GS Paper 3 Preparation Strategy

In our previous articles, we have discussed the preparation strategy of GS Paper 1 and GS Paper 2. In this article, we will discuss the most important and the broadest part of any of the papers in UPSC i.e. GS Paper 3, which comprises of subjects under 4 headings mentioned below:

  1. Economy & Infrastructure
  2. Agriculture
  3. Science, Technology, Environment & Disaster Management
  4. Internal Security.

GS Paper III Preparation Strategy For UPSC CSE

GS Paper III Preparation Strategy For UPSC CSEAspirants find it very tough to decipher and differentiate between GS III topics which are similar with topics in other GS Papers. We at Neostencil will decipher the syllabus for you in such a way that it will help you plan meticulously and work efficiently to crack this paper. We will also, apart from explaining the syllabus part by part, give you a few important tips, sources to be followed and the trend that UPSC follows while preparing questions on a particular topic/subject.

Before heading to discuss the strategy it will be wise on the part of the aspirants to first go through the syllabus on their own and try to memorize it.

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Economy & Infrastructure

Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment

This topic is quite broad as it in itself covers most of the static part of the Economics. But the questions which are asked are of dynamic nature, so it advised to go through NCERTs first and then hop on to a single reference book, complementing your preparation with Newspapers and Magazines. It is also recommended to study about various government schemes and programmes feeling in mind the benefits and its impact.

This part also forms a major chunk in the Preliminary exams and therefore it becomes a little bit easier to complete this topic.

To understand better the types of questions that are asked, we take an example from 2016, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) is necessary for bringing unbanked to the institutional finance fold. Do you agree with this for financial inclusion of the poor section of the Indian society? Give arguments to justify your opinion. This question requires you to first have a basic understanding of financial inclusion, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana scheme and the way it has had an effect on the citizens which require you to be updated with the current affairs.

Sources NCERT Class X Understanding Economic Development NCERT Class XI Indian Economic Development NCERT Class XII - Macroeconomics Indian Economy for Civil Services Examination by Ramesh Singh. The Hindu and Business Standard (Newspaper)

Inclusive growth and issues arising from it

This subtopic deals with the concept of Inclusive Growth and issues and challenges attached to it such as measures, methodologies and the strategy which needs to be adopted to achieve inclusive growth. The topic has to be mostly studied from newspapers and reports pertaining to it regularly published by the government departments, NGOs and International economic bodies.

Sample this question from 2016, Comment on the challenges for inclusive growth which includes careless and useless manpower in the Indian context. Suggest measures to be taken for facing these challenges. Now attempting this question requires you have a good understanding of the Inclusive growth and associated issues which arise from it, along with suitable examples.

Sources The Hindu/Business Standard EPW Magazine, UNDP website,

Government Budgeting

This part covers the budgeting aspect of the Indian economy, the way it is prepared, put out in the parliament, procedures for its passing and the final stage of getting enacted and applied. This topic has to be looked at from two perspectives, firstly procedural (Polity) and secondly efficacy, need and shortcomings (Economic).

Reading the current years budget along with the Newspaper would be quite sufficient as also evident from this question asked in 2016, Women empowerment in India needs gender budgeting. What are the requirements and status of gender budgeting in the Indian context?


NCERT Class XII (Macroeconomics) The Hindu/Business Standard Recent Annual Budget Indian Polity Laxmikant (Chapter on Annual Financial Statement)

Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth

This subtopic covers issues concerning one of the most important topics touching the Economy of India i.e. Liberalization, Globalization and Privatization (LPG) and the effects that LPG policies have on the economy and the industrial growth.

Questions asked are of dynamic nature and one can easily answer it if there is a good knowledge base along with a grasp over current affairs. Sample this from 2016, How globalization has led to the reduction of employment in the formal sector of the Indian Economy? Is increased informalization detrimental to the development of the country?

Sources NCERT Class XI Indian Economic Development Indian Economy for Civil Services Examination by Ramesh Singh. The Hindu and Business Standard (Newspaper)

Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc

This part of the Indian Economy deals with various infrastructure issues important for development such as Energy, Airport, Sea Port, Railways and likes, it also concerns about the issues which plague them such as delays in projects, monetary issues etc.

