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Important books to follow for UPSC CSE prelims

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Written by Aman Sharma

UPSC CSE prelims 2021: The civil services examination (CSE) is being held for recruitment to various civil services of the government, including the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Indian Police Service. The exam is scheduled for June 27. It is best to analyse exam papers from the last 10 years to gauge your weakness and strengths. Solving mock tests will also be of great help.

Here are the 3 tips to crack the prelims:

– Quality over quantity

– Understanding and retaining over cramming

– Analysing your mistakes

UPSC entails a fixed syllabus for the prelims of GS paper 1, which covers Indian history and culture, geography, Indian Polity, economics, environment, general science and current affairs. To clear the prelims, you need at least 33 per cent marks in CSAT (GS Paper 2). The syllabus includes comprehension, reasoning, general mental ability, quantitative ability, basic numeracy and decision making.

Stated below is a suggestive list of study material that has been recommended consistently by toppers and topic experts to crack this exam:

Recommended books for UPSC CSE Prelims 2021:


NCERT XI (Ancient and Medieval)

NCERT XII (Modern Indian History)

Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir

Art and Culture

Textbook in fine arts for class 11 and art and culture by Nitin Singhania


– NCERT XI India – Physical Environment

-Fundamentals of Physical Geography

-NCERT XII India – People and Economy

-Fundamentals of Human Geography

-Geography by Majid Hussain


-Environment by Shankar IAS

Indian Polity

Indian Polity by M Lakshmikant is a must-read in order to focus on the basics, linking them to new amendments, laws and rules. For eg. New IT Rules 2021, Transgender Persons (Protection of rights) Act 2019.


NCERT books from class 11 and 12 and Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh

Current Affairs

Notes made while reading newspapers and monthly magazines should be revised thoroughly. India 2021 Yearbook, Economic Survey, Government Schemes and Budget Proposals must also be covered to get an edge.

You need to focus on current affairs from the last year and a half to ace this paper. Integrating them with basics will help you solve the dynamic nature of the objective questions in the Prelim Examination.

Try to combine subjects and current affairs in your daily schedule and align them with daily MCQ practice. It is ideal to break it down in 50+2+1, solve 50 questions daily, and cover 2 subjects along with current affairs.


1. CSAT Paper – 2 Manual by TMH

2. Previous Year Questions

One of the trickiest areas of CSAT paper is Comprehension, however other subjects like Basic Numeracy, General Mental Ability, and Logical reasoning also need to be practised well.

Revision for the last few days before the exam is of utmost importance in order to retain what you have learnt so far. To prioritize topics and subjects for this exam, refer to the previous year question papers.

Revise NCERTs notes, believe in your hard work and refer to revision classes for the same. More importantly, never doubt yourself and do not lose consistency especially closer to the exam date. Aspirants find prelims difficult to crack not because of the lack of hard work and knowledge but an inability to develop a perfect strategy. Hence, leading up to the exams, it is crucial to prepare with minimal sources for maximum results. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

The writer is a top UPSC Educator at Unacademy.


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