yourself updated about the policies introduced by the government. Solving question papers of previous years can also be of great help.
A number of civil service aspirants say that they devote at least 8 -10 hours a day in order to prepare for IAS examination. Start your preparation well in advance. Stick to your schedule and make sure you take care of your health and get proper sleep. All the best.