How to Prepare for UPSC GS Paper 1 for Civil Services Mains | Syllabus, Booklist & Strategy for UPSC GS Paper 1

UPSC GS Paper 1 is titled “Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society”. It is one of the nine papers in the UPSC Civil Services (Main) Examination. Consisting of 250 marks, the UPSC General Studies Paper 1 is among the seven papers that are ranking in nature. It means that the score obtained in this paper gets added to the total marks which determine the final rank of the candidate.

History, Art & Culture, and Geography are the three major subjects that are covered in this paper. Subjective questions are asked from the micro topics under these three subjects in the examination. In this article, we will look at how to prepare for UPSC GS Paper 1. Additionally, we will also be discussing the syllabus and preparation strategy of the GS paper 1 for UPSC Civil Services Mains.

Let’s start with the syllabus of UPSC GS Paper 1:

Let’s start with the syllabus of UPSC GS Paper 1:

Syllabus of UPSC GS Paper 1 for Civil Services Main Examination

General Studies I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society

  • Indian Culture - Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

  • Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

  • The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.

  • Post-independence Consolidation and Reorganization within the country.

  • History of the World will include events from the 18th century such as the Industrial Revolution, world wars, Redrawal of National Boundaries, Colonization, Decolonization, political philosophies like Communism, Capitalism, Socialism, etc.— their forms and effect on the society.

  • Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.

  • Role of Women and Women’s Organization, Population and Associated Issues, Poverty and Developmental issues, Urbanization, their problems, and their remedies.

  • Effects of Globalization on Indian society.

  • Social Empowerment, Communalism, Regionalism & Secularism.

  • Salient features of the World’s Physical Geography.

  • Distribution of Key Natural Resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).

  • 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.

How to prepare for UPSC GS Paper 1: Strategy & Tips

It is clear from the syllabus of the UPSC GS Paper 1 that broadly history, art & culture, and geography are to be covered to ace this paper. Following are some of the strategies that you can adopt to prepare this paper:

  • History: Since the syllabus mentions only modern history, you can cover it from the books Spectrum (A brief history of Modern India) & Bipin Chandra (History of Modern India)

  • Art & Culture:Do not ignore the ancient and medieval history areas as questions from Art & Culture are asked from this portion. Glance through Class XI NCERT of Art & Culture to prepare this portion. Additionally, you can also refer to Indian art & culture by Nitin Singhania

  • Indian Society: The contemporary topics such as Indian Society, Role of women’s organization, globalization, etc can be effectively covered by reading newspapers, monthly magazines, and PIB & PRS websites.

  • Geography:The Geography part of the syllabus can be effectively covered from the NCERTs of Class XI and XII followed by a reading of books by Majid Hussain and GC Leong.

  • Previous Year Questions & Mock Tests: Cover at least ten years of PYQs of UPSC GS Paper 1 to assess the type of questions that are being asked and also browse through the answer copies of toppers. You can easily get these answer copies online. Evaluate them to understand the important elements of a good answer and incorporate it into your answer-writing. Practice it regularly and get your copies evaluated by your mentors.

Micro-topics Covered Under UPSC GS Paper 1

History and Art n Culture

Indian Art Forms

Indian Paintings

Classical Dance Forms

Folk Dance Forms

Classical Music




Martial Arts


Ancient Indian Literature

Classical Sanskrit Literature

Literature in Pali and Prakrit

Early Dravidian Literature

Medieval Literature

Women Poets of Bhakti

Trends in Medieval Literature

Modern Indian Literature


Harappan Architecture

Temple Architecture

Cave Architecture

Indo-Islamic Architecture

Medieval Architecture

Modern Architecture

Contribution of Buddhism & Jainism to the Development of Indian Architecture

Rock Cut Architecture

Colonial Architecture & the Modern Period

Middle of the Eighteenth Century Until The Present

Socio-economic Condition of People

European Penetration of India

British Conquest of India

British Policies & Their Impact – Economic, Administrative & Socio-cultural

Socio-cultural Reform Movements

Uprisings Against British Pre-1857

Revolt of 1857

Growth of Nationalism in India (1858-1905)

