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Topic-Wise Strategy for UPSC Preparation

Civil Services Examination is an annual event that is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in three stages – Prelims, Mains, and the Interview. There are 796 vacancies for UPSC 2020. The commission has also released the date of UPSC Prelims 2021 which is 29th June 2021. The examination offers only a few hundred seats but lakhs of aspirants sit for the examination in the hope to clear and get into Indian administration.

To transform the hope into reality, a perfect strategy has to be devised for the IAS Examination. As we know the UPSC syllabus for both prelims and mains covers different subjects, hence a candidate should be ready with a topic-wise strategy for UPSC preparation. Here, we will talk about some best practices to follow to complete the syllabus on time and with fairer chances to clear the examination.

What are the important subjects in the IAS Exam?

The subjects that are asked in the civil service examination (CSE) are:

  1. History
  2. Indian Polity
  3. Indian Economy
  4. Geography
  5. Environment
  6. Science & Technology
  7. Current Affairs

The above-mentioned topics or subjects have subtopics or subheadings. Each subject has a defined syllabus and a candidate must figure out the best strategy to take up each subject. Let’s see how these subjects can be studied for the IAS Exam.

How to study History for UPSC?

For simplification, Indian History is divided into three eras – Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. World History is also a part of the History syllabus of UPSC, though is only asked in the Mains stage of the examination. Aspirants can follow the below-mentioned tips to study history for UPSC:

  1. NCERTs or Tamil Nadu State Text Books – For Ancient, Medieval, and Art & Culture, an aspirant should stick to any of the mentioned resources. If NCERTs are picked, then candidates should read class 11th-12th old NCERTs; and if a candidate opts for Tamil Nadu state history textbooks, then it would suffice.
  2. Rajiv Ahir’s Brief Indian History or Bipan Chandra’s India’s Freedom of Struggle – Any of the books is sufficient for the Modern Indian History syllabus. Aspirants should stick to one reference book for Modern History and stick to it.
  3. Newspapers – Aspirants should read news pieces relevant to Indian history from anyone’s daily newspaper. For example, The Hindu newspaper’s Friday Review has dedicated columns on art and culture related pieces and aspirants should see which of these are related to the UPSC syllabus and make a note of such information.

These three sources of history are very important. As an additional tip to aspirants– to give an edge to your answers in the Mains papers, aspirants should know the important historical dates and what has happened on this day in history so as to bring the best foot forward in the History exam.

How to study Polity & Economics for UPSC?

Indian Polity & Economy are two very important subjects for both preliminary and mains examinations. While Polity comes under Mains GS 2 paper; the Indian economy is covered under Mains GS 3 paper. Tips on how to prepare for both the subjects are listed below:

  1. Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity – This book is a sufficient resource for the preparation of the Indian polity syllabus. Aspirants should avoid making notes from this book as the book itself is designed in a note-manner. Candidates should only revise the book often as a lot of factual information is given in this book.
  2. Nitin Singhania’s Indian Economy – This book is new in the market but a good read for the aspirants. The broad headings are covered in the book with current updates. Again, aspirants can save some time from notes-making as this book too is designed succinctly.
  3. Mock Tests – Give mock tests for both the subjects these two are factful subjects and tests can help aspirants to revise more.

How to study Geography, Environment & Science for UPSC?

Geography is subject mentioned in the Mains GS 1 paper; while environment and science & technology are covered under Mains GS 3 paper. Tips to prepare for these subjects are given below:

  1. NCERTs and newspapers for Geography – Class 6-12 NCERTs are the best resource to cover geography. Aspirants don’t have to overload themselves with multiple resources and are advised to revise NCERTs periodically.
  2. Follow Current Affairs for Environment and Science & Technology – Newspapers make the key source to finish the syllabus however, aspirants can use the internet wisely to read topics mentioned in the syllabi of both the subjects.

How to study current affairs for UPSC?

The prelims exam of CSE attracts many questions from current affairs. The best key to preparing current affairs is the newspaper. Usually, The Hindu is advised to be read daily till the interview stage of the exam. Aspirants should make notes from the important news pieces and should be categorized syllabus wise. For example, any news related to governance, constitution, amendments, judiciary, fundamental rights, etc, should be noted down in a separate notebook for GS 2 paper. Similarly, aspirants should maintain separate notebooks for each subject.


Hard Work and consistency are two important traits of successful candidates. After zeroing upon the sources that a candidate will use for UPSC preparation, he/she should stick to these and make an efficient timetable that can help them implement these strategies. One should always tell himself/herself that even though the exam is tough, so are they. Without much trouble, success in UPSC will be yours.

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