How to Approach NCERT Books for UPSC Civil Services Exam

NCERT Books for UPSC Civil Services Exam

It’s a common knowledge, that NCERT Books are the most widely recommended books for the preparation of UPSC Civil Services Examination. The effective reading of NCERT Books is one of the most essential part of the UPSC Civil Services Examination.

UPSC CSE aspirants are generally advised to read the NCERT Books before moving on to other bigger reference books (though there is no hard and fast rule), as they help you build a strong foundation. Thus, grasping the content of reference books becomes easier after reading NCERT Books.

But there are 100’s of NCERT Books and the syllabus is vast, which can be overwhelming and make you nervous. But do not panic. You do not have to read all the NCERT Books. In the following article, we are providing you guidelines on how to approach the NCERT Books and how to study selectively.

Which books to read

For UPSC CSE Prelims, it is highly recommended that you read NCERT Books from standard 6 to standard 12. It is important that you study the books topic-wise (refer the syllabus), and not chapter-wise.

Before you begin, go through the previous years’ preliminary question papers and analyse them. This should give you a brief idea about the type of questions UPSC asks under each topic and the frequency of these questions. Knowing what’s important under each topic will make your approach easier.

Following is a list of topics that broadly appear in the UPSC CSE Preliminary Examination & the respective NCERT Books you should refer:


Class 6: Our Past I

Class 7: Our past II

Class 8: Our past III (Part 1 and 2)

Class 9: India and the Contemporary world – I and II

Class 10: Themes in World History, India and the contemporary world II

Class 11: Themes in World History (Industrial revolution)

Class 12: Themes in Indian History I, II and III

Indian Society

Class 11: Sociology: Understanding Society

Class 12: Indian society

Art & Culture

Class 11: An Introduction to Indian Art

Class 11: Living Craft Traditions of India (Chapters 9 & 10)

Class 12: Craft Traditions of India


Class 6: The Earth: Our Habitat

Class 7: Our Environment

Class 8: Resources and Development

Class 9: Contemporary India – I

Class 10: Contemporary India – II

Class 11: Fundamentals of Physical Geography

Class 11: India – Physical Environment

Class 12: Fundamentals of Human Geography

Class 12: India – People and Economy


Class 9 – 12

Class 9: Economics

Class 10: Understanding Economic Development

Class 11: Indian Economic Development

Class 12: Introductory Microeconomics

Class 12: Introductory Macroeconomics


Class 9 – 12

Class 9: Democratic Politics I

Class 10: Democratic Politics II

Class 11: Indian Constitution at work

Class 11: Political Theory

Class 12: Contemporary World Politics

Class 12: Politics in India since Independence


Class 12: Social change & development in India

Science and Technology

Class 7 – 10 (All the books); Class 11 and 12 (Selective)

Class 6: The Living Organisms and their surroundings (Chapter 9)

Class 7: Weather, Climate & Adaptations of Animals (Chapter 7)

Class 7: Soil (Chapter 9)

Class 8: Crop Production & Management (Chapter 1)

Class 8: Coal & Petroleum (Chapter 5)

Class 8: Conservation of Plants and Animals (Chapter 7)

Class 8: Friction (Chapter 12)

Class 8: Pollution of Air and Water (Chapter 18)

Class 9: Natural Resources (Chapter 14)

Class 10: Sources of Energy (Chapter 14)

Class 10: Our Environment (Chapter 15)

Class 10: Management of Natural Resources (Chapter 16)

Class 12: Ecology (Unit 10)

  • Chapter 13: Organisms & Population
  • Chapter 14: Ecosystem
  • Chapter 15: Biodiversity & Conservation
  • Chapter 16: Environmental Issues

Class 11: Chemistry (Unit 14) Biology (Units 4 & 5)

Class 12: Chemistry (Unit 16) Biology (Units 8,9 and 10)

Environment and Ecology

Class 12: Biology: Last four chapters (13 to 16)

Chapters on Biotechnology

How many times to read

It is recommended that you read the above mentioned NCERT Books at least 3 times.

How to read (recommended approach)

1st Reading:

The first time you’re reading the books, read them like a novel. Highlight the important points using a highlighter (in case of eBook) or a pencil (hard copy). Keep a dictionary handy. If you come across any difficult word, look it up immediately. If you don’t understand a specific concept, use Google and read up about it.

Note on highlighting (how to know what to highlight):

It’s important that you know what information to highlight and what to ignore. This can be done by analysing the previous year question papers. Analysing previous years’ question papers will help you understand the type of questions asked under each topic. For instance, if you’re studying about the various Government schemes and policies, you should focus on advantages & disadvantages of the policy, need for that policy and its approach. If you’re studying about a specific industry, your focus should be on the location of the industry, the factors affecting its location, challenges faced, opportunities and its current situation.

2nd Reading:

Give a gap of about 2 to 3 days after your first reading, before you begin your second reading. During your 2nd reading, ignore the unwanted details and focus on the notes you had highlighted during your 1st reading. It’s a good idea to try and recall whatever you learnt during your 1st reading before revising each chapter.

3rd Reading:

Now that you’re done with your second reading, it’s time to summarize what you have studied. The 3rdreading should be relatively faster than the 1st and 2nd. During the 3rd reading glance through each chapters’ highlighted parts. Try and relate the concepts you’re studying to current affairs, and connect the dots.

You can follow the above given approach or use it as a guideline to formulate your own approach and strategy for reading the NCERT Books.

About the author:


Abhishek Patil








Abhishek Patil,

CEO & Co-founder at Oliveboard

Abhishek Patil is the CEO & Co-founder at Oliveboard, a leading online preparation portal for MBA, Banking and Government exams like CAT, SBI, RBI, IBPS, UPSC etc.