Thursday, January 8, 2009

Best Books and Sources For IAS UPSC Prelims General Studies

This has been one of my most popular and helpful post for IAS Civil Services aspirants and now I am updating it to reflect the new changes in IAS UPSC examination pattern both in Prelims stage as wells as Mains Examination. The importance of General Studies has improved tremendously as in Prelims stage the second paper which used to contain logical reasoning, quantitative aptitude, english comprehension questions has been made qualifying nature from 2015 exam onwards. So General Studies is the King in Prelims stage and without solid preparation of GS one cannot hope to progress.
So here is an updated list of books and sources for starting your General Studies preparation for IAS UPSC Civil Services Examination preliminary stage.

I have been asked this question again and again and bowing to popular demand i am sharing the list of books and sources from where one can prepare general studies from UPSC prelims point of view.The list by no means is comprehensive but a starting point to get you on track to clear UPSC prelims.

GS is a vast ocean ,especially for first timers as they have time constraint plus a very vague idea about what to study and from where to study. First and foremost ,one has to prepare the core areas and later on one can try to cover some of the fringe areas as well. General Studies is not about preparing everything under the sun (though it comes close to it) and there has to be a method to the GS preparation madness.

1.Current Affairs : Make daily notes from The Hindu or read current affairs updates from any monthly magazine (I was a subscriber of Competition Wizard but hardly read anything other than toppers interviews) ; Read the diary of events (supplied with The Hindu in first week of January that covers all happenings of previous year) and mark all important happenings both national & international. Also one can follow Vision IAS monthly news magazines which are available in most bookshops in Delhi. But no substitute to making your own notes from newspapers.
Current affairs, needless to say, is worth at least 40-45 marks in GS, so ignore it at your own peril.(kindly refer my article on current affairs for more details at

2.History : Modern Indian History is important from both prelims and mains point of view.The best source for me was NCERT social studies books of classes 8 and 9(Contemporary India is the name of the book). Just go through the history portions and make notes, it will hardly take much time and will give you a clear idea of the chronology of events. One can expect 10-12 questions from modern indian history (freedom struggle) but be ready for surprises.
I know many people would not be satisfied with only the NCERT books ,so for those hard to please souls Spectrum's Modern Indian History booklet will be a good book to read. Even after this if one is not content then read Bipin Chandra as well ;)
For ancient and medieval India (fringe areas of GS) try to get hold of Vajiram classnotes or special supplements of Competition Wizard or any such magazine. From that also focus only on books and authors (eg.Mrichkatikam was written by Shudraka and Amuktamalyada was written by Krishnadeva Raya,who was the most famous King of Vijaynagar empire,which was founded by Harihara and Bukka and so on), Indus Valley sites and where particular things were found,important kingdoms and their rulers etc. I will be discussing it in more detail in a later post on Ancient & Medieval India which you can find at

3.Geography : Mostly atlas/location based questions are asked. One should not miss out on those. Read Ensemble's Geography and also get a good idea of India and world map.Location of countries,important rivers,which countries are cut by tropic of cancer/capricorn and equator etc should be seen on a regular basis from Atlas. One should get either Oxford Atlas or Orient Longman Atlas and make it a habit to locate all places that you read about anywhere and which you cannot immediately locate in your mind as to where the place is on Atlas. For example, if you are reading a news article that Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola free by WHO and if you do not know where Sierra Leone is in Africa and which are its neighbouring countries, then you should look it up on Atlas. Gradually, you will get better acquainted with places and their locations and it will come very handy in Civil Services Examination.
Read India and its states portion from Manorama Year Book and make notes of the salient features of all states and important rivers flowing through them, historical sites etc.
Note down all important national parks and their locations(which state) as it is asked often in matching type questions and also wetlands.

4.General Science : Focus more on biology and environment part as that is asked the most these days. One can follow Vajiram's class notes or special supplement of Competition Wizard.In addition one can also refer books- What,Why and How (3 very thin books) by Publication Division or any other source you are comfortable with. One can also look up important inventions and discoveries in Manorama Year Book. Plus one can also refer xerox of Shankar's Environment which is available in bookshops in Rajender Nagar (Delhi).

5.Polity : Generally conceptual questions are asked and one also needs to know important articles and amendments. For instance Article-143 is concerned with President of India seeking Supreme Court's opinion on any important issue and 73rd Amendment Act is concerned with Panchayati Raj Institutions. The Polity book by Laxmikant which is readily available online and bookshops is one of the best books for preparing Polity as the information is presented in easy to read manner and in point-wise format. There is no need to follow any other book for this section.