Political, Economic & Administrative Unification of the Country

Role of Western Education

Role of Press

Rediscovery of India’s Past

Early Political Movements

Formation of INC

Era of Moderates

Growth of Militant Nationalism & Revolutionary Activities (1905-1918)

Swadeshi & Boycott Movement

Surat Split

International Influence

Morley – Minto Reforms

Growth of Communalism

Beginning of Mass Nationalism (1919-1939)

Mahatma Gandhi – His Ideas & Leadership

Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms

Rowlatt Act, Satyagrah and Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Non-cooperation & Khilafat Movement

Swarajists & No-Changers

Emergence of New Forces – Socialistic Ideas, Youth & Trade Unionism

Revolutionary Activity

Simon Commission & Nehru Report

Civil Disobedience Movement

Round Table Conferences

Communal Award & Poona Pact

Participation in Elections to Central Legislature (1934) & Provincial Assemblies (1937)

Government of India Act, 1935

Towards Freedom & Partition (1939-1947)

National Movement During World War II

August Offer

Individual Satyagraha

Growth of Communalism

Peasant Movements

State People’s Struggle

Cripps Mission

Quit India Movement

Wavell Plan

INA & Subhash Chandra Bose

Cabinet Mission

Nationalist Upsurge Post-World War II

Independence with Partition

Nation Building

Partition and Its Aftermath

Integration of Princely States

Reorganisation of States

Issue of Official Language

Tribal Consolidation

Regional Aspirations

Foreign Policy

Non-Aligned Movement


Wars with Pakistan & China

Nuclear Policy


Planned Development

Green Revolution, Operation Flood & Cooperatives

Agrarian & Land Reforms

Industrial Reforms

LPG Reforms


Era of One-Party Dominance

Emergence of Opposition Parties

Emergency: Crisis of Democratic Order

Rise of Regional Parties

Coalition Era


Popular Movements


Indian Women Since Independence


Industrial Revolution


Discovery of Sea Routes


Counter Reformation

European Nations Settle North America

Rise of Slave Trade

American War of Independence

French Revolution

Nationalism in Europe

Rise of Capitalism, Colonialism & Imperialism

World War I

Causes of the War

Scope & Course of the War

Russian Revolution

End of the War & Peace Treaties

Consequences of the War

League of Nations

World Between the Two Wars

Europe After the War – Fascism & Nazism

The Great Depression

Emergence of Soviet Union

Nationalist Movements in Asia & Africa

US as a Strong Power

World War II

Fascist Aggression & Response of Western Democracies

Outbreak of the War

Theatres of the War

US Entry into the War

Global Nature of the War

The Holocaust

Resistance Movements

After-effects of the War

Decolonialisation & Redrawal of National Boundaries

Europe after World War II

Cold War

Rise of Asia & Africa

Developments in West Asia & North Africa

Spread of Communism

Korean War

Vietnam War

Cuban Crisis

Collapse of Soviet Union

Concept, Types & Social Impact of Political Philosophies




Indian Society

Diversity (Types – caste, linguistic, social and religious, race, tribe and ethnicity, culture)

Challenges posed by Diversity



Unity in Diversity

Inequality and Exclusion

Family System

Examples of above. 

Women's Organisations – Empowerment through Action

19th Century Social Reform Movements and Early Women's Organisations – (1) Agrarian Struggles and Revolt, (2) Participation in Freedom Struggle

Women's Organisations Post – 1947

Resurgence of Women's Movement in the 70s: (1) Emergence of New Organisations, (2) Approaches and Issues

Contemporary Women's Issues & Organisation Response

Women's Organisations and SHGs

Challenges faced by Women's Organisations

Basic Demography of India

Population Trends in India and their Implications

Causes and Effects of Over Population

Challenges of Population Explosion

Changing Age Structure of Indian Population

Demogarphic Dividend: Boon or Bane for India

Population Aging in India

India's Population Policy & Initiatives

Concept of Development and Poverty

Types of Poverty

Measurement of Poverty – Poverty Line

Causes of Poverty

Poverty as a Social Problem

Socio-economic Spread of Poverty

Consequences of Poverty –


Continuation of Vicious Cycle

Who are worst affected by poverty?

