UPSC Prelims are your first step towards the Civil Services Exams. There are several sources that can be approached for the preparation of UPSC Prelims, however, it is advised by toppers and teachers that overburdening yourself with books isn’t really an effective option.

Read the following article to find the best books for UPSC Prelims that can help you reach your goals of clearing IAS. You can also find some useful tips on how to study from books and important information on Prelims 2021.

Best Books for UPSC Prelims

Some of the most important books referred by previous years’ UPSC toppers are as follows-

General Science Paper I

The paper consists of 100 questions that carry two marks each, with negative marking ⅓ marks.

Also Read: Recommended Books for IAS by Toppers: Must-Read Books for UPSC IAS Exam 

History of India and Indian National Movement

Ancient India (NCERT) by R.S. Sharma

Medieval India (NCERT) by Satish Chandra

Modern India (NCERT) by Bipin Chandra for Indian National Movements

Concise History of Modern India by Sujata Menon

Facets of Indian Culture by Spectrum Publications

Indian and World Geography

Geography of India NCERT Class X

Principles of Geography NCERT Class XI

Fundamentals of Human Geography NCERT Class XII

Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong

Oxford School Atlas by Oxford University Press

Also Read: Best Economics Books for UPSC Exams: Check Out the List of Books to Ace UPSC

Indian Polity and Governance

Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth

An Introduction to the Constitution of India by DD Basu

Governance in India by M. Laxmikanth

Economic and Social Development

Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh

Indian Economic Development NCERT Class XI

Macro Economics NCERT Class XII

Indian Economy by Mishra and Puri

Economic Survey of India

Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity, and Climate Change

Environment and Ecology study material by NIOS

Environment and Ecology study material by IGNOU

India State of Forest Report (ISFR) in India Year Book

Environmental Studies by Benny Joseph

Environment and Ecology- Biodiversity, Climate Change and Disaster Management by Majid Husain

General Science and Technology

General Science by Spectrum

General Science NCERT Class IX and X

Also Read: Important Dates and a Timetable for UPSC Prelims 2021

General Science Paper-II or CSAT

Some of the important books for UPSC Prelims CSAT are as follows-

Cracking the CSAT Paper 2 by Arihant Experts

The Mantra of CSAT Paper II by Gautam Puri

A Modern Approach to Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning by R.S. Aggarwal

Analytical Reasoning by M.K. Pandey

You can find an elaborate list of CSAT Books and Preparation Strategy for the exam here.

How to Read Books Effectively for Your IAS Prelims?

Having the important books for Prelims in possession doesn’t guarantee success to anyone. It depends on how the candidates prepare for the exam with the help of books and other resources. Here are some tips that can guide you through your preparation with the help of the books mentioned above.

Keep Your UPSC Prelims Syllabus by Your Side at all Times

Pick up important concepts from the books, online videos and old question papers.

Start with the basics. Learn about the basics of every topic from books like NCERT and then move on to other books that mention the information in detail.

Once you’ve made notes from the books, search for more information or details about the same concepts from the internet and government websites.

Read the books twice before keeping them away to ensure that you don’t miss out on any important information.

Points to Remember

Get a printout of the syllabus to go with these books and read it thoroughly.

And, if you’re just getting started, we recommend starting with NCERT books. To achieve complete conceptual clarity, read and revise them methodically. They are the foundation of your knowledge, and they will aid you greatly throughout the exam.

Don’t be intimidated by the lengthy list of books. One year is more than enough for a beginner to cover the entire GS (prelims and mains) and optional syllabus.

When that is mentioned in the book list, it means that you don’t have to read the book from beginning to end. Examine the question papers from the previous five years to get a sense of the types of questions UPSC typically asks. It will give you a clear picture of what matters and what doesn’t.

Also Read: International Relations Books for UPSC: Books That Will Help You Prepare for UPSC

Reading Topics

Do not use more than one source for the same topic. Consider India’s struggle for independence (1857-1947). There’s no need to read that section again from Bipan Chandra’s book if you’ve already read it from the Spectrum publications.

