Exam Strategy for General Studies

As per the current notification by UPSC for the ICS 2008, alterationations have made in the syllabi of Mains GS-

Major alterationations which have been made are stated below:

  1. GS become current updates and issues oriented.

  2. GS has also been related with comparable international events.

  3. All the topics have become analytical in nature.

  4. The optional subjects also become more current updates oriented and analytical.

  5. At various places, the language of the content of the syllabus has been changed. Final product of this is that all those topics on which questions were asked earlier also and which were assumed to be part of syallabus as implied topics have been clearly stated.

Some tips

  1. In section 1 of Paper II, earlier the topic was: Nuclear Policy, issues, and conflicts. This clearly makes the topics current events and happenings oriented, questions can be asked on latest or the rationale and methods to deal with nuclear fights in the future.

  2. The heading of section 2 of Paper II has clearly alterationation to: ‘India's financial Interaction with the World’ Clearly, the latest financial alterations in policy and the alterationation financial relations, Positions, Scenario and the perspective have been focused.

  3. The section 2 of Paper II mentions-the role and functions if I, M, F. World Bank, W. T. O, WIPO etc. Which influence India's financial interaction with other countries and international institutions. It needs an analytical mental make-up and matters that are personally prepared which will not be found in the conventional books that quickly.

  4. A huge portion of Section 3 and 4 of Paper I has been alterationation in language. However, The meaning remains the same, the topics have been clearly mentioned as well as stated in the new syllabus. Questions have been asked earlier on thesse newly addes topics. Thus, the alterations by the UPSC in the syllabus, more or less, point toward alterationation in strategy, alterationation in the nature of questions asked and the alteration in weapons of preparation.

Strategy for Prelims

  • When we look at the pattern carefully in which the questions have been formed in General Studies i.e.. GS from the year 1985 onwards, one is induced to say that possibly the principle framework of the examiners is to remove candidates rather than test their mental calibre. Moreover, examiners have not correctly followed in all the years the pattern of assigning a particular number of marks for specified for each syllabus expect for the area on Mental Ability.
  • Such being the current trend of setting the GS paper in the Preliminary Exam, candidates have no option but to bank upon chosen optional subjects while making reasonable amount of preparation for all areas of GS. Besides, it is wise to prepare these areas from the view-point of the Main Examination. The areas to be taken care of are Modern India, Polity, Indian Economy, Geography, Current Events and General Science.
  • Considering the general nature of the examination the tactics must be to focus on greater rather than intensive coverage. One is expected to know history, science, polity, geography, economy and other such similar branches, all at the same time. However, only fundamentals of each of the disciplines is needed. Hence, concentrate on fundamentals and learn as much facts about basics as possible but avoiding the element of over-kill in preparations.
  • While preparation for the Prelims large coverage of the portion is the key to success. By going through large source of information it is expected that an image is built in the mind which will reflect the details. Do remember that human memory skills work better when there are less emotional in-puts or panic about inability to recall on account of exam fever.

Here is a brief introduction of dos and don'ts

  • Final preparation must start by testing self with the revision-type Model Test Papers.
  • Do not get demotivated by low scores.
  • put more focus in your weak areas.
  • Keep testing yourself at a regularly.
  • Make a rough note of areas you have covered and which are still to be covered.
  • Be analytical in response.
  • Do not exhaust yourself beacause of covering more and more.
  • Revise as many times as you can.
  • A calm mental state is very crucial.
  • Since negative marking is there now, it is advisable to leave questions that you are not confident.
  • Do not get stuck at any question. Move on quickly and leave the difficult questions for the end.
  • Attempt only those questions on which who are confident.

Strategy for Mains

Paper I

  • Geography of India: Students should concentrate on human and financial geography. Human section consists issues related to population. There will be questions based on the Human Development Report prepared by United Nations Development Programme. The World Development Report of World Bank deals in different aspects of financial geography like safe drinking water. Students must focus less on classical geography like types of soil and rocks. The efforts should be on preparing cultural, financial, geography and its related matters.
  • Indian Polity: Different aspects of the Constitution like Supreme Court judgment during the past one year are crucial. At the macro level, students need to know in detail issues like imposition of President's Rule in Bihar, why it was imposed and under what circumstances and consequences of Bommai Judgment while implementing the same are crucial.
  • History of Modern India and Indian Culture: The subject is like a story and there could be linkages between two questions. Students thus need to ensure that the entire syllabus is included in a detailed manner while revising history. They can, however, do without preparing portions which had came last year in the main examination. The basic trend is that there are no repetitions from last year's papers, but once in a while students could be in for a surprise. The areas relating to Indian culture will include all aspects from past to modern times.
  • Current National issues and topics of social relevance: Students should go through major happenings at the national level during the last one calendar year. National newspapers, news magazines, journals and periodicals are good source of information to prepare topics related to national issues. Issues of social relevance which affect the lives of people should always be done thoroughly.