Problem of Rising Urban Poverty

Poverty Alleviation Initiatives

Policy shift from “Trickle Down” Economics to Inclusive or Pro-poor Development to Reduce Poverty

Relation between Poverty Reduction and Development: Poverty-Inequality-Development Nexus

Urbanisation Trends in India and Their Implications - Demographic and Social Dimensions

Factors Driving Urbanisation

State of Service Delivery and Challeges posed by Urbanisation

Problems of Urban Areas

Social Consequences of Urbanisation

Impact of Urbanisation in Rural Areas

Urban Planning and Role of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)

Reforms Required and Government Initiatives Taken So Far

Problems of Slums

Understanding Globalisation – Its Different Dimensions

Globalisation & Culture - Homogenisation vs. Glocalisation

Factors Driving Globalisation

Globalisation & India

Impact of Globalisation on India - Socio-cultural, economic, on women, agrarian sector etc.

Does Globalisation cause Poverty?

Which are the Socially Disadvantaged Groups?

Dimensions of Social Empowerment

Government Initiatives to Aide Social Empowerment

Communalism – Its Characteristics

Communalism in India in the Past

Communalism in Contemporqary India

Causes of Communalism

Consequences of Communalism

Measures to Control & Eradicate Communalism

Secularism as an Antidote to Communalism

Concept of Region & Regionalism

Different Forms of Regionalism

Regionalism in India

Causes of Regionalism

Concept of 'Sons of Soil'

Consequences of Regionalism

Federalism & Regionalism

Role of Regional Parties

Measures to Contain Regionalism

Regionalism in the International Sphere

Concept of Secularism

Indian Model of Secularism

Secularism in India

Nature & Practice of Secularism in India

Uniform Civil Code

Challenges faced by Secularism in India

Measures to Make India Truly Secular



Origin & Evolution of Earth

Interior of the Earth

Distribution of Continents & Oceans

Plate Tectonic Theory

Distribution of Earthquakes & Volcanoes

Rocks & Rock Cycle

Geomorphic Processes – Endogenic & Exogenic

Landforms & their Evolution


Hydrological Cycle

Seafloor Spreading

Ocean Floor Configuration

Temperature & Salinity of Oceans

Movement of Oceans – Waves, Tides, Currents


Earth’s Atmosphere – Composition & Structure

Solar Radiation, Heat Budget & Temperature

Atmospheric Circulation & Weather Systems

World Climate (examples)

Soil Geography

Soil & Soil Contents

Process of Soil Formation

Soil Forming Factors

Types of Soils (examples)

Soil Erosion & Conservation

Types of Resources

On the Basis of Origin, Ownership, Exhaustability etc.

Land Resources

Land Utilisation

Land Use Pattern

Land Degradation & Conservation

Forest Resources

Types & Distribution – Grasslands, Forests etc.

Causes of Depletion

Conservation of Forests

Water Resources

Marine & Freshwater

Water Scarcity & Need For Conservation

Integrated Water Resources Management

Agricultural Resources

Types of Farming

Cropping Patterns

Contribution to Economy, Employment & Output

Food Security

Mineral & Energy Resources

Classification of Minerals – Ferrous & Non-Ferrous

Occurrence of Minerals

Conservation of Minerals

Classification of Energy Resources – Conventional & Non-Conventional

Occurrence of Energy Resources

Conservation of Energy Resources

Classification of Industries

Location & Distribution of the Industries on the Basis of

Raw Material





Grants & Financial Incentives





Distribution of Major Industries – Iron & Steel, IT, Cotton Textile

Agglomeration & Footloose Industries


Why Does Earth Shake?

Earthquake Waves

Shadow Zone

Types of Earthquake

Measuring Earthquake

Effects of Earthquake


What Causes Tsunami

Effect of Tsunami

Mitigating the Impact of Tsunami


Types of Volcanoes

What Causes Volcanoes?

Volcanic Landforms


Tropical Cyclones


Extra Tropical Cyclones

Factors Causing Changes in Critical Geographical Features

Examples of Changing Geographicl Features - Mealting of Ice Sheets, Desertification etc.

