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Best Books For UPSC CSE Prelims Exam 2020

Updated On -

Jan 5, 2021

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Sudeshna Bhar

Exams Prepmaster

Civil Service Exam(CSE) conducted by the Union Public Service Commission(UPSC) is held annually.

More than 18+ lakh candidates apply for this exam. But not more than 14000 candidates qualify for UPSC CSE Mains. And only approximately 1050 candidates meet the cutoff of UPSC CSE Mains. It is really important to prepare for this exam from the very beginning. Candidates should keep handy the previous years’ questions papers and take mock tests as much as possible. But more than anything else candidates must follow those books which cover the syllabus of UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims to gain a clear understanding of every topic. 

Latest Updates:

  • Admit Card for UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims will be released on May 10, 2020. 
  • The date of the UPSC CSE Prelims 2020 Exam is on May 31, 2020.
  • UPSC CSE Main Exam 2020 will be on September 18, 2020
  • UPSC has notified 796 vacancies in the official UPSC Notification 2020
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UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims - Important Topics and Recommended Books

This exam is conducted to select candidates for UPSC CSE 2020 Main. The minimum qualifying marks is 33% in General Studies Paper-II of UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims and total qualifying marks of General Studies Paper-I is to determine the Merit list for CSE Mains. The question papers will be organized in both English and Hindi. 

As the date of UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims has been announced, candidates are all in a rush to prepare themselves. Online tests and mock tests are beneficial. But books will give you complete knowledge. Here is a complete list of books that have been recommended by the toppers of IAS, especially to crack IAS.

Must Read IAS 2020 Syllabus for Prelims and Main, Pattern and Books

UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims: Paper- I 

Paper I of UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims is totally focused on general studies. It is basically concentrated on 7 major topics :

  1. Indian Polity and Governance:

The systems and rules of the Indian government called Indian Polity. This section deals with the function of the government within the Nation and with other nations. The expected number of questions from this section is 15 containing 30 marks of this paper. Primary important areas of Indian Polity are Preamble, Schedules, Constitution of India, Citizenship, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, Directive Principles of State Policy, Union, Parliament, Judiciary, State Government, State Legislature, Administration of UT, Administration of Special Areas, Emergency Provisions, Panchayati raj and municipalities, Central and Interstate relations, Panchayati raj and municipalities, Constitution Bodies, Non-Constitutional Bodies, and Tribunals. Articles concerning the mentioned topics are the most necessary to understand and the aim should be extracting not memorizing. Here are some books that will definitely help with this section: 

  • Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations by M. Laxmikanth
  • Objective Indian Polity: General Studies – Paper I by M. Laxmikanth
  • NCERT Standards VI and VIII( for basic concept) and NCERT Standards IX and XII for (for Democracy and Federalism )
  • Introduction to Indian Constitution by D.D.Basu

Check  Preparation Tips and Strategy for General Studies IV (Ethics)

  1. Indian Art and Culture:

Indian Art and Culture section is very important for the UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims exam. Approximately 5 to 8 questions are asked from this section in this exam. This section basically concentrates on Indian art forms and architecture such as Indian architecture and culture, Indian Painting, Dance forms and theatre, music, and Indian Literature. 

  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania
  • An Introduction to Indian Art of NCERT Standard XI and XII.
  • NCERT: Chapters related to culture in Ancient and Medieval India

 Check  UPSC IAS 2020 Main Exam Syllabus: Check Important Essay Topics​

  1. Indian and World Geography:

Physical, Human, and Environmental Geography of the World, as well as India, are the three main topics under the Geography section. From this section 14- 15 questions can be easily expected in General Studies - I. While studying geography, along with all kinds of understanding of environment and society, the structure of the world, as well as India, a candidate should also practice through maps and graphical representations. Most beneficial books for geography are: 

  • Oxford School Atlas by Oxford Publishers
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography by GohCheng Leong
  • India: Physical Environment of Class XI and XII NCERT
  • Fundamentals of Human Geography of Class XI and XII NCERT

