UPSC 2024 Expert Guide: What should you DO and NOT DO with NCERT books during the preparatory stage?



UPSC 2024 Expert Guide is an initiative by Times of India where we share expert advice for IAS aspirants and get important mock practice questions answered and explained by Civil Services Exam (CSE) specialists for the upcoming Prelims and Mains exams. Today, our expert Shubham Aggarwal, Director and Chief Mentor at Vidyapeeth IAS Academy, is sharing his insights about NCERT books.According to him, NCERT books are necessary for UPSC preparation, but they are insufficient and sometimes even hazardous for candidates. Read on for his suggestions on how you can use these study materials to ace the UPSC 2024 exam.
Eliminate the Repetitive Chapters
Mentors often irresponsibly recommend NCERT’S from 6th to 12th. The students must understand that there is a lot of overlapping and duplication in the content of these books. For instance, the chapter on Indus Valley Civilization repeats itself more than once from 6th to 12th. Thus, one must smartly eliminate the repetitive chapters and reduce workload.
Don’t Choose it all
UPSC does not recommend NCERT books for clearing this exam. It is the ease of learning that is the prime factor in choosing them. But some subjects do not require NCERT books at all. There are other ready reference materials available for these subjects. For instance, I prescribe only 11th class polity NCERT Indian Constitution at Work by Yogendra Yadav. The other polity NCERT Political Theory for Indian Polity is not advisable for UPSC aspirants due to unsystematic and random coverage of concepts.
Keep your eyes open for outdated information
Some NCERT books have not been periodically revised and the facts and figures are outdated. For example, in case of the methods of GDP calculation, the base year has changed, and will change in future too. However, an outdated NCERT Economics book will not give the updated information.
Consult your mentor to find the right book
There are some subjects like Geography and Economy that warrant reading the new NCERT books. On the other hand, some teachers recommend reading classical old NCERTS for History. Be it old or new, take a wise call by consulting your mentor.
Read one book 10 times, not 10 books once
There is an increasing trend among students to buy some regional state board textbooks for reading. For instance, Tamil Nadu text books for Ancient history and culture portions are very popular. My humble yet strict opinion is,“Read 1 book 10 times, not 10 books once”. Sources are infinite, choose any one of them wisely. One must also remember that there will be a limited number of questions asked per subject, and there will be considerable loss of your time and energy if you overemphasise on a subject by consulting so many sources.
Highlight important pointers
One can certainly make notes from the NCERT. However, if time does not permit, you can highlight the important points. Make sure you do not highlight anything after the first reading, because everything seems important at first. Do it during the second matured reading of the texts.
Revise well
Revising these books, or for that matter any book is a must. Otherwise giving them your precious time is a total waste of expenditure. Students can make notes from these books or highlight these books. The other important thing is testing yourself. For that you can subscribe to the available options for NCERT specific test series, which contain subject- wise/book-wise mock tests covering all NCERTS.
Do not rely entirely on NCERT books
UPSC aspirants must understand that NCERTS are INSUFFICIENT. Yes they may help you in clearing your basic concepts and understanding of the concerned subject. However, they are not the sole bibles. They do not include the higher-level concepts and all necessary areas of the UPSC syllabus. For comprehensive coverage, one has to go to other reference books for almost all the subjects, plus the Current Affairs.
(The views shared in this article are personal. The expert can be reached at 0306shubham@gmail.com. His specialisations include General Studies, Political Science and International Relations Optional)




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