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IAS Books For UPSC Prelims & Mains Exam

In UPSC Civil Services preparation the most important aspect is what you read and understand rather than how many books you refer to. UPSC gives more importance to the analyzing ability and it basically checks how well a candidate has understood the concept. An aspirant who starts his preparation for IAS exams is confused by his peers and rumours that he has to read all the books out there in the market. This is the sole reason why many aspirants are unable to achieve their dream despite slogging for years.

Successful candidates have time and again stressed the quality rather than the quantity. They have followed limited study materials and took revision seriously rather than reading a new topic every day.

In this article, we will be discussing some essential books which will guide you through the exam. Aspirants should stick to them and have a thorough and clear understanding of the concepts. Once you are done with the essential books, revise them multiple times.

Where to Begin IAS Preparation?

IAS Preparation should always begin from NCERT school books. NCERT books are like the Bible for a UPSC aspirant. They give basic information in a lucid manner which anyone can understand. Further, UPSC asks the majority of questions from NCERT Textbooks directly or indirectly. Moreover, NCERT books are easily accessible to all aspirants.

List of NCERT Books Needed for UPSC Preparation

Below is a list of subject-wise books for UPSC preparation. Note that the books in bold are important for IAS Exam Preparation.

GS Paper-1 (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)

NCERT Books for Indian Heritage and Culture

  1. Class XI An Introduction to Indian Art
  2. Class XI Living Craft Traditions of India (Chapters 9 & 10)

NCERT Books for Indian History

  1. Class VI Our Past
  2. Class VII Our Past -I
  3. Class VIII Our Past II and III
  4. Class IX India and the Contemporary World I
  5. Class X India and the Contemporary World II
  6. Class XI Themes In World History
  7. Class XII Themes In Indian History I
  8. Class XII Themes in Indian History II
  9. Class XII Themes In Indian History III

NCERT Books for Geography

  1. Class VI The Earth Our Habitat
  2. Class VII Our Environment
  3. Class VIII Resource and Development
  4. Class IX Contemporary India I
  5. Class X Contemporary India II
  6. Class XI Fundamentals of Physical Geography
  7. Class XI India Physical Environment
  8. Class XII Fundamentals of Human Geography
  9. Class XII India People and Economy

NCERT Books on Indian Society

  1. Class VI Social Science: Social & Political Life I
  2. Class VII Social Science: Social & Political Life II
  3. Class VIII Social Science: Social & Political Life III
  4. Class XI Sociology: Understanding Society
  5. Class XII Indian Society
  6. Class XII Social Change and Development in India

GS Paper 2 (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

NCERT books for Polity, Governance and Constitution

  1. Class IX Political Science: Democratic Politics Part I
  2. Class X Political Science: Democratic Politics Part II
  3. Class XI Political Science: Indian Constitution at Work
  4. Class XI Political Science: Political Theory
  5. Class XII Political Science I: Contemporary World Politics
  6. Class XII Political Science II: Politics in India since Independence
Note: Detailed focus should be on Indian Polity and World Polity should be read later if time permits.

GS Paper 3 (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

NCERT Books for Science & Technology

  1. Science: NCERT Class VI
  2. Science: NCERT Class VII
  3. Science: NCERT Class VIII
  4. Science: NCERT Class IX
  5. Science: NCERT Class X
  6. Science: NCERT Class XI Chemistry: Unit 14 & Biology: Units 4 & 5
  7. Science: NCERT Class XII Chemistry: Unit 16 & Biology: Units 8, 9 & 10

NCERT Books for Economic Development

  1. Class IX Economics: Economics
  2. Class X Understanding Economic Development
  3. Class XI Indian Economic Development
  4. Class XII Introductory Microeconomics
  5. Class XII Introductory Macroeconomics

NCERT Books for Environment & Ecology

  1. Science: Class XII Biology: last four Chapters (13 to 16)

UPSC Book List

In the market, there are a lot of books for IAS preparation. It is not necessary to buy all the books showcased in the bookshop. Buy the relevant books for preparation and read those books repeatedly. Emphasis should be on revision and not be referring to a different material for the same subject.

IAS Books for Prelims Exam

Syllabus Books to be covered
Current events of national and international importanceNewspaper - Hindu/Indian ExpressIndia Yearbook - Publication DivisionYojana Magazine
History of India and Indian National Movement.New NCERT History Text books (6-12 class)Old NCERT Books Ancient India RS Sharma Medieval India Sathish Chandra Modern India Bipan ChandraA brief history of Modern India(Spectrum publications)
Indian Polity and Governance Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.Indian Polity (M.Laxmikanth)Introduction to the Constitution of India(D.D Basu)
Economic and Social Development Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etcClass 11 NCERT - Indian Economic DevelopmentClass 12 NCERT - Introductory MicroeconomicsClass 12 NCERT - Introductory MacroeconomicsIndian Economy(Ramesh Singh)
Indian and World Geography Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.Class 11 NCERT - Fundamental of Physical GeographyClass 11 NCERT - India Physical EnvironmentClass 12 NCERT - Fundamental of Human GeographyClass 12 NCERT - India People and EconomyCertificate Physical and Human Geography(Goh Cheng Leong)Oxford School Atlas / Orient Blackswan School Atlas
General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change that do not require subject specializationClass 12 NCERT Biology - Last four Chapters (Chapter 13 to 16)Shankar IAS Environment Booklet
General ScienceClass 9 and 10 Science NCERT booksHindu - Sunday Science and Technology PageScience Reporter Magazine

CSAT (Paper - II)

Syllabus Books to be covered
ComprehensionLogical reasoning and analytical abilityDecision-making and problem-solvingInterpersonal skills including communication skills CSAT Manual:General Studies for civil service preliminary Paper-2(TMH-Tata McGraw-Hill) The Pearson CSAT Manual
Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. Class X level).General mental ability.
Note: The CSAT exam is qualifying in nature. So practice is more important than anything else. So keep practising more.