6.Paper II of CSAT : This paper should not require any extra preparation as such, as it is now a qualifying paper but one should not take it lightly. The best preparation is to go through previous years UPSC question papers and attempt these to see which areas you are finding difficulty. Attempting previous years IAS UPSC question papers will give you a good idea about the level and kind of  questions asked in GS Paper II in Prelims and one can then decide how much time and effort needs to be put into individual sections. One good book for preparing this section is by Tata McGraw Hill for General Studies Paper II. This paper requires practice and some more practice, as simple as that.

I look forward to your queries and feedback which you can post in comments,but please make sure you are posting your queries in my blog ( not at some other site which might have copied my content.
All the very best !!!


Anonymous said...

kudos to abhishek. he is a kind and a generous person to be sharing such information with people who he doesn't even know. very helpful for first timers like me who know nothing about UPSC. thanks Mr Mishra.

Anonymous said...

hi abhishek
great work iam taking the prelims this year and my optional is economics can you give me the books that i can use for preparation

Sandhya said...


Thank you very much for your efforts. You had mentioned about the Hindu diary of events..I still see the 2007 events online. Are 2008 events updated in Hindu website? Or it came along only with the print version?

Thanks again


Abhishek said...

@ Anonymous ... thx yaar, if sharing my experience benefits any aspirant ,i wud be glad :)

@ Vishal ... i hv a friend who has economics optional, i will ask him and post the name of the books for economics soon.gud luck !!!

@Sandhya ... Current events special came along with the print version on 8th Jan if i remember correctly,i m not sure about it being available online ... u can get it frm ur newspaper vendor i case u dont,then also an alternative exists Manorama Year Book's diary of events :)

Sandhya said...


Thanks. I'll check that. One more quick question. You had mentioned "Contemporary India" books of class 8 and 9 NCERT (for history). But actually I found them to be for classes 9 and 10 and had different contents rather than history (like agriculture, water resources, minerals, etc). Am I missing something here? Or were you referring to the old NCERT books?

Thanks again for your time and help.


Abhishek said...

@ Sandhya ...don't worry about the old or new ncert books ,when i bought them i had no idea about them being old edition or new ,they can't change history anyway ;) only interpretation will be abit subjective ,facts cannot be altered...i had class-8 and 9 books which contained geography and civics portion as well ,so no worries on that count either ,just read the history part ....:)

Anonymous said...

Hi abhishek,

Let me first congratulate you for the great mentoring you are providing on this channel.

1. I have read your article for GS Prelims(very helpful), but would be glad if you could elaborate on geog preperation. As i hv no prior background in the subject and with the volume of study material available i am further confused.

2. Economics - How imp is it from prelims(GS) point of view, and how one should go about cracking it ?

Thanks & Regards

Varun Verma

Anonymous said...

i am appearing for upsc 2009 prelims and seek your guidance..i need to know which books are good for GS and Indian history..wiating for ur reply

Abhishek said...

@ Varun Verma ... i m sorry 4 replying so late,i just missed ur comment ... thx for ur kind words :)
R u asking for geography from GS or optional point of view ?
I will ask my friend who has geograpgy optional and post his views soon...
Economics is not asked so much in prelims , basically focus on current related information as far as economics is concerned :)

Abhishek said...

@ Anonymous ... u can please refer my posts on preparing history and books for GS ... gud luck :)

Anonymous said...

thanks for responding
Geog from gs prelim point of view basically. Please suggest for polity prelim too...
As I haven't started on these yet. And don't think would be able to finish subhash kashyap in this much time.

I would love to know ur comments on these two subjects for prelims gs if one hasn't touched them till now.. :)

My other optional is psycho and am strictly following ur advice, it is going well so far thanks

Abhishek said...

@ Varun/Anonymous ... u can please refer my post on polity in my blog ...

Geography from prelims point of view wud involve having a very gud idea of India and world map ,read ensemble's geography through maps... also read state scan from manorama year book where they have mentioned important info abt all Indian states ...most of the geography questions are based on maps ,just hv a look at previous years papers to get a clearer idea of wht kind of questions are being asked ... don't worry abt time,just read subhash kashyap or laxmi kant for polity ,u have feb,march and april need to panic ,gud luck !!!

manoj said...

hii ...Abhi
gr8 wrok .....keep it up ....nd best wishes 4 ur reslut .....
sir , i m a final year B tech student wid electrical branch .....nd i wanna strt my prepartaion 4 IAS nd i think my optional r ELECTRICAL ND GEOGRAPHY it rite choice r nt .....plz ...give me some suggestion ....basically I hv 3 option
1. Elec nd GEo
2. Elec nd HIS
3. Elec nd pulic add

so pls tell me sir which isz best option suitable 4 me


Abhishek said...

