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. 



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By Root

Caretaker @civilsdaily

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