(Getting Started for IAS Mains) Analysis of Syllabus, Suggested reading and Strategy for IAS Mains G.S. Paper - I

Analysis of Syllabus, Suggested reading and Strategy for IAS Mains G.S. Paper - I

UPSC has brought changes to the Civil Services Mains examination in both the pattern and the syllabus. Mains Exam syllabus has nine papers in total. Two language papers(one regional and one english), one essay paper of 275 marks and four G.S. papers of 250 marks along with two papers on optional subject containing 250 marks each; Language papers are qualifying in nature. G.S. papers in mains have been rearranged and converted into four papers from earlier two. For Complete syllabus look at - New syllabus has become broader than previous syllabus. It requires study of various new topics like History, Geography, Society, Governance, Comparison of Indian constitution with other countries etc. All these papers have put more focus on current topics as well. There is one dedicated paper on ethics, attitude and behaviour. Preparing for this paper is very tricky, as this paper is new to everyone including those who are part of this process for many years.

After knowing the syllabus we can check the strategy which can work in upsc. UPSC notification says that “The questions are likely to test the candidate’s 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.” So preparation and strategy should be such which suits the demand of UPSC.

Now we will move on to strategy and reading material for specific papers.

G.S. Paper I

For the reason of understanding, the syllabus of G.S. Paper I can be broadly subdivided into following topics; Indian History (Before and After independence), Indian Art and Culture, World History, Geography and Indian Society and challenges. General Studies paper I has been subdivided in syllabus into total 12 topics and around 40 sub-topics. Detailed syllabus can be seen here.

Below mentioned are the suggested reading for each subdivision:

Indian History & Culture :-

Printed Study Material for IAS Exam (UPSC) (Combo)

(Download) UPSC, IAS MAINS Exam Previous Year Question Papers

(Syllabus) IAS MAINS Examination (GS + Optional)


1. Facets of Indian Culture (New Edition by Spectrum)
2. NIOS Material for Art and Culture
3. NCERT for Art and Culture

Indian History

1. India since Independence by Bipan Chandra.
Addition: Should be read once NCERT Politics Since Independence
2. India after Independence by Ram chandra Guha
3. Bipan Chandra's India's Struggle for freedom.

World History

1. History of the World by Arjun Dev & Indira Dev (Orinet Blackswan) OR Old NCERT of same name.
2. Contemporary World by Arjun Dev / Old NCERT by the same author
3. Norman Lowe's Mastering World History is also a good book for world history. It is written in point format which makes it easy to read.

Social Issues :-

1. 11th Class NCERT book on Sociology
2. Social Problems in India by Ram Ahuja


1.Go Cheng Leon, Ncert books
2. Principles of Geography - NECRT 11th Book
3. Economic Geography of the World (11th Class NCERT)
4. Physical Geography of India (NCERT)
5. Environment & Economic Geography (NCERT - 9th Class)
6. Cultural & Economic Geography of India (NCERT)

Detailed Analysis of reading material topic wise

Art and Culture

This topic has gained importance in recent years as lot of wuestions are coming from this topic. Important topics in this section are Dance and Music forms, Mughal and Indus valley civilization Architecture etc. Facets of Indian Culture by Kalpana Rajaram: It is a good book for Art and Culture for exam perspective. It covers almost all the topics precisely, links to but can be found here

NCERT:- Lot of question come from Ncert’s in Upsc. But Art and culture Ncert is not very detailed and thorough. Still it build basic’s and provide good insight into some chapters. You can download NCERT’s from website http://www.ncert.nic.in/ or from following link

NIOS Art and Culture:- Nios material is very detailed material for study of Art and Culture. It can be used after reading NCERT books or Only reading this could also be sufficient for the exam. You can download NIOS Art and culture Pdf from this link

Ncert- https://iasexamportal.com/ncert-books/class-12/history-part-2, https://iasexamportal.com/ncert-books/class-12/history-part-1

Ancient and Medieval Indian History, although not the part of mains syllabus but reading them will help in proper understanding of Art and culture.


India's struggle for Freedom: Bipan Chandra

  • This book is written in the form of story which makes it easy to remember. It should be read atleast thrice in order to make it remember all the points thoroughly.

Sumit Sarkar: modern India

As such book is meant for optional paper, but it can be used for g.s. exam as well. This book has its usefulness in essay and interview as well. But this book should be used only if you have a good grip on Bipan chandra's: India's struggle for freedom.

Indian history after independence

Two books which are important in this section are:

1. India since Independence by Bipan Chandra.
2. India after Independence by Ram chandra Guha.

Additional: Should be read once NCERT Politics Since Independence, written in very simple language, it will help in building the basics.

Both India after Gandhi and India since independence are brilliantly written books. Ramchandra guha's book gives a good sociological perspective as well as historical. But for historical perspective Bipan chandra's book also covers nicely every topic. So if you read anyone of these books that would be sufficient.

World History

It is better if this topic should be prepared chronologically by connecting all the important events of various counties. It is also important to prepare what lead to the development of that event. Mastering world History by norman lowe covers all topics of this part of the syllabus. As discused earlier this book connects the events nicely. For world History use of internet can also be very useful. History of the world and or Old ncert's by Arjun dev also covers every topic. You should use only one amongst the above two.


For geography Ncert books of class 11th and 12th and Goh cheng leong book for physical geography is compulsory. Along with that there are various topics related to Environment and ecology, which should be prepared separately by either Shankar ias material or NIOS material Books and download link for geography and Environment.

1. https://iasexamportal.com/ncert-books/class-11/geography
2. https://iasexamportal.com/ncert-books/class-12/geography-fundamentals-of-human-geography
3. https://iasexamportal.com/courses/ias-pre-environment
4. Nios material for environment
5. Internet is also very helpful for this topic.

Social issues

Social issues is a very important topic in this paper. Question from this section last year were based on basic problems, which we face regularly . Topics in this section are like Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies, Globalization issue etc. Ram Ahuja book on social problems is a good source to look at the various social challenges. But The Hindu newspaper is the most important study tool for this section. You should also keep a look on reports published by UN on social issues.

Along with that other books:

1. Ignou material related to Indian society is also very useful. (Link can be found here or they are available at book stores as well.
3. Ncert books related to Indian socety (class 12th), that will be helpful in basic understanding of the society. Link of this book can be found here

You should look at the last year paper (Can be downloaded from here) and check which area requires more work and which requires less. We are also providing you the section wise division of no. of questions in G.S. main paper 2013.

If proper strategy is followed along with hard work, exam can be cracked with good marks. You don’t have to master the topics, all you need is BASIC UNDERSTANDING and the ability to analyze. 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. Along with reading, revision is extremely important to get familiar with the paper. Answer writing will be extremely useful in memorizing the topics.


  • General paper I syllabus is mostly static, so if you have prepared well there is good chance that you will be able to solve questions.
  • As big part of syllabus is history, multiple revisions is a necessity.
  • Try to look at the questions which were asked in the History and Geography optional they will provide you a guideline of what might come in exam.
  • There is a tendency to leave Art and culture portion, but you can not afford to do that as lot of question in prelims came from this section
  • Practice, practice and practice some more, that will help you in memorizing.

Printed Study Material for IAS Exam (UPSC) (Combo)

(Download) UPSC, IAS MAINS Exam Previous Year Question Papers

(Syllabus) IAS MAINS Examination (GS + Optional)

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