Must read NCERT books for IAS (UPSC CSE) exam

Updated On -

Mar 23, 2021

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Exams Prepmaster

For IAS (UPSC CSE) exam preparation, NCERT books are the best option as the syllabus is relevant to the 10+2 CBSE board curriculum. There are numerous specific books written for the different topics and segments in an IAS paper, but to ace the exam you need to have a clear conception. This can be acquired best by studying the NCERT books for Class VI to XII thoroughly. The books approach every subject and individual topic in a very concise manner. But every sentence holds substantial information and meaning that is sufficient to clarify the basic concepts regarding the topic.

However, for aspirants not belonging to a CBSE school background, understanding which chapters are important for the exam is confusing. In the following sections, we will address several such questions and issues that aspirants face as well as provide a detailed solution for the same.

Must Read: Best Books For UPSC CSE Prelims Exam

Why study NCERT books?

The NCERT books are published by Government, Research and Workshops, and the study materials are prepared by renowned Professors of DU, JNU, and other central universities. The books from class 6 to 12 covers all the topics necessary for acing the civil administration exams. Here’s why these books are so highly recommended:

  • The NCERT books are available in both English Medium and Hindi Medium.
  • They are extremely affordable and accessible in every remote corner of the country.
  • The language is very simple and lucid addressing the topics to the core.
  • They are easy to study and remember and save a lot of time because of this approach.

Important NCERT books that you must study

The following table consists of a list of books that you must follow to ace IAS 2021 Prelims and Mains. The names mentioned in bold are more important.

Subject Books
History Our pasts- part1- 6th
Our pasts- Part2- 7th
Our pasts- part 1 and 2- 8th
India and the Contemporary World- 9th
India and the Contemporary World-10th
Themes in the World history- 11th (Focus on Industrial Revolution)
Themes in the Indian History, 1,2,3- 12th (specific attention to Book 3)
Geography The Earth: Our Habitat- 6th
Our environment- 7th
Resources and Development- 8th
Contemporary India 1- 9th
Contemporary India 2- 10th
Fundamentals of Physical Geography- India- Physical Environment- 11th
Fundamentals of Human Geography- India- People and Economy-12th
Economics Economics- 9th
Understanding Economic Development- 10th
Indian Economic Development- 11th
Introductory Microeconomics- 12th
Introductory Macroeconomics- 12th
Political Science Democratic Politics 1- 9th
Democratic Politics 2- 10th
Indian Constitution at Work-11th
Political Theory- 11th
Contemporary World Politics- 12th
Politics in India since Independence- 12th
Sociology Introducing Sociology Textbook for class 11
Social Change and development in India- 12th
Indian Society Textbook in Sociology for class 12
Science 7th – Chapter 7: Weather, Climate & Adaptations of Animals, Chapter 9: Soil
8th – Chapter 1: Crop Production & Management, Chapter 5: Coal & Petroleum, Chapter 7: Conservation of Plants & Animals, Chapter 12: Friction, Chapter 18: Pollution of Air & Water
9th – Chapter 14: Natural Resources
10th – Chapter 14: Sources of Energy, Chapter 15: Our Environment, Chapter 16: Management of Natural Resources
Biology Textbook for Class – 11
12th (Biology) – Unit X: Ecology ( Chapter 13 – Organisms & Population, Chapter 14 – Ecosystem, Chapter 15 – Biodiversity & Conservation, Chapter 16 – Environmental Issues)

There are 40-44 textbooks in total that you will have to revise in order to complete the entire IAS syllabus. However, on a positive note, NCERT textbooks are mostly rather thin paperbacks, hence 44 textbooks are not as difficult to cover as it may sound.

How to buy or download the NCERT Books?

You can easily buy the hard copies or download the soft copies of these books. To buy the books you can:

  • NCERT books are available on Flipkart and Amazon and can be bought from there.
  • There are several offline stores that keep the NCERT Books in stock all over India.
  • There are also dedicated NCERT Book Stalls located at notable book markets all over the country which will definitely have all the books you need.

You can also download the PDF versions of the books. The NCERT books are in high demand as students as well as UPSC aspirants’ place orders for them. If you face difficulties in getting hard-copies of the books, you can look for soft copies instead.

  • High-quality pdf versions of the books are available on
  • Simply visit the NCERT website or CBSE website where you can find the free PDFs of all the books.

