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

Best UPSC – IAS GS Paper 1 Preparation Strategy 

Answering the best method to prepare for UPSC IAS Civil Services Examinations (Mains, Paper-II) in India

Union Public Service Commission conducts IAS examination each year. The examination is taken up by lakhs of IAS aspirants. However, the board has recently bought changes to the final version of the Civil Services Examinations. The IAS Mains Examination has undergone significant changes in the past years. 

Hence, the General Studies examination papers are now conducted in the following format – 

  • 4 papers each of General Studies
  • 1 Essay based examination
  • 1 Optional subject paper 

Developing an ideal strategy for IAS Mains Examination and General Studies – I

In this article, we will discuss the best GS paper 1 preparation strategy for getting the best results. Likewise, the UPSC already has given important instructions on the same. 

  • According to the UPSC website, the questions are designed to test the candidate and his basic understanding of the relevant issues. 
  • Similarly, the candidate should be able to analyze and clear his views on conflicting issues like-socio-economic problems, goals, objectives and associated demands. 
  • Such an applicant must be able to deliver relevant and meaningful answers to the above questions

The above factors form the guiding principles of the UPSC CSE Examination preparation. Therefore, you do not have to master each topic. Instead, you should have basic knowledge of each matter. Moreover, the candidates must carry the ability to analyze the situation and subject. 

Developing General Awareness and Analytical Skills – 

When we take up the matter of having the best GS paper 1 preparation strategy, the core idea is to read. Reading and re-reading form the core part of the IAS exam preparation and coaching strategy. Such a process helps you to get the right understanding of the issue and retain the learning. 

Ability to analyze the issue is an outcome of regular reading of the subject matter. Likewise, the retention of the learning process arises from regular writing practice. 

How To Prepare for GS Paper 1? 

We are often asked the question of the best GS paper 1 preparation strategy. Likewise, questions like the following are also common – 

  • How to prepare for UPSC IAS examinations? 
  • How to prepare for UPSC CSE Examinations as per the latest pattern
  • What is the latest pattern for UPSC IAS examinations?
  • What is the best strategy for IAS Mains examination coaching? 

Designing the Best GS Paper 1 Preparation Strategy

The best GS paper 1 preparation strategy for the year – 

The examination paper of General Studies covers

  • Indian Heritage and Culture 
  • History
  • Geography of World and Society

Under this section, a total of 12 topics covering a minimum of 40 subparts is given in the syllabus. 

Here you require fundamental aspects for your examination preparation

The process requires the following fundamental aspects to be addressed – 

  • Getting familiar with the topics and sub-topics 
  • Rewriting the above aspects to get familiar with the process
  • Keep the copy of the syllabus to get hold of important aspects of the same.

Dealing with the General Studies examination

Once you are familiar with the syllabus of the General Studies examination, you can easily understand the important aspects of the same. You can use the help of the below-mentioned topics to design your own GS paper 1 preparation strategy

Topic 1 – 

Indian culture – 

Here cover the topics like the – 

  • Salient aspects of art forms in India
  • Literature
  • Modern Architecture
  • Ancient Architecture 

Likewise, the important sub-topics of the same are easy to cover using the books – 

  • NCERT textbooks
  • NIOS publications

Among the NCERT textbooks, the primary source of GS paper 1 preparation strategy is – Class XI NCERT textbook – An introduction to Indian Art  Once you have read the book, read the other NCERT textbooks. The most recommended textbooks are – 

  • History of India
  • Art and culture topics

You will not find special books on topics like- art and culture. This is important to understand the overall use of books like the following – 

  • NCERT textbook Class VI – History – Our past
  • NCERT textbook Class VII – Our past – I
  • NCERT textbook Class VIII – Our past – II and III
  • NCERT textbook Class XII – Themes in Indian History – I
  • NCERT textbook Class XII – Themes in Indian History – II
  • NCERT textbook Class XII – Themes in Indian History – III

You have to read the important chapters from these books. These are related to topics. 

You have to read the important stuff from chapter 2 and 3 of Class – XII – Themes in Indian History – II 

Along with the above NCERT textbooks, you need to read the NIOS books on Art and Culture. 

In NIOS textbooks, you need to find great information. For instance – in Mains general studies paper – I, 

Krishnadeva contribution to art – 

Krishnadeva Raya, the king of Vijayanagar, was a great scholar. He was a great patron of art and literature. Discuss the same in 200 words 

For this question, the optimal answer is available in the NIOS textbook. You can see the chapter of Language and Literature, Page – 90- 91. 

