prepp logo

IAS 2021 Preparation Tips, Important Books and Exam Pattern

Updated On -

Jan 7, 2021

Nikkil Visha's profile photo

Nikkil Visha

Exams Prep Master

UPSC has announced IAS 2020 Prelims Result, conducted on October 4, at its official website – on October 23, 2020. The result is published as a PDF file having the roll numbers of qualified candidates. Download Result PDFThe aspirants, who have qualified the exam, need to submit their Detailed Application Form-I (DAF-I) through online by 11 November 2020 to appear for the IAS Main Exam 2020. 

It is never bad to follow certain IAS Preparation Tips to prepare for UPSC Examination. IAS is conducted in two successive stages – UPSC Prelims which is Objective type in nature and UPSC Main Exam which is both subjective and objective in nature. IAS 2020 prelim and main will be conducted on May 31 and Sept 18, 2020, respectively. 

Get FREE IAS 2021 Mock Tests, Sectional Quiz, Previous Years Papers. Click Here

UPSC sets a certain syllabus for Civil Services Main examination. A candidate can prepare properly by following IAS Preparation Tips related to the exam. A candidate can study the important topics mentioned in IAS Exam Syllabus and continue his/her preparation in the direction. There are 9 sets of papers in the Main exam out of which two are qualifying language papers. Check IAS Exam Pattern

UPSC Prelims is the basis for the selection of candidates for IAS Main that is a written descriptive exam followed by Interview, the final stage of IAS Selection Process.​ After reading the IAS preparation tips, candidates must take a look at some of the recommended books to prepare for IAS 2020 Exam. 

Check Tips and Tricks for UPSC Mains Answer Writing

Check IAS Mains 2020 Preparation Strategy for Political Science Optional

Check IAS General Studies Paper 1 Preparation Strategy for UPSC Mains 2020

Check IAS General Studies Paper 2 Preparation Strategy for UPSC Mains 2020

Check UPSC IAS Prelims: Last Five Year Paper Analysis (2015 to 2019)

IAS Sample Papers, IAS Practice Papers

IAS Preparation Tips

IAS 2020 Exam Preparation Tips

IAS Exam is believed to be the toughest government examination in India. But, if a candidate is serious enough, embraces the right strategies, guidance, and study material then even self-study is enough to get through the IAS exam. Given below are some major IAS Preparation Tips which a candidate can follow to score high in the exam:

  1. Mock Test Papers or IAS Question Papers

Mock Papers are an essential part of regular preparations for successful candidates. By reviewing the attempted tests you get a chance to identify your mistakes and the area where you lack knowledge. Writing mock tests not only helps you to revise your IAS Syllabus but also helps to increase your speed to solve the exam in time. There is always a crunch of time in IAS Exam, one has to be very fast in writing questions. Mock test papers help in increasing the speed of mind to make calculations. Check IAS Mains Preparation Strategy for Sociology Optional

  1. Right Choice of IAS Preparatory Books

It is of utmost importance to pick up only recommended books and the right study material for IAS Preparation. NCERT books are always highly suggested and are considered as a must-read by experts as well as successful candidates, as they clear up doubts at a fundamental level and help candidates in scoring higher scores at IAS Main level. Although there are a number of books available for IAS in the market one needs to select only the best out of them and should prepare for only a few best ones. Read IAS Mains 2020 Preparation Strategy for Electrical Engineering Optional

  1. GS Paper 1 is the key: Deep study of every subject

Till 2014, scoring high in GS Paper 2 was the easiest way to clear UPSC Main. Putting less effort as compared to GS Paper I, aspirants used to score high and clear prelims. But, with changes in the IAS Exam Pattern from 2016 onwards, this strategy does not work anymore. On the basic level, covering every subject of the IAS Main Exam is the best approach to clear the Prelims test. It's not recommended to give priority to any particular book or area thinking that questions will come from that source. Likewise, one must not miss the easy questions from traditional subjects like Polity, History, Geography, History, and Economics. Current affairs are also important to prepare as they are definitely asked, other than that latest schemes and bills launched by the government are also valuable. Also Check How to prepare General Knowledge and Current Affairs for IAS 2020 exam

  1. IAS Prelims cum IAS Main Approach

Even though the type of questions asked in UPSC Prelims and Main are different, but there are also many areas where one can find some kind of similarity in the questions. For GS Paper I, an ideal strategy suggests covering GS Main and Prelims syllabus in detail first that gives the concept clarity about all major topics. Good knowledge of overlapping and non-overlapping areas in the IAS Syllabus of General Studies for Prelims and Mains certainly fetches you more score than others. Read IAS Interview Preparation Tips