  • Indian Economy: The alteration of guard at the Centre has brought an ideological shift in how we manage our economy and issues related to taxation and spending pattern. There is more emphasis on the social sector, winding up of Ministry of Disinvestment, issues related to privatisation or profit earning and loss-making PSU entities. Queries of disinvestment of government entities in a transparent manner too have come to play a very crucial role during the past one year.
  • The government role in our public life like running utility services too has become a matter of debate during the last few years. Areas like atomic energy, manufacturing of military goods should continue to remain in the public sector but the government should not own enterprises. The role of the government should be limited to financial support and providing direction on different policy matters like social work.
  • International Affairs and Institutions: Reforms in United Nations Security Council i.e.. UNSC and formation of G − 4 to bid for permanent seats in the Security Council and Us'role during the entire process will be crucial this year.
  • Developments in the fields of S&T, communications and space: Scientific development during the last one year, focus on development of AIDS vaccine, stem cell research, focus on non-renewable sources of energy and manned space are must during the revision. Geological disasters like earthquakes are still not being predicted inspite of technological advancements. Is it then justified to spend heavily on space research?
  • India and the World: Indian's relations with major world powers like US, China, Russia, France, UK and European Union should be covered in detail. The recent positive developments in Indo-US relations particularly in areas like civilian nuclear energy deal, space cooperation and education will be crucial in this year's examination.
  • Neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Myanmar too play an crucial role in India's foreign policy. Conflicts with Pakistan and China on the one hand and Bangladesh and Nepal on the other have come to play an crucial role in India's tryst to create a space in world politics. There should be focus on India's role in her neighbour's internal politics like maoist insurgency and return of democracy in Nepal. Issues related to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh too are crucial in this year's paper.
  • Statistical analysis, graphs and diagrammes: This section aims to test the candidates'ability to make conclusions from information presented in statistical, graphical or diagrammatical form and to point out deficiencies therein.
  • Writing the paper: Students should be focussed in terms of language, and they should ensure that the answers are as close as possible. The examiner is usually in a hurry and if provided with facts and coherent replies, his job becomes easier. The answers should not be lengthy and written in a precise manner. Word limit should be adhered to, wherever stated. Students should focus on giving their side of justification in a jiffy. Repetitive and more elaborate replies should be strictly not followed.
  • Strategy for Mains-India and the world

  • Paper two of General Studies in the Main Examination starts with the segment-India and the world. It accounts for around 50 marks out of 300 in this paper. Earlier this was part of a wider segment called issues of national and international importance. But in recent years, realising the impact of India's foreign policy, it has been segmented as an individual area and with focus on India's interaction with the world.
  • Pandit Nehru is the first Prime Minister of India is considered as the architect of our foreign policy. He used foreign policy as an instrument to defend and strengthen India's newly-won independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty. His principles of ‘Panchsheel’ and non-alignment remained the guiding principles for successive prime ministers. During the time of Indira Gandhi, a growing assertiveness was quite evident in the Indian Foreign Policy, be it victory in the Bangladesh war of 1971 or merger of Sikkim in 1975 inspite of the Chinese protest. Her son Rajiv Gandhi believed in ‘travel diplomacy’ As he had no ideological baggage to carry when he entered politics, he could interact with both superpowers-USA and USSR with equal ease during the Cold war.
  • With the completion of Cold War heralded a new era for India too. With the beginning of financial alteration, India started focusing on ‘financial diplomacy’ Meanwhile India enriched the roots of relationship with major countries of the world namely USA, E. U, ASEAN.
  • India and Pakistan are the two countries which continue to have a relationship that can be summed up as that of ‘blow hot-blow cold’ Kashmir is the matter of concern and remains the most controversial topic, but the two countries finally agreed on a ‘composite dialogue’ within the horizon of bilateral ties. India's relationship with other smaller neighbouring countries of South Asia improved considerably in the mid 1990s largely because of the ‘Gujral Doctrine’ This doctrine, which became very famous as its propounder enjoined upon India to give unilateral concessions to the smaller neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh without expecting any gains in reciprocity. A remarkable alteration seen in the recent times is the thrust given to normalising the relationship with China. Though we have marvelous border fights but they have been kept on the backburner for the time being. At that time, there has been more focus on cultivating the bilateral financial tie-ups.
  • Our relationship with the USA is the hallmark of Indian foreign policy after the Cold War. The two countries have found “natural allies” in each other mainly because of their common financial interests, common threats from international terrorism and common view-points on international security. On the other hand, India continues to have cordial tie-ups with her time-tested friend Russia. It remains our biggest defence partner followed by Israel. Post-Cold War period has addressed a tremendous alteration in India's foreign policy on West Asia. In the year 1993, India established diplomatic ties with the state of Israel keeping in view our security concerns. At the same time, India has not abandoned the cause of Palestinian Arabs. Finally, India's nuclear policy is an integrated part of our foreign policy. For India, nuclear weapons plays a vital role and are more as a deterrent or an insurance against extreme threats than weapons usable meanwhile the war.
  • The General Studies (Main) Paper II includes international organisations too. The United Nations is the world's largest and most-vital organisation. It is formed of six main organs, which are the General Assembly, Security Council, financial and Social Council (ELDSOC); Trusteeship Council, International Court of Justice (ICJ) and Secretariat, alongwith specialised agencies like WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNHRC and others. Then, there are various other international organisations like G − 8 or a group of world's most industrialised nations, G − 77 or a group of world's developing countries and G − 15 or a more compact version of G − 77. There are organisations too which focus on certain other subjects like OPEC, OIC, NATO, NAM, among others. One must know the outcome of their latest summits or meets, among others. SAARC is an exclusive organisation of seven South Asia Countries. One can see that it has become a victim of political rivalry between India and Pakistan, its two biggest members. Still efforts are being made to save it and the latest ‘Islamabad Summit’ has ignited that process. The European Union is indeed the world's most successful regional block alongwith ASEAN and NAFTA. At last one can see questions pertaining to the international non-governmental agencies like Amnesty International, Red Cross, World Wide Fund for Nature and Greenpeace.

Discussions & Questions

  • I appeared in 2010 and then I want to apply now for IAS. Suggest some good study material. ( - on ))

    1 Answer

    Please refer the booklist available at http://www.examrace.com/IAS/IAS-Book-List/

    - on