Part-3 Enter The Cave. Preliminary Examination: Trend Analysis & Suggested Booklist

General Studies paper is decisive now, however you can't ignore CSAT paper/Aptitude paper altogether.
By IT's Research & Analysis Wing
May 02, 2017


  • Introduction
  • Trend Analysis of Prelims Preparation (From Pre-2011 to Post-2011)
  • Prelims Analysis
  • Year-wise Prelims Analysis
  • Selection of right set of reference books
  • History of India and Indian National Movement
  • For Ancient & Medieval History
  • For Art & Culture
  • Indian and World Geography
  • Polity and Governance
  • Economic and Social Development
  • Environment & Ecology
  • General Science
  • Current Affairs
  • CSAT Aptitude Paper-2

This is the third part of the series of Strategy for UPSC Civil Services Examination by IASToppers. To read previous or subsequent parts, click here.


In our first part, we have seen last few years’ changes in structure and syllabus of civil services examination. Please go through the current structure and syllabus of the whole examination process. We have already discussed whole examination process in this part.

Now we come to the analysis part of previous years’ question papers of Preliminary exam, which will give you a clear insight into sectional categorization of questions and trends of last years’ examinations.

Let’s start our analysis:

Trend Analysis of Prelims Preparation (From Pre-2011 to Post-2011)

Before CSAT was introduced in 2011, there were following type of structure in Prelims-

Paper-1 Optional Subject

300 Marks

Paper-2 General Studies

150 Marks

At that time, strategy of many students was to focus more on Optional Subject paper. They prepare general studies paper partially. It means that students belonged to science stream left economy subject to prepare, commerce students left general science, and Humanitarian students left general mental ability and general science. This strategy successfully worked in most cases.

Then in 2011, CSAT was introduced with some modification in structure of Prelims-

Paper-1 General Studies

200 Marks

Paper-2 Aptitude Test or commonly known as CSAT paper

200 Marks

Now, general studies paper was put on par with second paper with same number of marks. Students slightly changed their strategy and felt fear to leave any subjects of general studies untouched. Here also students crack prelims with good performance in CSAT paper and average performance in general studies paper. This strategy also worked successfully.

But due to some oppositions and agitations over the CSAT paper, the UPSC changed the pattern of Prelims paper and made CSAT paper qualifying. Now, following pattern started effective from the year 2015.

Paper-1 General Studies

200 Marks

Paper-2 Aptitude Test

200 Marks (you just need 33 % marks i.e. 66 marks to qualify in this paper)

Now you can see that to crack Prelims, the general studies paper is decisive. You cannot take the risk to prepare it partially or half-heartedly.

As you see in Prelims, General Studies paper is decisive and you should focus more on it to crack Prelims. This crystal clear strategy helps you to crack prelims in one go.

All suggested readings and how to prepare for Prelims papers will be discussed in successive parts.

Caution Note: Please don’t ignore CSAT paper/Aptitude paper altogether as instead of having good marks in General Studies paper-1, many sincere students failed to clear Prelims last year because of their poor performance in CSAT paper-2.


Prelims Analysis: Syllabus Topics

Prelims General Studies Paper-1 contains seven topics –

  1. History of India and Indian national movement
  2. General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization General Science.
  3. Indian and world geography- Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
  4. Indian politics and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  5. Current events of national and international importance
  6. Economic and social development– Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  7. General Science


Year-wise Prelims Analysis:









Selection of right set of reference books

Present market (both offline and online) is flooded with a wide range of books and study materials on different subjects. If you spend a single day in this market, you will definitely get confused over what is the right set of books for your preparation.

Sometimes you also get confused to see that different toppers suggest different sources. Situation get worsen when you feel all those suggested sources important for your preparation.

To solve this problem, we try to smooth your quest of good resources. Below given suggested references will help you to eliminate unimportant books. Below list is prepared by considering various toppers’ views and experiences.  


Subject-wise Analysis & Suggested Books/References:


History of India and Indian National Movement

Syllabus Topic:

“History of India and Indian National Movement” [Prelims]

Note: This topic covers Indian History from Ancient to Modern. It also covers cultural aspects of Ancient to Modern Indian History.


Trends Analysis:



Suggested readings:

  1. Old NCERT Class 12 History of Modern India. [This book is not available everywhere. This book is reprinted under the title ‘History of Modern India’ by Bipan Chandra publisher- Orient Blackswan] Read Chapter no. 1 to 6 (around 125 pages)


Tamilnadu Board Class 12 History Lesson no. 1 to 10 (around 100 pages)

  1. India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  2. A Brief History of Modern India- Spectrum Publication


If you are a senior aspirant or already read above books two-three times, then you can go for this book- “From Plassey to Partition” by Shekhar Bandyopadhyay.


