IAS Preparation strategy, Book List and Complete guide for UPSC 2019/20/21 32

Civil Services exam, despite of being one of the most difficult and challenging exams in India, is the most aspired by the youth of our nation. The reasons are quite obvious! But, many even the well deserving candidates either leave it between during the preparation or sometimes, fail in the attempt. And the reason why it happens is because this exam demands genuine guidance from the file experts. Due to its vast syllabus, competition, the challenging 3 stages, and several myths associated, which makes it even more difficult for the candidates to prepare and succeed.

So this article is written solely with the purpose to provide a genuine guidance to the students on how to go about the preparation. The article will cover step by step guide, booklist and everything an aspirant must know to climb the ladder of success and join the league of IAS/IPS/IFS and other Civil Services.

Start by Reading Syllabus as the first step of IAS preparation strategy

It’s highly recommended to go through a complete syllabus of UPSC before starting on IAS preparation strategy. Reading your syllabus gives you a direction on ‘what’ and ‘how much’ you should read of a subject.

You must take a print out of your entire UPSC syllabus and paste it in a place where you could refer to, every day.

Analyze Previous Question Paper

Similar to reading the syllabus, analyzing previous year question papers gives you a direction and with it, an insight on the pattern of the UPSC Examination. You also get to know the type of questions UPSC asks under different sections.

It helps candidates in judging the difficulty level of the Examination, hence, providing them with an outlook of what they are getting into.

Be wise while picking your Optional

It’s of an immense importance to choose your optional wisely. You might be a victim of a continuous blabber from the unserious candidates about picking up a scoring optional. It is clearly a myth that an optional is a scoring or non-scoring. Contrarily to the previous statement, one must pick the optional in the entirety of his/her personal interest. Few things you must keep in mind;

  1. Every optional has an equivalent amount of syllabus with an exception of one or two.
  2. The trendiness of an optional like geography and Public administration must not interfere with your decision of picking it.
  3. Always get an advice or IAS preparation strategy from a trusted source; either someone who has cleared the exam or a faculty. In short, someone has sound knowledge about the exam and its criticality.

Make an Itinerary

  • Your entire journey must be divided into two sections; short-term plan and Long term plan.
  • You must fix your daily chores with a broader perspective of what you want to complete in that month and how many days should be allotted to what subject.
  • As an aspirant, you must know, for example, that geography is allotted for June, Governance in India is allotted to July, and likewise for the entire syllabus. It’s you who should be clear when and how much you should cover. And, after charting it down—religiously stick to it.
  • You should also consider failing various stages of UPSC and then accordingly adapting to the result under your itinerary plan.


  • There must be at least three to four rounds of revisions before you attempt your examination. Do not forget to add revision while making your IAS preparation Strategy
  • Prepare for Prelims and Mains simultaneously and figure out the overlapping parts to better formulate your strategy.
  • Before Prelims, complete a part of Mains. For e.g. – complete GS 1 and GS 4 or GS 2 and GS 3.
  • Solve Mock Papers and pick out your weak subjects accordingly, and work on them.

Extra Tips:

  • You should not separate yourself from the world. Preparing for UPSC is a back-breaking process; loneliness, anxiety, depression might hit you any time during the preparation—but not giving up is the key.
  • Even Some first timers feel this pressure, and for repeaters, it’s inevitable. But overcoming this pressure decides if you’ll ever succeed in life.

IAS Preparation Strategy – let’s begin with the first stage, Prelims

  • Prelims Examination is half Static and half Dynamic.
  • Static + Dynamic = 50/50
  • As Prelims is a test of your factual knowledge, revisions are important. You must revise all your course material at least thrice during your UPSC preparation.
  • Solving past year question papers and devising a paper solving strategy is advisable.
  • Candidates must attempt at least 80% of the questions.

UPSC Prelims preparation books:

Polity: M. Lakshmikanth

Geography: Class 6th to 12th NCERT, GC Leong, Oxford Atlas

Modern History: Spectrum, Class 12th Old NCERT

Ancient/Medieval: Past Year Papers, Old NCERTs

Environment: Class 12th Bio NCERT

Economics: Class 12th NCERT, Economic Survey

Art and Culture: NIOS Notes, Spectrum,  11th NCERT for Fine Arts

  • Along with Hindu Newspaper, students can refer Chanakya Civil Services today for Current affairs or be regular to Daily News Analysis from Chanakya IAS Academy
  • You can read current affairs from the Internet
  • Science and Tech is directly from current affairs, use the Internet.
  • For Culture, Science and Environment Ministry from PIB
  • Refer Oxford Atlas, Geography through Maps
  • Test Series for Prelims is a must
  • Past 15 Years Question Paper

IAS Preparation Strategy  – Mains

Mains Examination is 10 per cent static and 90 Dynamic.

Static + Dynamic = 10/90

Following are few tips for your Mains Exam Preparation;

  • As Mains is an analysis based examination, your answers must analyze the situation and show the contrast between the two sides of the topic.
  • As a candidate, you must acknowledge that Mains is all Current Affairs. For Mains, you must be thorough with your syllabus and all the terms in it. Also, you should practice answer writing for a better scoring.
  • Candidates must regularly practice writing answers and thinking about diverse topics and have a balanced approach.
  • Since the Mains Paper is subjective, your presentation must be commendable, practice that!
  • You must also indulge in discussions and debates with your peers and faculties to get new perspectives on several topics.

Writing Answers for Mains

  • Your writing should be legible and must have proper spacing.
  • The length of your answers neither should be too long or too short, keep them moderate–preferably 2.5 pages.
  • Give some variety in your answers in both length and format.
  • Whenever possible—use bullet points.
  • Attempt all the questions in the exam, except a few of which you do not even have a slight idea.
  • Since the examination is subjective; be careful to choose a middle path and focus on finding a solution instead of expressing an extremist opinion.
  • You must use a language that’s easily understandable. This doesn’t mean you cannot use big words to be rhetoric but, one must not get too vague for using a flowery language.
  • Do use diagrams and flowcharts wherever necessary.
  • Do not make your entire answer sheet in points—do give variety to the examiner. Always mix paragraphs and points.

UPSC preparation Books for Mains

GS 1 (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the world and Science)

Geography – NCERT 11th Class

Geophysical Phenomenon by Dr Khullar

PMF IAS Notes for Geography or GC Leong

History – Spectrum

Independence – Spectrum (Integration of Princely States), Bipin Chandra, NCERT 12th Class Political Science

World History – NCERT of 9th and 10th Class, Vision Notes

Sociology – NCERT of Sociology and Newspaper

Culture – Ancient Medieval History

It’s highly advisable to prepare of GS 1 with your Prelims portion

To get more IAS preparation book, click here

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

Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International Relations – Laxmikanth

Representation of People Act, Welfare Schemes – Current Affairs

Writing Practice – Build your answers from editorial analysis

Current Affairs – Newspaper and any standard booklet for Current Affairs

GS 3 (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

Economics, Inclusive Growth, Budget – Economic Survey, Budget Highlight

Science and Tech – Current Affairs is enough

Environment – NCERTs of 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th

Disaster Management – Dr Khullar

Other Booklets – Yojana, Kurukshetra, Science Reporter Magazine

Other Resources – InsightsonIndia, Vision Notes


GS 4 (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)

Emotional Intelligence, Probity of Governance, attitude, ethics – Lexicon or Subba Rao

Learn Real Life Examples

Essay: Writing Practice, Maintain the flow and theme throughout, Learn few generic quotes.

Do you any suggestions on the topic that can help other candidates? Comment below.


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