GS Prelims

I am putting up this post for all those who are going to take the prelims in 2011 or later. As far as I know, the GS paper is going to remain the same for prelims and the changes being proposed are only applicable to the optional.

After giving a list of the books, I will let you know my strategy and how I covered the books. Also, it is important to understand that my strengths and weaknesses might be very different from yours. So keep in mind that you have to introspect and chalk out a plan for yourself which might be very different from what I did. I am only giving an outline and how I prepared for the prelims.

Also, there are many books I have mentioned and others that I have left out. If you have read some other book on the topic, consider it as good as the book I have listed. It is all about choosing one book for a topic and making yourself comfortable with that book.


  1. Spectrum – General Studies for Prelims (1200 pages one)- base book- (
  2. DD Basu’s Constitutional Law of India
  3. India Year Book- Ministry of I & B, GoI
  4. Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence


  1. The Times of India
  2. The Economic Times
  3. The Hindu


  • Any one magazine of your choice (I read the Civil Services Chronicle).


GS Prelims requires a very wide knowledge base. You need to have some idea about almost everything which has been prescribed in the syllabus to be sure of cracking it. The difficulty level of the paper is such that it is almost impossible to know each and every answer. Therefore, intelligent guessing plays a crucial role.

Since it’s a recognition exam where one of the choices has to be selected, extensive reading gives a very good probability of knowing something related to the question asked and hence attempting it.

I always made notes. My aim was to reduce any book I read to almost 1/10th of its size. How you make notes, mark important lines in the book itself, etc depends entirely on what suits you best.

I began my preparation for the Civil Services exam in January 2007 and Spectrum was my base book. NCERT books are considered by many to be very good for base knowledge but I didn’t go through them. If you have already started with NCERT books, do not worry. You can consider them as your base books and Spectrum can be your reference book.

Spectrum is divided into various sections. I went through the Geography, History, Polity, Indian National Movement, Economy and Science & Technology sections only.

I made notes from it and must have revised them about 4 times before I took the prelims in 2007. Thereafter, I revised them twice before the prelims in 2008 and 2009.

I left out General Mental Ability as the questions asked in the Prelims were very easy according to me and hence no preparation was required. But for those who are not comfortable with GMA questions such as those on probability, speed and distance, numbers, etc. kindly do not leave them out. Every year at least 15 questions are asked and answering them can ensure your selection for the Mains.

A good book for basic mathematics that I came across long back and which I think is good for CSE prelims’ maths is Quantitative Aptitude by RS Agarwal. So if you are not comfortable with GMA, kindly refer this book.

India Year Book (Min of I & B) is absolutely necessary for the CSE. There were a large number of questions asked directly from it in the Prelims in 2007, 08 and 09. Even though there might not have been many questions asked from it in 2010 (as I am told), yet it is the best book for information on India and government schemes. I read all the chapters except the one on States and UTs.

DD Basu’s Constitutional Law of India should be read after you have gone through the Indian Polity section in Spectrum. There is no need to mug up the Articles verbatim. What is required is remembering the outline of each Article and concentrating on the important ones such as those on FRs, election of the President, etc. I knew around 400 of the 440 or so Articles in the Constitution. It can be used in other papers such as the essay, public administration, sociology, etc. in the Mains as well.

Easy way of doing it is to read 20 Articles at a time and trying to remember them by writing them on a paper till you can readily do so without looking in the book. Also, from Article 72 onwards just add 89 to get the corresponding Article at the State level and add 90 from Article 112 onwards (as Art 200 is extra). So around 50 Articles are automatically done.

Bipin Chandra’s India’s Struggle for Independence is a very good book for the mains. But most of the questions asked from History in the Prelims are from the post 1857 period (Modern History). So if you have time, go through this book.

I read the Civil Services Chronicle regularly since February 2007. There are many other magazines such as Pratiyogita Darpan, Wizard, Civil Service Times, Kurukshetra, etc. You should read only 1 magazine, whichever it may be.

I did not keep newspaper cuttings during my first two attempts. I read only the Times of India but did not cut the articles. In the 3rd attempt I started doing so only from the day after the prelims till October 1st week. But it is one of the biggest mistakes I committed in my earlier attempts. Newspaper reading is absolutely essential. Also, mere reading won’t do. It is the REVISION of the cuttings before the exam that is of essence. Only those articles which are relevant for the exam should be cut. It is going to be difficult in the beginning to understand what is relevant and what is not. But going through the previous yrs’ Prelims and Mains papers is going to give a good idea. The target should be to finish reading the newspapers under 2 hours. If you are not able to do so, you may leave out 1 of the 3 newspapers.