Questions with dynamic outlook are asked from this sub-topic such as this one in 2016, What are smart cities? Examine their relevance for urban development in India. Will it increase rural-urban differences? Give arguments for Smart villages' in the light of PURA and RURBAN mission? Therefore, various government schemes and statistics must also be studied when studying this subtopic.

Sources NCERT Class XI Indian Economic Development Recent Economic Survey. (Chapter on Infrastructure) Indian Economy for Civil Services Examination by Ramesh Singh. The Hindu and Business Standard (Newspaper)

Investment models

This topic deals with investment models concerning Infrastructural development such as Road construction, Airport development or in fact any type of infrastructure creation. Issues such as Types of investment, Investment models, Investment strategies in India, PPPs, etc are dealt with in this topic.

Sources Indian Economy for Civil Services Examination by Ramesh Singh. The Hindu and Business Standard (Newspaper)

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Trend Analysis and Tips

It is highly recommended to go through NCERTs first as it will be helpful in giving an idea about a particular topic. Reading newspapers is very necessary and one must complement it with a single reference book, preferably Ramesh Singh. Do read the Economic Survey and Budget, it will be helpful in answering questions effectively. If we analyse the trend from past four years, we will notice that areas such as Economic Development, Inclusive growth and Infrastructure are more focussed upon. But it would not be prudent to neglect other topics.

Subject Sub-Topic 2013 2014 2015 2016
Economics Economic Development & Inclusive Growth 10 25 37.5 25
Economics Budget 30 00 12.5 12.5
Economics Liberalization 20 25 00 12.5
Economics Infrastructure and Investment 10 37.5 12.5 25


Major crops and cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

The Topic can be easily prepared from Geography NCERT, Newspapers and taking help from the internet. Firstly a comprehensive reading about the various crops and cropping pattern should be made from the NCERT, also not missing the different types of irrigation systems used across India, taking help from ATLAS.

The subtopic of transport, marketing of the agriculture produce and the use of e-technology are covered very comprehensively in newspapers nowadays. The issue of NAM, e-NAM, APMC, problems associated with local mandis must also be explored.

This subtopic is a mix of Geography, Science and Economics, and therefore it should be looked at from all the three perspectives. Sample this question from 2016, What is water-use efficiency? Describe the role of micro-irrigation in increasing the water use efficiency.

Sources NCERT, Resources and Development, Geography Yojana and Kurukshetra Magazines The Hindu Internet articles on the topics. State of Agriculture Report (Published by the Ministry of Agriculture).

Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System - objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

There are several sub-parts to this topic, i.e. encompassing broader issues from Farm subsidies to Minimum support prices, from the Public Distribution system to Buffer stock, and lastly small topics like Technology Mission and Animal rearing.

Farm subsidies subtopic must be looked at from an analytics perspective, i.e. studying about its objectives, functioning and the lacunae if any, and the solutions for improvement. Minimum support price issue is a very current and hot topic, which is very dear to UPSC, this topic must be studied very minutely and exhaustively. Remember the 2018 Prelims question on the items included/excluded under MSP, so it will benefit even in your Prelims Preparation !!

Public Distribution System and Buffer stock issue is also of very great significance when talking about the state of Agriculture in India. For topics such as Animal rearing and Technology missions on Agriculture, a plain reading of NCERT and schemes from Yojana/Kurukshetra would suffice.

Sources NCERT, Class 9, Economics Yojana and Kurukshetra Magazines The Hindu Internet articles on the topics. State of Agriculture Report (Published by the Ministry of Agriculture).

Food processing and related industries in India - scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.

The subtopic is of a dynamic nature and therefore reading a newspaper and Kurukshetra magazine will help in acing this part. Food processing is a sunrise industry and lately, there has been a lot of push from the government on this industry.

Reading various article and reports of the Government and NGOs will also guide you to answer the questions asked.

Sources Yojana and Kurukshetra Magazines The Hindu Internet articles on the topics.

Land reforms in India

This sub-topic has lately been in news very much and thus it s importance is also considerably high. It covers issues such as Land tenure system during British, then post-independence reforms such as Land ceiling policy, Tenancy reforms, various movements related to land reforms and the recent acts and policies concerning land reforms.

Sample this question from 2016, Discuss the role of land reforms in agricultural development. Identify the factors that were responsible for the success of land reforms in India?