@ Manoj ... thx :)
i think any optional which you yourself feel interested in shud do fine ...all combinations look nice ...if u have electrical as an optional then u can also appear in IES as well...kindly refer to my latest post on selecting optional ...
all d best !!!

smitha said...


smitha said...

i want to know abt the subjects we should take for prelims.i consider general studies and public it ok.can u please reply to me.

manoj said...

thns u soo much sir ........yaa i m also giving IES also ....thnx a lot

Abhishek said...

@ Smitha ... u can refer my earliers posts on the nature of prelims,selecting an optional etc from blog archives to get a better idea of books and sources to refer .... the popular optionals from prelims points of view are : Public Admn.,Geography,History,Political Science,Psychology,Sociology etc ... u can see the entire list of optionals in UPSC website ...GS and Public Admn . shud be fine ....all d best!

Abhishek said...

@ Manoj ... u r always welcome :)

smitha said...


Anonymous said...

hi abhishek
thanx for creation of this blog
I would like to know these books for GS prelims is enough for GS mains also...or anything else we need to prepare?...the syllabus is same for prelims and mains?
thanx in advance


Abhishek said...

@ Smitha ...I was a subscriber of Competition Wizard for 3 years though i never read d magazine in full ;) ,its a good magazine ...
contact address for Comp. Wizard:
Alternative Learning Systems (P) LTD.
B-19, ALS House, Near UTI ATM, Dr.Mukharjee Nagar, Delhi-9

Regarding spectrum, i dont hv the contact info but it shud be easily available in any bookshop dealing with competition books ...gud luck !

Abhishek said...

@ Anish ... thx :)
well there is a difference in approach as in mains you will have one more optional and subjective type questions ... prelims and mains syllabus will overlap a great deal ,so a gud preparation for prelims will help u in mains as well ... all d best !!!

NIK said...

Hi Abhishek....

it was good to read information provided by you. thanx for that.

But I didnt find any blog regarding MAINS preparation mainly for GS

NIK said...


1) could you write one blog for GS mains paper also :)

2) I m plannig to write the exam in 2010, so now(not writing 09 prelims) how much emphasize(on hours basis) should be given to
a)News Papers(Current Affairs)
b) Editorials and magazines articles

3) Could you comment on the relative importance of Editorials. Reading daily editorials and magazines will help in which particular part of exam(GS paper2 and in Essay?)

NIK said...

HI Abhishek..

Magazines suggested by you(wizard and spectrum)are only for prelims point of view?

Separate Magazine is to be followed for good articles point of view? Which one ?

NIK said...

Hi Abishek...
As you told coaching kills time when time is very crucial so I think it should be finished as early as possible in your preparation schedule so that you could get time to self study.

you also told that first you should make your base by reading books.

So as i am not writing this year what should be strategy for this year, should I focus on books(self study) or finish coachings (for whatever subject i require).

Abhishek said...

@ NIK ... :)
1.As of now ,there is no such plan but yes if the response is good and friends contribute with their articles and ideas one can write articles from mains point of view also...
2.You shud start reading newspaper throughly and try to get awareness about various areas like world affairs, national issues, economics and sports etc.
3.Wizards n spectrum are good from both prelims and mains point of view .
4.Editorials are important to know about issues in their depth , so it will help in formulating ur views regarding various important events,quite helpful in all areas of GS and also for interview.
5.Well you shud do some self-study to gauge ur interest areas and then maybe u can go 4 coaching in particular subjects depending on ur needs .

i hope i hv answered almost all ur queries :)
all d best and dont worry too much , one learns swimming only after jumping into the pool ...

Anonymous said...

Hi abhishek,
Can you Plse let me know which books i need to refer for anthroplogy paper1 and paper 2.

Anonymous said...


I want to prepare for IAS to appear in 2010. I have done my B Tech from IIT Mumbai 3 years back and I believe I can still do good in Physics, Chemistry and Maths. But people have been suggesting History and Geography. Is there an advantage in taking History or Geography.