UPSC Book List for Mains Examination

For Mains examination try to follow the same Prelims books for the General Studies subjects. These can be supplemented by few more books, those are recommended below.

Syllabus Paper Books
Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.General Studies Paper-IHistory: Art and Culture - Nitin SinghaniaIndia s Struggle for Independence(Bipin Chandra)India Since Independence(Bipin Chandra)GeographyWorld Geography - Majid HusainIndian SocietyClass 11 NCERT book - Introducing SociologyClass 12 NCERT Book - Understanding Society
Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relationsGeneral Studies Paper-IIIntroduction to the Constitution of India by DD BasuIndian Constitution - PM BakshiSecond ARC ReportsIndian Foreign Policy by Rajiv SikriMinistry of External Affairs Annual Reports
Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster ManagementGeneral Studies Paper-IIIBudget DocumentEconomic Survey of IndiaDisaster Management - Second ARC ReportSecurity - Ministry of Home affairs Annual Report
Ethics, Integrity, and AptitudeGeneral Studies Paper-IVLexicon For Ethics ,Integrity and Aptitude (civil service chronicle)

Kindly note that it is not necessary to read all the books from cover to cover. Apart from reading the NCERTs and a standard book thoroughly, you only need to consult the other books for reference purpose.

For example, suppose you read NCERT books on Indian Polity and then refer to 'Indian Polity' book by Laxmikant. Then you need not read 'Introduction to the Constitution of India' by D.D Basu from cover to cover. You only need to refer it for only those topics which were not mentioned in the Laxmikant book.

Same is the case with History and other subjects. Read only one standard book and then complement it with other reference books whenever required. Some toppers also recommend reading a book at least twice to gain a better understanding of the subject. Second time reading of the book will take lesser time compared to the first reading and it will also enrich your knowledge. The most important thing to prevent is overlapping of resources i.e. not to read the same topics from multiple books.

IAS Book List for Optional Subjects

The UPSC examination offers a wide range of optional subjects for the aspirants to choose from. In order to secure higher marks, it is important to carefully choose a suitable UPSC optional subject. The subject should be scoring and it helps if it has a small syllabus. The syllabus for the optional papers will be more than the bachelor s degree and lower than the master s level. Each optional subject for IAS comprises of two papers each of 250 marks, making it a total of 500 marks.

This is the complete list of UPSC Optional subjects for Civil Services main examination. You have to opt for any one subject.

  1. Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  2. Anthropology
  3. Botany
  4. Chemistry
  5. Civil Engineering
  6. Commerce and Accountancy
  7. Economics
  8. Electrical Engineering
  9. Geography
  10. Geology
  11. History
  12. Law
  13. Management
  14. Mathematics
  15. Mechanical Engineering
  16. Medical Science
  17. Philosophy
  18. Physics
  19. Political Science and International Relations
  20. Psychology
  21. Public Administration
  22. Sociology
  23. Statistics
  24. Zoology
  25. Literature of anyone the following language: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, English.
  26. Agriculture.

Tips Regarding How to Read Books

  • Always read from standard textbooks and NCERT books.
  • Don't read the same topics from different books.
  • Try to keep less number of books and read the maximum number of times.
  • Always keep a pointer in your hand while reading. It can be a pen, pencil or a marker. Underline the important words, paragraph or move your pointer through the paragraph. This will increase your focus and concentration.
  • While reading a lengthy text, it is not essential to read everything. Learn when and how to skim the important facts included in it. Look for bold headings and sub-headings. Look for highlighted text. This way you can get the gist and points to remember from your text. For instance, the author may have explained a concept from a funny analogy that is not required for the USPC syllabus.
  • Practice the habit of chunking. Chunking is a method to increase the number of words you see in an eye fixation. You read by moving your eye from one fixation to the next. So, keep your eyes at an appropriate distance from the book and try to expand your view. Incorporate more words per fixation and your reading speed will increase naturally. This will also come with practice.
  • Employ time bound reading technique. While you read, check how long you take to finish a particular portion. This way you can set time targets in your mind before starting any subject. For example, you can set a target that you will finish the Chapter in 1 hour. Otherwise, it so happens that you realise after whole day sitting that you could finish only one chapter.
  • Focus hard while reading. You can improve your focus by following a healthy lifestyle and including exercise/yoga/hobby in your daily schedule.
  • Develop a genuine interest in the subject which you are reading. By liking what you read, you can improve speed and concentration as well. Sometimes, it may happen that you may find the subject utterly boring. Then find alternative ways to develop interest like watching a video tutorial, or consulting your friends and teachers.
  • Develop a habit of note making, it will be useful for quick revision before the exam.
  • Reward yourself for finishing your targets and punish yourself for not finishing the target. The reward can be like that watching the new movie which released or giving an extra hour to your hobby. Similarly, punishment could be curbing television for one day. You can also develop your own rewards and punishment and share with us in the comments. It will help the other candidates also to develop their rewards and punishments.
All the Best!

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