How to begin your preparation for Civil Services Exam?

By Jojo Mathews

New to IAS Examination?

As a beginner, the question of how to start will always haunt you. Since you are setting out for a large mission that is tough and very prestigious, I am sure you don’t want a foul start.alt

Journey of thousand miles starts with a single Step

To start your preparation the first step is that you must know the process of IAS examination in a comprehensive manner. It is advisable for the beginners to know the various stages of the exam in details; it is also beneficial to know about the changing trends and patterns of this IAS examination . This knowledge can be best acquired by interacting with the seniors or teachers and also by reading the interviews of the Civil Services Toppers which are available in print media and on internet. Various coaching institutes also organize the Work Shops and Orientation Sessions for the beginners.

Before you enter the arena of the Civil Services exam, you should also thoroughly go through the syllabus of at least compulsory papers which are mandatory for all the aspirants. The following links can be beneficial to gather the information about the Civil Services Examinations:

Art of preparing for Civil Services

This exam preparation is not about studying alone. This is not about you mastering one or two subjects as well. This exam is more about handling multiple things simultaneously-that too in the right quantity! That’s why it’s appropriate to call it the “art of preparation”. for IAS Examination

The most important facet of the art of preparation is the in-depth understanding of a topic. To have fine in-depth understanding, your basic knowledge about subjects and topics should be very good. In nut shell the citadel of your understanding and critical thinking about any topic would rest upon the foundation of basic concepts and fundamentals. The beginners must invest their time in energy on the basic concepts and fundamentals. 

As a beginner, when you are not clear about what to read, and yet you are dying to do something, the golden rule is to start with NCERT school books. It may seem a bit odd, when you, as a graduate or post graduate are asked to read class 6th or 7th book. But the fact is, these books contain so much of information and that too in a very systematic manner. If you start reading from the foundation, you can systematically build your castle without any difficulty. The NCERT books of class 6 to 10th in general science, History and geography are a must read books. (Please refer the list of NCERTs which I prescribe). Please also note that the editions are very important.

NCERT books recommended for General Studies





VI-Ancient India


VII-Medieval India


VIII-Modern India


XI-Ancient India


XI-Medieval India


XII-Modern India



VI-Land & People Part-I


VII-Land & People Part-II


VIII-Land & People Part-III


IX-Understanding Environment


X-Geography of India



VI-Science & Tech


VII-Science & Tech


VIII-Science & Tech



XII-Democracy in India



XII-Indian Society





Aspirants should also read the following books in order to built strong fundamentals and concepts:

Indian History including Indian National Movement

·         Freedom Struggle: NBT Publication

·         Struggle for Independence: Bipan Chandra and others

World Geography including Indian Geography

·         Wizard Geography for GS

·         NCERT Books (Class VI to X old edition)

Indian Polity

·         Democracy in India NCERT

·         An Introduction to the Constitution of India: D.D. Basu

·         Wizard Indian Polity and Constitution

Indian Economy

·         Evolution of the Indian Economy: I. C. Dhingra

General Science

·             What, Why And How: Publications and Information Directorate

General Mental Ability & Basic Numeracy

·         It can be developed from any guide or practice tests for banking examinations given in competition magazines.

·         Objective Arithmetic by Dr. R.S. Aggarwal


                         Elementary Statistics: NCERT Book (Class XI)


·         Modern Approach to Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning by Dr. R.S. Aggarwal

Other Important books

·         Wizard Strategist for Preliminary Exam

·         Wizard Road Map for IAS Exam

·         Wizard Current Affairs for Prelim 2013

·         Wizard Current Affairs for Main 2012

·         Wizard Art & Culture

·         Wizard Social Issues 2012

·         My Experiments with Truth : M K Gandhi

·         Discovery of India : J L Nehru

·         India After Independence: Bipin Chandra

Dictionaries & General References:

·         Collins English Dictionary or Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary

·         The Penguin Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases

·         The International Thesaurus of Quotations


·         Orient Black Swan’s School Atlas

·         TTK School Atlas

Newspapers and Magazines

Another very important aspect for a beginner is how to read a newspaper. Most people think that as a beginner one has to read the entire newspaper. This is not required. Read the newspaper; but for a maximum of 1 hour. Read whatever you think that is important. As your knowledge increases, the topics you read also changes. But in this one hour you will have to jot down the important points in a note book. Read the first page, then move to the central page and read one article which appeals you the most. If you spend more time for newspaper, you will be wasting your precious time, which could have been used for studying your optional subject or GS.

Regular reading of the magazines and journals are also essential for the civil service aspirants. Since in magazines, the topics are covered very extensively and elaborately, it is advisable to make short notes of the topics and the stories so that you can save your precious time before exams.

The following Newspapers and Magazines are recommended:


The Hindu and Indian Express


Frontline, Competition Wizard, Yojana, Kurukshetra


India Year Book by Publication Division and Economic Survey

Important links for the beginners

The following links can be useful for the beginners:

Meantime you should identify at least one optional Subject so that you can start studying seriously for your main exam. As a beginner you should also know that your concentration should not be on preliminary exam; but on main exam. Also the best time to start preparation is June-July months.

So enjoy this new challenge!

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