General Studies Paper 1 Preparation Strategy for UPSC Mains

General Studies Paper 1 preparation strategy should be more inclined towards the GS mains syllabus provided by UPSC. Because most of the topics given in the GS Paper 1 static in nature, UPSC asks questions based on the syllabus topics and few questions based on the current events based.

It is one of the most scoring papers in the written examination. It also has the most static portion among all the other four GS papers which means that the syllabus will not have much variance with the current National and International events and therefore once you read the standard books and get acquainted with the content, answering questions from this paper becomes much easier.

So, while studying for GS Paper 1, even though it is rooted mostly in favour of static portion, but it is also very essential to think and also while reading the static portion, it is important to focus on the background of events as well as the consequences arising out of it.

GS Paper 1 Preparation Strategy

Deciphering the syllabus of General Studies- 1, we find that it can be broadly divided into

A.History

B. Indian Society

C.Geography

We have discussed in detail about the strategy that must be adopted while preparing for GS Paper 1. It covers:

  1. In-depth topic wise analysis
  2. Methodology to be adopted
  3. Books recommendations
  4. Dos and Don ts.

A. History

History Syllabus in GS Paper 1

  • Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present significant events, personalities, issues.
  • The Freedom Struggle its various stages and important contributors or contributions from different parts of the country.
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  • History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
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Trend Analysis of History Questions

Analysing the trend (past 4 years) when we take a look at the marks distribution for the various sub-topics of History part, we find that most of the questions are asked from Art & Culture and Modern India History-Freedom struggle.

GS Paper 1 (Mains) 2013 2014 2015 2016
Art & Culture 20 40 25 25
Freedom struggle - Modern Indian History 30 30 25 37.5
World History 40 30 25 12.5
Post Independence India 50 0 0 0

1. Indian Culture: Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from Ancient to Modern times

This topic is one of the most unusual and unpredictable topics in the whole syllabus. There are umpteen numbers of art forms from paintings, folk dances to festivals and literature as well as architectural marvels, and therefore it becomes very tough to remember them. As evident from the table, out of 250 marks, the weightage given to this section is for around 20-40 marks. The questions asked are more of opinion-based and not factual so it is recommended not to focus on the factual names and places rather it would be prudent to focus more on the details, background and it s relevance as to how it is different from other such set/literature forms.

Sample this question from 2016

Early Buddhist Stupa-Art, while depicting folk motifs and narratives successfully expounds Buddhist ideals. Elucidate. When answering this question, it is important to know about the background behind the Buddhist philosophies and ideals. There is no such requirement to study in detail about the names of various stupas situated or names associated, just relevant details would do.

Sources/books for Indian Art and Culture

  • CCRT Website
  • Tamil Nadu book- Class 11th
  • New NCERTs (Class 7th-12th)
  • NCERT (Art Class 11th)
  • The Hindu, Friday Review

Reading newspaper is a must as we have seen that UPSC is regularly asking many questions keeping in mind the current events related to this section in past years and reading books alone would not suffice and you need to have a fine understanding of topics. This will immensely help you in selecting the right articles from the newspaper related to culture.

Let us see an example To what extent has the urban planning and culture of the Indus Valley Civilization provided inputs to the present day urbanization? Discuss. (2014)

It is very important to understand the intention and sources behind a question and this question can be solved along with having a sound grasp over current affairs update as well as historical static knowledge.

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2. Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present significant events, personalities, issues and The Freedom Struggle its various stages and important contributors or contributions from different parts of the country.

This part is one of the most interesting among all other topics of History where you can relate with the events and happenings as we have been listening to the heroics of our freedom fighters and stories of Independence struggle since our childhood days. But keeping the entertainment side aside, for UPSC civil services, this topic needs to be looked at from an analytical perspective.

Sources/books for Modern Indian History

  • "Spectrum" - Comprehensive History of Modern India
  • India s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • New NCERTs (7th-12th)

Also, this sub-topic has the highest marks weightage in GS Paper 1 when we analyse the trend since 2013, particularly focussing on India's freedom struggle with prominent focus on events, personalities and issues surrounding it. Therefore focus must be on comprehensively reading the above-mentioned books and it is also very important to understand the background and consequences of a particular event/issue.

Current events have also a large role to play in this part as questions are asked directly/indirectly related to a particular event which is in the news.

