Economics is one of those subjects that confuses the aspirants of UPSC to a large extent. It is one thing to study a subject like a history that is mostly static and quite another to tackle a subject like economics that has additional syllabus material added every day through government policies, schemes, and international affairs. However, it is an interesting subject and for the interested aspirant can be quite an engaging one to study as it is constantly connected to real life and the things happening around us.

So let us first take a look at the strategy to cover the economics portion in the UPSC syllabus and then we will break down each stage and the syllabi to go with it.

Syllabus: The most important part of any battle is preparation. Similarly, for Economics for UPSC, the first step is to know the syllabus. Know the syllabus like the back of your hand so that you do not have to refer to the syllabus during the rest of your preparation.

Sources: The second important thing to keep in mind about your preparation is the source that you are reading from. Remember, less is more. Stick to a few sources for your preparation rather than getting lost in a sea of resources.

Also Read: How to Make Notes for UPSC Preparation? UPSC Topper [AIR 77] Shares Secrets!

List of Economics Books:

  • NCERT Text Books Classes IX, X, XI, XII
  • Indian Economy  – Ramesh Singh
  • Indian Economy – Sanjeev Verma
  • Supplementary Reading
  • Ministry Websites for Water / Power etc.
  • Economic Survey
  • Budget
  • Administrative Reforms Commission’s (ARC) Reports
  • PIB
  • Newspapers

For a detailed list of books to refer to our UPSC Economics books post.

Notes: While you are studying the syllabus don’t forget to make notes. Notes, you must remember, are not replicas of what you are studying but rather an extremely concise précis of what you are learning. You should make smart and concise notes. Use diagrams extensively for making notes.

Dynamic Syllabus: Economics being a dynamic subject will have to be studied by keeping a constant watch on the news and current affairs. You need to constantly update your notes with the latest policy updates and government schemes in the backdrop of the Indian and World Economy.

Revision and Practice: When you are studying your brain is getting acquainted with the topic and understanding it, while revising your brain actually registers the information and becomes ready for recall. With practice, the recall becomes faultless and instantaneous saving precious time during exams. So revision and practice are the final 2 legs of your preparation that are perhaps even more important than any other leg of the preparation. Remember every other step should enable you to do make your revision and practice fruitful, and extremely effective.

Economics Syllabus in UPSC for Prelims and Mains

Prelims syllabus: Economic and Social Development Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.

In the Mains Paper 4 (GS Paper III), Economic Development is the topic that is to be prepared for in Economics. The Mains syllabus includes some aspects of Indian Economy like issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development, and employment, Government Budgeting, cropping patterns, Public Distribution System, Technology missions, Food processing, Land reforms, Liberalization, Infrastructure, and Investment models.

The UPSC Prelims primarily expects a robust understanding of the economic concepts whereas in the Mains you are expected to both understand and apply the concepts to real-life scenarios. This becomes clear in analyzing the question pattern of the last few years on the subject of Economics.

Economics in UPSC for Optional

Again start by memorizing the syllabus. Take a look at the economics syllabus. Understand the extent and the depth of the syllabus before you proceed with your preparation. It is true for all subjects, but more so for economics that you should have the syllabus at your fingertips. Economics being a dynamic subject needs to be referenced all the time and you need to know which topic particular news pertains to in your syllabus. You need to understand the importance of that news to your topic and accordingly make notes. All this is not possible if you don’t know your syllabus to the minutest of details.

Conceptual Understanding:

The first step of your preparation will be to understand what you are reading. It is extremely important that you understand the concepts and not try to memorize them. As the syllabus is dynamic and closely related to the ever-changing economy, it is important to understand concepts and be able to relate those concepts to the changing facts of the economy. It would be almost futile to try and mug up data and figures without having a good understanding of the underlying basics first. Once you have covered the syllabus revise it once more with your newer understanding and insight.

Analyze the Questions:

Now you will need to look at the previous year questions and try to figure out patterns and relate them to policies and events. You will have many indirect questions in the economics paper and it will be up to you to choose a relevant theory or model to solve a given problem.


Discuss the questions and the best ways to answer them with your peers and mentors. Discuss policies, their pitfalls, their enablers, their beneficiaries and the exceptions in them. Discuss how current events relate to the topics in your syllabus, which events, policies, and announcements are relevant to the syllabus and pertinent to the exam.

Diagrams, Assumptions, and Statistics:
These 3 things should be the cornerstones of your preparation and your answers. Prepare your diagrams, understand and remember the assumptions and memorize the statistics. These should be the major part of your notes and as a result, your answers.

Revise and Practice:

Revise your notes often and practice writing answers. Once you have written an answer rewrite it to do better. Hold your answers to a very high standard and make sure they aren’t repetitive and that they include every aspect of the question asked.

How to Write Answers for Economics Paper?

  • Get to the point fast. Don’t dilly-dally.
  • Be precise and use technical terms rather than long-winded sentences or phrases.
  • Organize your answers well. Use paragraphs and write neat answers.
  • When you can use a graph, don’t use mathematical equations.
  • Be logical and make sure your logic flows towards your conclusion by placing your arguments in order.
  • Make sure your answers are not repetitive. Choose your topics and examples wisely.
  • In the second paper, you will be expected to present your opinions. You should present an opinion that follows logically from a clinical analysis of the problem backed by facts while keeping it concise. Never take radical stands.
  • Use data whenever possible.
  • Use a lot of examples, if possible from your own experiences to stand apart in your answers.
  • Use a style that fits the question. Choose paragraph or bullet points or a table to write your answer depending on the question.

Distribution of Questions in economics paper

Indian Economy 40 to 50 questions
Statistics 7 to 10 questions
Growth and Development Around 10 questions
Micro and Macro Economics 35 to 40 questions
International Economics 15 to 20 questions
Money, Banking & Public Finance 10 to 15 questions

About the Author

Payal Ghosh

Payal is an FRM and an XLRI Jamshedpur alumnus interested in things as diverse as Waste Management and photography. She has over 16 years of work experience and is passionate about writing, teaching and sustainable living. Helping students and seeing them succeed makes gives her motivation to push herself further.

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