How many Books do I have to read for IAS Examination?

The answer to the most penetrating question in the mind of all the IAS aspirants about the books required to study for the IAS Exam Preparation.

Created On: Sep 2, 2015 15:06 IST

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conduct the Civil Services Exam each year to recruit candidates for the most reputed Services such as IAS, IPS , IFS and others. Preparation for Civil Services Examination requires an aspirant to study to be a well aware, well acquainted person. However, such a vague description neither limits the scope of studies nor defines the domain.


An IAS officer is perceived to have ample and sufficient knowledge to deal with any sorts of problems ranging from daily chores to peculiar problems. He/she should be well versed with all possible subject matters. Hence, in light of all these, it can be concluded that an elementary level knowledge pertaining to all themes and substances should be imbibed in an IAS officer. Therefore, subject matters of secondary level should form the foundation of an IAS aspirant.

Realistically specifying, there can never be a fixed number of prescribed books. Uniformity can never be maintained at least in mentioning the number of books to be referred. Some likes to read from internet, some likes to refer coaching institutes’ notes, even some would like to prescribe only standard NCERT books and some may go for amalgamation of all these sources. What all books, which all sources and how many in number solely depends upon the comfort and ease of candidates. These vary from time to time, from aspirant to aspirant and from experienced to naïve candidates.

However, the theme of the preparation remains more or less same. Through this article, some standard prescribed books has been highlighted with a disclaimer that the sources and books can vary and not limited to any extent.

Recommended Books

General Studies comprise of Geography, History, Polity, Economics, Science & Technology, Environment Science, Art & Culture and Current Affairs to cover the majority of part. However, for the mains examination, in addition to the above discussed subject matters, some portions of Sociology, Philosophy and Psychology are also supposed to be studied. Through following bullets, the prescribed books have been enlisted –

  • Geography -  NCERT from class VI to XI, G. C. Leong, Atlas
  • History -  NCERT from class VI to X; India’s struggle for independence (Bipin Chandra), India Since Independence (Bipin Chandra)
  • Polity – D. D. Basu or Subhash Kashyap or M. Laxmikant (McGraw)[referred by maximum people], NCERT XI and XII
  • Economics – Indian Economy (NCERT XI), Ramesh Singh (McGraw)
  • Science & Technology – NCERT VI to X; The Hindu (Thursday edition), internet
  • Environment Science - NCERT XI, IGNOU material and Environmental Studies (E. Bharucha)
  • Art & Culture – NCERT XI, Hand written notes of Nitin Singhania (Photo copies available in the market), Internet
  • Sociology – NCERT XI
  • Philosophy and Psychology – Lexicon (Chronicle) or any other comprehensive text book for GS – IV
  • Newspaper – This is the prerogative of aspirants and they can select any one or two from The Hindu, Indian Express, Times of India, Live Mint and Economic Times.

However, even such extensive list of books cannot cover the syllabi of UPSC comprehensively. There are some portions, which needs to be picked up from sporadic sources. This article still makes an attempt to enlist them as follows –

  • Websites of important ministries (Home Affairs, Environment, Law, Women & Social Justice, Rural development etc.)
  • Websites of PRS (for new legislation, reports and committees), PIB (for daily news endorsed by the government), NITI Aayog (For government’s policies, plan and implementation), ICCR (for art & culture), IDSA (for international affairs, India’ relation with other countries, internal securities and defence) etc.
  • RSTV (Several standard debates pertaining to burning issues are organised during prime time), Al Jazeera channel (for International affairs)
  • Economic Survey (it come every financial year just a day prior to the budget and enumerates plethora of data associated with the government. It also encompasses various concepts, analysis and reasons for some of the economics happening in India );
  • Yojana (Although Yojana is sponsored by government and is an official venture, it is in no way is restricted to expressing the government views alone. it attempts to give praise where praise is due and criticize with constructive purpose.);
  • Kurukshetra (It is yet again a monthly journal sponsored by the government to cater to rural development issues);
  • India Year Book, PIB (Its content pertain to the summary of all the ministries, policies and other concerned knowledge of a complete year);
  • Administrative Reforms Commission Reports – 2 (This was published in 2005 and has several reports discussing problems, administrative lacuna, issues and gentle way out on topics ranging from corruption and internal security to administration efficacies and Citizen’s charter)
  • There are couple of other websites dedicated for the IAS examination, which can also be consulted from time to time, hosting important topics, explanation, guidance and what not.

Now, the question arises, as many new aspirants raise very often, if such well recognised sources are known to everyone, what do successful candidates do in addition, to have edge over others? What are the additional sources which should be adhered further to march ahead from heavy rush of aspirants? Are there any invisible or secret materials, which very few have access to? Following paragraph makes an attempt to deal with such questions.

Frankly saying, there are no such resources. In fact the books and sources discussed here form only a tiny portion of the materials available in the market/book shops. To be successful, in fact lesser number of sources than as enumerated above will suffice. It is the implementation of their meticulous planning, consistency in studies, self-belief, hunger for the success, zeal to fulfilling their dreams and patience which make them stand apart. Majority of aspirants are rhetoric and upbeat about their preparation for the most coveted examination only. They fail to codify such enthusiasm into actual preparation.

These are, however, only a portion of reasons differentiating successful candidates with the other groups.

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