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How to Prepare Prelims General Study Paper  2020

In this post, you will get a detailed analysis of the toughest exam of India, not only in India but across the world (in the sense of completion and success ratio). It’s time to explain the strategy of the big boss of all exams that is CSE.

Certain questions will be explained here that are in present in your mind while preparing for this exam.

  • What is CSE?
  • What is the pattern of exams?
  • Subject of examination

Before you go through the detailed strategy of each section, we will try to explain some basic information about the examination CSE stands for Union Public Service Commission which conducts exams for recruiting people to the Civil Services of the Government of India. It is a three-level examination consisting of a preliminary exam the main exam and an interview. Recruitment is done for various different posts such as IAS (district magistrate (DM) or DC), IFS, IPS, and IRS, etc.

Eligibility Criteria For CSE Exam

The person who is applying for IAS exam must meet the IAS eligibility criteria prescribed by the Commission. Age requirement for IAS/CSE/Civil Service eligibility has been reformed since 2015.

Age Criteria for CSE aspirants

  • The minimum age required for CSE Exam is 21 years
  • For General category aspirants, the upper age limit is 32 years with a maximum of 6 attempts.
  • For OBC aspirants, the upper age limit is 35 years with a maximum of 9 attempts.
  • For SC/ST aspirants, the upper age limit is 37 and the number of attempts is up to the age limit.
  • Candidates from J&K domicile, upper age limits are 37 years, 40 years, 42 years and 50 years for UR, SC/ST, OBC and physical handicapped respectively.
  • For disabled servicemen, upper age limit 35 years, 38 years and 40 years respectively for UR, OBC, SC/ST respectively.
  • For physically disabled candidates, the upper age limit is 35, 38 and 40 for General category, OBC and SC/ST respectively with the number of attempts being 9 for General category and OBC candidates; for SC/ST up to age limit.

Educational qualification

  • The candidate must hold a degree from Government recognized Universities or possess an equivalent qualification.
  • Candidates who are in their final year or awaiting results are also eligible to appear for CSE preliminary Examination.
  • Candidates having professional and technical qualifications recognized by the Government as equivalent to professional and technical degrees.
  • Medical students who have passed the final year of MBBS, but are yet to complete their internship also have eligibility for IAS. Although, along with the Main Examination application, a certificate of course completion (including internship) from the concerned authority of the University/Institution has to be submitted.

Other Eligibility Criteria

  • To appear for IAS examinations, a candidate must be a citizen of India.
  • Candidate must be physically and mentally fit.

Exam pattern of CSE

Preliminary exam or prelims

It comprises of two Papers of 200 marks each.

The first paper is General Studies, questions will be asked from Current Affairs, Geography, Polity, History, Economy, Science & Technology and Environment/Ecology.

And in the Second Paper – CSAT, questions will be asked from Aptitude, Reasoning, Comprehension, and Decision-Making (Qualifying with 33% marks).

  • Both question papers will be of the objective-type (Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ based).
  • The question papers will be set both in both languages Hindi as well as English.


Civil Services (Mains) Examination 

The Main examination is subjective in nature and comprises of 9 papers. A candidate has to face 7 compulsory papers which include 4 papers of General Studies, A paper on Essay, A paper on any of the Regional Languages and English. Other two papers deal with an optional subject which a candidate has to choose out of 26 optional subjects.

The main exam is conducted for a total of 1750 marks out of which General Studies carries 1000 marks, which comprises 4 papers each of 250 marks. The optional subject carries 500 marks which comprise two papers each of 250 marks. Essay carries 250 Marks.

  • GS Paper 1 which is of 250 marks includes Indian and World History, Art and Culture, Indian and World Geography and Sociology.


  • GS Paper 2 which is of 250 marks is all about governance at its core. This paper tests the wisdom of the candidate in areas related to the Legislative, Executive and the Judiciary. It also deals with various sacrosanct institutions and other development agendas which become imperative for a budding civil servant to delve into.