Apart from the above, you should refer to the following sources for the detailed information – 

  • CCRT website
  • Graphic textbooks on Indian Art and Culture – for free download

Topic 2 –

Modern Indian History – Middle 18 the century till date – important events, personalities and burning issues. 

There are important events starting from 1750 to the present. Also, GS paper 1 preparation strategy is not merely related to the freedom struggle. This is important to understand the important aspects of Indian History. Similarly, it is important to focus on the contribution made by great personalities to the struggle for freedom. 

For this part, you need to focus on the NCERT textbooks along with current affairs. Likewise, you do not need to buy any more books. Moreover, viewing the kind of questions being asked in the previous examination papers can prove to be helpful. 

Similarly, it is important to understand the basic events of NCERT textbooks. For instance – Netaji Subash Chandra Bose files were declassified in 2016. Moreover, this is an important aspect to check out the contribution of the freedom fighter. Also, one needs to have knowledge of the contribution made by Pandit Nehru. 

A question from the past year’s exam papers read as follows – 

” Highlight the difference in the approach of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi in the Indian struggle for Independence” The answer was to be given in 200 words for General Studies examination paper – I 

Topic 3-

The Indian Freedom Struggle – the stages and major contribution. Likewise, one needs to focus on the contribution made from the various parts of the nation.

Since the above-mentioned topic is very vast, one needs to have detailed information on the same. Likewise, the knowledge base for the struggle for Independence is important. 

For this, topics like – Bipan Chandra and his Struggle for Indian Independence is an important part of getting the best results. This book forms the major part of GS paper 1 preparation strategy. Toppers advise the same to be read at least 3 times for best results. 

A few toppers prefer Spectrum publishers for the subject. The books called the Modern history book. However, Lion’s share prefer Chandra’s textbook for IAS Mains Examination. 

Likewise, if the time allows, you can read the book – Plassey to Partition. This is a significant text on important events of history. It further has analytical details on the events and the personalities. 

Topic 4 –

Another important aspect of the GS paper 1 preparation strategy is the post Independence reorganization in the nation. It must also include the details of Independence and related consolidation factors. 

For this, you can easily seek the relevant learning outcomes from the following texts – 

  • India since Independence by Bipan Chandra (chapters 6 to 12)
  • India after Gandhi – History of the World’s largest democracy (chapters 8 to 14) 

Topic 5 –

History of the world – 

  • Events from the 18th century
  • Industrial Revolution
  • National Boundaries and their Creation
  • World wars
  • Decolonization
  • Communist Philosophy
  • Capitalism and the socialist pattern of society
  • Effect of all these on society

Recommended books – 

  • NCERT textbooks for class IX, X and higher education (For class XI, cover only modern history of the world)
  • Mastering modern world history – Book by Norman Lowe (easily available on Amazon for purchase)
  • History of the World from Nineteenth-century to early Twenty-first century – Book by Arjun Dev 
  • The older edition of NCERT World History. Class X textbook

Topic 6 –

Another important aspect of the GS paper 1 preparation strategy is the following subject topics – 

  • Salient features of Indian society
  • Diversity of India

Recommended books –

  • Refer to the NCERT textbooks. Class XII textbook on Indian society. 
  • Social problems in India – Book by Ram Ahuja
  • Indian society- Book by Ram Ahuja

Topic 7 –

A similar vital aspect of the GS paper 1 preparation strategy is the following sub-topics – 

  • Role of women
  • Role of women organizations
  • Poverty
  • Development issues in India
  • Population and related issues
  • Rapid urbanization and associated issues
  • Problems in India and their remedies

Recommended books and web content

For Indian issues – Online report on “Platform for action-report on Indian Women”.

This report contains details about female issues in India. 

For other related topics, read magazines and newspapers.

By having a knowledge of the issue, one can easily understand the basics and the background of the problems faced by India 

Likewise, you will need to read about – 

  • Role of women in ancient history
  • Role of women in modern times
  • Importance of females during the freedom movement
  • Contribution of females to art and culture of India

UPSC CSE examination will test the ability to understand the concepts. Also, you will need to give the right answers using the integration of these concepts. If you are not able to link the concept, you need to identify and make suitable notes. 

Topic 8 –

Likewise, an important part of the GS paper 1 preparation strategy is the impact of globalization on India. For this, you need to have a good understanding of –

  • General awareness of globalization
  • Marxist topics
  • Impact of globalization on India and society
  • Need of globalization

Recommended books and web content –

  • Indian Society- Book by Ram Ahuja
  • Social problems – in India – Book by Ram Ahuja

Other books analysing the importance of the same in India can be a good idea. 

