Saturday, July 5, 2014

How I did It- Book list for Prelims and Some Suggestions

Hello friends!

I am sharing below what I did for clearing the Prelims in 2012 and 2013. I believe it should not be difficult for sincere candidates to clear the Prelims but at the same time this stage should NOT be taken lightly!

I began serious preparation for GS in Nov 2011. Devoted about 2 months exclusively for prelims in my first attempt and 15 days in my second attempt. I did not join any test series for prelims but used to solve question papers of ‘reputed’ test series after buying them from the bookshops in Rajinder Nagar.

For Prelims 2014: With about 1.5 months left for Prelims 2014, my advice to candidates would be to focus on ‘conventional’ areas like Polity, history, Geography, Govt. Schemes and Economics. The relationship between inputs and outputs is pretty linear here. More hard work means more marks in these subjects. Don’t spend too much time on ‘unconventional’ topics like Science and Technology and Environment which can prove to be a wild goose chase. These areas can’t be prepared in a short span of time.

My score in 2013 was-Paper 1: 136 and Paper 2: 162.

CAUTION: the book list is not exhaustive!!! These are the things which I read!




1.     Spectrum’s modern India
2.     Sriram’s class notes (not good enough though!)
3.     NCERT- modern India, ancient India(selected chapters) , medieval India(selected chapters)
4.     ALS wizard’s history book (can read if you have lots of time)


1.     For ancient and medieval India, focus only on the cultural and economic aspects. Political aspect eg. Who killed whom is never asked.
2.     Indus valley and Aryan civilization, Jainism and Buddhism are imp. topics for ancient India. Try to know few terms associated with Buddhism.
3.     Modern India obviously has to be studied in GREAT detail



1)    documents compiled by GK today/ vision IAS
2)    SUMMARY of India Yearbook (vishal publication)- Please don’t read the whole (unabridged version) of India Yearbook as it’s a complete waste of time.


1)    Know in greater detail about the flagship schemes and those schemes which were in news



1)    Book of ALS on culture (selected chapters)
2)    NCERT Ancient Indian history and Medieval history(selected chapters)
3)    Websites


1)    Classical dances, architecture, paintings, dance-dramas ex. Yakshgana etc are important
2)    Generally folk dances/songs etc are not asked. Focus on classical stuff.



1)    NCERT- 11th and 12th
2)    NCERT -6th to 10th (did nt read myself but should be good)
3)    G C leong – selected chapters


1)    It was one of my optionals in the last attempt and I have read Geo in great detail from other books too. Don’t know whether the above sources shall suffice. Please consult someone who prepared Geo only for GS purpose.
2)    Spend some time with the atlas.

ENVIRONMENT - A Tough Area To Prepare


1)    The best way to prepare is to religiously follow the current affairs and to go through the coaching notes of any 2 ‘reputed’ coaching institutes. Questions in Prelims can be quite tough and random but the good thing is that in mains questions usually emanate from current affairs.
2) Modules by GK today on a) Biodiversity and b)Environment were quite good.
3)    People read some textbook by UGC. I have n’t.
4)    My geography preparation helped a lot
5)    Websites(for long term prep):


1)    UPSC is giving great importance this section and rightfully so! It’s bit difficult to prepare too as we do not have a single consolidated source.
2)    Know about main endangered species of India-their habitat etc, climate change, conservation efforts(national parks, biosphere reserves), environmental acts etc in great detail.
3)    Cant be prepared in one day and requires a long term approach. I used to randomly search on the Wikipedia portal on environment. Not advisable though as its a waste of time.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – Another Tough Area To Prepare

Well, Even though I am an Engineer (who did his Engineering well!), I still find this area toughest to score. So apart from following the news and reading notes of couple of ‘reputed’ coaching institutes, nothing much can be done.


1)    The Hindu news items
2)    Vision IAS study material on conventional topics. Please DO NOT waste time reading books of ALS wizard and TMH on SnT. 
3)    Long term strategy (which I could nt follow :P): You may subscribe to newsfeed from popular science news websites like, etc. Just read 2 articles per day!