  • GS Paper 3 which is of 250 marks is based on Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security Issues, and Disaster Management. The syllabus imbibes various subjects from a very diverse arena of life.


  • GS Paper 4 which is also of 250 marks is on Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. The exam which was earlier used to judge the level of knowledge and intelligence of candidates will now also look into your wisdom and moral conception.


Personality test or CSE Interview

IAS Interview is a finishing line. CSE aspirants need to cross three stages of the hurdle to achieve success. Third and the last stage of CSE civil services exam is of personality test generally called CSE Interview round. It is the most important and challenging stage.

The time duration of CSE Civil Services interview is approximately (30-40) minutes. The purpose of the interview is to check whether the candidate is suitable for a career in the civil services or not, whether the candidate has the potential to demonstrate good administrative skills or not.

So here an effort has been made to form a general structure about the exams, the general subject division was made. Now the second task is to explain the detailed syllabus and eligibility criteria. Because an understanding of eligibility criteria before detailed syllabus is essential and time-saving.

Second part –

Before starting the second part of the article there is a recommendation for you to read the notification given by CSE.  (click here for notification of CSE)


You are familiar with notification, if not; a complete strategy for preparation and important sources to do the same is available here for you.

Let’s enter the CSE syllabus,

Our focus is to make you understand that get the syllabus by heart, not by bookies mentality, and make a correlation between each and every topic perceived by CSE for “pt” and “mains” and prepare both parallels.

One more thing that is to be added in this discussion that never follows any strategy without checking its rationality (it is good for me or not, try to understand your position and understanding level)

Makes self-strategy with the help of various sources because

Lee Bolman says that

 “A vision without a strategy remains an illusion.”

Michael Porter says that –

“Strategy is about setting yourself apart from the competition. It’s not a matter   of being better at what you do – it’s a matter of being different at what you do.”

Be optimistic about your goal but don’t forget the Vince Lombardi statement that is

“Hope is not a strategy.”

So take paper and pen and make a strategy for your dream and make a flow chart for your better life because

‘Every person of world has self-uniqueness, immense talent and immense potential’

So use your uniqueness, talent and potential to formulate your future by your own pen.

Now we start the topics.

CSE requires a generalist for serving the highest echelons of administration in India. A generalist (हर मुद्दे पर सामान्य से अधिक समझ रखने वाला) is someone who knows something about everything, but not everything about something (called scientists or researchers).

While reading your approach should be somewhat like a generalist, i.e. jack of all trades master of none.

So, the first stage (Prelims) of CSE will focus on factual and generic knowledge of Current Affairs, Geography, Polity, History, Economy, Science & Technology, and Environment/Ecology.

We start with current Affairs; its source, importance, and a number of questions asked in previous year exam and how to make notes for pre and mains will be explained.

In recent years the importance of current affairs has proportionally increased with the analytical trend of questions as well as with the increasing weight of environment and science. There is no particular trend in which CSE has asked questions from current events. Its unpredictable nature can be sensed from last year papers where many direct questions from current events were picked.

Current Events plays a vital role in all the three stages of CSE preparation, especially in the Mains and Interview.

The domain of current is too wide. It covers approximately all topics of traditional subjects like Geography, Polity, Economics, History and more current-oriented subject’s environment, science and technology.

The number of questions that were asked in a previous year shows its importance and with the help of it, a complete trend analysis of all subjects can be done.

SUBJECT 20112012201320142015201620172018
CURRENT AFFAIRS1303081322272415-16


The increasing tendency of a number of questions from current affairs attracts students and sometimes it becomes the biggest obstacle in your success in various stages of examination.

So how to prepare

The biggest source of current affairs is ‘THE HINDU’ for mains and prelims both. (In the mains strategy information about the question and related the Hindu and all other newspaper articles with a screen shot of the article will be given to you.