Tips to study NCERT books

The vast amount of syllabus you have to cover for IAS is divided throughout the school years from 6 to 12 in a CBSE school. Hence, there are at least 6-7 books for each subject that needs to be thoroughly covered. Here are a few tips to cover the books in-depth in the minimum time possible:

  • Make a list of the books you have to read and download or buy them. Tally with the IAS syllabus while doing so.
  • Start off with the books and chapters that are marked the most important in our table and irrespective of the subject or topic you are going through, make notes.
  • Before going through to any advanced reference books, make sure you have covered all the NCERT books thoroughly.
  • Important lines and keywords are usually italicized or bold in the book and make sure you note them thoroughly.
  • Before the IAS 2021 exam, you have enough time to cover all the NCERT books at least 2-3 times provided you study following a dedicated routine.
  • Every book and chapter have small highlighted sections like “Did you Know” which are general awe-inspiring titbits related to the subject to make the chapter more interesting to the school kids. However, they are not important for your IAS preparation.
  • NCERT books are particularly important for subjects like Polity, History, Economy, Geography, and Science group.
  • Make a short timetable to cover the NCERT books and follow them daily.

Check IAS Practice Papers

Here is a 15 day time table that you can follow to cover the NCERT books in-depth-

Day 2hrs 2hrs 2hrs 2hrs 2hrs
1 History(6th) History(6th) History(6th) Geography(6th) Geography(6th)
2 Political Science(9th) Political science(9th) Political science(9th) Sociology(11th) Sociology(11th)
3 Geography (7th) Geography(7th) Geography(8th) Geography(8th) Geography(8th)
4 Economics (9th) Economics(9th) Economics(9th) History (7th) History(7th)
5 Science(7th) Science(8th) History (8th) History (8th) History (8th)
6 Science(9th) Science(9th) Science (10th) Science(bio-11th) Science(bio-11th)
7 Geography(9th) Geography(9th) Geography(9th) Sociology(12th) Sociology(12th)
8 Political science(10th) Political science(10th) Political science(10th) Science (bio-unit X- 12th) Science (bio-unit X- 12th)
9 History (9th) History(9th) History(9th) Geography(10th) Geography(10th)
10 Economics(10th) Economics(10th) Economics(10th) Economics(11th) Economics(11th)
11 History(10th) History(10th) History(10th) History(11th) History(11th)
12 Geography(10th) Geography(10th) Geography(11th) Geography(11th) Geography(11th)
13 Economics(12th) Economics(12th) Economics(12th) Political science(11th) Political science(11th)
14 History(12th) History(12th) History(12th) History(12th) History(12th)
15 Political science(12th) Political science(12th) Political science(12th) Political science(12th) Political science(12th)

To successfully cover the entire syllabus in 15days, you have to give a rapid reading to the books. Once you have finished doing the rapid reading of the books, and simultaneously making notes, it will become much easier to revise it another 2-3 times.

Check: How to read a newspaper for IAS exam

What makes NCERT books suitable for IAS (UPSC CSE) preparation?

Compared to other available books, NCERT is given preference even by UPSC because of its concise and simple language. The IAS prelims question pattern becomes much easier to follow when you are familiar with the NCERT language. 

  • NCERT books cover the points that UPSC directly picks for preparing the question paper.
  • The books are rich in facts which are considered apt questions for the IAS and you will not find these facts easily in other reference books.
  • Important facts, dates, and topics in each chapter are summarized in a highlight box at the end of every chapter to further simplify the books and also to make sure no information skips your vision.

Let us take an example to understand the structure of the NCERT books better. 

If you consider the history books, you will find that every chapter is further divided into dynasties or demarcated by the ruling period of specific rulers

For example, if you are reading about ancient Indian history, you will come across different dynasties like Cholas, Mauryans, and Guptas. Under each dynasty, there is further segregation mentioning the significant rulers of these dynasties and the development India witnessed during the rule. Along with it, you are given an overall outlook on the social and political scenario of the time.

From the perspective of IAS preparation, you can expect the following potential questions?

  • Direct questions- Which among the following Mauryans Kings was also known as “Slayer of Foes”?- The answer is Bindusara
  • Indirect Question- Select the correct option that shows the right chronology of the Mauryans rulers in ascending order?- The correct answer is Chandragupta-Bindusara-Asoka-Dasratha-Brihadratha

Check IAS 2021 Preparation Tips, Important Books and Exam Pattern

Once you successfully complete studying the NCERT books, you can confidently move on to more advanced books that focus more on increasing your speed and accuracy. It becomes much easier to understand these books when you have thoroughly completed NCERT. IAS (UPSC CSE) Prelims 2021 will be conducted on June 27, 2021 which gives you a golden opportunity to prepare, starting with revising the schoolbooks by NCERt.

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