  1. Mental Peace is the key

All your efforts and hard work go in vain if you lose your cool on the doom day. It's very much important to read IAS questions carefully and make sure that you do not make silly mistakes. And that can only happen if you are in a relaxed state of mind, otherwise, you get confused and selects the wrong answer and even takes more time in solving a question then what is actually needed. So, all you need is to keep your calm and stay confident. Check IAS Mains 2020 Preparation Strategy for Civil Engineering Optional

  1. Time Management

All you need to do is to manage your time in a way that you can easily cover your decided syllabus and gets proper rest and sleep at the same time. Distribute available time according to the sections you have to cover. One must note that you do not need books or notes on bulk to completely go through but only a limited no. of good books and a deep study of that study material. It is very must important for a student to get proper rest and sleep. Your mind needs to break and rest to work on full force again. Read IAS Mains 2020 Preparation Strategy for Geography Optional

IAS Reference Books

Important Books for IAS 2020 Exam

It is very much important for a candidate who appears for IAS 2020 to choose the right and useful IAS Preparation books. It is not important to study a large number of useless books but to read a few but actually useful books that cover all the topics effectively of IAS Syllabus.

Given below is the list of some important IAS Preparation Books along with the names of their author or publication:

important books
Book Title Author/Publication
History Of Modern India (History) Bipan Chandra
India’s Struggle For Independence (History) Bipan Chandra
India’s Ancient Past (History) R.S. Sharma
History Of Medieval India (History) Satish Chandra
A New Look at Modern Indian History BL Grover
The Wonder That Was India (Culture) A.L. Bhasham
Indian Art and Culture (Culture) Nitin Singhania
Our Parliament Subash Kashyap
Geography of India (Geography) Majid Husain
Oxford School Atlas (Geography) Oxford
Science and Technology TMH
CSAT Book Cracking the CSAT Paper-2 Arihant
Certificate Physical and Human Geography (Geography) Goh Cheng Leong
Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations (Polity) M. Laxmikanth
Indian Economy (Economy) Ramesh Singh
Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure (Environment) Rajagopalan
A History of Modern World Ranjan Chakravarti
Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Main (Environment) Khuller
Facets of Indian Culture Spectrum
Indian Constitution PM Bakshi
Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning R. S. Aggarwal

IAS Exam Pattern

Check IAS Mains 2020 Preparation Strategy for Mechanical Engineering Optional

IAS 2020 Exam Pattern

The exam for both the phases of IAS is different. Candidates can get a clear idea of the same from the details provided below:

IAS 2020 Exam Pattern Prelims

  • In the UPSC Prelims exam there are 2 compulsory papers namely the General Ability Test (GAT) and the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT) to test the analytical skills of the candidates.
  • Each paper is of 200 marks and carries a total of 400 marks.
  • The papers are objective in nature with multiple-choice questions.
  • One-third of the marks is deducted for every wrong answer. 
  • The duration of each paper is 2 hours.
  • Blind candidates are allowed an extra time of 20 minutes for each paper.
  • IAS Question Papers are bilingual i.e. they are set in both Hindi and English language.



Number of papers


Language of paper



Duration of exam

4 hours (2 hours each)

Number of questions

General studies paper 1: 100
General studies paper 2: 80

Maximum marks

400 (200 each)

Qualifying marks


Also check IAS Prelims 2020 Strategy for Geography

IAS 2020 Exam Pattern Mains

  • There is a total of 9 papers in the Main Exam as per IAS Exam Pattern
  • There are 7 merit papers of 250 marks each and 2 qualifying language papers of 300 marks each.
  • The aspirants who will get minimum cut off marks and 33% in general studies paper I and Paper II respectively, will be definitely called for the IAS Mains 2020 exam. 
  • The questions of the IAS Mains 2020 exam will be descriptive in nature and the candidates will have to answer at least 25% score in the remaining papers.



Number of papers


Language of paper



Descriptive paper: Candidates can appear for language paper in 22 languages mentioned in schedule 8 of the Indian constitution

Duration of exam

3 hours each


Compulsory Indian language
General Studies I
General Studies II
General Studies III
General Studies IV
Optional I
Optional II

Number of questions

Part A and B: 300 each

General studies and optional paper: 250 each

Maximum marks


Solve General Studies Paper I Mock tests for free during your IAS preparation time

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.


ashok kumar chaudhary
What is Booklist for the Prelims Exam for IAS ? As there are Consolidated Booklist.
rakhisree chatterjee


