One of the hardest exams in the country, the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) is known for the intimidation it has towards the candidates as they are aware of the handful number who actually end up clearing the CSE and the even smaller pinch sized number that make the merit list to be selected into the top CSE contenders – the IAS, IPS and IFS services – from the lakhs who appear for the yearlong examination. And yet, there is no place for any fear and intimidation.

The only possible way, they know, to have a successful shot at clearing the CSE is giving it a wholehearted preparation attempt.

UPSC IAS Syllabus and Exam Pattern

The exam pattern and syllabus for the Prelims Round are:

Paper Exam Schedule Syllabus Marks Time
Preliminary- Paper I May/June General Studies: Current Topics, History, Geography, Politics, etc 200 2 Hrs
Preliminary- Paper II May/June Comprehension and Analytical Ability 200 2 Hrs

The exam pattern and syllabus for the Mains Round are:

Paper Syllabus Marks
Paper A Indian Language from among languages in Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. Not compulsory for candidates from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim 300
Paper B English 300
Paper I Essay 250
Paper II-IV General Studies: Indian Heritage, History, Geography, Politics, International Relations, Technology, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Aptitude, etc. 250 x 4
Paper VI-VII Optional Subject 250 x 2

Qualifying candidates are shortlisted for a Personality Interview for 275 marks.

Also Read: Buckle up Your Shoes, Check The IAS UPSC 2020 Syllabus

What to Study for IAS UPSC?

Given the general substance of the syllabus, there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of books that could be potentially claimed as preparatory material. However, this could lead to a dangerous consequence of too many books and too little time. It is best to follow some of the known study materials and brush up on your high school texts, and follow daily current affairs in India and the world in daily newspapers. It is essential to keep a regular reading, and writing habit. It develops a focused effort towards training your brain to understand and analyze information.

Recommended Book List and Study Material for Prelims

  • NCERT Books on Geography, Science, Economy, Biology, and Chemistry from the middle to high school
  • 20 years IAS Prelims (CSAT) General Studies Solved Papers
  • History of Modern India – Bipin Chandra
  • The Wonder that was India –Bhasham
  • India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipin Chandra
  • Indian Economy – Dutta/ Puri or Ramesh Singh
  • Manorama Yearbook
  • India Year Book
  • Indian Polity – Laxmikanth
  • Environmental Studies from Crisis to Cure – Rajagopalan
  • Geography of India – M. Hussain
  • History of Medieval India – S. Chandra
  • India’s Ancient Past – R.S. Sharma
  • Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Mains – Khuller
  • CSAT Paper Analytical (Pandey) and Verbal (Aggarwal) Reasoning or CAST Paper 2 by MHE/Arihant
  • Science & Technology – A. Singh
  • Economic Survey – Ministry of Finance
  • Indian Art & Culture – Singhania

Recommended Book List and Study Material for Mains

  • Indian Heritage, Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society – Arihant
  • History of the Modern World – Rao or Jain and Mathur
  • Social Problems in India – Ahuja
  • India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy – R. Guha
  • IAS Mains General Studies 2, 3, and 4 – Arihant
  • Governance in India – Laxmikanth
  • Governance for Growth in India – APJ Abdul Kalam
  • Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor
  • India and the World: Through the Eyes of Indian Diplomats – S. Kumar
  • India’s National Security – Bajpai, Pant
  • Internal Security and Disaster Management GS Paper 3
  • Contemporary Essays for CSE – R. Singh
  • Essays for CSE – P. Khare
  • Selected Contemporary Essays – S. Mohan
  • 151 Essays – S.C. Gupta
  • IAS Mains GS Ethics – Arihant
  • Lexicon for Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude
  • Challenges to Internal Security of India

Tips on How to Become an IAS Officer

  1. Do your research. Not only about the exam but also the eligibility, about the cadre of your choice, the preferred field like IAS, and then get to know about the IAS salary, work, functions, etc.
  2. Create your personalized UPSC study plan and stick to it. Be flexible and change things up when it’s not working for you. Every candidate has a unique preparatory style. What may be good for one may fail miserably for another.
  3. It is essential to keep up a regular habit of writing, reading, analyzing, and examining content. Many successful candidates have stressed the importance of having regular discussions and debates with their friends and colleagues, on topics associated with the syllabus and current affairs. It provides excellent practice for logically presenting your views while also helping you to understand the depth of your insights.
  4. It is often useful to highlight important passages, or make notes, for a quick look close to the exam date. Make sure you have such a provision for the sake of efficiency as the length and breadth of the CSE exam requires regular revisits to the study material.
  5. Get in the habit of reading a multitude of daily newspapers to stay abreast of current topics.
  6. Eat and sleep well, engage yourself in other activities, and don’t let the weight of the exam stress you out.

Also Read: How Much Does an IAS Officer Earn Per Month?


The UPSC CSE exam is designed so that a candidate’s efforts, dedication, strategizing, planning, logic, analytical powers, and overall quick thinking, are rewarded. In that sense, every candidate’s life experiences also play a role in their preparation. The actual CSE preparation then simply boils down to polishing on the knowledge that you would have anyway imbibed as a student and a citizen of the country. So, don’t dwell on the vastness of the syllabus but rather concentrate on how to get to know your world a little better.

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What to Study for IAS UPSC? Complete Preparation Guide for UPSC Civil Service Exam
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What to Study for IAS UPSC? Complete Preparation Guide for UPSC Civil Service Exam
How to study? What to study? Where to start and where to end? These are the basic question in every UPSC aspirant’s mind. Read the article for all your solutions.
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