Booklist for Prelims

Note: My book, Fundamentals of Essay and Answer Writing is available now. It’s a comprehensive guide that helps you write better Essays and Answers in the UPSC Mains Exam. You can know about the book here.

In this article, we will go through my booklist for Civil Services Exam (Prelims). I’ve written this post keeping in mind an absolute beginner aspirant who is starting from level zero.

As you start your Prelims preparation and read these books, please keep the following points in mind:

  1. Along with these books, get a printout of the syllabus and read it carefully.
  2. And when you start, I recommend that you begin with NCERT books. Read and revise them methodically to gain absolute conceptual clarity. They form the foundation of your knowledge which will help you immensely through all stages of the exam.
  3. Do not be scared at the long list of books. For a beginner, one year is more than enough to cover the complete syllabus of GS (prelims and mains) and optional.
  4. In the book list, wherever I had mentioned selective reading, it means there’s no need to read the book cover to cover. Go through the past five years’ question papers to understand the kind of questions UPSC usually asks. It’ll give you a good perspective of what’s important and what’s not.
  5. For the same topic, do not refer to more than one material. For example, take India’s freedom struggle (1857-1947). If you read that portion from the Spectrum publications, there’s no need to do the same again from Bipan Chandra’s book. Read the latter to cover those parts not covered in the former.
  6. Use internet extensively. Let me give a few examples. Youtube’s PMFIAS channel is an excellent resource for understanding complex Geography topics. Similarly, for Art & Culture, I used to watch videos of classical dances, folk dances, puppetry shows on Youtube so that I could memorise their features better. In Science & Tech, if you come across a term, say, Blockchain Technology, go to Youtube and see explainer videos. Even for Environment, suppose you read about endangered species such as the Red Panda and Malabar Hornbill, Google them and see how they look. Visuals stick in your mind far longer. Your target must be to gain knowledge, be it through books or through internet.
  7. If you are taking coaching, by all means read their notes. But please keep in mind that you cannot just read those coaching notes and neglect these standard books. For example, take Polity topic. A coaching institute’s notes will never cover the complete subject, only Laxmikanth does. So even if you refer to your coaching notes, you still have to read Laxmikanth and know it like the back of your hand. This principle applies for all subjects.
  8. For all subjects, you have to superimpose current affairs over it. To illustrate, in Polity topic, apart from reading the static theory portion, you need to keep an eye on current happenings. For example, if the Govt brings in Constitutional amendment for GST, you must read both about the major provisions of the amendment and the Constitutional amendment procedure itself. Do this for all subjects.
  9. To perform well in Prelims, revision is crucial. Without it, you will not be able to recollect whatever you may have read. So please dedicate adequate time for revision before the actual exam.
  10. Just because I am AIR-1, it does not mean that this book list is the last word. If you have been studying some other material, that’s fine, too. To succeed in this exam, the source of material is not important. What’s important is you to understand the concepts, memorise the facts well and have a firm grip over the entire syllabus.

Anudeep Book list for UPSC Prelims Exam

The Complete Booklist for UPSC Civil Services – Prelims Exam (Paper I)


  1. Indian Polity by Laxmikanth


  1. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  2. articles
  3. Macroeconomics – NCERT Class XII
  4. Indian Economic Development – NCERT Class XI
  5. Economic Survey (Selective reading from Prelims perspective)
  6. The Hindu
  7. Internet for understanding concepts (Arthapedia, Google, Youtube)

Ancient History of India

  1. Old NCERT by RS Sharma

Medieval History of India

  1. Old NCERT by Satish Chandra (Selective Reading)

Modern History

  1. A Brief history of Modern India- Spectrum Publications
  2. India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra (Selective Reading)
  3. NCERT by Bipan Chandra (For the period 1700s to 1857)

Indian Art and Culture

  1. An Introduction to Indian Art – Class XI NCERT
  2. Chapters related to culture in Ancient and Medieval India NCERTs
  3. Centre for Cultural Resource and Training (CCRT) material
  4. Heritage Crafts: Living Craft Traditions of India -NCERT

Environment and Biodiversity

  1. Shankar IAS book

General Science

  1. General Science books – IX and X standard
  2. The Hindu (Note down and read about the latest scientific terms, discoveries and inventions frequently mentioned in news)
  3. Google and YouTube


  1. Fundamentals of Physical Geography XI NCERT
  2. India: Physical Environment XI NCERT
  3. Fundamentals of Human Geography XII NCERT
  4. India: People and Economy XII NCERT
  5. Certificate Physical and Human Geography: GC Leong
  6. PMFIAS (Excellent resource for understanding complex topics)
  7. Google and YouTube

Govt Schemes  

  1. Govt schemes compilation by the website Civils Daily

General Trivia (Eg: Global groupings, Reports, Institutions, Rankings etc)

  1. Any coaching material
  2. Google

Current Affairs

  1. The Hindu
  2. Civils Daily
  3. ForumIAS

Mindset to tackle the UPSC Prelims Exam

Ten days before the Prelims is usually the time when your mind is rather restless and clouded in self-doubt. Even though you must have prepared thoroughly for the exam, covering all the sources, Some of you are worried that you haven’t yet finished a particular topic, some others are stressed whether they will make the final cut for Mains. Remember that it’s okay to be a little nervous at this point and that it happens to everyone. I was no different, too.

From my experience, I have distilled a few suggestions to help you perform well in the exam.