Also, do you feel it is possible to prepare along with a 12 hour per day Job??

shantanu said...

hi abhi!
how much marks need to qualify prelims 2009 with history as a optional

kartikey said...

hii abhishek, can you plz reffer me some good books of GS for UPSC prelims prepration...

abhishek said...

hi abhishek i will give my civil services prelims exams in 2011. i am confused of wether i should study india year book,manorama year book of 2010 or 2011?please help............

Anonymous said...

hello abhishek,
you are doing the best job by guiding the new aspirients.I am doing my engineering,and i hav plans of giving prelims exam, plz guide me how to manage my time in preparing for the mail id is

Anonymous said...

i wanna confirm two things..
1) is psychology n sociology can be taken together i.e. this combination is allowed??
2) english is compulsory..the second language paper can be any from the literature options including hindi?? i.e. one can go for english(which is compulsory) and hindi for language paper??

Akhilesh said...

Hi, I am Akhilesh

Thanks for the important information Abhishek, I am planning to take Geography as the option for prelims, can you suggest books for preparation?

Thanks in advance.

Laxmi said...

Hi Abhishek,

The site which are working on is very useful for the all the members.

I am Electronics engg graduated 5yrs back and now i am working as a IT professional.My aim from my small age is to do IAS and i ma planning to try now.

But the problem is i lost the touch of my subject in 5yrs and maths also .so i am thinking of taking sociology as optional in prelims and
sociology and psycology in Mains .
Can you please guide me if this optional is fine.

Waiting for your valuable suggestion.


bearings said...

hello sir...
i am rohit sharma....n now plannin for the IAS...actually i hve been plannin for last 2 its tym n i hve just completed my btech this year in i think i shud prefer Mech as my 1st option...n den 2nd !!!..hvnt decided i ll opt for Sir please i was in d hunt of an exp guide which you are...
I am now workin in an organisation bt i know i WILL make it thru..
so sir pls tell how shud i start..I hv jus completed The Constitution of India by "D.D. Basu" wat shud b my next step...i am abit confused...I wud be thankful to you for kind help...waitin for ur response..

sashi said...

Hi Abhishek,

I have got
Constitution of india by Bakshi
,is that ok or should i get only dd DD.Basu,then for history i have got _ancient,medieval,modern history of XIIth ncert,spectrum,and for geography i have got Indian geography book.I had no guidance regarding this.Only now i was able to check out this blog.So please help me now on his issue.

Anonymous said...

dear abhi....can u help me with books suggested for sociology (mains)...
varun s

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Anonymous said...

hi abhishek i want to appear to upsc prelims 2010 i want to opt for chemistry as the optional subject wht do u thnk abt it n which other sub can be the best choice for optional n r t ncert books n the hindu are sufficient enough for gs

Aiden Thomas said...

Its a nice blog posted by you. I was seeking for this type of blog that have good resource for students. I also find a really nice site where you can find Civil Services Papers and other various types of exam preparing materials. NCERT Books from 6th to 12th are also available for free download. Do check it out.....


Hai Abhishek you are doing Great Job Keep it up.

Please recommend readers to Visit this Blog too...

Its a Complete Question and Answers Blog for Civil Service Aspirants..

Thank You

aju said...

preparing mental ability seems to be the most difficult thing for me...please suggest me the books for the same...i find mental ability books for CAT/MAT not useful for civil services....plz help...

Anonymous said...

hi i completed engeneering this year,i am in a big confusion which subject i must take for prelims,many are saying public adminitration,but i dont have any idea abt that subject,i thought of choosing geography,but they are saying its a very tought subject...plz help me which subject i must take??geography or public administration??

Sindhuja said...

hello sir,
i hv completed my B.E.(EEE) dis year. I'm plannin to write UPSC xam n 2011. I lik to take history for prelims since i did it well n my school. My sec optional for mains, i'm confused weter to take maths, physics or electrical. Kindly help me n choosing my optional. For electrical der s no coaching centres n chennai. So i cudn decide weter i ll b able to prepare on my own. As for maths n physics, i'm good at dem. Please help me Sir.
Thank u Sir n advance,

shiv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shiv said...

hi abhishek
how ru
thnx for giving your valuable information.
actually i wanna tell u that hav u gmail id of ur if yes then plz tell me mine is

actaully iam from tarn taran near amritsar (punjab) there is no one who solve my query or no one whom i aked about this cse it is like a village where nobody knowing about these exam if someone know about what is this but he cant able to solve query of anyone also in my village there is no coaching centre of ias .so thats why i askin u about my query when i read your blog
actually my height is 5f 2 in or may be 5 f 1 in am i able to sit in ias exam or join diffrent fields regarding ias rather than ips plz answer me as soon as possible i shall be thanful to you

Sukhpreet Sandhu said...

