[Starts 1st April] 45 Days Super Intensive Prelims (SIP)

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Understanding the IAS Prelims Syllabus for Paper 1


Know Thy Syllabus

The Preliminary Examination of Union Public Service Commission for Civil Services Examination is also popularly called CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test. In loose colloquial terms, you would usually search it on as IAS Prelims Syllabus! Technically speaking, CSAT is actually the second paper of General Studies that was introduced in 2011.

It was introduced to end the use of scaling system for varying subjects in the General Studies paper and was a matter of concern for many Civil Services Aspirants.

But this year in 2015, the UPSC has made the CSAT of only qualifying nature and one needs to only get 33% to get through. Which gets us back to the question of Paper 1 which now assumes a paramount importance in the life and times of a civil service aspirant.

Few Points before we start on:

  1. Paper 1 comprises 100 questions | 200 marks | 2 hours
  2. There is negative marking  (1/3rd) for each wrongly attempted question
  3. 2013 onwards, IFoS (Forest Services) Pre was combined with CSE Pre. What did this merger do? Excellent question!
    • Saved time for people appearing for both the examination
    • Increased the portion of Enviro & Biodiversity!



#1. Current Affairs

Daily news analysis is an integral part of an aspirant’s IAS preparation. A sincere student ends up devoting more than 2 hours everyday to newspapers and still looks out for more help!

We would suggest that you start with Hindu or Indian Express and keep up with the civilsdaily’s android app for key point summaries. That’s one of the most convenient ways of reinforcing newsbytes. We hand pick news from the most relevant sources and even though this may sound like self promotion, we did perform fairly well in this year’s prelims. Go ahead, read this short analysis.


#2. History of India

Start with the Indian National Struggle (everything that led up to our Independence) – This should be the easiest part of the history syllabus. Covering Ancient and Medieval India can be trickier and may make you wonder ki kaash Bangladesh ki Civil Services ke liye likh rahe hote. Wouldn’t have this much of a history to mug up on. 1971 mein to start hi hua tha!

We would suggest that you focus mainly on the Indian Art & Culture – and for this, the mother of all resources is the ccrt website. Alternatively, do look at the history section @civilsdaily.com – you would benefit with the infographs and pop quizzes that we curate.

#3. Polity and Governance

You are broadly supposed to know about the following topics – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

By and large, most of the syllabus is covered by Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity. You are required to read this book cover to cover and many do this for ~10 times. The reason is that you tend to skip/ ignore some parts of the text in the first few readings which might actually be important for the exam and multiple readings make sure that you get a complete dope of the book.

No need to go for anything beyond this book unless of course you are bored and want a different storyline to the same articles and rights! We have been keeping up with the dynamic news on this topic at our Stories @Polity.

#4. India and World Geography

Stick to the NCERTs of 11th and 12th. If you still feel overwhelmed, go for the 9th and 10th books as well. But keep a tab on current affairs along with these static books and you should be good. We have been keeping up with the dynamic news on this topic at our Stories @Geography.

#5. Environment and Biodiversity

Enviro & Biodiversity became important with the merger of IFoS Prelims with CSE Prelims. Since then, aspirants across the country have been looking at the good god above for a one book that can help them sail through.

The closest bets have been – Shankar IAS’ Enviro Book, Current Affairs from Hindu, Express and this UGC course book by Erach Bharucha. You should also read this blog by Satish Reddy (AIR 97) on how to tackle EnB.

#6. Indian Economy and Social Development

You do not really have to go and read the evolution of Planning Commission and other organisations in general to get a hang of what’s buzzing in Indian Economy these days. UPSC wants you to keep a tab on Macroeconomics and many a toppers have suggested that NCERTs of 11th and 12th would do just well. Also, keep up with our stories where we cover the latest news in great depths at Stories @Economics section.

If you do these few things well, you will be in good stead for your IAS Mains preparation as well. 



Questions, suggestions and comments

  1. Franciss Maths

    Which ncert books I have refer, old or new

    1. Concept Simplified

      New NCERTs

      For current affairs you can access the following video https://youtu.be/qE-5UXWf_1I

  2. Sonali Raj

    which ncerts for geography? new or the old ones?

  3. Kannan Realkings

    How i planned my study and strategy? give some ideas please….