  1. In the final days preceding the exam, if you start reading entirely new material which you haven’t read before, you’ll only stress yourself out. Just refer to whatever you had already read. Revision is the absolute key. How effectively you perform in the actual exam depends on the quality of revision you do in these 10 days.
  2. Stay calm. While revising, do not get bogged down in one subject. Your target should be to revise all the topics methodically before the final day.
  3. Questions are going to be balanced and will be asked from across the syllabus. So if you are poor in one topic, that’s alright. You can offset it through performing well in your stronger areas. For example, if you are worried about Indian Art and Culture, do not freak out. You might lose out on some questions, but you will still have many others to solve.
  4. Just the day before the exam, ensure that you get 7-8 hours of quality sleep. A good night’s rest will rejuvenate your senses and ensures that your brain is alert and memory is on point.
  5. Many aspirants (especially engineering grads) tend to be careless about CSAT Paper 2. I’ve seen people who solve only 60 questions and think that’s enough to qualify them. Some are even more impulsive—  they leave the hall 30 minutes before time. Don’t be that reckless brat. Your qualification for Mains will be based on your marks, not your audacity. Remember that just because the paper is qualifying, UPSC is not going to hand it you on a platter. This is why they have been constantly pushing up the difficulty level over the past few years. So solve CSAT with all the seriousness and intensity of Paper-1.
  6. While solving the paper, in the first iteration, go through all 100 questions sequentially and do three things: mark those answers you are confident about, round those questions that you are unsure or vaguely aware of (for guesswork later), and cross those questions which you have absolutely no idea about. In the second iteration, you come back again and try to answer those questions you are vaguely aware of through educated guesswork or elimination method.
  7. Don’t get mired in one question and waste your time. If you are unable to recall, make a side mark on the question paper and move on. Once you come back after solving remaining questions, chances are you’ll recollect.
  8. If we assume a moderately difficult paper, then you will confidently know answers to around 50-60 questions. But you must aim to attempt around 85-90 questions. That’s why educated guesswork is necessary and important.
  9. As you enter the exam hall, it doesn’t matter what books you may have read, or how many times you may have revised. What matters are those 100 questions. Put your emotions aside and solve those 100 questions with a laser like focus. Erase your fears, doubts and insecurities and stay positive and confident.
  10. Always believe and keep telling yourself that you have worked hard and prepared well so far and that you’ll do well. On the final day, summon your best self and you will absolutely ace the test.

For further reading,

A. You can check out my article on UPSC GS Mains Preparation

B. Article on how to make educated guess work in UPSC Prelims

So that was my Booklist for UPSC Prelims. Hope it’ll be useful to you.

– Anudeep

Note: My book, Fundamentals of Essay and Answer Writing is out now! It’s a comprehensive guide that helps you write better Essays and Answers in the UPSC Mains Exam. You can know about the book here.

618 thoughts on “Booklist for Prelims

  1. upscpreparation4

    anudeep sir ,
    this is very amazing article for me ..
    i have one doubt related to prelims which are the best YouTube video for learning prelim?
    please tell me ??

  2. bossy

    sir in the economy list, you are referring to which “mrunal articles”?? i am not able to find which one you are referring to… please do tell me..

  3. Lokesh kumar

    Hai sir,, could you please send/attach links for books,, I am in full of confusion as a beginner.

  4. aakanksha

    Hello Anudeep sir! would like to ask, did you join test series for prelims and how many tests on average are enough to get an idea? thank you in advance

  5. Anonymous

    Tell some source for mathematics optional

  6. Saikrishna kumbham

    Hi sir, Can u suggest some good books for Telugu compulsory mains paper

  7. Dhanunjau

    Respected Sir.My name is Dhanunjai and I’m studying in diploma. Please can you tell me that how to be good in English lije your advanced English. Tell me some tips that how can I be good in English. Please give reply to my message.

  8. Grace

    When u say NCERTs, do u mean to refer to all the social studies NCERT textbooks from 6-12th class?

  9. Neelesh Mvr

    Sir, What about Tamilnadu ncert of Class 11 & 12 if we have short time …

  10. Atharva Uday Salunkhe

    Hello sir,
    My question was:-
    My age is 17.
    1) At what age I should start preparing for IAS to crack in first attempt at the age of 21.( My dream is to be youngest IAS officer in India)

  11. Tuhina Chopra

    Hello sir,
    Which books should one refer to for law as the optional for mains?

  12. Anonymous

    sir how many years govt schemes should be studied ?

  13. imdadullahsharief

    hi Sir,,im preparing by my self as im working, please suggest any books for my preparation, and i cant make time for newspaper reading, im thinking of preparing by magazines

  14. Md irfan

    Sir can you please mention a booklist for mains

  15. athul krishna

    Hello Sir, I am preparing on my own while studying, could you kindly recommend any books for my preparation and which is the best IAS coaching in Bangalore?

  16. prestigiousorchidsinternationalschool

    Amazing content!

  17. Manish Aggarwal

    Thank you for your sincere guidance and your book on answer writing really helping me to fight this battle. Thank you

  18. Adv

    Why have you stopped posting, sir?

  19. Sweety

    Its very helpful to pick the right ones, so helpful!

  20. P Chandra Sekhar

    So helpful for the beginners. Thank you so much sir !

  21. Sara

    Sir please reply,I am facing problem in revising things before prelims through book,it takes alot of time ,how did you make it on time ?

  22. Shambhavi Mishra

    Sir can you please tell me how to prepare for csat and can you tell me any good book for that

  23. Shubhangi

    Sir, I wish that you also serve the service in Maharashtra and your guidance is magic. Thanks for your valuable time and guidance.

  24. Anonymous

    Sir you my inspiration❣️

  25. Anonymous

    Sir could you give the some tips for csat

  26. Anonymous

    Sir please tell me once how to read ncert, I am confused from last 6 months, this is not the question of me only. This is the question of mass of beginners

  27. Anonymous


  28. Anonymous

    Sir what are the common topics in both the prelims and mains


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