The Hindu

 It is a source of socio-economic and political issues. You have made notes from Editorials and Opinions pages. Science and Technology page is also important to form pre and mains points of view because if we see previous year question papers maximum question asked from the Hindu. Generally, this edition published on Thursday. You can cover Environmental, Economic and art and culture issues with respective day’s edition. If you have time and potential then you can read The Indian express and some important issues of live mint also. Indian Express is a good source of international relations and for social issues follows the live mint.


FOR THE HINDU (Click here)

Danik jagran

Hindi medium students must read “national edition of dannik jagran”.

Some government websites also help in the preparation of current affairs like Press Information Bureau that comprise of Programmes and Policy updates of Government on a daily basis- If you miss reading newspapers. A second and most important and reliable source is PRS Legislative Research, it comprises of discusses the bills and policies of government Also, very simple and brief summary of acts and bills. You can follow the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA) for detailed coverage of India’s national security, internal security and relations. It is one of the best sources to prepare for Paper 3- Internal and External security


Yojana and Kurukshetra

Published by GOI and comprises of articles on diverse topics- from social to the economic domain.

  • LokSabha and RajyaSabha Debates
  • Here you can follow some important programs like –
  • Big picture
  • Visesh
  • The pulse
  • Other important events that were in the news


Current affairs preparation for Hindi medium students –

A Hindi medium student can read Dainik Jagran, some important websites and follow youtube channels (for detailed analysis of how to prepare current affairs in Hindi)    click here

Now it’s time for the next topics that is “History’

History is all about the study of past events, particularly in human affairs.

In this regarded (as in human affairs) it is divided into 4 categories

World civilization or world history

Indian civilization, it was further divided into three distinct categories that were ancient history, medieval history, and modern history, in this division for the convenient of reader modern history is also divided into 3 phases that are British period, freedom struggle and post-independence history of India.

But for the preliminary examination, world history is not part of pre syllabus. It is related to the mains general study paper1.

For pre-exam Indian history is important and a question will be asked from this session, History of India is divided into 3 sections – Ancient, Medieval and Modern. And every segment has its own weight in both exam pre and mains.

Before discussing the syllabus, be familiar with sources –

  1. NCERT
  • New-NCERT (from 6 to 12 ) if you have not much time then you can read only 11th &12th class NCERT (click here to download NCERT)
  • TN-Class: 11/12 – it is the most important book for mains and pre both.(Click blue link to download FOR 11  /  FOR 12  )
  • NIOS (Free) (click here to download)
  1. Standard book
  • Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English) -Download-
  • India’s Ancient Past by R. S. Sharma –Download pdf
  • History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra – ( Part-1 and  Part- 2)
  • History of Modern India by Bipan Chandra – Download pdf
  • India’s Struggle For Independence by Bipan Chandra – download pdf
  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania – download pdf
  1. Online source (YouTube)
  1. Government websites related to the history

Best website for CSE history is – click here

  1. Youth the resources list for preparation (click here)

Almost all the relevant sources have been mentioned here for history and the download link that is in blue color.

Now the second question arises how to read a book and how to prepare history – (a separate video for “how to prepare” will be made ablative as soon as possible  – (click here for video)

In the chain of a subject, its tern for geography –

Geography is all about the science that deals with the description, distribution, and interaction of the diverse physical, biological, and cultural features of the earth’s surface…

But by the definition, it is clear that it is a very vast, slightly technical but very important subject for CSE Prelims. If you understand the concept, you will understand the chapter very easily. The knowledge of geography can also be used to solve several other questions, which are not directly from geography. So, it is essential that we prepare geography thoroughly. We are presenting a strategy which would help students in preparing Geography for CSE prelims exam 2019. If we see the trend of CSE prelims exam, the number of questions coming from geography has decreased in recent times. In the last 4 years i.e. 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 there were 20, 14, 12 and 6 questions respectively from the geography portion. 2018 is quite good with reference to a number of questions that were asked in the exam.