Sample this question- Highlight the differences in the approach of Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for freedom. (2016)- (Subhash Chandra Bose and relevant classified files in news)

Therefore, again it is very important to understand the intention of the topic and sources behind a question and then questions can be solved very easily if you possess a sound grasp over current affairs as well as historical static knowledge.

3. Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country

Post-independence consolidation is a lot more interesting topic than Indian National Movement because it has its effects on the present political scenario of the country too. Apart from reading books and Newspapers, it is also suggested to watch a few documentaries or special episodes on this subtopic.

Sources/books for Post Independence India

  • India Since Independence (Bipin Chandra)
  • Pradhanmantri Series (ABP News) on YouTube.com

Questions from this part are very few and therefore not much time should be devoted to this part as we can see that there were no questions from this part in 2014, 2015 and 2016, but it is also not advisable to ignore it completely. Newspaper reading is mandatory for this topic, preferably The Hindu as the questions are very much current specific.

4. The History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.

World History is the newest added section (2013) for UPSC Civil Services Mains and only events from the 18th century is included in the syllabus for GS Paper 1 i.e. events from and around AD 1700. A thorough understanding of world history will help candidates not only in GS Paper 1 but also for the International Affairs Section in GS Paper 2 and the Essay Paper.

Before reading such topics, always try to watch documentaries on that, to have a basic understanding. These topics consist of a bunch of sub-topics like World Wars, American Revolution, French Revolution, Russian Revolution, Industrial Revolution etc. A lot of them are stand-alone topics, and can be understood within 10-15 minutes if you watch the right documentaries.

Sources/books for World History

  • Mastering Modern World History- Norman Lowe
  • NCERT (Class 11th)

Dos and Donts in the GS Paper 1 History Section

  • Connecting the dots in History is very essential as once you finish the static portion supplement it with recent news from The Hindu or other sources and revise them.
  • Don t read more books, this will only increase your anxiety and lower your confidence, instead revise your already prepared notes.

B. Indian Society

Syllabus of Indian Society in GS Paper 1

  • Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
  • Role of women and women s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
  • Effects of globalization on Indian society.
  • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

Trend Analysis of Indian Society Section

Analysing the trend (past 4 years) when we take a look at the marks distribution for the various sub-topics of Social Science part, we find that most of the questions are asked from the subtopics Social Empowerment, Communalism, Regionalism & Secularism.

GS Paper 1 (Mains) 2013 2014 2015 2016
Role of women and women s organization 10 20 25 0
Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies. 10 20 25 25
Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism 10 10 37.5 37.5

All the topics of Social science are static as well as current based and these can be read from the NCERT Sociology textbook, class 11thand 12th, newspapers, online articles etc.

Most of these topics are dynamic and are rooted in the static portion. So, a separate study from standard books is not required. Just a general awareness along with innovative thinking is more than enough. There are many questions whose answer cannot be found from a standard text books so awareness and basic common sense towards an issue is required.

1. Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India

This is a general sub-topic just to give you a basic understanding of the Social setup and institutions enabling you to study other topics of Social science effectively.

Sources/books for Indian Society Section

  • NCERT Indian Society (Class 12th)

2. Role of women and women s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

There are two parts of this topic and we will treat them separately,

1.Role of women and women s organization

2.Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

Women empowerment related questions are asked regularly in the exam and Population-Poverty questions also form a considerable part of the paper as evident from the table given above. As you can see these topics are dynamic and relevant content can be found in newspapers and YOJANA articles.

Sample the questions

An essential condition to eradicate poverty is to liberate the poor from deprivation. Substantiate this statement with suitable examples. (2016)

Discuss the positive and negative effects of globalization on women in India . (2015)

These questions do not require you to mug up any book. What is needed is to multiply your knowledge base and analyse topics through different lenses and for this a thorough reading of Newspaper articles and Journals like EPW, Yojana and Kurukshetra is required, also debates and discussion on Rajya Sabha TV is of immense help.

Sources/books for Women Issues

  • NCERT- Sociology 12th
  • Economic Survey and India Year Book (Statistics)
  • Newspapers- The Hindu and Business Standard
  • EPW
  • Rajya Sabha TV
  • Yojana
  • Kurukshetra

3. Effects of Globalization on Indian Society

This is a general subtopic and for this, no book as such is required because while studying from NCERT Sociology (12th) you will generate enough content to understand this topic.

