Answer by Akand Sitra:
I am so jealous right now.
I wish I had 4 years like you. I wish I could have known my goal 4 years ago. You are a very lucky man to have such a long time to start preparing for civil services and I truly envy you.
Anyways, proper preparation, that is studying, should start from 1 year before prelims. If you start 4 years before, you’ll either lose the momentum or get bored mid-way.
So, do not start proper studies for the next 3 years. But, that doesn’t mean that you waste the next 3 years of your life too.
These next three years should build your character and should build your passion to become an IAS officer. For that, you should know your country properly.
First five months
Read all NCERT text books available for a proper basic understanding of this country. All books, all subjects – 6th to 12th.
History – 9 books
Geography – 11 books
Polity – 9 books
Economics – 3 books (Dont read 12th std books, it’s not necessary)
Total – 32 books
I hope, you can finish these 32 books(Around 100 pages each) within 150 days.
Once, you are done with this, you’ll get a very basic outdated understanding of your country.
Next Seven Months
After this, read the following books. These are not recommended books for the examination, but will help you understand your country better.
1) The Discovery of India – Jawaharlal Nehru
2) Argumentative Indian – Amartya Sen
3) Punjab – Rajmohan Gandhi
4) India Unbound – Gurcharan Das
5) In Spite of the Gods – Edward Luce
6) India Grows at Night – Gurcharan Das
7) Everybody Loves a Good Drought – P Sainath
8) Confronting the State – Nani Gopal Mahanta
9) Challenge and Strategy – India’s Foreign Policy – Rajiv Sikri
10) Breakout Nations – Ruchir Sharma
11) Glimpses of World History – Jawaharlal Nehru
12) Non Stop India – Mark Tully
13) Open Secrets – Maloy Krishna Dhar
14) Neta, Babu and Subsidy – Sandip Sen
15) Makers of Modern India – Ramchandra Guha
16) Gandhi Before India – Ramachandra Guha
17) The Service of the State – Bhaskar Ghose
18) The Haves and the Have-Nots – Branko Milanovic
19) The Great Convergence – Kishore Mahbubani
20) Mein Kampf – Adolf Hitler
21) An Uncertain Glory – India – Jean Dreze
22) Without Fear – The life & trial of Bhagat Singh.
23) The Accidental Prime Minister – Sanjaya Baru
24) Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor
25) The Idea of India – Sunil Khilnani
26) India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha
27) Implosion – John Elliott
28) Battles Half Won – Ashutosh Varshney
29) Anticipating India – Shekhar Gupta
30) The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx and F Engels
I’m hoping that you can finish these 30 books(200-300 pages) in a span of 210 days.
That is, 1 book per week.
While you are reading those books, you will have lots of free time in the middle. During those times, read government links.
I am taking this from‘s answer –
Read one govt link per week. Explore what all is there in that particular website, download any annual reports they have(No need to read them at this point), sort and save them properly in your drive.
So, one website per week. (Most of them you can finish in one hour). This is for you to just explore and learn about the structure of the government.
Official Websites by GOI
Official Twitter and Facebook Pages by GOI
These are some of the examples only, you should keep searching and stalk them for one week.
At the end of the first year, you will know all basics, different perspectives of various authors, the work of various Ministries and the structure of the government. You will now have a very basic understanding.
Now, to test your passion, you should spend the next 3 months reading biographies of bureaucrats. These books give a peek into their lives and how interesting/boring their work can be.
Year Two – First three months
1) Bureaucrazy Gets Crazier : IAS Unmasked – M.K. Kaw
2) The Insider’s (IAS) view – Javid Chowdhary
3) Walking with lions (IFS) – Natwar Singh
4) I Dare (IPS) – Kiran Bedi
5) District Administration (IAS) – N P Nawani
6) And What Remains In The End – Robin Gupta
7) Pyramid of Virgin Dreams – Vipul Mittra
8) Dancing with Maharaja – Sundar
9) Memsahib’s Chronicles – Suchita Malik
10) Not just an accountant – Vinod Rai
11) Crusader or Conspirator – P C Parakh
12) The Insider – PV Narasimha Rao
Im sure, you can finish these 12 books in 90 days. Many of them are like novels and are page flipping.
So, now you have got the passion to become a civil servant and basics to take you forward.
Now, is the time to start reading newspapers – The Hindu, Business Standard editorial if you can. (Insights website gives you daily links)
Now, you have 2.5 years more. Go take a month rest. Maybe you can visit some village to see how people live. (Or take a train journey to understand people first hand)
After your one month rest, it is time to start. Download the syllabus of the CSE exam, and take a printout and keep. If you have not chosen your optional yet, choose it now.
Here is how I chose the optional –
Do it after a careful analysis and thought. Don’t change your optional in the middle, so be doubly hundred percent sure why you want to take a particular optional. ( I guess by the time you write the exam, all optionals will be removed)
Anyways, now read the syllabus of both GS and Optional multiple times. Make sure you know them by heart. You should be able to pin point any topic and tell under which paper it comes.
Now, let us start building another layer on those NCERT basics. Read these ten books for the next 6 months.
1) Indian History and Culture – V.K Agnihotri
2) India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra
3) Indian Polity – M Laxmikant
4) Introduction to the Constitution of India – D D Basu
5) Physical and Human Geography – Goh Cheng Leong
6) Geography of India – Majid Hussain
7) Environment & Ecology: Biodiversity, Climate Change and Disaster Management – Majid Hussain
8) Indian Economy – Dutt & Sundaram OR Mishra and Puri
9) Indian Economy – Ramesh Singh
10) Indian Foreign Policy – Rajiv Sikri
Note that you have already read the 10th book, but this is a proper reading again.
The above 10 books comprise almost everything – Ancient History, Medieval History, Modern History, Culture, Indian National Movement, Physical Geo, Human Geo, Indian Geography, Environment, Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Disaster Management, Indian Polity, Governance, Constitution, Indian Economy – Basics and Advanced, Indian foreign policy and international relations.
If you read these 10 books thoroughly along with the 30 NCERT textbooks and the Hindu newspaper, Paper one of Prelims will be a cake-walk for you.
Year Three – First 60 days.
Take some 30 CAT mock tests and solve them. They will be tougher than the usual CSAT and once you do them, you’ll get a very good practice. And if you just practice two months before prelims again, you’ll easily get high marks.
Moreover, since you read so many books and have been been reading the Hindu editorial, your english comprehension will also be good. Prelims paper two will also be a cake walk for you at this stage.
Now, you have One year, 9 months more. It is best if you start studying now and finish off the syllabus before prelims. Study well, do the standard books, and everything else an aspirant does for the examination.
Make a very detailed Time Table for the next one year and follow it meticulously.
After prelims the 3 months should be used only for revision and writing practice.
If you write even ten answers per day, (Takes some 3 hours), then that is 2000 words per day.
So, in three months it will be, 180,000 words minimum. I am excluding any mock tests and obviously you should study for more than 3 hours every day.
So, right before Mains, you will be all ready, with a good amount of answer formulation and writing practice, and you will be able to crack the examination very easily.
You can worry about the interview after you feel that you would pass the Mains. Anyways, you will have more than 4 months time for that.
So, I hope I am clear. Let me reiterate that I am VERY VERY JEALOUS of you now.
Utilize your time really well. And all the very best.