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INSIGHTS - Simplifying UPSC IAS Exam Preparation



How To Prepare UPSC Civil Services Mains Paper-II (GS-1)


Read this book before you begin (Review )

How to prepare GS-2 (i.e Paper III)
How to prepare GS-3 (i.e Paper IV)
How to prepare GS 4 (i.e Paper V)
UPSC has brought changes to the Civil Services Mains examination in both the pattern and the syllabus. We
know that now there are 4 General Studies Papers apart from one Essay and Optional paper each.
This article discusses preparation strategy for General Studies -1 (i.e Paper-II, Paper-I is Essay)
Before you start reading further, please remember the following important mantra given by the Almighty UPSC:
The questions are likely to test the candidates basic understanding of all relevant issues, and ability to analyze,
and take a view on conflicting socio economic goals, objectives and demands. The candidates must give
relevant, meaningful and succinct answers.
This sentence is the guiding light for your preparation. You dont have to master the topics, all you need is BASIC
UNDERSTANDING and the ability to analyze.
Basic understanding comes from reading and re-reading. Ability to analyze what you have understood from
reading comes from WRITING PRACTICE.
GS-1 broadly covers - Indian Heritage and Culture, History and
Geography of the World and Society.
Under this heading total 12 topics and around 40 sub-topics are
given in the syllabus.
Two important things fundamental to your exam preparation:
Get familiar with all the topics and sub-topics by writing them many
times they should be strongly etched in your memory.
Keep a copy of the syllabus always near you no matter where you
Now, how to deal with GS-1?

Assuming you are now familiar with the syllabus of GS-1, we will discuss a topic by topic what to read, from where
to read and what not to read for these topics.

(Download Model Question Paper-cum-Answerbook For This GS Paper, Click this Link)
Indian Culture will cover the salient aspects of Art forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient
to modern times.
In this topic, the sub-topics are - Art forms, Literature, Architecture from ancient to modern times. Before
jumping into Big Books, first go through these beautiful books by NCERT to get a glimpse of the sub-topics
they are
1. NCERT Class VI History Our Past
2. NCERT Class VII Our Past -I
3. NCERT Class VIII Our Past II and III
4. NCERT Class XII Themes In Indian History I
5. NCERT Class-XII Themes in Indian History II
6. NCERT Class XII Themes In Indian History III
Hold on. Four books for one topic? No. You have to read only a few chapters from each book that are related to
Sub-Topics. For ex, you have to read only Chapters 2 and 3 from Class-XII -Themes In Indian History-II book.
Apart from these you should have a reference book for getting more information:
1. Facets of Indian Culture or
2. Indian Art and Culture
3. Download Free Material Complete Set
4. Graphic Book On Indian Art and Culture Free Download
Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events,
personalities, issues
Read this book: Comprehensive History Of Modern India Spectrum (It covers topics from the Advent of British
to Indias Independence so covers this part of the syllabus completely.
Why this book? Why not Bipan Chandra?
Bipan Chandra is specifically for studying in depth the various dimensions and concepts of the Freedom Struggle.
But for the above topic where events, personalities and issues have to be read that too between 1750s to 1950s,
Spectrum book covers all the topics quite comprehensively.
It is bulky and factual, so it is recommended for beginners both for Prelims and Mains along with Bipan Chandras
book, but not for aspirants writing Mains this year who are running short of time.
[The Freedom Struggle its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the
Because this topic demands specific knowledge of Freedom Struggle and its various facets, you must, along with
the above mentioned book, read Bipan Chandras Struggle For Indias Independence.

Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
For this you need to study Chapter 6 to 12 of India Since Independence Bipan Chandra
0r Chapters 8 to 14 from India After Gandhi: The History Of The Worlds Largest Democracy (above mentioned
chapters cover completely this part of the syllabus)
[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.]
Except for Industrial revolution, Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe (Buy From Amazon
India))covers all topics of this part of the syllabus it is a very good book. Stick to only this book. Refer above
links for a glimpse of those sub-topics in Wikipedia, but dont dwell deeply on them. (A 30 % discount from
Flipkart, or Or This IMPORTED copy provided you are rich- Rs 1700/ this classic book contains insightful
chapters on the 2008 Financial Crisis, and even Arab Spring and its aftermath!)
Above book is not available anywhere these days. Best alternative is a book by Arjun Dev History of the World
from the Late Nineteenth to the Early Twenty First Century
If both books are not available, then read this book Old NCERT World History Class-X
[Salient features of Indian Society , Diversity of India.]
About salient features of Indian Society dont look anywhere else Just read this NCERT Indian Society
Class 12 (Complete book without watermarks)
Two indispensable books to cover this topic:
Indian Society Ram Ahuja
Social Problems in India Ram Ahuja
(above books are critically acclaimed and are taught in many universities as a text, and is written by an
acclaimed scholar)
[Role of women and womens organization, population and associated issues,poverty and developmental
issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.]
For India specific women related issues download this beautiful report ( PLATFORM FOR ACTIONREPORT ON INDIAN WOMEN -DOWNLOAD FROM HERE) where you can find everything you want to
learn about Womens issues.
Other sub-topics are general in nature and can be found in Magazines and Newspapers. If one is thorough with
current events questions on these sub-topics can be answered very well by consolidating their knowledge.
[Effects of Globalization on Indian society]
This is also general in nature. If you have a basic understanding of Indian Society and Globalization, their mutual
relation can be elucidated with ease. Here is a good article from a Marxist politician about the topic. (UPSC

people love the slightly leftist version of everything)

To know more about effect of Globalization on Indian Society, you need to know better about Indian Society. This
book is a must have for broad understanding of the Indian Society.
Indian Society Ram Ahuja
Social Problems in India Ram Ahuja
If you want to learn the impact of Globalization on Indian Economy, here is a book. (Purely optional)
[Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.]
This is again generic. But you must know the basic concept of communalism, regionalism and secularism.
Wikipedia comes handy here.
Regionalism In India (You must read this)

(You must read this too)

For Regionalism In India.

[Salient features of worlds physical geography.
To cover this part two books are necessary:
1. Certificate Physical and Human Geography 1st Edition
2. NCERT Class-XI Fundamentals of Physical Geography
[Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent); factors
responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world
(including India)]
1) NCERT Class XII Human Geography
2) NCERT Class-XII India-People and Economy
3) For reference:Geography of India 4 Edition
[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.]
This is a repetition actually. You can read Physical Geography book by Goh Cheng Leong which is mentioned
above (Certificate Physical and Human Geography 1st Edition)
This topic on critical changes in geographical features is broadly related to climate change and other
anthropogenic factors(such as depletion of resources, dumping of wastes etc). Geographical features like
rainforests, ice caps, rivers, corals, cyclones all get affected by climate change. Anthropogenic factors are
involved in increasing desertification, vanishing forests, biodiversity, pollution of rivers and lakes, etc.

Your focus should be on such changes. Question may be on how monsoon is affected by global climate change?
or how a cyclone is affected by global warming? What effect has the melting ice cap on the biodiversity in the
polar regions? etc

(Download Model Question Paper-cum-Answerbook For This GS Paper, Click this Link)
Until now we saw what books to read. Now the question is how to remember most of the things we read and how
to translate them into better answers.
A common mistake most of the aspirants commit is reading so many books for a single topic.This mistake
costs both your time and ability to remember things clearly and concisely.
Stick to a single source and read it again and again. Remember The Same Source. Avoid the temptation of
doing Research on a topic.
Always Remember UPSC tests Basic Understanding. Not mastery over a topic.
Make short notes on each topic. It is while making notes that readers tend to do RESEARCH and scout
various sources. Stick to one book even if you are not 100% satisfied with it.
Remember that old saying? Jack of all trades, master of NONE. If you try to do Research, most probably
your name wont appear in the Final List. I guarantee it.
For Paper-II (i.e GS-1) being thorough with Current Events plays a crucial role in enabling you to acquire
analytical skills.
Very Important Part In The Preparation
Writing. Writing. Writing.
But what? One must practice answer writing to Previous year questions, or take a Mock Test. Whatever,
before you enter examination hall, you must have spent lot of time on answer writing.
Most Important Part In The Preparation
Revision. Revision. Re-Revision.
You do this and you appear for the Personality Test.
If you dont Revise what you read all these months you slightly miss the Personality Test, or You
narrowly miss appearing in the Final List.
Well, to sum up. To get the interview call all you need to do is: Read, Re-read the same source, Write and
Preparation for this paper can be finished in 20 days provided you are focused and determined.
Of course. Eat well, Sleep well and Keep a good health. If you get a running nose on the day of the exam, 2
hours out of 3 hours goes in draining it and drying it.


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