UPSC Civil Services exam Books & tips for General Studies (Mains)

General Studies – Main Examination
It is usually observed that many aspirants fear the GS paper. But with proper orientation GS becomes very scoring. In fact, many try to concentrate more on optionals than GS. This may not be a good strategy, as GS gives good marks with
lesser efforts. The GS is also helpful in essay and interview, and also later on in career. Therefore, proper attention should be given to GS preparation.

Firstly, the nature of GS should be understood. This can be done by a thorough analysis of the previous years papers. It can be observed that the examiner is not asking everything under the Sun, which is contrary to the opinion of many aspirants. The questions are focused only on certain dimensions, especially those relevant for an administrative career.
It is important to know the difference between a generalist and a specialist. A generalist is a person who knows “less and less of more and more”, while a specialist is a person who knows “more and more of less and less”. The Civils Exam in the GS paper is testing the Generalist approach.

The national movement and related developments have to be studied with good clarity. The aspirant should have a clear idea about the chronological sequence, the linkages between various topics and a good analysis about each stage. It should be remembered that the portion is not to be studied as if writing History optional. The GS paper will only test the basic clarity on the national movement.

Suggested Readings:
  • Modern History by Spectrum Publications – This is written well in exam orientation.
  • Bipan Chandra books as a reference and to get further clarity.
  • NCERT books for a basic understanding.

There should be a good understanding about the geography of India. This will also help a lot in prelims.

Suggested Reading:
  •  Physical Geography of India, NCERT Class XI
  •  Land and People, NCERT Class XI

There is a standard syllabus for this part and good material with clarity is also available. The questions are mostly asked directly. So scoring becomes easy with good understanding with clarity. The knowledge in polity also helps a lot in the essay and interview. This will give a good foundation for the career as an administrator. It is very important to study polity well.

Suggested Reading:
  • Indian Polity by Laxmikant, TMH - it is a very good compilation from various sources.
  • DD Basu can be used as a reference.
  • You need not to remember all the articles. There are only around 50 articles which are important. Note them when referred to in the text.
  • Its better to quote some articles and Court judgements (only very important ones) while writing answers.
  • Questions are linked to various topics. So while preparing you should be awareof the inter-linkages between various topics.
  • Various current affairs topics which are linked to polity are asked. Also, sometimes basic questions linked to current affairs can be asked.

Social Issues
There is no standard material for these topics. Further, questions are also not asked every year. Even if asked, mostly they are of general nature, which can be answered with common sense. So do not spend too much time on these areas or in search of material. Prepare well for other parts of GS and later if time permits then come to
these areas.

Suggested Reference:
  • “The Hindu” News Paper
  • “Frontline” Magazine
  • Competition magazines
  • Yojana
  • Internet

India and the world
The questions are asked to test the basic understanding about the relations with other nations and India’s foreign policy. Mostly, questions are related to current affairs. There is a need to have clarity about the basic contours of the evolution of India’s foreign policy. But do not get into too much depth or controversial topics. You are expected to have a basic clarity on India’s external affairs. There are not many standard books available on the subject. Mostly, the preparation has to be based on current affairs.

Suggested Reading:
  •  NCERT 12th std. book on Political science
  •  Old NCERT book on Political Science
  •  Newspapers - Hindu articles, C. Raja Mohan articles in New Indian Express.
  •  Foreign Ministry website

International Affairs
The questions are mainly current affairs related. The most important developments which appear in the newspapers will be sufficient for the preparation. Observe the terms, personalities, places, etc which can be asked for the two markers. Also prepare for the institutions. First list out the various important institutions. Then gather basic material on them. You can also try the web sites of the institutions for the information. You can also read “International Organizations” by Spectrum Publications.

Indian Economy
This is an area, which is feared by many, especially because of lack of proper examoriented textbook with clarity. But with some basic understanding, economy can become very scoring.

Suggested Reading:
  • Dutt and Sundaram or Mishra and Puri - These books are a big compilation with lots of unnecessary facts. Do not read the book from end to end. You should be able to get clarity out of every topic. So, first scan through the topic and the side headings. Then question logically in various dimensions. Try to find the answers to the questions raised as you go through the material and prepare a logical structure. For. E.g. Unemployment - What is unemployment; types; extent and distribution; causes; impact; efforts to reduce; appraisal of policies; recent measures; suggestions;
  • Economic Survey- It is a very useful document, which should be focused upon. Prepare notes from it. Also observe the graphs, which can be used as innovations in answers. While reading, note the terms, which can be asked for two markers. The box items are very important.
  • NCERT books
  • Indian Economy by Pratyogita Darpan Publications
  • Questions can be on basics or the current affairs based.
  • You can use innovations like graphs, diagrams, flow charts etc.
  • The main aspect is to gain the basic understanding with clarity. So spend more time on logical thinking and inter-relating, rather than on various books or articles.
  • Simultaneously, prepare for the two markers. Note the various economic terms that keep appearing in the newspapers. Also, be thorough on the previous years’ papers.

Science and Technology
Some Arts students fear this part and leave them for the exam. However, note that the examiner is not interested in the technical aspects. They are only testing if the candidate has basic understanding on the technological developments. In fact, technology is going to play a very key role in changing the administration. So, do take an active interest in the technological developments, as they will help you in being an effective change agent when you join the service. In the exam, the questions are being asked from both the standard and the current affairs based. While preparing, concentrate on the relevance and the application of the topic. The following dimensions should be focused:
  • What is the basic technological dimension of the topic
  • How is it being used; applicability
  • Developments in India
There is no good material available for this area. Notes have to be prepared from various sources. The synopsis should also focus on the diagrams and figures, wherever applicable.

Suggested Reading:
  • The Hindu Thursday S&T pages 
  • Competition Magazines
  • Internet
  • S&T – Spectrum Series
  • Do not go into much technical detail, even if you are from technical background. Concentrate on applications and related issues.
  • Innovate using figures, diagrams, flow charts, etc.
  • Prepare notes on the various computer related terms.

This is another area, which is feared by students from Arts background. While, others from technical background take it too lightly, and lose marks in the end. This area is very scoring for anybody who can concentrate on the basics and do lots of practice.

Suggested Reading:
  • NCERT 11th std.
  • Spectrum publications.
  • Understand the basics well with clarity.
  • Practice the previous papers with the time limit.
  • Show the calculations clearly
  • Draw the diagrams and graphs neatly.
  • Do not forget to take the calculator to the exam hall.
  • Some times difficult questions are asked. Do not orient preparation keeping those questions in view. Just be strong on the basic standard questions that are asked every year.
  • Its better to attempt the statistics question in the beginning of the exam.