Topic 9 –

Another important aspect of the GS paper 1 preparation strategy is the following points – 

  • Social empowerment
  • Secularism
  • Regionalism
  • Communalism

Although the above subject is highly general in nature, you must, however, have basic knowledge of these. For this, Wikipedia comes handy for reading about communalism and secularism

Recommended books and web content

The basics – 

  • Regionalism in India 
  • Communalism in India

Topic 10 –

Moreover, an important aspect of the GS paper 1 preparation strategy is the features of physical geography. 

  • Certificate Physical and human geography. (First edition)
  • NCERT textbook – Fundamentals of Physical geography. Class XI textbook

Topic 11 –

Moreover, an important aspect of the GS paper 1 preparation strategy is the following points 

  • Distribution of key natural resources
  • Understanding the south Asian natural elements
  • Factors important for primary and tertiary industries around the world

Top recommended books – 

  • NCERT textbook for class XII – Human geography
  • NCERT textbook for class XII – India – People and economy
  • Geography of India – 4th edition

Topic 12 –

Aspects like the following are important for the UPSC examination – 

  • Tsunami
  • Volcanic activities
  • Cyclones
  • Changes in water bodies and ice-caps
  • Changes in Flora and fauna
  • Impact of the above changes
  • Geographic features

Recommended books – Top recommended books

Physical geography. Book by – Goh Cheng Leong

The major topics to address in the book are – 

  • Climate change
  • Depletion of resources
  • Waste management and dumping
  • Rainforests
  • Ice caps
  • Corals and rivers
  • Cyclones
  • Impact of climate change
  • Changes in monsoon
  • Biodiversity
  • Pollution of water bodies
  • Desertification
  • Reducing forest cover

Important aspects to focus on – 

The focus should be on factors like the following – 

  • Impact of monsoon and global climate change
  • How cyclone affects global warming?
  • Long term impact of pollution
  • What is the effect of melting ice-caps on biodiversity? 

Understanding and attempting the examination – 

Up to here, we took up the matter of the best books to read. Next, we try to answer – 

  • How to effectively remember such vast syllabus? 
  • How to translate the information gathered up from above steps to the right answers? 

It is important to understand that reading too many books will not help you with the process. Thus, have a single book for a single topic.  If you have too many books, you end up wasting the time and money. Moreover, such a mistake costs you heavily. This is because you will not be able to remember things clearly. 

Therefore, follow the following points – 

  • Stick to a single book
  • Read the book again and again
  • Identify the best source of such a book
  • Avoid the urge to research on a topic
  • UPSC focuses on a general understanding of the topic
  • Avoid creating mastery over the topic
  • Avoid searching for many sources on a single topic
  • Make notes of each Topic. This helps in quick reading
  • Make notes from a single source only
  • Avoid in-depth research
  • Avoid referring to large sources for one topic
  • Create memory links and recall important stuff 
  • Use the above information in your daily life and communicate. This helps to remember the important stuff
  • Research on single book 
  • Always adopt the book referred by the maximum number of toppers
  • Avoid switching the books. This is despite the fact that you may not be satisfied with the same. 

Creating smart GS paper 1 preparation strategy

The best GS paper 1 preparation strategy will help you gain the best results in the final examinations. 

It is crucial to remember that – 

  • Jack of all trades and master of none
  • All work and no play – makes Jack a dull boy
  • Too much focus on one thing can prove harmful to your preparation process. 
  • Too much work and study without adequate breaks can make you dull and boring.
  • If you focus on research, you will not make it to the IAS job profile

Hence, the best GS paper 1 preparation strategy or Paper-II takeaway is

  • Research less
  • Read more
  • Remember more
  • Take a break to remember more

Also, you need to focus on the current events. These play a crucial role in acquiring analytical skills. Hence, it is an important part of the final exam preparation. 

Start practice of writing 

Writing practice is important to GS paper 1 preparation. 

One must begin with the previous year exam papers. Alternatively, one can opt for the mock tests conducted by their civil services preparation institute.  However, before entering the examination hall, you must spend time on writing sessions. This is a crucial part of your success. 

Focus on revision

information retention. This is crucial to your success. 

If you have got the revision process right, then you can easily get IAS job profile. 

However, if you do not revise, you can easily miss the selection process by a few marks. 

Likewise, the lack of writing preparation will make you miss the personality interview round by a margin. 

In Conclusion

To sum it all up, If you wish to get the final interview call, you need to read the relevant sources. Furthermore, you need to write and revise important aspects to get the best results. So, write and revise the topics to get the best results in the examination. 

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