For Ancient & Medieval History

Suggested readings:

  1. NCERT Class VI – History – Our Past-1
  2. NCERT Class VII – History – Our Past -2
  3. Tamilnadu Board Class 11 History
  4. NCERT Class XII – Themes in Indian History – Part-1
  5. NCERT Class-XII – Themes in Indian History – Part-2


In general circumstances first read NCERT Class 6 and Class 7 books, then read Tamilnadu Board book and at last, selective reading of 11th and 12th NCERT books. But if you are running short of time read Tamilnadu Board book only. Then if time permits, go for NCERT Class 6 and Class 7.


For Art & Culture

Suggested readings:

  • NCERT Class XI -An Introduction to Indian Art. 
  • NIOS study material on Indian Art & Culture
  • CCRT documents.
  • Current culture- Prepare from your current affairs section [Newspapers and IT’s Current Affairs Analysis]


We suggest you to read NIOS first. NIOS material is written in a very simple manner but very full of junk. So, you can condense all important stuffs within 20 to 25 pages out of 150 pages. Then read NCERT. The same formula can be applied here also and in last read CCRT.


Indian and World Geography

Syllabus Topic:

Indian and World Geography- Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and World [Prelims]


Trends Analysis:



Suggested readings:

  1. NCERT Class 6 to 12 Geography
  2. Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
  3. ICSE Class-6 to 8 by Oxford publication (These books are very good source for World Geography)
  4. Atlas (Oxford or BlackSwan)


If you are a beginner or if you have any difficulty to understand various fundamentals of Physical Geography, we suggest you to refer NIOS Physical Geography for that particular topic.


Start your reading with NCERT Class 6 to 12. Make your fundamentals clear with these basic books.

Suggested way of reading NCERT Geography:

Here we give you a systematic method to read Geography NCERTs, the method helps you to correlate various aspects of Geography.

First of all, complete the Physical and Human Geography section in a following manner:

  • Class 6 The Earth Our Habitat (Chapter no. 1 to 6)
  • Class 7 Our Environment
  • Class 8 Resource and Development
  • Class 11 Fundamental of Physical Geography
  • Class 12 Fundamentals of Human Geography

Second, read Indian Geography section in a following way:

  • Class 6 The Earth Our Habitat (Chapter no. 7 and 8)
  • Class 9 Contemporary India Part-1
  • Class 10 Contemporary India Part-2
  • Class 11 India Physical Environment
  • Class 12 India- People and Economy

Then read Goh Cheng Leong (If you have time constraint, in that case read the second part of G.C Leong i.e. chapter no. 13 to 25. Reason is that if you have already cleared your fundamentals of Physical Geography with NCERT Class 11, no need to read those chapters from G.C. Leong)

For world geography, we suggest you to read ICSE Class-6 to 8 books by Oxford publication. These three books are comparatively costly, but they explain world geography in more lucid manner in comparison to bulky reference books on world geography.  

Please refer any standard Atlas while reading any above books. Referring Atlas helps you to understand various geographical location factors and even Geography subject as a whole more easily and also helps you to solve any map based questions asked in the examination.


Polity and Governance

Syllabus Topic:

“Indian Polity & Governance- Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Right Issues etc.” [Prelims]


Trends Analysis:



Suggested readings:

Above topic requires a combination of conventional as well as current preparation. Keeping this fact in mind, we suggest you a list of following references:

  1. NCERT Class 11 Constitution At Work
  2. Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth
  3. Governance in India by M. Laxmikanth
  4. India Year Book
  5. Economic Survey (Latest)
  6. Yojana and Kurukshetra Magazines
  7. Newspapers
  8. www.prsindia.org (Bill summary)

You can also refer IASToppers’ following sections:

  • Current Affairs Analysis
  • Editorial Notes/Explained
  • Quintessence of the Magazines
  • Video summary
  • Mains Articles/RoundUp (we will provide you various articles on Mains topics from time to time)
  • Mind Maps etc.


