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.



Prelims is the first stage of the UPSC Civil Services examination.

It comprises of two papers with questions of objective or MCQ type (with ‘Negative Marking’).

  1. Both the question papers will be of the objective type (multiple choice questions) and each will be of two hours’ duration.
  2. The General Studies Paper-II of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination will be a qualifying paper with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%.
  3. The question papers will be set both in Hindi and English.


Over the years, various patterns of the exam have evolved and the current pattern has been effective from the year 2015.

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. You should focus more on General Studies paper to crack Prelims. This crystal clear strategy helps you to crack prelims in single attempt.

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. Many sincere students failed to clear Prelims because of their poor performance in CSAT paper-2, even after scoring good marks in General Studies paper-1.

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

 Prelims General Studies Paper-2 contains—

  1. Comprehension;
  2. Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
  3. Logical reasoning and analytical ability;
  4. Decision making and problem solving;
  5. General mental ability;
  6. Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data
    interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc.


Year-wise Prelims Analysis:

year 2015

year 2016

year 2017

year 2018

year 2019

Subject-wise Prelims Analysis:

Trends Analysis: History


Trends Analysis: Geography

Indian and World Geography

Trends Analysis: Polity & Governance

Indian Polity and Governance

Trends Analysis: Economic and Social Development

Economic and Social Development

Trends Analysis: Environment & Ecology

Environment and Ecology

Trends Analysis: General Science

General Science

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 that can overwhelm any aspirant. At the same time, aspirant gets confused to see toppers suggesting different sources. Situation get worse when you feel that all those suggested sources are important for your preparation.

Follow this mantra:

“Minimum resources, Maximum revision”

To smoothen your quest for good resources, we have compiled a list of essential books after considering various toppers’ views and experiences. 

Subject-wise Suggested Books/References:




Our Suggestions

History of India and Indian National Movement


This topic covers Indian History

Ancient and Medieval:

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


Modern Indian History:

  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)


Tamil Nadu 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

Art and Culture

  • NCERT Class XI -An Introduction to Indian Art. 
  • National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) study material on Indian Art & Culture
  • Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT) documents.
  • Current culture- Prepare from your current affairs section [Newspapers and IT’s Current Affairs Analysis]


It also covers cultural aspects of Ancient to Modern Indian History

For Ancient India:

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


For Modern History:

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 Art and Culture:

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- Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and World


  1. NCERT Class 6 to 12 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


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


-After completing NCERTs 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.  


-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.


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.


Indian Polity & Governance- Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Right Issues etc

  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. (Bill summary)



Economic and Social Development- Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.

  • 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



General Issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change -that do not require subject specialization

  1. NCERTs

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


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


-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


  • 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


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.


Paper II


  • One Manual (preferably TMH) on CSAT paper-2
  • Analytical Reasoning by M.K. Pandey (selective)
  • 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.




How can IASToppers help you to crack Prelims?

We at IASToppers are running many important initiatives free of cost targeting UPSC CSE Prelims + Mains and Personality Test. As far as the quality results of our initiatives are concerned especially for Prelims exam, you can check our Success Ratios at:

84 Questions – Our performance in Prelims 2017, Click Here

78 Questions – Our performance in Prelims 2018, Click Here

83+ Questions – Our performance in Prelims 2019, Click Here

Here, our some of the important initiatives extremely helpful for Prelims exam are:

For Current Affairs

Current Affairs Analysis

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PIB Daily

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Video Summary [RSTV & LSTV]

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AIR (All India Radio) Summary

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For Practice Questions [Static +Current Affairs]

Daily Static Quiz 2020

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Daily Static Flash Cards 2020

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Daily Current Quiz 2020

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Daily Current Flash Cards 2020

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This is the end of the part 3.

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


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