Yojana and Kurukshetra Magazines The Hindu Internet articles on the topics.

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Trend Analysis and Tips

Focus on reading topics from this part in an analytical way, i.e. not just rote learning of terms and topics, but objectively studying them. Reading magazines like Yojana and Kurukshetra is a must for this part, as they exclusively focus on Agriculture and related topics. Noting the important points and adding it to your notes will be very helpful. It s better to not do a thesis on any subject/topic, being acquainted with the topic and knowing about its advantage, disadvantage and efficacy are sufficient. Last 4-year questions analysis clears the picture that indeed a lot of questions are asked from this part among all topics of GS 3 Paper.

Subject Sub-Topic 2013 2014 2015 2016
Agriculture Cropping Patterns and E-Technology 00 00 12.5 37.5
Agriculture MSP and PDS 20 12.5 00 00
Agriculture Food Processing 10 12.5 37.5 00
Agriculture Land Reforms 10 00 00 12.5

Science, Technology, Environment and Disaster Management

Science and Technology - developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

This topic is very wide as it mentions about General Science and Technology, starting from its development to application and its effects in everyday life. It would be prudent to read about various inventions that have helped human lives, made it easier like Computers, Modern Machines, Solar Equipment, Mobile phones etc.

The part is important even for the Preliminary exam, and therefore it must be given a lot of attention. Questions asked from this part are of a dynamic nature, that is they are asked mostly keeping in mind the current developments.

This question from 2016 will help you understand the pattern of questions which are asked, India s Traditional Knowledge Dgital Library (TKDL) which has a database containing formatted information on More than 2 million medicinal formulations is proving a powerful weapon in country's fight against erroneous patents. Discuss the pros and cons of making this database publicly available under open-source licensing .

Sources NCERT, Science (Class 6th Class 10th) The Hindu Internet.

Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

This is a topic has to be covered with the help of newspapers, Internet and science magazines as reference books are mostly focussed on Western Inventions and contributions to Science and Technology. Achievements of Indians start right from Varahamihir, Bhaskar, Sushruta, Charaka to Jagdish Chandra Bose and Chandrasekhar.

It is recommended to study this topic from the Internet and looking out for special publications of newspapers on current achievements as well as past contributions of Indians in Science and Technology.

Sample this question from 2016, Discuss India s achievements in the field of Space Science and Technology. How the application of this technology has helped India in its socio-economic development?

Sources The Hindu Internet Articles. India Year Book

Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

The topics are from current affairs related to Space, Information Technology, Robotics, Nano Technology, Biotechnology and IPR. Following newspapers regularly along with reading specific chapters from India Year Book and Economic Survey will help a lot.

Sources The Hindu Internet Articles. India Year Book

Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

This particular topic encompasses topics such as biodiversity and climate change, forest and wildlife conservation, river conservation, air pollution, waste management, pollution from human activities, marine pollution etc. and therefore it is a vast area.

Most questions are of a dynamic nature. Sample this from 2016, which can be answered easily if one has a good understanding of current affairs related to environmental topics. Give an account of the current status and the targets to be achieved pertaining to renewable energy sources in the country. Discuss in brief the importance of National Programme on Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).

This topic also forms a very important part of the Prelims syllabus and therefore it must be given importance.

Sources Shankar IAS Academy (Environment Book) The Hindu NCERT (Chemistry and Biology Class XI and XII) Selected chapters. Websites (Environment Ministry, UNEP etc.)

Disaster and disaster management

This is a very current and dynamic topic, with issues such as floods, cyclones and tsunamis getting frequent in the Indian subcontinent and Asia in particular. After the introduction of Disaster management in school syllabus, since 2005, the government is putting a lot of effort to involve scientists, budding students and bureaucrats to find solutions to managing disaster-related problems.

Sample this question from 2016, The frequency of urban floods due to high-intensity rainfall is increasing over the years. Discussing the reasons for urban floods. Highlight the mechanisms for preparedness to reduce the risk during such events.

Sources NCERT, (Natural Hazards & Disaster Management), Class XI The Hindu NDMA website (Publications and Reports),

Trend Analysis and Tips

Reading newspaper mainly The Hindu is very beneficial for this part as questions asked have current affairs undertone. Always try to explain a concept with examples first when it involves question on any topic of Science and Technology. Don t try to avoid NCERTs as they are helpful in building the knowledge base which helps in understanding events and developments clearly. Do read various commissions/committee reports on topics of Science, Space or Environment. Include the recommendation in your answers to have that extra edge.