  4. kannan mookandy

    What about Science and Tec ?….

  5. duggineni gopikrishna

    i have completed my btech in 2010 and i think its to late , i from background of Information Tech ,where i am confusing how to start and how to complete the key points in the topics

    1. Kunal Grover

      Forget about being late or early. Journey to a destination begins from the point you are at presently. Cover ncerts and start reading newspapers and forming well informed and unbiased opinions that can be substantiated with facts and references.

  6. Priti Priyanka

    Currently I am in govt service in govt insurance company. I have completed my MBA in 2014. I know it is late but I want to know how to start with pre syllabus, as I am from commerce background. Kindly guide me

    1. Rishab Sinha

      u shud start with with ncert n newspapers n these two things will take u on other materials which helps u alot!!!!??? best of luck!!!

      1. Rishab Sinha

        n yaa its never too late ….so dont think how it will happen start thinking it will happen!!!!

  7. mohan mishra

    I have read at quite a few places that ncerts of class vi-xth are important and must be read. For geography you have mentioned xi-xiith would do. And d same for economics. Any comment on this.? Which approach to follow?

    1. Rishab Sinha

      its upto ur interst if u r intersted than go from 7 to 12th!!!!

    2. Rohit Pande

      Go for 11th-12th first. If you think you need a more basic initiation then go for 9th-10th.

      Economics – 11th-12th would perfectly suffice. Not much is taught in middle classes.

      1. mohan mishra

        VI-VIII th should be avoided completely??

        1. Rohit Pande

          I would say so unless you find the 11-12th very overwhelming

          1. Kunal Grover

            Sorry to differ Mr. Pandey. UPSC is not done with and shall never done with asking basic questions. ONLY THE FORM CHANGES NOT THE MATTER. AS THEY SAY AATMA NA MARTI HAI NA JANAM LETI HAI,BAS ROOP BADALTI HAI. Reading 6-10th NCERTs is must before moving to 11th and 12th. Aage jaisa aap chahe.

          2. mohan mishra

            Thanks mate. Actually I am starting to prepare for upsc and just want to make sure that I dont waste my time in any sense.

          3. mohan mishra

            So history polity geography eco all xith and xiith. What about science

          4. Rohit Pande

            No one reads them buddy. Upsc is done asking basic questions… Cost benefit kam hai…

  8. Gaurav Bhakuni

    Hello , I am new to the UPSC world and i was wondering whteher one should study for mains first and prelims in the last 2 months ??
    As many people have suggested me to prepare for mains as this will cover the prelims syllabus too.

    1. Kunal Grover

      Those “many people” are right.

  9. Kurian John

    What books to refer the syllabus?

    1. Root

      Thanks of reminding – We will write one soon on that.

  10. Braveheart Victor

    Please also provide the print and pdf button!!

  11. ravi shankar reddy Mandadi

    this year prelims there is hardly 3 questions from culture so is it imp to focus for pre2016?

    1. Amit Bhardwaj

      Ravi, after 2011 prelims, every coaching mall made a prophecy that there era of fact based questions is over. Now it is only concepts that UPSC shall test even in prelims. Well their prophecy worked. Till last year, that is. Prelim 2015 left them with no corner to hide their face. Basically what I am getting at is that even a trend repeated for 4 years could not act as a collateral for 5th year. UPSC is trend setter not trend follower. So read all basic books prescribed and go for it. Don’t count the number of questions from a section. Just complete the section. ?

    2. Root

      1. You can’t predict the paper ahead.
      2. Try reading and making short notes from CCRT’s website.
      3. Go and have a look at this compilation – http://www.civilsdaily.com/category/history/
      (We have tried to make things interesting here)

  12. Ayushi Mahapatra

    How important is ancient Indian history with regards to the prelims exam? And please suggest some books covering the syllabus.

    1. Rishab Sinha

      its really important!!!

    2. Sumer Shah

      Decently important now that paper 2 is a mere qualifier. Give a look at NIOS and Tamil Nadu’s NCERTs – they are easy to grasp and light on read….

      1. Ayushi Mahapatra

        Thank you!

  13. harshada parab

    Please explain about general science

    1. Focus Ias


      Do not worry about general science. not many questions are asked from basic science textbooks of nicest…. just get hold of science and tech news on daily newspapers and know the reasons behind them… thats all..

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