How to study Economics (GS) for cracking IAS Prelims

First things first,

Why is Economics important?


On average 16 questions are asked from economy portion and all the questions are very doable i.e. solid 32 marks you can easily get out of 105-100 needed to clear prelims i.e. solid 30% from economy alone! Unlike Environment and Biodiversity part of syllabus, there is no Greek or Latin here.

But very often when I talk to aspirants, I hear the usual refrain, I have no background in economics, my economy portion is weak, I don’t understand anything in economics and so I don’t read economics/ business section of newspaper  and am not able to attempt many questions correctly in mock tests as well as actual exam.

What lies behind this mortal fear of economics?

  1. Before starting preparation for IAS, most of us have neither read economics as a subject in school or college nor would we follow news items related to economy save for budget may be. We only watch political debates on TV
  2. Economy section of newspaper is filled with economic jargon such as repo, SLR, CRR, core inflation, terms of trade, monetary transmission, real GDP, nominal GDP, fiscal deficit, current account deficit ..list just goes on. To average reader it doesn’t make any sense so he doesn’t care to read that section. It takes you into a vicious cycle and makes you hate economy
  3. Economics books available in the market for UPSC preparation ain’t great. They just write anything and everything under the sun in boring mundane language. Of course we all have better things to do in life. So, people buy the recommended books, read 10 pages and never open that book again for by now they hate economics even more
  4. Websites which simplify economics such as investopedia are not written with Indian audience in mind, people just get lost
  5. Fundamental questions are not answered on Indian Website while useless detail is incorporated in the article. Average reader begins to rattaofy every data set and soon loses interest

We can hear you shouting, we all agree with you, that’s exactly the problem, now tell us the solution and if all books are shitty which one would you recommend. Please don’t tell us you are bringing a new book in the market.

Before we come to the solution, let’s read the syllabus in the words of UPSC

  • Economic and Social Development Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • It does not say anything about conceptual macroeconomics but we all know therein lies the crux of matter.

We divide the conceptual part into following parts for convenience-

National income accounting; Budget and Fiscal policy,Banking and finance,RBI and monetary policy; Money Market and Stock Market; International Market, trade and balance of payment; Micro economy

So, what’s the solution?

Solution emerges from the problem my friends. Real crux of the problem is economic jargon and solution lies in dejargonising economics. We can hear you whispering, what an idiot, there are so many economic dictionaries in the market to do just that thing.

Friends problem with economic dictionary is the same as problem with normal English dictionary. You didn’t learn your vocabulary from dictionary, did you? We built our vocabulary as we kept reading. We can’t understand things without context and often the context is missing there.

So what do we recommend?

  1. Start with NCERT class 12 Macroeconomics. This book has very very basic stuff, lots of derivations which will not be asked in exam but if you want to understand economics well, sit tight with pencil and paper and derive those equations. There are just 6 chapters, less than 100 pages yes, not even 100 pages. If you read one chapter at a time, it will take not more than two hours and in less than a week, you will be own the macroeconomics.
  2. Read 11th standard economics book, India’s economic development. Read it like a story but try to understand important stuff like poverty, human resource development etc. It won’t take many hours.
  3. For those who are game, read 12th standard microeconomics. It’s not a must read, sirf jinda dil logon ke liye.
  4. Now comes the most important part. Read economy/ business section of newspaper everyday. Ask questions,why has RBI raised rates, why are industrialists clamoring for rate cut and try to answer them when you read them. It will consolidate your concepts.
  5. Do a simple Google search whenever you come across a term you don’t understand. Still don’t understand, get it resolved here.
  6. If you are game, watch Crash Course Macroeconomics or Khan academy videos (just one 10 minute video a day)
  7. Having done one to six faithfully, read two volumes of Sriram Economy book. But only after doing point one to six.

But certainly NCERT won’t be sufficient for UPSC right. That’s why I said, read volume one of economic survey line to line and selective reading of volume two. Keep reading business/economy section of newspaper. Get your doubts cleared then and there.

Economics at the entry level (GS pre and mains) is the easiest subject. There’s not much to mug up and only two concepts, concept of demand and supply and that of opportunity cost. Every other principle, theorem can be derived from this concept. For instance, you think just because you don’t have to pay anything to read this article, it’s free. It has cost my friends, opportunity cost. You could be doing something else in the time if not reading the article. Why have I written this article? Simple, I feel there was demand for such an article. That’s it. These are the only concepts.

You don’t trust us, right. Don’t trust anyone. Always verify. So here is my verification. Click on separate hyperlinks

  1. IAS pre Economy In depth analysis part 1  and solutions
  2. IAS pre Economy In depth analysis part 2  and solutions
  3. IAS pre Economy In depth analysis part 3  and solutions

But, we would make things much simpler for you and this is what we have planned for you-

  1. Stories and news cards related to economy are already being covered regularly. That will help you with the current economics
  2. Economic survey will be covered very comprehensively chapter by chapter.
  3. Concepts presented in economic survey such as genesis of various financial crises or how the flexible exchange rate system reduces the ferocity of crisis or why government plans to disband classification into plan and non plan etc., will be dealt with separately depending on use appetite
  4. Concepts of economics will be covered in a very dynamic fashion. Everything will be dejargonisied by breaking them into component parts. Fundamental questions will be answered without cluttering the articles with useless data copy pasted from official reports. It will help you solidify your concepts but I would still recommend reading NCERT macro first.
  5. International organisations like WTO, IMF, World Bank group will be covered under our IR series, click here

We have already pushed a few articles as back to basics. More will be available on your desk very soon. Every concept will be covered here but I would still recommend you read economic survey very carefully. More than half of your economics will be done.

We don’t recommend Dutt and Sundaram, kapadia, Mishra and Puri, Ramesh Singh are useless books. Don’t waste your time over reading those books. Wikipedia and Investopedia will give you more information in a much better way.

Economics for mains is a different story altogether but without basics, you won’t be able to do that either. We shall analyse economics for mains some other day.

If you are at a stage where you can appreciate Indian Economics discussions or annual budget discussions, do give these a read – 


By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

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Vignesh sabari
Vignesh sabari
4 years ago

Could you please suggest study material for Eco mains? I am not sure about where to study for Eco mains. Will Sriram 2 volumes and current affairs enough or should I read Ramesh singh? Please suggest.