A key exercise should be to classify and segregate the articles into different folders such as national issues, international issues, security and defence, economy, climate and miscellaneous (S&T, etc). Kindly refer to the GS Mains post for more on newspaper reading.

Always remember that rather than reading five books once, you should aim at reading one book five times. REVISION is the key to remembering, gaining an insight and relating various events.

My net scores in the 3 prelims (2007, 08 and 09) were approximately 70 (86 right and 48 wrong), 97 (107 right and 29 wrong) and 87 (100 right and 40 wrong) respectively. A net score of 60 + was considered good at the time. So always aim at a net score of 75 to improve your chances.

During my 1st attempt, before the Prelims, I had gone only through the Spectrum and 4 issues of Civil Services Chronicle magazine. So it’s definitely possible to clear the Prelims with less preparation. But it is certainly not a good idea to do so. Extensive reading and a good knowledge base is very important for the Mains and going through the aforementioned books ensures that the performance in the GS Mains papers is going to be above average. The amount of time between the Prelims and Mains exam is not enough to cover all the books for GS and simultaneously prepare the other 2 optionals. So, devise a long-term plan and strive towards implementing it successfully.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to GS Prelims

  1. varun says:

    hi anay, congrats on your success!!..i’ve just finished my MBBS 2 months back and am planning to appear for CSAT 2011. I have joined Rau’s for history and plan to take up public administration and GS from october onwards. I read THE HINDU and TOI apart from spectrum regularly. Kindly advice me regarding the right coaching for pub ad. i mean which is the best centre for pub ad in delhi??…should i join coaching or as u did just seek guidance from pavan sir at sriram’s??…

    • anaydwivedi says:

      hi varun…thanks
      for pub ad, it depends on ur level of preparation…if u r just starting out, then do join the classes as orientation and approach is important…i.e. wht to study and wht to leave out…if u have read the books and r confident u have the required content ready…then go for tests…
      i suggest meet pavan sir…and make an assessment of wht u require…

  2. varun says:

    hmm..ok…i have another doubt..i’m planning to do GS from vajiram from october onwards and want to do pub ad also from there only as i dont want to waste time and energy doing different subjects from different places…but pub ad according to u is not very good at vajirams…wat should i do then??

    • anaydwivedi says:

      hi varun…i haven’t said anything about current pub ad at vajiram…read carefully…i said my comments are restricted to 2007…
      it’s your call…go ahead if u feel tht is wht is best for u…

      about spectrum…it’s exam-centric…so certainly better than NCERT in my opinion…buy the one available in the mkt now…i have recommended only some of the sections…if u plan to go thru tht much, knw tht there r hardly any changes in subsequent editions…

  3. varun says:

    oh and one more thing…i went through SPECTRUM today and its HUMONGOUS to say the least!!…u have recommended it for people who haven’t started with NCERT yet…i haven’t so should i was thinking of getting the book and try and finish as much as possible before i join for GS in october…is the 2010 edition good enough or should i wait for the 2011 edition which comes out only in january??..any other book u would recommend at this stage?…too many questions i know but please bear with me!!

  4. Gokul says:

    Hi anay……any idea on the job profile of Indian Trade Service (ITS)…..not much info is available in the net….If u had done any research on it while giving the options, pls share with us

    • anaydwivedi says:

      if i remember correctly…it is no more an option in the CSE…neways, i left it to my father to fill the choices (he’s also a civil servant)…

      • Gokul says:

        yeah i think it wasnt available last time….no vacancies maybe….can you post your service preference in order….

  5. rakesh says:

    hi anay,,, really a eye opening blog for the aspirants..!! first of all congratulations for ur remarkable achievement..!!!
    i am preparing for the 2011 prelims..!! is it necessary for me to go through all the 3 newspapers from nw itself or just chronicle with one newspaper enough at this stage,..!!!

    • anaydwivedi says:

      hi rakesh…thanks
      i guess u shud try to go thru the papers..if not 3…at least 2…u will b in the habit of reading newspapers and tht will make the task easier later…

      • rakesh says:

        hi anay,,,
        is it better to do hindu and eco times or TOI+ECO TIMES,,, as u said i am planning to go on with two papers from now..:) were u making notes from the papers or just marking lines in the paper and make a cutting of it..??

