How to prepare for UPSC GS Paper For Prelims | Preparation Strategy For General Studies For Prelims | Career Launcher

Framing the preparation strategy General studies in the civil services exam is always considered to be a tough ambit to crack because of its complex nature. But this happens because of a 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 meticulous planning for handling the UPSC GS paper with ease, both during the time of preparation and during the exam. Let us look at how to prepare for UPSC GS Paper for prelims!

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

The first myth that has been going around for years especially after the change in syllabus and pattern in 2013 that there is no syllabus for GS. It is utterly false. It can be proven by a thorough analysis of the previous years’ question papers which clearly suggest 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 wide open.

This exam expects one to be updated with all the current affairs and recent developments. For that, you should read newspapers and magazines on a regular basis. So the preparation strategy should be to identify what to study and what to leave out.

The second myth about GS preparation is that reading basic books like NCERT is a 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.

However, even in recent years’ Prelims paper, there were many questions that could have been answered only by studying the NCERT book properly. So for beginners, the best way to start the preparation for GS is to study all the NCERT from class VI to class XII 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.

We also have a NCERT course that covers all the NCERTs in detail. So, if you want to cover the NCERTs in a quicker span of time, you can rely on our course. Check out the course details here.

Role of Current Affairs for UPSC GS Paper in Prelims

One big change noticed in UPSC GS Paper 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 that 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. Indian Yearbook(published by publication division of Government of India), Economic Survey, Yojna, Kurukshetra EPW, G&Y, etc

To master this area, you can enroll in our course on India Year Book. Check out how to effectively read the India Year Book here.

Now let us look into the subject wise breakup of UPSC GS paper I (How to prepare UPSC 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 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 magazines is essential with a good knowledge of provisions of the Constitution. (for eg one should be aware of the historic judgments given by the Supreme Court of India like Triple Talaq, Right to privacy, Right to be forgotten, Adultery repealed, Aadhar verdict, etc)

Check out the booklist and syllabus for Polity here

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 an arts background, this section is always a nightmare. But a basic understanding of science, especially thorough coverage of NCERTs, can be useful in solving most of the questions.
  • Science and Technology has become an important section of GS for the last 15 years, but 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 become more important and get a higher probability of being asked in the next preliminary examination. So one must have to prepare the strategy of prioritizing things based on the above mentioned.
  • In life science, the thrust is on Zoology. Only a few questions are being asked from Botany, particularly from agriculture, biological diversity, and plant system. In zoology, most of the questions are related to the human system and diseases. The topics of Communicable diseases and Nutrition are always significant.

Check out the booklist and syllabus for Science and Technology here

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 we 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 programs 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 the 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

Check out the syllabus and booklist for Indian Economy here.

Geography and Environment

  • One of the most vital section in the 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 every day.
  • A new dimension to the Preliminary examination is the addition of questions related to the 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 and a regular study of Atlas are more than sufficient.

Check out the syllabus and booklist for Geography here and environment here.

History and Culture

  • Analyzing the pattern of previous years’ questions gives us the information that the number of questions has been declining and they have increased the level of toughness. The questions in recent years have been asked from untouched areas
  • If we talk about Modern History most of the questions 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. Thorough knowledge of the development of Indian Culture, right from the ancient times, is vital to score good marks in the Preliminary Exam.

Check out the detailed syllabus and booklist for History and Art & culture at the respective links.

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 honors 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 categorize 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.

This is a detailed overview of how to prepare for UPSC GS paper. Check out how to prepare current affairs for the UPSC Civil Services Exam here. Moreover, we have discussed the year-by-year weightage of each of these subjects in the UPSC CS Prelims here.

Career Launcher brings you detailed online courses that can help you in kick starting your UPSC Civil Services preparation. Check out our entire course range here. If you have any queries regarding the course deliverables, get in touch with our course counselors.

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Current Affairs analysis