@SHIV....what r u talking of man....tarn taran is not a village and is not that remote as stated by u....
anyway mail me at will provide u watsoever help u need...cheer up man...height has nothing to do with IAS IPS...but yeah attitude matters..and being from tt, you must have it i knw:)

Anonymous said...

hi abhi sir,
dis is irfan n my query isthat i m gng 2 apear in may 2o1o cse as it is my first attempt and i hv GS nd PA as my pre optional please write the list of exact basic books n name of writer also for both pre n main point of view i also go through ur blog related this topic bt i cant find it in one place so i m confused about it please do write all names in one place vl b very thankfull 2 u
best regards

Manju said...

Hi, Sir.

This is Manju Sharma read your online info.. it was quite impressive,will this info also helpful for OTA Exam?
I am in my final year so i have enough time for my preparation bt m nt getting any inspiration for the preparation.So, kindly help me out!!!

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Anonymous said...

I wrote civils but i couldnt answer the mental ability questions.So can u plz tell me which books to be referred for it?

Anonymous said...

How about krishna reddy book for history?

Anonymous said...

Im weak in Mental ability part .So can u suggest me which books shd i refer for this section.
Ur advise is welcomed.
thank u

nirwan said...

Abhishek, maths optional was geography in +2.i am not so good in studies nor i remember anything what i learn( a case of short term memory lose) may be, i think so. but still i hav hope to be something on someday. want to appear in 11 4 pre. please advice subjects for pre n main. 2 yrs left 4 me.

SANDHYA said...

hello mr.Abhishek.. i am sandhya wishing to appear for prelims in 2011.. i am a btech 4 year student.. freom 2011 CSAT is replaced Prelims exam.. so would you like to giv some suggestions to me?

Anonymous said...

Thank You Abhishek for giving timely information on Civil services exam. i'll be very thankful to you if u could give me the information on Indian History and list of books to prepare for the history.
Thank you,

MY HR-HELP said...

Hi abhishek,

The prelims pattern has been changed to CSAt. there has been no announcements from UPSc till date regarding CSAt. So in a situation like this can u tell me what sud be d right approach for preparation.

Avani said...

Hi Abhishek,

after going thru ur blog,, m curious, whr r u??& wat's going on?? wat happnd aftr ur interview..??

just curious.. bt dis is nt d reason y m writing.. gr8 piec of info abhishek.. very very thoughtful, and appreciative.. :)

i hd alwaz thot dat civil services is nt smthg i cn do.. bt nw i feel i shud at least gv it a try,, wats d harm in tryin.. u seem 2 make things easier by describing things in gr8 detail.. its strange dat u r takin so much of pain 2 let us knw d smallest of d details associated wid d most coveted exam..!

i m nt gng 2 take any coaching too.. lets c wt happens.. :)

wud b in tuch..

thnx & regards,

mazak said...

@ Avani ... thx so much for your kind words... d idea behind strating this blog was to sahre whatever i learned during 4 years of civils preparation...though i hv not been able to update d blog for quite some time as i had to start from scratch after my 4th attempt where i once gain gave d interview but it remained a case of so near yet so far ... wish u all the very best for the exams , tc


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Anonymous said...

hi, i m absolutely new to information about UPSC exam. i am not sure what is the first step for preparation and what are the dates for the exam. can u please guide me from the beginning?

gt said...

hello abhishek
which are the best author for UPSC preliminary exam for the subject of general study?

ankita said...

hello.....its me ankita,,actually i m preparing for cat,,and recently completed,,and i wann to appear in mpsc,,,and upse both,,will u plz guide me accordingly and do me 1 fav tell me book vise author name and version of understandable and moderate english,,,, special thks too u bye tc

ankita said...

sir tell me books best for prelims ,,,,ankita thku gn

RAMESH said...

Hi abhishek.

Please give the details of What, why and how books. Where can we get these books. I am trying to buy online these are not available. can i get these books in leading book shops?
Please help me in thsi

Anonymous said...

does compition wizard comes in hindi? plz give me some suggestions for my prepration

Anonymous said...

hi... m doing bachelors..
n i have two years left for my prelims exam... so just wanted to know that when should i start working on current affairs thoroughly....