      • anaydwivedi says:

        hi rakesh
        it’s entirely ur call…whichever u feel is better…and which u enjoy reading
        i just underlined and cut the article…no time for note-making…

  6. Atul.M.Pawar says:

    hi Anay,
    which book should i buy for prelims out of !)the general studies manual for preliminary examinations by tata mcgraw(around 2000 pages) hill or 2)Spectrum’s book.

  7. Rahul Pawar says:

    hi anay.,
    do we have to read basic physics, chem, botany, bio, zoo, etc for gs pre…if yes…can u plz suggest books fr that..since i am from an engg background i dont have a sound knowledge in bio,zoo,botany,etc.

  8. Sangita Goswami says:

    Hi Anay,
    I am unable to find the GS Mains thread….I need to refer it for news paper reading …..

  9. tejaswi says:

    hi anay…
    firstly congratulations!!
    u said u prep GS from SPECTRUM..nd other books u mentioned…
    u didint refer any other books?
    so will the knowledge of spectrum be sufficient for GS MAINS too..or do we need to refer some extra books for GS MAINS

    awaiting ur reply..
    thanks in advance,

    • anaydwivedi says:

      hi tejaswi…thanks
      spectrum is for gs prelims and base knowledge…i have listed few other books…
      being thorough with the books is more than enough i guess apart frm the newspapers of course…

  10. tejaswi says:

    iam working as software engineer and appearing for CSE 2011…and not going for any coaching..
    i hav a strategy in my mind..
    i started my preparation two weeks back..
    iam planning to Complete..
    Economics-Dutta Sundaram
    by mid of august..
    and from mid of august to mid november im planning to complete one optional syllabus (psychology) and from mid november to mid february another optional(Public administration)…and GS prep wil go along with these optionals regularly..
    and from Mid-feb will be concentrating on prelims..

    What do u think of dis?
    please suggest me if i can get it better and does this strategy suit civils we will be having very less time for MAINS..

    thanks in advance,

    • anaydwivedi says:

      the strategy seems to be good…it all depends on how effectively u implement the plan…
      completing both the optionals before the prelims is gng to be a bit difficult…but really good if u r able to do so…

      • tejaswi says:

        thanks for the reply..
        i ll try to complete the mains syllabus..if not what you think is the safety line like..what portion of mains syllabus should be completed before prelims itself..will completing a 70% be fine?

      • anaydwivedi says:

        yup, completing 70% of both will b good…

  11. prashant tembhare says:

    Hi anay….
    how are u?
    could u plz tell me abt ur examination center for prelims and mains…..
    is it in maharashtra?
    take care

  12. Prashant tembhare says:

    Hi anay……..
    can i use TMH general studies 2010 as my base book for prelm preparation.bcoz iam not able to get spectrum book on GS.

  13. Prashant tembhare says:

    Hi anay…..
    could u suggest me………. any friends name from ur batch who use TMH gs and clear the prelim?
    thanks buddy……..

    • anaydwivedi says:

      hi prashant…
      i m sorry, i dnt knw abt the exact prep which others followed…u can ask them individually…
      moreover, since i m not frm delhi, my frnds circle with respect to the civil services exam isnt large…

      • prashant tembhare says:

        Hi anay………
        its ok …… prob…..
        thanks for ur reply……
        take care

  14. Kartikeya says:

    Hi Anay Sir,

    Is economic survey of previous year necessary for the Prelims examination ?

    I am appearing for CSAT 2011. So do I have to study Economic survey 2009-10 or not?

    And what is the importance of five year plans? Do we have to study them ?

  15. Keshav Kamal prashar says:

    PS : i would like to know the books for the optional n strategy(overluking any particular topic or something)… incase they are differnt from the ones which you have already mentioned .
    thanks for guidance …
    have fun bro !

  16. vishal sharma says:

    hello anay sir,
    thnx 4 ur reply …sir u said that i shud go throu ur post abt pub ad …i did the same ..but it dint satify my quey..sir u r AIR 5 , u r authority on pub ad …so wt u tell is last word 4 us ..i wnt 2 ask that if the question is this ” Administrative questions are not political questions”.Discuss . so hw shud i ans this ques..i wud b vry grtful 2 u if u plzz gv me sm clue abt hw 2 start…wt 2 write …how to end the answer..sir i know i m bothering u….but sir here is nobody to guide me.. ur blog is a ray of hope for ppl like us…plz reply ….i wil wait…thnk u vru mch…..

