Preparation Strategy for Prelims

  • While framing the preparation strategy General studies in civil services exam is always considered to be a tough ambit to crack because of its complex nature. But why this happens is because of lack of understanding of the syllabus and the way in which questions are asked in the exam.
  • So the best way of preparation is to first have a meticulous planning for handling the GS with ease, both during the time of preparation and during exam

While making the preparation strategy let us first deal with some myths

  • The first myth that has been speculating for years especially after the change in syllabus and pattern in 2013 that there is no syllabus for GS which ,is utterly false and how we can say that, if we analyse the previous years questions, it is clear that UPSC is in search of well informed young aspirants.
  • The system is not looking for text book worms rather for those with wide awareness and understanding over issues and everything happened around. It is for those who are willing to learn and have their eyes and ears widely open.
  • This exam expects one to be updated with all the current affairs and developments and read newspapers and magazine on regular basis. So the preparation strategy should be like this only i.e selecting what to study and what to be left out.
  • The second myth about GS preparation is that reading basic books like NCERT is wastage of time and normally questions are not asked from these, which is again a wrong perception. When you read and study NCERT books you are not studying it with expectations that questions will be asked directly, but to create a solid foundation for your preparation in GS.
  • But even in recent years Prelims paper, there were many questions which could have been answered only by studying NCERT book properly. So for beginners the best way to start the preparation for GS is studying all the NCERT from class VI to class X for History, Geography, Economics, and Polity, the NCERT books for class XII and XII must be studied in addition to the lower class NCERTs. This will give a good start to your preparation and will concrete your foundation rock solid.

The Role of General Awareness

  • One big change noticed in GS these days especially in the preliminary examination is the increasing portion of general awareness questions. If we look into the recent Prelims papers there were many questions which can't be totally billed as Current affairs. So the preparation strategy should be like one must widen the horizon by reading books related to General knowledge for eg. Year book(published by publication division of Government of India) , Economic Survey, Yojna,kurukshetra EPW, G&Y etc
  • Another aspect of this exam is the minimum marks required in GS(paper-II) CSAT to clear the preliminary examination. As if now it is fixed at 33 percent. So general studies paper II should be taken seriously and it should also be given sufficient weightage in yours preparation strategy

Now let us look into the subject wise breakup of GS paper I (How to prepare GS paper I)


  • In recent years the importance of Policy has increased tremendously both in the preliminary and mains examination and it is expected to continue in the future also. The thing regarding to Polity is that the questions are more or less straightforward which can be easily answered with careful study
  • In polity there are chapters from which questions are frequently being asked. these are Constitutional developments, FRs, FDs and DPSP, Union Government, Judiciary, Amendments, Local Governments, Federalism and Election process.
  • Most of the available books lack information on current constitutional developments. So a keen perusal of newspapers and magazine is essential with a good knowledge of provisions of the Constitution.( for eg one should be aware of the historic judgements given by the Supreme Court of India like Triple Talaq, Right to privacy, Right to be forgotten, Adultery repealed, Aadhar verdict etc)

General Science, Life Science and Science and Technology

  • This section can be divided into 4 parts - Science and Technology, Biology, Chemistry and Physics
  • For students with arts background, this section is always a nightmare. But basic understanding of science, especially a thorough coverage of NCERTs, can be useful in solving most of the questions
  • Science and Technology has become an important section of GS for last 15 yearsBut considering the overall increase in the weightage of current affairs. Questions are mainly asked from the developments taking place in India.
  • Recent analysis shows that questions on General Science cover general appreciation and understanding of day to day science. So observing and experiencing everyday science could be handy.( fir eg question regarding NAVIC has been asked in the 2018 prelims so the future initiatives of ISRO like Gaganyaan and other mission automatically becomes more important and gets higher probably of being asked in the next preliminary examination. So one must have to prepare the strategy of prioritising things based on the abovesaid
  • In life science the thrust is on Zoology. Only few questions are being asked from Botany, particularly from agriculture ,biological diversity and plant system. In zoology most of the questions are related to human system and diseases. The topics of Communicable diseases and Nutrition are always significant

Economic and Social development

  • This includes Sustainable development, Poverty, Socio-economic Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives etc. most of the questions in this area are from Indian Economy but one also has to keep abreast with International Economics that has its bearing on India ( eg. The recent trade war and this has been influencing Indian market )
  • If was follow the recent trend of questions in the preliminary examination then most of the questions are asked from Industry, Agriculture production, Exim policy, Money and banking, public finance and reforms. 3 to 4 questions are from different programmes announced in the previous and the current fiscal year. Some more areas like economic reforms( government initiative in ease of doing business) infrastructure and reform policies ( eg RERA ) are to be taken care of
  • In money and banking, one has to keep an eye on financial and banking reforms( eg. Merger of banks, Insolvency and bankruptcy law, twin balance deficit problem, NPA etc
  • The latest trend in Indian Economy has shown the increasing importance of this section. Most of the questions are of current nature but they can't be answered without a proper understanding of static areas of Indian Economy
  • One must follow economic survey and carefully follow the budget updates and also the good understanding of this subject can be achieved by reading class XI NCERT book on Indian Economy

Geography and Environment

  • One of the most vital section in preliminary examination which covers a good amount of questions
  • In Indian Geography a thorough understanding of physical aspects of India with a proper clarity of locations, is essentially vital, it is the minimum requirement and it also helps in economic as well as the human aspects of Indian Geography
  • In General geography, the emphasis is on conceptual aspects. A careful study of A Certificate course in Physical and Human geography by Goh Cheng Leong would be helpful in greater aspects
  • In World geography the emphasis is more on current developments. It is better to locate places in your ATLAS while reading the newspaper everyday.
  • A new dimension to the Preliminary examination is the addition of questions related to Environment. One should be aware of the developments associated with Ecology and Environment related issues and also the various initiatives and conferences which have been held and also been in the news especially for preserving the biodiversity and the ecosystem of the country and the world
  • For the preparation of Geography a proper reading of NCERT textbook on Geography (from 6th to 12th) along with Goh Cheng Leong a regular study of Atlas are more than sufficient

History and Culture

  • Analysing the pattern of previous years questions give us the information that the number of questions has been declining and they have increased the level of toughness. The questions in recent years has been asked from untouched areas
  • If we talk about Modern History most of the question are being asked from the period between 1857 and 1947, which includes the uprising of 1857, social reforms movements, Governor General and Nation Movements
  • In Ancient India the Vedic age, the Mauryan Period and the Gupta Period are dominating, Sultanate and Mughal periods are the most important in the Medieval History
  • Marathas, Vijaynagar, Bahamani kingdom and South dynasties are getting more importance in recent years
  • The importance of Indian Culture has increased significantly. A thorough knowledge of the development of Indian Culture, right from the Ancient times, is vital to score good marks in the Preliminary Exam.

Current Affairs

  • Current Affairs has gained maximum significance in Civil Services preparation. Its weightage has been increasing every passing year.
  • Current Affairs is a vast area comprising of events of national and international importance, bilateral development sports and personalities in various fields along with prizes; awards and honours of highest accolade.
  • Half of the Current Affairs questions can be termed as General Knowledge questions.
  • So it is wrong to assume that reading newspapers and current affairs magazines will be sufficient to solve such questions.
  • In the final analysis, if we categorise the questions being asked, it is found that GS can be handled with much more ease. It is not as frightening as what is projected by many. A successful candidate is the one who has faced the challenge with proper planning and strategy.

Current Affairs analysis