Read the latter to get a better understanding of the parts that weren’t covered in the first.

If you’re getting coaching, make sure you read their notes. Keep in mind, however, that you can’t just read the coaching notes and ignore the standard books. Consider the topic of form.

Only Laxmikanth’s notes cover the entire subject, unlike those of a coaching institute. You must read Laxmikanth and know it like the back of your hand, even if you refer to your coaching notes. This rule holds true for all subjects.

Types of Questions and Examples

You must superimpose current events on top of all subjects. To give an example, in the Polity topic, you must keep track of current events in addition to reading the static theory portion.

If the government introduces a Constitutional amendment for GST, for example, you must read both the major provisions of the amendment as well as the Constitutional amendment procedure. This should be done for all subjects and topics.

It is critical to revise in order to do well in the preliminary exams. You won’t be able to recall what you’ve read if you don’t have it. As a result, please set aside enough time for revision before the exam.

Mindset to Crack UPSC Prelims

Ten days before the Prelims, your mind is likely to be restless and clouded with self-doubt. Despite the fact that you must have studied thoroughly for the exam and covered all of the sources, some of you are concerned that you have not yet completed a particular topic, while others are concerned about making the final cut for Mains. Remember that being nervous is normal at this point and that it happens to everyone.

Points to Ponder

If you start reading entirely new material that you haven’t read before in the days leading up to the exam, you will only stress yourself out. Simply refer back to what you’ve already read. The importance of revision cannot be overstated. The quality of your revision in these ten days will determine how well you perform in the actual exam.

Maintain your composure. Avoid becoming engrossed in a single subject while revising. Your goal should be to thoroughly review all of the topics before the deadline.

Questions will be balanced and drawn from various areas of the curriculum. So it’s fine if you’re weak in one subject. You can compensate for it by excelling in your areas of strength. Do not, for example, panic if you are concerned about Indian art and culture. You may miss out on some questions, but there will be plenty more to solve.

Also Read: Books for Public Administration Optional: Check Out the Tips to Score High in UPSC CSE Optional Subject

Hours Before the Exam

Make sure you get 7-8 hours of quality sleep the night before the exam. A good night’s sleep will refresh your senses while also ensuring that your brain is alert and your memory is sharp.

CSAT Paper 2 is often overlooked by aspirants (especially engineering graduates). I’ve seen people who believe that answering 60 questions is enough to qualify them. Some people are even more rash, leaving the hall 30 minutes early. Don’t be such a brash adolescent.

Your Mains qualification will be determined by your marks, not your bravery. Remember that just because the paper qualifies does not mean UPSC will hand it to you on a silver platter. This is why, over the last few years, they have been steadily increasing the difficulty level. As a result, approach CSAT with the same seriousness and intensity as Paper-1.

In the Examination Hall

In the first iteration of solving the paper, go through all 100 questions sequentially and mark those answers you are confident in, round those questions you are unsure or vaguely aware of (for later guesswork), and cross those questions you have no idea about.

In the second iteration, you return and use educated guesswork or the elimination method to try to answer the questions you are vaguely aware of.

Do not become engrossed in a single question and squander your time. If you can’t remember, make a note on the question paper and move on. When you return after completing the remaining questions, there’s a good chance you’ll remember.


Now that you are familiar with the list of books important for the prelims, you need to understand that there might be more books available in the market for the exams and it is upon you to research and pick on the books that are suitable for you.

However, the books mentioned in the article cover all the basic and important concepts and should not be completely left out. One of the most important parts of preparation for the exam is that you should understand all the concepts well, memorise all the facts and be familiar with the entire syllabus. For more information on the exam, subscribe here.

Also Read: Can I Prepare Botany from Internet-Material Instead of Using Standard Books for UPSC Optional Paper?

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Best Books for UPSC Prelims: How to Read Books Effectively for UPSC Preparation?
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Best Books for UPSC Prelims: How to Read Books Effectively for UPSC Preparation?
What books should you read for UPSC prelims 2021? What are the effective ways of referring to books for your preparation? Find out effective tips and information on prelims 2021.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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