One main advantage of geography is that it overlaps with the Environment portion and the questions are mostly conceptual, so if you know the concept, you will be able to solve the question easily. And if you have geography as an optional subject …. then (because (500+120 + 120) rules applied on geography. (. +. +. +) it comprise 500 marks of optional +120 marks approximately first paper + 120 marks (geopolitics + environmental-related issue). note– this division is not an absolute only assumption.

For detailed syllabus, topics and subtopics of geography for prelims (click here)

Note – Here explaining the topics and subtopics of the syllabus are not being explained because it makes the article too big and boring we will make a separate article for each and every subject separately and link will be provided.

Sources –  

  1. NCERT
  1. Standard book
  2. Geography of India by Majid Husain – Download or purchase
  3. Savinder Singh physical geography – Download or purchase
  4. Certificate Physical and Human Geography( g.c leong ) – Notes download or purchase
  5. Physical, Human and Economic Geography for Civil Services Examination by D R Khuller- Download or purchase
  6. Indian and World Geography: Objective Questions with Explanatory Notes for Civil Services Preliminary Examination.- Download or purchase
  7. Objective Indian and World Geography by Majid Husain – Download or purchase
  8. Geography of India by Surender Singh (alternative to Majid Husain).- Download or purchase
  9. India: A Comprehensive Geography by D.R Khuller (alternative to Majid Husain)- Download or purchase


  1. Youth resources list for preparation (click here)

How to prepare various sub parts of geography and world geography. (click here to complete strategy)


Now we move on another and more and more interesting subject among aspirants that is ‘Indian polity and governance’ because its source is very limited (if you read only one book, you can solve all question that was asked in previous year papers.)

If we focus on the weight, on an average 15%-18% of the questions come from Indian Polity. Because of the significance of weight given in the exam, Polity as a subject becomes even more important in the preparation process.

So, the polity is all about ‘a particular form or system of government’ and term governance is all about the action, manner, or power of governing. So, by definition, it is clear that mains domain of polity is Constitution, individual’s rights, duties and responsibilities to structure, power, functions, and responsibilities of various institutions of administration. and another aspect of polity for prelims is about various policies of the Government, rights-based issues of the vulnerable groups that were present in the society. By such intervention and awareness campaign, a sense of awareness is created in the mind of the common man – about one’s rights, duties, and responsibilities and helps him/her to take an informed decision. It also helps in holding the Government accountable for failing to serve its people.

My suggestion is to try to make an interrelation among each and every topics and subtopic of the core syllabus of polity and syllabus of general study paper 2 of mains. for detailed analysis of polity and general study paper 2 – (click here)

Source of Polity

  1. NCERT
  1. Standard book
  1. the resources list for preparation (click here)

Next subject is Economics

Economics is all about the studies of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the behavior and interactions of economic agents and how economics works. An aspirant preparing for CSE Civil Services Exam is confused about the subject of Economy Candidates are doubtful about the approach and study-materials for Economics section of IAS Prelims and Mains. They keep on asking about the single, all-in-one-book to cover Economics.

Textbooks do exist, but unfortunately, as Economy section for CSE exam is more current affairs based, no one can guarantee any text book as complete. Ideally, one should have atleast one book on Indian Economy plus the latest economic survey. Also, the latest budget should be properly analyzed. Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) is a magazine which can be suggested as a good source. The best way to start is by understanding basic concepts, thinking and asking questions.

During the preparation time you will focus on division of syllabus & you may divide it into two part

First part is all about core concepts and terminology like – GDP, REPO, Reverse REPO, CRR, SLR, Inflation Indices, Growth, Inclusion, and Development. Further you can make a interrelation between the terms, between the meaning and between the implication of each and every topics.

And another part of your strategy is Understand the application of the concepts.

So now here you will be provided only general overview of syllabus. For more information about syllabus and economics survey how to read question based on economics survey (click here).