Economic and Social Development

Syllabus Topic:

“Economic and Social Development- Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.” [Prelims]


Trends Analysis:



Suggested readings:

  • NCERT class-11 Indian Economic Development
  • NCERT class-12 Macroeconomics [only chapter no. 2,3,5 & 6 (Ignore graphs, formulas & other complicated matters)]
  • NCERT class-12 Microeconomic (Ignore graphs, formulas & other complicated matters)
  • Laxmikanth (For “Government Budgeting”)
  • Dutt & Sundaram
  • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  • Newspapers
  • Yojana and Kurukshetra Magazines
  • India Year Book and Economic Survey (Latest)
  • Finance Ministry’s latest report


You can also refer IASToppers’ following sections:

  • Current Affairs Analysis
  • Editorial Notes/Explained
  • Quintessence of the Magazines
  • Video summary
  • Mains Articles/RoundUp (we will provide you various articles on Mains topics from time to time)
  • Mind Maps etc.


Environment & Ecology

Syllabus Topic:

“General Issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change -that do not require subject specialization” [Prelims]


Trends Analysis:



Suggested readings:

  1. NCERTs
  2. NIOS
  3. Newspapers
  4. India Year Book chapters 1 & 12
  5. DownToEarth Magazine
  6. Environment Ministry’s latest Annual Report
  7. The Hindu Environmental Survey (latest)
  8. Yojana March 2012 Issue titled Disaster Management (you can download the issue from yojana.gov.in)

NCERTs include:

  • NCERT Geography Class-6 chapter -8
  • NCERT Geography Class-7
  • NCERT Geography Class-8 chapter 2 & 4
  • NCERT Geography Class-9 chapter 5
  • NCERT Geography Class-10 chapter 2 to 5
  • NCERT Geography India: Physical Environment Class-11 chapter 5 to 7
  • NCERT Geography Fundamental of Physical Geography Class-11 chapter 12,15 & 16
  • NCERT Science Class-6 chapter- 7,9 & 16
  • NCERT Science Class-7 chapter- 7,9 & 16 to 18
  • NCERT Science Class-8 chapter- 1,2,7 & 18
  • NCERT Science Class-9 chapter- 14 & 15
  • NCERT Science Class-10 chapter- 14 to 16
  • NCERT Science Chemistry Class-11 Unit-14
  • NCERT Science Biology Class-12 chapter- 13 to 16


Don’t worry to see the above long list of references.

Here we provide you a list of chapters of NCERTs which are important for Environment & Ecology. If you read NCERT Geography and Science books as per our suggestion, you don’t need to follow above long list of NCERT chapters.

NIOS Environment material covers all important fundamentals of environment. However, it is a full of junk and also little bit lengthy (around 550 pages). You can condense this material into around 100 pages notes after one concentrative reading.


General Science

Syllabus Topic:

“General Science” [Prelims]


Trends Analysis:



Suggested readings:

  • NCERT Class 6 to 10
  • NCERT Class 11 Chemistry Unit-14
  • NCERT Class 11 Biology Unit-4 & 5
  • NCERT Class 12 Chemistry Unit-16
  • NCERT Class 12 Biology Unit-8, 9 & 10
  • Newspapers (especially The Hindu Science-Tech section)
  • India Year Book Chapters 8, 9, 22 & 25

You can also refer IASToppers’ following sections

  • Current Affairs Analysis
  • Editorial Notes/Explained
  • Quintessence of the Magazines
  • Video summary
  • Mains Articles/RoundUp (we will provide you various articles on Mains topics from time to time)
  • Mind Maps etc.


NCERTs are meant for Prelims General Science topic only. If you have time constraint before prelims, we suggest you to read NCERT Class 6 to 8 and Environment related chapters from Class 9 & 10. If you have lots of time and want more references to prepare these topics, you can go for any one Manual on General Studies (TMH manual preferable)


Current Affairs [Prelims]

We’ll discuss all about Current Affairs of Prelims & Mains in a saperate part. 


CSAT Aptitude Paper-2

Suggested Readings:

  1. One Manual (preferably TMH) on CSAT paper-2
  2. Analytical Reasoning by M.K. Pandey (selective)
  3. Fast Track Objective Arithmetic by Rajesh Verma


Although CSAT paper-2 was made qualifying (you just need to secure 33% marks, or say 66 marks), many serious aspirants could not clear prelims last year because of their negligence. We suggest you to never underestimate this paper.

Refer only one Manual on CSAT paper-2 (preferably TMH). For Logical Reasoning, you should refer Analytical Reasoning by M.K. Pandey but selectively. If you feel you are weak in Maths, you can solve Fast Track Objective Arithmetic by Rajesh Verma.



This is the end of the part 3.

In fourth part, we will discuss in detail about the second stage of the exam: Mains.


If you find this part of Series on Strategy helpful, please like and share.

Thank you


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