4. Communalism, regionalism & secularism; Social empowerment

This is the most important sub-topic among all other subtopics of Social Science as it has got the highest weightage of marks. Also, these topics do not require any scholar understanding, basic knowledge and analytical perspective is more than enough. Sample this question-

Has the formation of linguistic states strengthened the cause of Indian Unity (2016) (Demand for new states, always in news)

Dos and Dont's for Indian Society

  • Don t read any other books apart from NCERT for this part. It will be a sheer waste of time and money.
  • Focus on analyzing topics- pros and cons, it would be much better to have a group discussion on the topics of social science with your peer group.

3. Geography

Syllabus of GS Paper 1 Geography Section

  • Salient features of world s physical geography.
  • Distribution of key natural resources across the world; factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).
  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

Trend Analysis of Geography Section

Last four year papers give an idea of the type of questions asked and the topics most often asked in the exam. Rend analysis shows that maximum marks are allotted to Distribution of key natural resources & Urbanization part which is the maximum marks allotted to any of the topics in GS Paper1.

GS Paper 1 (Mains) 2013 2014 2015 2016
Physical Geography (World) 30 20 00 12.5
Distribution of key natural resources & Urbanization 40 50 62.5 87.5
Geophysical Phenomenon & Geographical features 10 30 25 12.5

1. Salient features of world s physical geography

Physical geography is one of the complex parts of Geography, with minimum rote learning and focusing more on understanding concepts and phenomenon just like science. This part is also very important when preparing for mains as it has at least some marks allotted to itself, if not more.

Traditionally it is a static part, but the questions are also asked keeping in mind the current development as well. Generally, candidates rush to cover geography from a number of books. But the evolving trend and pattern by UPSC say otherwise and focus is shifting more towards analytical questions than static.

Sample this question from 2016- The Himalayas are highly prone to landslides. Discuss the causes and suggest suitable measures of mitigation.-(Recent Himalayan catostrophy in Uttarakhand)

Therefore, it is better to understand the concept along with reading newspapers and then clubbing both as to write a good answer during exam. Also, Geography becomes very interesting when you visualize various phenomenons with the help from various documentaries available on youtube.

Sources/books for Indian Geography

  • NCERT- Class 11th, Physical Geography
  • Goh Cheng Leong Physical Geography
  • Newspapers- The Hindu.
  • Videos on Youtube

2. Distribution of key natural resources across the world; factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).

This part carries the maximum weightage among all other topics of GS Paper1 and therefore proper focus must be given in order to fetch good marks in GS Paper1. Most of the topics can be prepared from static books but a reference can be found from newspapers too as the questions have an undertone of current events as evident from a few questions asked in 2016.

South China Sea has assumed great geopolitical significance in the present context. Comment (South China Sea Dispute)

Enumeratethe problems and prospects of inland water transport in India - (In news recently)

Sources/books for this section

  • Majid Hussain- Geography of India.
  • NCERT (Class 12th) Human Geography & India-People and Economy
  • Newspaper- The Hindu

3. Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

These topics can best be prepared through books preferably NCERT, G.C Leong as well as documentaries and newspapers because most of the changing geophysical phenomenon be it Earthquake, Cyclones, El-Nino, Tsunami etc are part of modern geographical changes due to climate change or Global Warming and are often covered in newspapers and magazines very frequently.

Sample this question from 2015- How far do you agree that the behaviour of the Indian Monsoon has been changing due to humanizing landscapes? Discuss. (Very frequent in News)

Tips and Tricks for Handling GS Paper 1

  • Make Time Table and Time Management plan chapter wise and topic wise and the strategy of preparation must be well researched and be practical.
  • The strategy must focus on a minimum number of books and sources and more of revision.
  • But, before starting off with any strategy, a reading of all the NCERTs from 6thto 12th is must to build a strong base.
  • Prepare notes which are concise, effective and readable in a short time in form of tables, charts or diagrams.
  • Do not read and accumulate data. Revision is the key to your success. Do as many revisions as you can
  • Prioritize answer writing, it will help you a lot. Also, remember to not wait for answer writing as you finish your syllabus. It will serve no purpose. In the recent pattern, the importance of writing has immensely increased.
  • Lastly and most importantly, hard work and consistency is a must.

Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work. Einstein

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