Check IAS Mains Geography Syllabus, Important topics

  1. Indian History and Movements: 

Indian History is basically divided into three parts: Prehistoric cultures in India, Early Medieval India, and Indian independence. The prehistoric culture starts from  Indus Civilization to the Guptas and their successors. The second phrase i.e. early medieval India starts with the major dynasties like the Rajputs, Chola Empire, etc to Decline of Mughal Empire and Modern History begins with British expansion to the 1950 Constitution. At least more than 16 questions usually appear from this section. Although all subsections of history are important, Modern Indian History needs extensive and thorough attention. Here are some important books for Indian History: 

  • A Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir
  • Old NCERT by RS Sharma
  • Old NCERT by Satish Chandra
  • Part I, II and III of Themes in Indian History 

Check IAS Mains History Syllabus, Important topics

  1. Economic and Social Development:

The key areas of Economy for UPSC CSE Prelims, are economic growth and development, finance, taxation, banking, budget, poverty and related issues, population and related characteristics, social sector initiatives related to education and employment, health, and sanitation, and international financial institutions. There are other topics like National income, agriculture, foreign trade, and planning commission. There is a good chance of getting 13-14 questions from this section in General Studies -I. To prepare this section, here are some most recommended books for all candidates of UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims: 

  • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  • Economic Survey by the Ministry of Finance
  • Indian Economy by Uma Kapila
  • Macroeconomics of NCERT Class XII
  • Indian Economic Development of NCERT Class XI
  • Read newspapers like The Hindu / Business Standard

 Check  IAS Mains Economics Syllabus, Important topics

  1. General Issues on Environment:

Major topics that come under Environment are Biodiversity, environmental ecology, Pollution, Climate change, Ecologically sensitive areas, Laws related to environmental balance, conversation topics, organizations like UNEP, FAO, UNESCO, etc. Almost more than 10 questions are expected from this section. Books recommended by toppers for this section are mentioned below:

  • India Year Book by Publications Division
  • Science: Class XII Biology
  • Newspapers like The Hindustan, The Times of India, The Hindu, etc. 

 Must Read  How to read a newspaper for IAS exam

  1. General Science and Current Affairs : 

For the case of General Science, major topics related to the universe, nuclear power and programmes, Cell Organelles, Human Neural System, nutrition, Muscular and Skeletal system, Immunity and diseases, Drugs and Alcohol Abuse, Biological Classification, and Human Reproductive System - are very important for Prelims. From General science 11 questions and from current affairs more than 20 questions are usually predicted. For the current affairs, daily newspapers and monthly or weekly magazines are the most important sources of information and internet is also a good source to follow with the below-mentioned books: 

  • General Science of IX and X standard
  • Monthly Current Affairs magazines.
  • Newspapers like The Hindu, Times of India. 

UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims: Paper-II 

This paper consists of 80 objective type questions, each question having 2.5 marks. For every wrong attempt, there will be a deduction of 1/3rd of allotted marks of each question i.e. 0.83 marks. This paper is a qualifying paper but candidates must not ignore this paper because only those candidates who will obtain a score of 66 or more in General Studies Paper-2 and also surpass cut off marks declared by UPSC in General Studies Paper-1 are allowed to appear for Mains.

This paper consists of 3 important sections: Comprehension, Logical reasoning and analytical ability, Decision making and problem-solving. The books recommended by IAS toppers for General Studies - II are:

  1. CSAT Paper – 2 Manual by TMH
  2. Analytical Reasoning – M. K. Pandey
  3. Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning – R. S. Aggarwal


Ques. Is coaching necessary for cracking for UPSC CSE 2020 Prelims?

Ans. Each candidate is with different intellectual abilities. Joining a coaching institute or any kind of organization is a very personal decision. It differs due to the candidate's educational background and intellectual ability. But those aspirants who already think that there is no need for coaching, they are very much welcome. But whenever anyone is stuck in any section it is good to take help from professionals.

Ques. How do I start preparing for CSE?

Ans. At the beginning of preparation, choose any two subjects according to your comfort. Start preparing with NCERT 6th to 12th standard books which are easy to understand and cover the syllabus. Do keep making notes of your prepared topics for revisions and try to target 10-12 hours a day to practice.

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