How To Prepare UPSC Civil Services Mains Paper-II (GS-1)
UPSC has brought changes to the Civil Services Mains examination in both the pattern and the syllabus. We know that now there are 4 General Studies Papers apart from one Essay and Optional paper each.
This article discusses preparation strategy for General Studies -1 (i.e Paper-II, Paper-I is Essay)
Before you start reading further, please remember the following important mantra given by the Almighty UPSC:
“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.”
This sentence is the guiding light for your preparation. You don’t have to master the topics, all you need is BASIC UNDERSTANDING and the ability to analyze.
Basic understanding comes from reading and re-reading. Ability to analyze what you have understood from reading comes from WRITING PRACTICE.
GS-1 broadly covers – Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
Under this heading total 12 topics and around 40 sub-topics are given in the syllabus.
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.
- Keep a copy of the syllabus always near you no matter where you are.
Now, how to deal with GS-1?
Assuming you are now familiar with the syllabus of GS-1, we will discuss a topic by topic what to read, from where to read and what not to read for these topics.
In this topic, the sub-topics are – Art forms, Literature, Architecture – from ancient to modern times. Before jumping into Big Books, first go through these beautiful books by NCERT – to get a glimpse of the sub-topics – they are
One indispensable source to read first and foremost before proceeding to any source is: Class XI NCERT An Introduction to Indian Art.
Once done with this book, then read following books.
- NCERT Class VI – History – Our Past
- NCERT Class VII – Our Past -I
- NCERT Class VIII – Our Past II and III
- NCERT Class XII – Themes In Indian History I
- NCERT Class-XII – Themes in Indian History – II
- NCERT Class XII – Themes In Indian History III
Hold on. Four books for one topic? No. You have to read only a few chapters from each book that are related to Sub-Topics. For ex, you have to read only Chapters 2 and 3 from Class-XII -Themes In Indian History-II book.
Apart from these you should have a reference book for getting more information:
- CCRT Website
- Download Free Material – Complete Set
- Graphic Book On Indian Art and Culture – Free Download
Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present– significant events, personalities, issues
Read this book: Comprehensive History Of Modern India – Spectrum (It covers topics from the Advent of British to India’s Independence – so covers this part of the syllabus completely.
Why this book? Why not Bipan Chandra?
Bipan Chandra is specifically for studying in depth the various dimensions and concepts of the Freedom Struggle. But for the above topic where ‘events, personalities and issues’ have to be read that too between 1750s to 1950s, Spectrum book covers all the topics quite comprehensively.
It is bulky and factual, so it is recommended for beginners both for Prelims and Mains along with Bipan Chandra’s book, but not for aspirants writing Mains this year who are running short of time.
[The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.]
Because this topic demands specific knowledge of Freedom Struggle and its various facets, you must, along with the above mentioned book, read Bipan Chandra’s Struggle For India’s Independence.
TOPIC – 4
Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
For this you need to study Chapter 6 to 12 of India Since Independence – Bipan Chandra
0r Chapters 8 to 14 from India After Gandhi: The History Of The World’s Largest Democracy (above mentioned chapters cover completely this part of the syllabus)
[History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars,redrawal of national boundaries,colonization,decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism,socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.]
Except for Industrial revolution, Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe (Buy From Amazon India))covers all topics of this part of the syllabus – it is a very good book. Stick to only this book. Refer above links for a glimpse of those sub-topics in Wikipedia, but don’t dwell deeply on them. (A 30 % discount from Flipkart, or Or This IMPORTED copy provided you are rich- Rs 1700/ – this classic book contains insightful chapters on the 2008 Financial Crisis, and even Arab Spring and its aftermath!)
Above book is not available anywhere these days. Best alternative is a book by Arjun Dev – History of the World from the Late Nineteenth to the Early Twenty First Century
If both books are not available, then read this book – Old NCERT World History Class-X
[Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.]
About salient features of Indian Society – don’t look anywhere else – Just read this NCERT – Indian Society Class 12 (Complete book without watermarks)
Two indispensable books to cover this topic:
(above books are critically acclaimed and are taught in many universities as a text, and is written by an acclaimed scholar)
- For India specific women related issues download this beautiful report (PLATFORM FOR ACTION-REPORT ON INDIAN WOMEN -DOWNLOAD FROM HERE) where you can find everything you want to learn about Women’s issues.
Other sub-topics are general in nature and can be found in Magazines and Newspapers. If one is thorough with current events questions on these sub-topics can be answered very well by consolidating their knowledge.
[Effects of Globalization on Indian society]
This is also general in nature. If you have a basic understanding of Indian Society and Globalization, their mutual relation can be elucidated with ease. Here is a good article from a Marxist politician about the topic. (UPSC people love the slightly leftist version of everything)
To know more about effect of Globalization on Indian Society, you need to know better about Indian Society. This book is a must have for broad understanding of the Indian Society.
If you want to learn the impact of Globalization on Indian Economy, here is a book. (Purely optional)
This is again generic. But you must know the basic concept of communalism, regionalism and secularism. Wikipedia comes handy here.
For Regionalism In India.
[Salient features of world’s physical geography.
To cover this part two books are necessary:
2. NCERT Class-XI – Fundamentals of Physical Geography
[Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)]
3) For reference:Geography of India 4 Edition
[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.]
This is a repetition actually. You can read Physical Geography book by Goh Cheng Leong which is mentioned above (Certificate Physical and Human Geography 1st Edition)
This topic on critical changes in geographical features is broadly related to climate change and other anthropogenic factors(such as depletion of resources, dumping of wastes etc). Geographical features like rainforests, ice caps, rivers, corals, cyclones all get affected by climate change. Anthropogenic factors are involved in increasing desertification, vanishing forests, biodiversity, pollution of rivers and lakes, etc.
Your focus should be on such changes. Question may be on how monsoon is affected by global climate change? or how a cyclone is affected by global warming? What effect has the melting ice cap on the biodiversity in the polar regions? etc
Until now we saw what books to read. Now the question is how to remember most of the things we read and how to translate them into better answers.
- A common mistake most of the aspirants commit is reading so many books for a single topic.This mistake costs both your time and ability to remember things clearly and concisely.
- Stick to a single source and read it again and again. Remember The Same Source. Avoid the temptation of doing ‘Research’ on a topic.
- Always Remember – UPSC tests Basic Understanding. Not mastery over a topic.
- Make short notes on each topic. It is while making notes that readers tend to do RESEARCH and scout various sources. Stick to one book even if you are not 100% satisfied with it.
- Remember that old saying? – Jack of all trades, master of NONE. If you try to do Research, most probably your name won’t appear in the Final List. I guarantee it.
- For Paper-II (i.e GS-1) being thorough with Current Events plays a crucial role in enabling you to acquire analytical skills.
Very Important Part In The Preparation
- Writing. Writing. Writing.
- But what? – One must practice answer writing to Previous year questions, or take a Mock Test. Whatever, before you enter examination hall, you must have spent lot of time on answer writing.
Most Important Part In The Preparation
- Revision. Revision. Re-Revision.
- You do this and you appear for the Personality Test.
- If you don’t Revise what you read all these months – you slightly miss the Personality Test, or You narrowly miss appearing in the Final List.
Well, to sum up. To get the interview call all you need to do is: Read, Re-read the same source, Write and Revise.
Preparation for this paper can be finished in 20 days provided you are focused and determined.
Of course. Eat well, Sleep well and Keep a good health. If you get a running nose on the day of the exam, 2 hours out of 3 hours goes in draining it and drying it.