Impact of Changing Geographical Features

Recommended Booklist for UPSC GS Paper 1 for IAS Mains Exam

  1. The Wonder That Was India- A.L. Basham. (Culture)

  2. India’s Ancient Past - R.S. Sharma. (Culture)

  3. Indian Art and Culture - Nitin Singhania. (Culture)

  4. A Brief History of Modern India - Spectrum Book (History)

  5. History Of Modern India - Bipan Chandra. (History)

  6. India’s Struggle For Independence - Bipan Chandra. (History)

  7. India After Gandhi - Ramchandra Guha (History - GS1)

  8. Norman Lowe OR History of Modern World - Jain and Mathur (World History - GS1)

  9. Social Problems In India - Ram Ahuja. (Indian Society - GS1)

  10. Geography of India - Majid Husain. (Geography)

  11. Oxford School Atlas - Oxford. (Geography)

  12. Certificate Physical and Human Geography - Goh Cheng Leong. (Geography)

You do not have to read all the books from this list cover-to-cover, however, try and cover the chapters relevant to the UPSC GS Paper 1 syllabus and make your notes for repeated revision.

So, this was a brief overview of how to prepare for UPSC GS Paper 1 for Mains Examination. We hope you found this useful. Stay connected with us on our Telegram channel as well as our YouTube channel for regular updates and useful preparation strategies.

Glimpse of Questions Asked In UPSC GS Paper 1

Q1. Highlight the Central Asian and Greco -Bactrian elements in the Gandhara art. (Answer in 150 words)

Q2. The 1857 Uprising was the culmination of the recurrent big and small local rebellions that had occurred in the preceding hundred years of British rule. Elucidate (Answer in 150 words)

Q3. Examine the linkages between 19th centuries ‘Indian renaissance’ and emergence of national identity. (Answer in 150 words)

Q4. Assess the impact of global warming on coral life system with examples. (Answer in 150 words)

Q5.Discuss the causes of depletion of mangroves and explain their importance in maintaining coastal ecology. (Answer in 150 words)

Q6. Can the strategy of regional-resource based manufacturing help in promoting employment in India? (Answer in 150 words)

Q7. Discuss the factors for localization of agro-based food processing industries of North West India. (Answer in 150 words)

Q8. What makes the Indian society unique in sustaining its culture? Discuss. (Answer in 150 words)

Q9. “Empowering women is the key to control population growth”. Discuss (Answer in 150 words)

Q10. What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of secularism (Answer in 150 words)

Q11. Many voices had strengthened and enriched the nationalist movement during the Gandhian phase. Elaborate (Answer in 250 words)

Q12. Assess the role of British imperial power in complicating the process of transfer of power during 1940s. (Answer in 250 words)

Q13. Explain how the foundations of modern world were laid by the American and French revolution. (Answer in 250 words)

Q14. What is water stress? How and why does it differ regionally in India? (Answer in 250 words)

Q15. How can the mountain ecosystem be restored from the negative impact of development initiatives and tourism? (Answer in 250 words)

Q16. How is efficient and affordable urban mass transport key to the rapid economic development of India? (Answer in 250 words)

Q17. How do ocean currents and water masses differ in their impacts on marine life and coastal environment? Give suitable examples? (Answer in 250 words)

Q18. Do we have cultural pockets of small India all over the nation? Elaborate with examples (Answer in 250 words)

Q19. What are the continued challenges for women in India against time and space? (Answer in 250 words)

Q20. Are we losing our local identity for the global identity? Discuss. (Answer in 250 words)

You do not have to read all the books from this list cover-to-cover, however, try and cover the chapters relevant to the UPSC GS Paper 1 syllabus and make your notes for repeated revision.

So, this was a brief overview of how to prepare for UPSC GS Paper 1 for Mains Examination. We hope you found this useful. Stay connected with us on our Telegram channel as well as our YouTube channel for regular updates and useful preparation strategies.

You can effectively cover the entire syllabus of General Studies paper by enrolling in our comprehensive course for General Studies. Career Launcher also brings to you various comprehensive online courses for UPSC CSE Preparation. You can check out the entire course range including all the subjects of UPSC CSE here. Do get in touch with our course counselors for more details on our course deliverables.

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