Beginners Column

The Civil Services Preliminary examination, conducted by the UPSC is believed to be the toughest stage in the whole process of the IAS selection. Every year over 10 lakh persons register for the Civil Services Preliminary Examination. Though, generlally half of them take the Preliminary, the number of candidates who are qualified for the second stage (Civil Services Main Exam) will be only around 15000 meaning that around 97% of the candidates are eliminated at this stage.

But if you are serious, embrace the potent strategy along with proper guidance, orientation, and study material for making through Prelims a cake-walk.






GS Paper I

  • 100 MCQs x 2 marks = 200 Marks
  • Duration = 2 hours
  • Negative marking for wrong answers = -0.66
  • Marks counted for Mains selection, but not in final selection
  • Geography
  • History & Culture
  • Polity
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Current Affairs
  • Science and Tech

GS Paper  II

  • 80 MCQs x 2.5 marks 200 Marks
  • Duration 2 hours
  • Negative marking for wrong answers = -0.66
  • Marks not counted in Mains selection. Only 33% passing marks have to be obtained.
  • Comprehension
  • Logical Reasoning & Analytical Ability
  • General Mental Ability
  • Basic Numeracy
  • Data Interpretation
  • Decision Making &Comm Skills








History & Culture

  • Indian History can be divided into 3 sections - Ancient, Medieval and Modern. As per the recent trend atleast 15 - 20% weightage is given to history. Further, more weightage is given to Modern History when compared to Ancient & Medieval History.


  • Indian Culture is a diverse topic comprising of Art, Architecture and Literature and encompasses cultural aspect for Ancient, Medieval and Modern India.


  • Over the years its weightage has been increasing & with the scrapping of CSAT one can’t afford to lose mark in such static areas.Over the years its weightage has been increasing & with the scrapping of CSAT one can't afford to lose mark in such static areas.



  • NCERT  - Class 11th  "Ancient India" (OLD) - R.S. Sharma


  • Tamil Nadu Edition - Class 11th




  • NCERT - Class 11th  "Medieval India" (OLD) - Satish Chandra



  • TamilNadu Edition – Class 11th




  • NCERT – Class 12th “Modern India” (OLD)


  • Tamil Nadu Edition - Class 12th


  • Spectrum “Modern India”




  • NCERT – Class 11th – Text Books on Fine Art (OLD)


  • Tamil Nadu Edition –11th and 12th


  • CCRT Website


  • NIDS material





  • On an average 15-18% of the questions come from Indian Polity. Questions from Polity comes from both static as well as dynamic past. The questions are generally easy to moderate, but they are at times tricky and the options are very close to the correct answer. So one should be more focussed & attentive and shall have great clarity while attempting these questions.



  • Indian Polity by Laxmi Kant


  • DD Basu – Introduction to Indian Constitution for additional reference






  • Though the weightage has gradually decreased over the years, it still has its relevance with around 10-13% weightage, its mark fetching. Clarity of concept is the key to fetch good marks in geography related questions. Focus should be given more on Indian Geography which accounts for 80-90% of Geo-Prelims questions.
  • NCERT – Social Science – Class 6th to 10th


  • NCERT – Class 11th Fundamentals of


  • Physical Geography
  • Indian Physical Environment


  • NCERT – Class 12th


  • Fundamentals of  Human Geography
  • India – People and Economy


  • Atlas – Oxford / Black swan




  • This section also carries 10-14% of weightage. Questions are based on your conceptual understanding of Micro and Macro Economics. So, invest more time in understanding the concepts & analysing how one concept is linked to another.
  • NCERT –6th to 12th
  • Indian Economy by Dutt & Sundaram
  • Economic Survey




  • 25-30% of the GS Paper-I is related to Environment. Making this are very important. The questions are very dynamic and unpredictable and there is no concrete material. It is difficult to cover exhaustively everything and thus the key to prepare for environment is to relate and learn in a smarter way.




Science & Technology

  • UPSC Emphasize on the dynamic and analytical aspect of Science & Tech. It also demands clarity of concepts rather than only facts question from this section are basic and deal more with current happening.
  • PIB
  • Government Websites like ISRO, DRDO, IISC etc
  • Science Section in Newspapers



Current Affairs

  • In recent years the important of current Affairs has greatly. Increasing analytical nature of questions and as well as with enhanced weightage of Environment and  Science. It covers a wide range of topics which overlaps with the core subjects like Geography, Polity, Environment, Economics, History, Science & Technology question also covers Government Policies / Imitations, Schemes etc.