1)    Very difficult to prepare as again there is no particular source
2)    I am from Chemical Engg background so I had a lot of background knowledge. Others (from non technical background or otherwise) should consider revising science text books from class 6 to Class 10th I guess.
3)    Don’t spend too much time here as efforts are not proportional to marks. Aim should be to score average marks.



1)    Sriram’s notes
2)    NCERT  Class 11th – Macroeconomics
3)    Budget and boxed items of economic survey


1)    Almost all questions asked are current affairs based
2)    International bodies like IMF, WTO are imp topics
3)    Important to understand the concepts. Mugging of data is not required as such
4)    My approach in the first attempt was to google search every term I used to come across and collect it in a word doc. For ex. If you come across the term ‘GDP’ and don’t know about it, search it and make a compilation of such terms



1)    Sriram’s Polity notes ONLY. Did not read Laxmikanth but you may.


1)    Keep a track of topics in news. For ex. Death penalty has been a hot topic for some time now. Know about such topics inside out
2)    Very very important part of GS Prelims. Its very scoring too as efforts are directly proportional to results in this section


1)    I read only ‘The Hindu’.   More on newspaper reading on a separate post. Covering Newspapers from 5/6 months before prelims should suffice.
2)    Could not read Yojana, Kurukshetra- but I recommend reading them
3)    Current affair Notes of Vision IAS, Sriram and Vajiram
4)    Could not read frontline and any other magazine and no need for the same.
5)    These days not many questions in prelims come directly from current affairs but needless to say that questions from economics etc will emanate from news


Hmm.. I did not prepare much for this paper as I was confident of performing well. So I don’t have much idea as to how one should go about this.
Solve the previous 3-4 years papers. If you score an average of say (figures for general category, adjust accordingly)

1)    >160: All seems to be well. Just practise 2-3 papers to get an idea of time management. There is no need of any coaching etc. Don’t waste your time on paper 2-you will do well.

2)    120-160: Practise little more. You are in the safe zone but keep practising. I always prefer accuracy over speed. Try not to attempt too many questions rather attempt every question well. I always find mathematics portion very easy so one might consider solving the comprehensions first which are quite demanding or vice versa depending upon one’s comfort level with maths and English comprehension

3)     Less than 120:  you may consider joining some test series/coaching classes for regular practise and brushing up of concepts. Also work much harder on paper


1)    Guessing Policy: I used to make a guess if only 2 options remained to be chosen.
2)    Try to be inquisitive. Whenever you come across some term or something you don’t know about, try to look up on the internet!
3)    It’s not important to just clear the prelims but one should clear it with a big margin. One needs to be sure of clearing the Prelims the day he/she writes the exam. Otherwise crucial 1.5-2 months are wasted in eager anticipation of the result.

If I have not covered something you wanted to know, Please ask questions in the comments section


  1. Hi Prabhav Sir...though my question is little out of context with this post, yet it'll be helpful if you could please answer. You have mentioned that in your previous attempt even before prelims you had prepared geography in great detail. Were your both optionals prepared even before writing prelims? Since this time, though my preparation for prelims is on track, I still have about 60% of my Pub Ad syllabus left. I just need to get an idea about when people are generally done with their optionals.

    Thank you !

  2. thanks a lot for notes & suggestions bhaiya,,, very much crucial....

  3. Kindly mention GC Leong important chapters

  4. @Mandark: You should target to finish off remaining portion of Pub ad within one month from Prelims. No my optionals were not prepared to my satisfaction before prelims.

  5. @Prateek: Yaar I do not have the book with me now. Please read the chapters detailing the climatic regimes and other ones which you feel are important

  6. Thank you for the guidance sir... It is of great help.

  7. Thank u so much sir

  8. Sir are you planning to post the book list/sources you followed for Mains. It be better if you post it topic wise. Thanks a lot

  9. Thank you. pl guide me, how to get more than 180 in Paper-II and >130-150 in paper-I. I am more confused.