Deciding what to read keeps most aspirants (even when I was preparing) pretty confused about this exam. A prudent selection of sources for prelims, mains and interview is a must right from the beginning. Here is what I mostly referred to during the process:


  1. Polity: Laxmikanth (this is a must and you must know the entire book cover to cover pretty well). In a good year when polity portion is big in prelims, at least 15 questions might come straight from this book!
  2. History: Spectrum History of Modern India, Bipan Chandra India’s Freedom Struggle (blue-yellow book), NCERT Fine Arts Book from class 12th, GK Today Culture Notes, NCERT New Books on History – Themes in Indian History Part I and II, NCERT Old History books from Class VI – XII. These are a must. If you can, refer to Visiton notes on history as well. (This is for prelims). Remember that the weightage of ancient culture and history and freedom struggle has been relatively more than medieval history. So devote your time accordingly.
  3. Economy Micro: NCERT books from class XI and XII (not all details to be read, refer to Mrunal for this as he explains economy really well – and Mrunal VIDEOS are essential) + Sanjiv Verma can be used if even Mrunal is not helping you, however this is quite a heavy book and I didn’t like it much. Please remember that from economics micro, UPSC asks questions based on fundamentals and some on basic current affairs. Nothing too deep is needed.
  4. Economy Macro: NCERT books from class XI and XII and current affairs such as survey, budget and important policy news.
  5. Social Science: NCERT books class VI-XII (Geography, Polity etc.)
  6. Science: NCERT Class VI to X science books for non-science students and Class XII Biology book last 5 chapters
  7. Geography: NCERT Physical Geography and as told above + Oxford Atlas Maps + Mrunal Videos. Understanding maps is a must as 2–4 questions will come directly from maps and locations of various important features.
  8. India Year Book selected chapters or pick up notes on IYB made available by coaching centres.
  9. Environment: Shankar IAS Green Book. If you want, you can refer to my notes.
  10. Current Affairs: Selective newspaper reading. Learn how to read a newspaper in a smart way. I will doing a video of it soon on youtube. Also, use current affairs magazines. I personally prefer GK Today as it is comprehensive for prelims.
  11. Practice Questions
    1. Use old UPSC papers of at least last 12-15 years for prelims
    2. India Polity Question Bank by TMH
    3. Geography Question bank by TMH
    4. Social and Economic Development Question Bank TMH
    5. Arihant 14000+ questions general studies

Mains (same sources as above — for prelims plus these below):

  1. GS 1: India Since Independence – Bipan Chandra; World history — NCERT Arjun Dev and you can use youtube videos as well as vision notes for this. For society part I referred to vision notes on society. These are decent. Read the syllabus and prepare each topic separately. Trends in Indian Culture and Heritage Dr. Ausaf Sayeed.
  2. GS 2: Indian Constitution at Work — NCERT. Laxmikanth is not that important, just read the basics here. Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy – Rajiv Sikri — classic book. You can again refer to my notes[2]
  3. GS 3:
    1. Economic Survey – you can look at online videos and read summaries only and main chapters
    2. Yojana and Kurukshetra are a must here as well as NITI Aayog important reports. (very important for GS 3)
  4. GS 4: Lexicon for Ethics
  5. Other books to be read in free time (will help in interview):
    1. India Unbound – Gurcharan Das
    2. Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor
    3. An Uncertain Glory — Sen
    4. The Wonder that Was India – Basham (very thick)