Book Review – Pathfinder – A Blueprint For UPSC Civil Services Main Exam

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List of Reference Books For Prelims and Mains


Ever since UPSC announced new pattern and syllabus for civil services Main examination, there has been a deluge of books in the market on the subject. Instead of making lives of aspirants easier, they have only made life tougher for clueless aspirants.

Fortunately, Pathfinder, a small 197 pages book authored and edited by Dr. Divya S Iyer (139 Rank, CSE – 2011) with the help of senior bureaucrats and a retired diplomat,  is a boon to the aspirants who have no clue about how to prepare for the new pattern.

pathfinder, divya s iyer kerala, pathfinder book for IAS,

This book is written keeping in mind the demand of the new pattern and syllabus. For last few years, UPSC has experimented with Mains ‘pattern’ within the old framework. Questions were getting tougher and the questions pattern in Optional subject was radically altered to the dismay and surprise of aspirants. Even evaluation was made strict. This was all an indication of things to come. And came the new pattern, where four General Studies papers were introduced in the place of two and one Optional was retained instead of two.

In these four General Studies papers, there are about sixty broad topics are there. Each topic has  sub-topics, but there is no further clue as to what an aspirant should ‘know’ on these sub-topics. For example, there is this topic – Art Forms. Now, the question is which art forms an aspirant should focus? From which regions?

It is here, in understanding the demand of these topics from the examination point of view, most aspirants are confused.

Pathfinder helps you overcome this confusion. The author has divided all the topics broadly into three categories:

  1. Need to Know
  2. Good To Know
  3. Great To Know

Under each category, various topics, which are not given in the official syllabus but are extremely important from the examination point of view are listed. This feature is this book’s USP. If one thoroughly prepares all the topics given in the book, he/she can confidently face the exam. This feature acts as a blueprint for your preparation. Hence this book should be kept as a constant companion to know which topic you are missing in your preparation and to know which topics you must study for Mains from all fours General Studies papers.

Apart from the above categorization of topics, there are good articles on ‘How to choose Optional subject’, ‘How to approach Essay paper’; How to Face the Interview’ (Dr. Divya scored highest marks in her interview that year) and an overall strategy for Civil Services exam is given at the end of the book which is comprehensive and useful.

And there is a list of books for each General Studies paper given in the end. For freshers, who because of lack of guidance buy irrelevant books, coaching materials and photocopies of useless notes, these lists help a lot. But, the list of books given is large. If one has time and determination, it is not impossible to read all the books recommended in Pathfinder. They are standard books. Not the ones manufactured in Delhi for the innocents. (For Insights Books List, click here)

There are insightful and inspiring articles by an IAS officer and a retired diplomat.

This book is a must have companion for new entrants and to all aspirants preparing for next exam. This book is priced at Rs. 160/– and it is worth every penny.

Why am I promoting this book? This book is written with good intention and is very useful for the aspirants and is cheap. Hence this promotion.

You can buy right away from (not available on Flipkart)

Click the link below to buy this book.



Reference Books List

  • sachin mayekar

    Sir it is unavailable on amazon

    • It will be made available soon. I have alerted the author.

      • sachin mayekar

        Thnx sir

        • saswat

          Thanx Sir.
          Also for informing about such a relevant book.

      • NEELADRI

        Sir is it written in English ???? I was going to order but just then i found in the book details its shown language : malayalam . I am confused please assist i am waiting …

        • It’s in English..

          • NEELADRI

            Thank you …. but why does it show malayalam in book details ???

  • Vishnu

    I second you sir. The book shows a very clear path on how to prepare for civil services. Thanks and hats off to Divya Ma’am for her brilliant effort in guiding future aspirants.An indispensable book for all civil service aspirants.

  • saswat

    Sir, Should an aspirant giving this mains also read it? Will it be beneficial. or Is it too late?

    • It’s not too late. It will benefit certainly.

      • jyoti

        I’ve already placed the order. I’m giving mains this year..hope it helps…(I think it will)….:-)
        Thanx @insights

  • Prasad

    have ordered :).. hope it helps in last one month..

  • Som

    Can someone who has read the book ,please post a small gist of it. Like any new technique involved. It’s 30 days to mains, I don’t know when I would be getting the book, given that it’s unavailable currently.

    • There is no technique given. It’s just you will know which topics to cover from each paper. It is mainly for beginners.

  • harideep raj

    सर क्या ये बुक सिर्फ इंग्लिश मे ही है या हम किस्मत के मारे हिन्दी मीडियम वालों का भी कुछ खयाल रखा गया है?

    • im also from hindi medium harideep… but even then i read mostly things in english.. because i also face same problem in finding hindi medium material… really we have to do great effort.. first read in english then write in hindi…. i dont know in future some great person will consider our problem and do effort for us and help us…. i pray for it.. hopefully it can be happen in future… till then we will have to do lot of effort… best of luck

  • Shiv

    Does it include guide for optional subjects as well ?

    • No. It doesn’t.

    • There is an article on ‘how to choose optional’ though.

  • akhila

    Yes, pathfinder is the best way to crack the Civil Service Exam. It provides a clear idea about ‘what to study’which is considered as the hardest part for lots of Civil Service aspirants. This book will benefit everyone and put you on the right path to beat the exam. Me along with the Pathfinder hope to make my dream come true. I would also like to thank Dr. Divya for her selfless and brilliant efforts in guiding future aspirants

  • Ramesh

    Vinay Sir,
    Thanks for recommending such a good book..
    I ordered it few days back, got it today..
    Really good book and acts as a navigator to all those 60 topics of G.S four papers..
    “The beauty of the book is Each n Every topic is guided with 3 things NEED TO KNOW –> GOOD TO KNOW –> GREAT TO KNOW (i.e in the sequence of BASIC to ADVANCED to RECENT)”.
    Thanks again for suggesting such a good book..