Source of economics

  1. NCERT
  1. Standard book

Some alternative Additional Books to study Indian Economy for IAS Mains

  1. resources list for preparation (click here)

Next topics in the journey of prelim is “Culture”

Culture is all about the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social groups, India’s culture is among the world’s oldest; civilization. it began about 4,500 years ago. Many sources describe it as “Sa Prathama Sanskrati Vishvavara” — the first and the supreme culture in the world, according to the All World Gayatri Pariwar (AWGP) orga.

The culture of India refers collectively to the thousands of distinct and unique cultures of all religions and communities present in India. India’s languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food, and customs differs from place to place within the country, often labeled as an amalgamation of several cultures, spans across the Indian subcontinent and has been influenced by a history that is several million-year-old. Many elements of India’s diverse cultures, such as Indian religions, philosophy, cuisine, languages, martial arts, dance, music and movies have a profound impact across the Info sphere, Great India and the world.

So, Indian culture is a diverse topic. It encompasses cultural aspect from ancient, medieval to modern times. Moreover, it has unending aspects to be covered that is beyond anyone’s capability unless born with luck factor.

How to prepare it for prelims as well as mains – (click here for more information strategy and topics division)

Source of Indian culture

  1. NCERT
  1. Standard book
  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania PDF – download
  1. resources list for preparation (click here)

CSE culture pattern for mains and prelims and question (click here)


End up the discussion and in the journey of how to prepare CSE we reached on environment and ecology, a most important subject of CSE and more scoring subject. But Environment is the most difficult part to cover as the questions asked from this section are highly dynamic in nature. In recent years, , one should have good hold over Environment, Ecology, & Biodiversity subjects to be content of cracking the CSE IAS prelims exam. From this portion, a lot of questions are being asked in CSE Prelims IAS exam these days.

Since these subjects are without content, lack proper content source and are comparatively decal to comprehend, so a good strategy is required for them. In the study material, we are presenting a strategy, which will help the students in CSE prelims 2020. CSE combined the prelims of IAS and IFS, a large part of the prelims examination paper is occupied by Environment questions. In last 3 years i.e. 2014, 2015 and 2016 there were 28, 22 and 21 questions respectively from environment and ecology portion. This means more than 20% questions are coming from this section.

To know more about the syllabus of topics, sub topics and how to prepare environment for pre and mains together- click here 

Source of environment & ecology 

  1. NCERT
  1. Standard book
  • Shankar IAS book is most important – download
  1. Online source (you tube)

Best website for CSE environment   – UN- environment  & Ministry of environment

  1. resources list for preparation (click here)

So last subject is Science and Technology-

Science and Technology is about a systematic process to gain knowledge through observation and experiments, and the practical application of science gives rise to technology. Technology is used to design products that improve the quality of human life. It is an important part of Prelims syllabus. It covers not only the static portion but also dynamic . In recent years, CSE is emphasizing on dynamic cum analytical aspect of Science and Technology (S & T). The importance of Science and Technology can be seen from the number of questions asked in previous years.

Science part deals with subjects like Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Technology part deals with application of various sciences. Questions can come from all latest technologies like Biotechnology, Information Technology, Nano-technology, Space Technology, Defense Technology, Energy Technologies etc.

Sources of science and technology

Source of environment & ecology 

  1. NCERT
  1. Standard book
  • Science & Technology by Ravi P. Agrahari – download
  1. Online source (you tube)
  2. resources list for preparation (click here)

Next article on mains examination

Article 3:  General study Paper 1 for CSE mains exams (click here)

Article 4: General study Paper 2 for CSE mains exams (click here)

Article 5: General study Paper 3 for CSE mains exams (click here)

Article 6: General study Paper 4 for CSE mains exams (click here)

Article 7: Strategy of essay (click here)

Article 8: How to qualify compulsory (click here)

Article 9: Strategy for optional geography (click here)

Article 10: for interview strategy (click here)