    • anaydwivedi says:

      hi vishal
      as i said, u have to try to write a complete answer…for tht it is essential u think frm different perspectives…
      i dnt remember most of the things in pub ad now as it was my 2nd optional and hence last time i studied it was in oct 2009…but i will try to provide some pointers…
      for the Q u have asked…i wud have started with some thinkers who have spoken on the issue…so kautilya and woodrow wilson wud be the 1st…remember, u neednt agree with the Q or the statement and write only 1 side of it…then i wud have written wht admin Qs r…so they r concerned with efficiency, meeting the objectives, resource constraints, policy formulation and implementation…etc and political Qs as the name suggest r more abt consensus and decision-making…so how the 2 r related wud be the body…
      i wud give some e.g. frm india and try to differentiate b/w the 2 but at the same time show tht they cant be seperated entirely…how day-to-day working of the police and mgmt of personnel is carried out is an admin Q and it is not a political Q..but when it comes to maintaining law and order…eg of mohalla committees stands out…which shows tht admin Qs cant be separated frm politics…consensus is of essence…also, remember tht examples r mostly frm india…
      conclusion can b abt the present scenario and future dev…so the wilsonian dichotomy has been given up…and now both r considered 2 sides of the same coin…new approaches such as the new service approach of denhardt and denhardt try to include both aspects…etc etc…an example wud be the SHG mvmt in india…
      so do remember to go thru the topics and relate them…tht wud ensure u get enough content to write for an unusual Q…
      i hope u got the idea…

  17. Aman Jain says:

    Congrats sir for great success
    I want to ask following things:-
    1. How did you prepare for 2-marks questions particularly history. I found 2009 questions very weird. Which book /material is to be referred?
    2. something abt writing style. I got 99+120 in GS; 132+118 in PA & 120+119 in psych. in 2009 mains.
    I have done lot of self study but as I looks at my scores all are in small range of 220-250. I think that there is some problem in my writing style. So please tell what should an answer contain to get 60% marks. In essay I got 75. I wrote on “Globalism Vs Nationalism” I wrote in a very planned manner(as I perceive). i expected 120+ marks. I am in total dilemma abt mains preparation this year . I am working at Bokaro steel city. No coaching or other help is available. It will be nice to you if you please provide ur contact no to discuss the issues.please help me.

  18. Aman Jain says:

    Sir, I had written essay on “Globalism Vs Nationalism”. I wrote from different perspective like historic, economic, social, psychological, comparative, S&T, and current scenario like global financial crisis, global governance etc. And finally i concluded it. I got 75 marks.
    Can you please tell the subject of your essay & how you deal with it. It may give an insight of my writing style which may be probable cause of my poor marks. please reply in detail so that I can find my loopholes.

    • anaydwivedi says:

      hi aman…
      i wrote the essay on healthcare…but my approach wasnt tht good i guess…i got 102…emphasised a lot on facts…for essay, ask tanvi sundriyal or garima mittal…
      garima mittal has uploaded some of her essays on her blog…go thru them to get some idea…

  19. abhay says:

    congrates sir

  20. Pallavi says:

    Hi Anay,

    Thanks for your reply on the economy queries.
    I am preparing economy on my own without any coaching and was stuck up due to doubts in few topics. Could you please spare some time out of your busy schedule to provide provide clarification for the below questions:
    1) The diff between balance of payment(BOP), trade deficit and current account deficit.
    2) What is meant by exchange rate. How is it controlled in general and rupee in particular.
    3) Why does rupee appreciate when there is lot of inflow of foreign investment.
    4) What is meant by RBI intervention in foreign exchange market and how exactly does it interfere.
    5) What are the positives and negatives of increasing statutory liquidity ratio(SLR).
    6) Why should RBI release currency corresponding to the amt of foreign currency acquired.
    7) What is the pblm if there is accumulation of foreign currency
    8) What is the present issue of currency war all about and how does the country strengthen or weaken its currency and how is china able to maintain a devalued currency while India is not.

    Thanks in advance

  21. Dipti says:

    Hi Anay ,
    Is spectrum GS manual is sufficient for biology and economics? Do I need to refer any other book for this?

  22. manoj jadhav says:

    i am aspirant of upsc now i am taking coaching form ACEC mandar sir give suggest for preparation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s