  • Ravi

    thanx a lot sir for this book review…i saw this book on amazon but there was no information regarding any aspect of the book there. this review of yours was extremely useful. keep up the good work..:)

  • Aditya singh

    anywhere who has purchased this book and presently living in rajendra nagar area of delhi…???…plz leave ur contact detail here i want to ask something about this book..plz

    • Himanshu

      i don’t live in rajendra nagar,but nearby,you can ask if you want to know anything on

  • K.Khilwani

    Sir, does this book also provides information on prelims? Or is there any other such similar book which will guide us for our prelims…………

    • It is for Mains. Read the title again.

  • Prashanti

    Hi Vinay,
    Got the book today through Amazon. This is really wonderful and very informative book. A must have book for every aspirant. Thanks a lot for suggesting… 🙂

  • raj

    just 1 question pls if someone can answer
    does it talk about what to study topicwise (around 60 topics in syllabus)
    and is it available in bookshops in delhi? because along with shipping charges the book costs more than the MRP
    Please reply

    • Prashanti

      I believe the book is not available in bookstores. Yes it does talk about what to study clearly given in 3 stages Need to know, Good to know, Great to know topic wise according to the syllabus.Yes it costs Rs.25 more than the MRP.

  • This is a good book which simplifies GS syllabus by splitting it into 61 Tags and elaborating each tag classifying further into NEED TO KNOW, GOOD TO KNOW, GREAT TO KNOW sections.
    Just in case if not aware, I bought Kindle version of this book which you can read on your computer also (Kindle for PC software available for download). It is also possible to read on Kindle cloud reader online.

  • sanjay

    But this book has made the syllabus of 2 pages to a book of arnd 150 pgs topics .this book doesn’t contain ‘FROM WHERE TO READ THESE TOPICS’.I think the reference books that the author gives at the end is not suffice.the reference books is not apt for the syllabus of 2 pgs,so how can it cover his topics of arnd 150 pgs.

    • Vivek

      I concur with you!

      I just came across your site recently and I have been hooked to it ever since!

      I am a UPSC aspirant and going to make my first attempt in 2014. Since I have been searching on google for a good strategy for gs preparation I thought this book will show me the path.

      And I purchased this book after reading its review on this site. I must say, I have got better idea of the LEVEL of preparation I need to do in each topic, after reading the Pathfinder book.

      I would assume that nobody prepares upto “great to know” level in all 61 GS topics. Even the toppers may be having “good to know” level of prep on around (say) 20 GS topics and “great to know” level of preparation on (41) rest of the topics. Please correct me if I am wrong on this one!

      My only criticism of the book:

      They have mentioned 10 standard books and 5 reference books for each paper in GS.

      In my humble opinion, this book could be even better if the author could add what chapters to learn from each book. This is the only area in the book which seems little blunt in description.

      But when we look at strategy for GS preparation for different papers from INSIGHTS team, we get a much clearer picture of what we need to. I would think, this book is best used when we compare with strategy mentioned on this site.

      A big thank you to INSIGHTS team for all the good work you are doing!
      I as well as other aspirants are grateful to your contribution!

  • Deepak A

    Hello Sir & Fellas,

    The people who have ordered this book, Could you please suggest which seller to go for i.e DC Books or maEbag as far as quick shipping is concerned?

    And by chance if some great personality has got it scanned for public distribution, please share!

    • vivekupsc

      I bought it from amazon and they delivered in 3 days itself. Sorry i donot have a scanner

      • Deepak A

        Thanks Vivek for replying.

        But I was asking for a seller on Amazon itself. There are two sellers as mentioned by me. Whom did you order ?

        • vivekupsc

          Hi Deepak

          I ordered from MaEbag. It arrived through Bluedart courier.

          • Deepak A

            Thanks, Just ordered it through Insights!

            • Dragon

              i too have ordered and it takes a lot of time to come from amazon

  • Aspirant

    Insight team, thanks for recommending this book. I read pathfinder and really helpful. I understood wide range of different perspectives about each topic is possible. After read that and going through some news articles often I got few more relevant connecting points other than mentioned in book. I am sure other aspirants also get good new idea about each topic. If there is discussion on this will help to bring out many new relevant insights, connecting points on many topic of main syllabus. That will help all aspirants to understand the syllabus better and sharpen their preparation. Is there any possibility for such discussion? Daily taking up one topic along with secure 2014 question or in a separate section? Or if you going to update your main strategy (how to prepare series) try to include these. thanks.

  • pandhari

    plz make it available on flipkart


    Sir is it written in English ???? I was going to order but just then i found in the book details its shown language : malayalam . I am confused please assist i am waiting …

    • vivekupsc

      it is written in english buddy!


    sir i want to purchase pathfinder but it is not available on amazon.

  • I have pdf copy of this book. you can buy from its available in ebook format…. but plz don’t upload on torrent or any other places, as it will demotivates the author.

  • rahulbose

    Someone please tell me how to use this book. I have got it. But able to do justice with it.

  • ak

    Unable to get pathfinder anywhere …Please help me !