UPSC Prelims is an important phase of your UPSC Journey. It is the first hurdle which you need to clear in order to become an IAS Officer. If you are thinking that UPSC Prelims 2021 will be easy then you are wrong. UPSC is known for doing things differently. So, expecting an easy paper might not be a good thing.

In this article, we are going to discuss how you can boost your preparation for UPSC Prelims 2021. And will give you an ideal strategy, booklist, timetable to crack the UPSC Prelims exam within 6 months.

UPSC Prelims 2021 Exam Details

In the following table we are sharing with you some details regarding the UPSC Prelims exam.

Exam DateMay-June 2021
No. of Questions200 Questions in Each Paper 1 and Paper 2
Negative Marking0.67 marks for each wrong answer
Time Available2 hours for Each paper

UPSC Booklist For Prelims

Now we are going to share with you some ias books which are going to assist you in your UPSC Preparation. These UPSC Books will be helpful in making you able to crack UPSC Prelims 2021 exam. 


Books/Study material

  1. Indian Polity by Laxmikanth
  2. Bharat Ki Rajvayvastha
  1. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  2. articles
  3. Macroeconomics – NCERT Class XII
  4. Indian Economic Development – NCERT Class XI
  5. Economic Survey (Selective reading from Prelims perspective)
  6. The Hindu
  7. Internet for understanding concepts (Investopedia, Google, Youtube)
Ancient History of India Old NCERT by RS Sharma
Medieval History of India Old NCERT by Satish Chandra (Selective Reading)
Modern History
  1. A Brief history of Modern India- Spectrum Publications
  2. India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra (Selective Reading)
  3. NCERT by Bipan Chandra (For the period 1700s to 1857)
Indian Art and Culture
  1. An Introduction to Indian Art – Class XI NCERT
  2. Indian Art And Culture by Nitin Singhania
  3. Centre for Cultural Resource and Training (CCRT) material
  4. Heritage Crafts: Living Craft Traditions of India -NCERT
Environment and Biodiversity Shankar IAS book
General Science
  1. General Science Books
  2. The Hindu (Note down and read about the latest scientific terms, discoveries and inventions frequently mentioned in news)
  3. Google & YouTube
  1. Fundamentals of Physical Geography XI NCERT
  2. India: Physical Environment XI NCERT
  3. Fundamentals of Human Geography XII NCERT
  4. India: People and Economy XII NCERT
  5. Certificate Physical and Human Geography: GC Leong
  6. PMFIAS Notes
  7. Google & YouTube
Govt Schemes   Govt schemes: Civils Daily
Previous Year Papers
  1. General Studies 1 (25 Years Papers)
  2. CSAT (25 Year Papers)
Current Affairs
  1. The Hindu
  2. Civils Daily
  3. ForumIAS

Read: 10 Must Read UPSC Books for UPSC Prelims 2020

How To Crack UPSC Prelims 2021 Exam in 6 Months?


We will be discussing the strategy differently to Graduates and Working Professionals. This is because both are in different situations. Now, let’s assume that the UPSC Prelims Exam is in May 2021 and we are in December 2020. So, the strategy will be as follows:

For Graduates

  1. In the month of December, you have to buy the books for UPSC Prelims. 
  2. You need to study between 7-10 hours daily. This will assist you in covering the syllabus quickly. Also, it will prevent burnout and you would not feel exhausted.
  3. Then you have to start reading books starting from NCERT’s to other recommended books like Laxmikant, GC Leong,etc. Your main aim should be to study these books as fast as you can. There is no need to read multiple books for the same topics.
  4. After taking the first reading of every book, you need to take another reading of those books. This time, make notes along with reading while underlining Important Things.
  5. When you have made notes, revise the notes alone. There is no need to read the book again and again. Since, questions in Prelims are usually static. Therefore, make your notes crisp and to the point.
  6. Complete the first reading within 1-1.5 months. 
  7. After reading books, you need to practice mock tests. Do join a good coaching Institutes Test Series. Apart from this, past year papers will be of great help for you. Mock tests will help you in analysing your weak areas. Now, when your weak areas, try to improve them by devoting time to it.
  8. In the last two months, your focus should be on revising more and more topics. This will definitely going to benefit you if you will do this exercise diligently.
  9. Divide your daily work into small targets, achieve your daily and weekly targets. When you do this, it will encourage you. Therefore, Reward yourself by watching your favourite movie or reading your favourite book every 15 days.

Download: UPSC Prelims Question Paper (2014-2019)

For Working Professionals

Since you are working you will find at most 5-6 hours daily. Your aim should be to maximise the output at that time. On the other hand, weekends are a boon for you. You have to plan your weekends properly. Because wasting that time will bring troubles for you. Your timetable should be like-

  1. You wake up early and have at least two hours in hand to study general studies subjects just before you get ready for work. 
  2. During office hours, go over current affairs. You will get time to read the news and do that bit done at the office itself on a daily basis.
  3. After work, continue preparing for GS or Optional papers. You will at least utilize 2 hours for this.
  4. After dinner, get  an hour in hand to go over and revise everything you studied for the day.


Now i will be sharing what preparation tips you should follow-

  1. Complete the First reading of all the books in 2 months. In the next two months, skip NCERTs and read Recommended Books only. While doing so, make notes of the same.
  2. In the last two months your main focus should be on practicing mock tests and revising your notes as much as possible.
  3. Since you have less time, you should not waste your time.

Read: How To Prepare For UPSC Along With Job?

Is Coaching Important For UPSC Prelims 2021?

I believe that Coaching is more and less depend upon your past knowledge of these subjects. There are many candidates whose base is not strong. As a result Coaching becomes important for them.

Those candidates who have prior knowledge of the subjects can take coaching if they want to. It solely depends upon you whether you want to join a coaching institute or not. But, whether you are joining a Coaching Institute or not, Do join a Mock Test Series. It will give a boost to your UPSC Prelims Preparation. Mock Test helps you in analysing yourself. That’s why it becomes important.

Read: 7 Most Common UPSC Doubts Among UPSC Aspirants

UPSC Prelims Exam requires proper attention. Many candidates fail to clear the Prelims itself in their few attempts but many clears it without coaching. In short, this exam is easy for those who are dedicated and hardworking. 

Work hard daily, you will see the results shortly.



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