UPSC IAS Prelims 2016: How to Prepare for Biology Syllabus

IAS Syllabus for Biology student

Students aspiring to clear Civil Services Examination should have a clear strategy for every stage of this examination. With right preparation, right guidance and right selection of materials and with consistent and persistent smart work, aspirants can realise their dream to join the esteemed and prestigious service. For beginners, who don’t have much idea about the requirements of the UPSC Civil Service  Preliminary examination (also for the aspirants who are yet to clear their Preliminary stage), we have covered in a series of articles under Focus Prelims the much needed strategies, analysis and approach to various areas of General studies paper for preliminary examination as mentioned in the notification.


Here in this article, we are covering a detailed strategy to prepare for Biology related questions in the UPSC preliminary examination. Most of the students who are from Nonscience background generally do not feel comfortable with Biology part of General sciencepreparation and often neglect this area. Even the science background student’s donot give much attention to this area. Will they be at loss?? Here we would like to give you two Points. Point No 1: It is possible to clear UPSC preliminary stage even if one is not preparing for the biology part. Point No 2: Based on the previous 15 years preliminary examination questions, we infer that No indepth science knowledge is needed to answer those questions. The Point No.2 above clears the MYTH that covering biology part needs indepth knowledge about science. All the aspirant needs is some basics and  general appreciation and understanding of day-to-day science. So why to neglect this area? If a students feels he/she has not studied this area well in his/her school days, its fine. All that is needed now is to give it a fresh start. How to start, what to read, what not to read, how to revise we will discuss. Before moving further in our discussion, we would like to emphasise that students first priority in covering syllabus for prelims should be the core areas i.e., Economy, Polity, Geography, History, Environment and Current affairs. This will cover around 75to 80 questions(out of 100 Questions). With good accuracy and taking calculated risk while attempting the questions from the above areas one can expect around 50 to 60 net questions correct ( i.e after the deduction of 1/3rd for the negative marking). But to qualify in the preliminary stage and to be on the safe side, the candidate (of course the cutoff will be slightly different for different categories of students) must get a net score of around 55 to 60 questions correct. So there is an element of uncertainty to clear the preliminary stage if you are in the margin as said above. Why take risk? Why lose one more year? What can you do to move away from that uncertainity? One more observation based on our experience ( It’s a caution for freshers) is that if a candidate is doubtful/not certainabout clearing the preliminary stage, he/she will not focus much on Mains preparation after prelims exam, wasting lot of time on thinking whether they will clear or not as they are in the margin. This again will cost one more year if you don’t dedicatedly prepare post preliminary exam phase. So to get the extra edge, the key is preparing for the remaining areas from the syllabus of the UPSC preliminary exam. Here the general science comes in to the picture. The weightage for science and technology related areas in the preliminary stage is not fixed by UPSC, but based on analysis of the previous years questions, we can say around 7 to 10 questions one may get in the Preliminary exam( Some S & T questions can also be categorised under environment, geography areas like for example acid rains. If we include those also then number of S & T questions may be around 15+) In the S & T section, the Biology related questions are very less but we never know. UPSC always have surprises. Some even call this Uncertain PSC!!.  Serious aspirants should be fully prepared to face the exam. With the above discussion, if the student feels convinced and if they can allocate some of their preparation time for General science, they should read below. How to start and What to read?

As such, there is no specific Biology Syllabus for UPSC prelims, the UPSC syllabus just says: General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialisation General Science.


  • Before starting, students should have the previous 10 years of UPSC prelims exam questions papers ( free download available from net)and organise them according to the areas/subjects( like geography, history, economy etc.,) ( Also in the market, Book/hard copies of the segregated prelims questions of previous 15 years available for purchase)
  • Be it be soft copy or the hard copy, previous years question papers is a MUST.
  • Students must have gone through the questions at least twice before they start any area.

(once in a week or two they should again go through the questions, this is important because it will give a direction to their preparation if they are losing track and reading unnecessary things or if they are reading more in depth)

  • For the Biology part, the next requirement is to have hard/soft copes of the NCERTs( preferably NEW NCERTs) text books from Class VI to Class X.( Note: In another article we will cover strategy for covering physics and chemistry part)
  • From Class VI NCERT Science, Students must read chapter 2 (Components of food), Chapter 9 and chapter 16.
  • While reading NCERTs, the focus should always be on understanding the basic concepts. NCERETs have good illustrations in the form of images. Students should underline/highlight the important points/paragraph during the first reading itself.
  • There is no need to make notes. Please don’t waste time on that. If one is comfortable in reading softcopy format there are new features available from adobe PDF to do highlight/mark in the PDF itself(Thank god they are saving lot of your time!!).
  • From Class VII NCERT Science, students must read Chapters 1,2,9,11,12 and 17
  • From class VIII NCERT Science, students must read chapters 1, 2, 5, 8, 9 10.
  • From class IX NCERT Science, students must read chapters 5,6,7,13,14 and 15
  • From Class X NCERT Science, students must read chapters 4,6,7,8,9,15 and 16 ( In chapter 9 i.e Heredity and Evolution need not be read intoto, just overall flow needs to be understood)

If student completes one reading of the above areas and if they had underlined/highlighted the areas to revise. Half of the job is done. Whats the next step?

  • Students should start practising some 50-100 sample questions from the above areas that they have read( Practice questions from market is available for purchase or they can practice on free online sources as well)
  • Students need not worry about the standard of the questions while practising for the above areas. The idea is to check whether they are able to answer correctly if the question is from the areas they have studied.
  • Based on their own self evaluation, if needed they can give one immediate quick revision. Else they can keep it for revision towards the end. Ideally before the preliminary examination student should have completed atleast two readings.

What additional reading is needed for UPSC Biology?

  • Students while reading the current affairs from newspapers/media and if they find any developments in the biology, they should make a note of it. Especially the important areas are from health and diseases ( example: Zika virus, Ebola virus, Mission Indradhanush vaccines etc..)
  • Also from the book, “The Hindu Speaks On Scientific Facts”, students can read the biology related questions.
  • The above preparation strategy for biology part is sufficient to cover most of the Prelims questions. It will give the extra edge compared to your competitors who neglect this area.One or two questions may still be left uncovered, but students need not worry about that because any further reading on biology is not a smart strategy.


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