Important books for UPSC (IAS) Preparation: Prelims

  • Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations by M.Lakshmikant
  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania (Culture) 
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong.
  • Oxford School Atlas by Oxford Publishers. 
  • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh (Economy)

For more information, please refer this page.

sir/mam, i have a questions. yet i have done all NCERT from 6th till the 12th class. i am preparing for 2021 usps exm... when should we join test series for prelims and main's.. i have well prepapred in ncert.. now i am studying advance leval books.
arvind kumar

Hi Jaswant, you can join test series as soon as you think you have basic knowledge as it will hellp you strengthen your preparation. For more details visit: IAS EXAM

hi sir my age 32 12.2.1988 can i attend IAS exam?
arvind kumar

Hi Priya, the maximum age is 32 years as on august 1 2020. So, you cannot give this exam as you have crossed the age limit. For more details visit: IAS EXAM

tamilmaran b
Hi sir..I have no idea for preparation,plz tell sum idea s for cracking this exay


To know about the preparation tips, kindly refer to – UPSC CSE Preparation tips

thahir sulaiman
Hi sir? how are you? I would like to apply for civil services examinations in 2021. Kindly clarify what are the book to prepare for the IAS examination?

Hello Thahir,

Here are a list of books that will help you cover the syllabus thoroughly – UPSC CSE BooksAll the best for your preparation!

penglang shiu
The book listed above are pretty good. Thankyou. But will it be relevant even for 2022-2024?
rakhisree chatterjee

Hi Penglang, Yes, These books are relevant for 2022- 2024.

rahul sharma
I am just clear my 12th class and I am start preparation for IAS but I have no idea for starting preparation for IAS so mam plz give me right guidance....

Hi Rahul, 

For all the guidance on preparation tips, kindly check: IAS tricks and tips. Good Luck. 

uha rani
I am degree final year mam. My goal is ias mam. How to prepare daily mam please help me mam


For all the preparation tips amd tricks, kindly check: IAS examination preparation strategy

uha rani
Language names please tellme mam


The students will be tested on the strength of an Indian Language and there would be two optional papers that the candidates would have to select from. 

ashish bhadoriya
Hi mam actually i have started perpretion upsc exam so I have no any idea what I read book ,I have no idea what matter I read so plz help me mam.
shubham jain

Hi Ashish, The above-mentioned books are good for covering the syllabus and getting prepared for the exam.

sabira iram abdul samad nadkar
Meri ty ba complete nahi hui so Mai kaise upsc exam ka form bharo plz help me
shobhna chaturvedi

Hi Sabira, candidates who are waiting for the result of their graduation exam are eligible for IAS Prelims exam but they will have to present the degree at the time of appearing for IAS Main Exam. You can check other eligibility criteria in detail from here: IAS Eligibility Criteria

anil kumar
A student studying for BSc Agriculture (2nd Year). Desires to appear for IAS exam after graduation/ PG. How the preparation can be started from now?
shobhna chaturvedi

Hi Devika, given below are some of the tips to prepare for IAS while you are studying, we hope it helps:

  • Take the early advantage: It means, you must not leave any attempt for the exam.
  • Prioritize your time: You must be well aware of the syllabus of the exam so that you spend your time reading what is important for real.
  • Go for highly recommended books: Selection of books must be done wisely. Generally, Polity by Laxmikanth, Economics by Ramesh Singh and History by Bipan Chandra are most recommended books.
  • Go for mock tests as much as as possible and analyze your performance in various sections to know your strengths and weak subjects.
what we should do to pass the iit exam from 11th
akhil pasanth
Hi Akkineni, Firstly you have to clear the 12th examination, then you have to clear the entrance exam i.e. JEE Mains.
tejal patil
Kya ye Books sach mein full syllabus cover karenge
shobhna chaturvedi
Hi Tejal, the list of the books above is made after monitoring the needs of the students. Still, there are always more books that you may prefer.
madhavi tripathi
sarthak mahajan

Hi Madhavi, You may please check the eligibility criteria according to the age limit as given below:

  • The lower age limit for IAS Exam 2019 is 21 years as on August 1, 2019, while upper age limit is 32 years.
  • There is upper age relaxation for reserved category candidates, which is as follows:
    1. SC/ST- Upto 5 years
    2. OBC- Upto 3 years
    3. Defence Services Personnel disabled in operations during hostilities- Upto 3 years
    4. Ex-servicemen- Upto 5 years
    5. ECOs/SSCOs who have completed an initial period of assignment of five years of Military Service- Upto 5 years
    6. PwD candidates- Upto 10 years
    7. Domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir from January 1, 1980 to December 31, 1989- Upto 5 years. Check IAS 2019 Eligibility