Category 2013 2014 2015 2016
Science & Technology 40 12.5 25 00
Indian contribution in Science & Technology 00 25 12.5 25
Environment 35 25 25 25
Disaster Management 10 12.5 12.5 25

Security Issues

Linkages between development and spread of extremism

This topic is very narrow as it focusses on the correlation between the issue of Development on one side and spread of extremism on the other. Issues such as Lack of efficient governance, poverty and unemployment with the consequence of rising extremism particularly left-wing extremism are the topic that needs to be explored.

Reading a newspaper religiously and keeping track of events will help one solve questions related to this topic. Sample this question from 2015, The persisting drives of the government for development of large industries in backward areas have resulted in isolating the tribal population and the farmers who face multiple displacements. With Malkangiri and Naxalbari foci, discuss the corrective strategies needed to win the Left Wing Extremism (LWE) doctrine affected citizens back into the mainstream of social and economic growth.

Sources The Hindu Challenges to Internal Security of India, by Ashok Kumar and Vipul IDSA website,

Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

This topic concerns the issue of the role of external state actors like China (Border issue), Pakistan (Border issue and Terrorism), Bangladesh (Illegal refugees) etc. and external non-state actors like Terrorist Organizations (Al-Qaeda), Drug Mafias, Human Trafficking rackets etc. in creating challenges to the internal security of India.

Problems, issues, solutions and way ahead, all factors have to be taken into account while studying this topic.

The topic is very dynamic in nature and being up to date with these areas will help immensely in answering the questions, for example, sample this question from 2016, The terms Hot pursuit and surgical strikes are often used in connection with armed action against terrorist attacks. Discuss the strategic impact of such actions.

Sources The Hindu Challenges to Internal Security of India, by Ashok Kumar and Vipul. IDSA website,

Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.

The first part of the topic concerns the role of communication networks (Mobile phones, satellite phones), Media and Social networking sites (Riots and lynching due to Whatsapp and Facebook) in creating challenges to Internal Security of India.

The second part is more of descriptive, talking about the basics of cybersecurity, as this issue has gained much significance in today's times. Also, the issue of Money laundering and the ways for its prevention also form a significant part of this topic.

Questions can be answered very well if one is acquainted with the current affairs pertaining to these topics, such as this question in 2016, Use of Internet and Social Media by non-state actors for subversive activities is a major concern. How have these been misused in the recent past? Suggest effective guidelines to curb the above threat .

Sources The Hindu Challenges to Internal Security of India, by Ashok Kumar and Vipul. IDSA website,

Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.

The topic specifically deals with the management of border areas and the challenges that security agencies have to face while keeping them safe and secure. It also deals with the linkage of organized crimes like Drug trafficking (Punjab Border), Human Trafficking (Bengal Border), Kidnapping (Kashmir Border), etc. and their linkage with terrorist activities.

Sample this question from 2016, Border management is a complex task due to difficult terrain and hostile relations with some countries. Elucidate the challenges and strategies for effective border management.

Sources The Hindu Challenges to Internal Security of India, by Ashok Kumar and Vipul. IDSA website,

Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

The topic concerns the study of various security forces (External and Internal both) like Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, CAPF, Intelligence agencies like R.A.W, Indian Police services (I.P.S) etc.

The comparison and study of their mandate must be incorporated when studying about them.

Sources Internet (Website of various agencies) The Hindu.

Trend Analysis and Tips

After going through papers of the past four years from this part it is clear that almost all of the questions asked are related to current affairs around the topics mentioned. This part is quite important to score well in the GS Paper 3.

Avoid going very deep into topics, as it will only waste time and the process would be futile, just keep basics right and follow a single source for static part and newspaper for the dynamic part. Revise more and more, write even more and do not forget to elucidate your answers with examples.

Subject Sub-Topic 2013 2014 2015 2016
Security Issue Development and Extremism 10 00 12.5 12.5
Security Issue External Actors and Border Management 10 62.5 25 25
Security Issue Cyber Security and Money Laundering 35 00 25 12.5
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