  • RajyaSabha and LokSabha Debates



1. Revise every Subject!

On the basic level covering every subject of Civil Services Preliminary exam is the best approach to clear prelims now. There is no blue print/exam pattern, UPSC being unpredictable is well known for surprise. The weightage will never the same. It is not recommended to give priority to any particular book or area thinking that question will from that source, Likewise its equally important not to miss easy questions from conventional subjects like History, Polity, Geography and Economics. For this one should study the NCERT books (std 6th - 12th) and along with that brushing up the previous years' question paper would be a good idea. Keeping an eye on the tight competition, areas like culture and environment can't be neglected and shall be given equal weightage. Current affairs preparation should be done considering the best schemes and bills launched by the Government.

2. Invest on the right books

Picking up recommended books & right study material is of utmost importance. The NCERT books are thought to be must read as they clean up the doubts at fundamental level and help candidates in scoring higher marks. Make use of the internet to broaden your horizon. But make sure that you don-t waste too much time for particular topic. First two/three paragraph of wikipedia would suffice. The major order of this strategy is that you will end up with good enough knowledge over a huge range of topics. This will be immense important in intelligent guessing.

3. Take Prelims Mock Exams

This is one area which tells apart successful candidates from those who fail to crack Prelims. Mock test are integral part of regular preparations of successful candidates. By revising the attempted tests you get a chance to identify your mistakes. Writing mock tests aim you with confidence which is the key to success in any examination.

4. Don't take CSAT lightly: 

Even though you only need to score 33% marks in CSAT (GS Paper II) it can become a little difficult given the unpredictability of UPSC. Areas like Basic Numeracy, General Mental Ability and Logical Reasoning are in the increasing level of difficulty each year. Tricky areas like comprehension also got increased, both in difficulty and numbers and easy areas like Decision Making, Also there is growing trend of lot of questions which are time consuming, thus 'making the paper little lengthier. Therefore the overall difficulty level of paper is expected to go up every year and hence you can't totally neglect CSAT Paper.

5. Go with a relaxed mind on the exam day: 

All your efforts will go in vain if you lose your cool on the D-day. It's pertinent to read questions carefully and make sure you don't make silly mistakes. In a related state of mind, you will be able to answer questions accurately and in less time. Count on your abilities and be confident that you can clear Civil Services Preliminary exam, and you will.



In the below article we shall brief you about the examination Civil Service (Mains) – structure, syllabus, books, analysis and chart you with a strategy on how to prepare for Civil Service (Mains). Note that the below strategy is a broad generic template which one has to modify according to his/her preparation level, because one size doesn’t fit all.

Unlike the Civil Service (Prelims) examination which is of MCQs type, Civil Service (Mains) examination is of descriptive type. Completing the paper within the given three hours is an art which doesn’t come without practice. This Hence the candidate shall not take up this challenge highly and should give due weightage to writing practice in building one’s own writing speed, structuring etc before appearing in the Civil Service (Mains) exam.

Time is a major constraint in this battle and hence one should plan it and use it efficiently. Time management is required at two levels – one during the preparation time and other during the examination. Failing to effectively manage time in any of the two levels is bound to costa aspirant.

Also the approach on every subject differs from that of the Prelims. Let us consider the news “The 14th Finance Commision submitted report - Y V Reddy heads the Commission”

For preliminary questions might be like

  1. The heads of Finance Commissions
  2. The relevant article of the constitution pertaining to the Finance Commission etc

For mains question changes to something likr

  1. Evaluate the Recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission

So it becomes essential to have an analytic approach to every subject.

To effective manage one’s own preparation time its advisable to chalk out a study plan in accordance with GS test batch and to religiously follow the same without any mismatch.


General Study Paper I



Sub Topics




Art and Culture (Ancient to Modern)

  • Art Forms
  • Literature
  • Architecture

Every year 2-3 questions are asked from this section. This section includes several hundred paintings, folk dances, literary works etc. If one tries to mug up everything theit would become a self administered poison. The best thing is to study smartly a few limited books, revise them and shall try to answer the questions.

NCERT class XI. An introduction to Indian Art

Tamil Nadu – Class XI History Books

CCRT website



Modern Indian History (1750 onward)

  • Events
  • Personalities
  • Issues

This section also carries equal weightage as that of art and culture. Any of the standard books covers this entire syllabus. Question from this section are more analytical and current affairs oriented. This note learning wont help in answering the questions, rather wholistic understanding and critical examination is needed.

Spectrum-comprehensive History of Modern India.


Selective Readings from India’s struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra/

India After Gandhi by RamachandraGuha


Freedom struggle (1850 onwards)

  • Stages
  • Contributors & contributions from different parts of the country


Post Independence consolidation and Reorganisation

Comparatively this section carries less weightage with 1612 questions only being asked. Hence investing more time to cover this section is not advisable  as the input to output ration is very less. Generally the institute materials of 30-40 pages would suffice to cover this entire topic.

India since Independence by Bipan Chandra. (Selective reading).

India after Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha (Selective reading).


World History (from 18th century onwards)

Political Philosophies forms and effects

Around 2-3 questions are asked from this section. Questions from this section are on the easier side and a candidate would be able to attend any of the questions by reading the following books.

Mastering World History by Norman Lowe.


History of the World from the late 19th century to the early 21st century.



Sub Topics




Salient Features of Indian Society

All these topics are mostly dynamic and are often linked with the current affairs. Thus this section requires a broad general understanding of the Indian society, awareness about the current issues of the Indian society and on the spot thinking. Generally 5-6 questions come from this section and if one can smartly prepare, he can score more from this section by investing less time.

Indian Society by S.C Dube

Current Affairs


Diversity of India


Role of women and Women’s Organisation.


Effect of Globalisation on  Indian Society


Social empowerment, Communication, regionalism and Secularism.




Sub Topics




Salient Features of World’s Physical Geography.

Geography sections carries a good weightage with 6-7 questions being asked every year. Focus of the question is to know about the indepth knowledge and understanding of the Indian and World Geography. Hence role learning and by hearting of books is not advisable. The best way is to smarthy inter relate and inter connect the various currentevents and to analytical approach this section. However to gather the basic under standing the flowing books shall  be useful.

Goh Cheng Leong – Physical Geography.

NCERT – Class XIth Physical Geography.

NCERT – Class XI – Indian Geography

NCERT Class XIIth Human Geography

NCERT Class XIIth People and Economy.


Distribution of key natural resources across the world and factors responsible for location of 1°, 2°, 3° sector industries in various parts of the world.


Important Geographical features their locations and changes and effect of such changes.


Important Geographical Phenomenon such as earthquakes Tsunami, Cyclone, Volcanic activity.






Sub Topics




India and its neighbourhood relations

It covers India’s close neighbours like Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Myanmar, Afghanistan. The dynamicity of interactions constantly with our neighbours makes this sections very important from Civil Service (Mains) prospective and every year 2-3 questions are asked from this section. It requires an understanding of the historical underpinning and also the changing contours of bilateral relationships.

MEA Website

Current Affairs Analysis

MEA for bilateral and regional and global groupings.


Ministry Official Website.

Newspaper follow up and analysis

Newspaper follow up and analysis


Bilateral, regional and Global groupings and arrangements involving India and affecting India’s Interest.

Focus shall be given to bilateral relations with important countries like USA, UK, France, Japan etc. For regional and Global groupings the questions are generally asked based on current events and developments happening around the world. Around two questions are generally asked.


Effect of policies, and politics if developed and developing countries on India’s interest, Indian Diaspora

This is dynamic sections and the questions if asked are based on the current events. For Indian diaspora a wholistic coverage based on previous year questions would suffice.


Important International Institution agencies, their structure, mandate etc.

UN and its bodies shall be studied in totality. Non UN bodies that are in the current years limelight shall also be prepared. Issues pertaining to these bodies appearing in the newspaper shall be covered.




Sub Topics




Indian Constitution: Historical underpinning evolution, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Around 6 – 7 questions come from this section. To answer these questions a strong basic foundation is required. This can be gained by studying the NCERT and the Laxmikanth book.

NCERT Class X Democratic Politics


NCERT Class XI Indian Constitution at work.


Indian Polity by Laxmikanth


Our Parliament by SubashKashyap




Current Affairs Analysis


Functions and  Responsibilities of union and state, Federal structure, Devolution of power and finances.


Separation of powers, Dispute Redressal mechanisms and institutions.

Apart from these conventional sources “Report of the 2nd ARC” covers areas such as organisation structure of GOI (13th Report), Capacity Building for Conflict Resolution (7th Report) etc. However caution should be applied not to over read the 2nd ARC report and waste one’s time’s



Parliaments & SCA structure, functioning power and privileges and issues arising out of these.

Topics such as comparison of India constitution with that of others, salient features of RM etc are not generally covered in the conventional books, thus requiring a special emphasised reading from other sources.


Structure, organisation and functioning of Executive and Judicially ministries and Department of government pressure groups etc.



Comparison of Indian constitution with others.

Salient features of RAA.

Statutory, regulatory  Quasi judicial bodies




Constitutional posts appointment, powers, functions and responsibilities.

Finally after building one’s foundation and conceptual clarity the crucial part ties in relating these topics with the current events.