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How To Prepare UPSC Civil Services Mains Paper-III (GS-2)

Click Here For More Detailed Strategies For Other Papers and More!

How to prepare GS – 1 (i.e Paper – II)

How to prepare GS-3 (i.e Paper – IV)

How to prepare GS – 4 (i.e Paper – V)

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 -2 (i.e Paper-III)

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.

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-2?

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.

Broad Syllabus Of GS-2 is:

 Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Before you start preparing for this paper, please read following NCERT texts, which might take 2-3 days of your time.

NCERT Class XIIndia Constitution At Work

NCERT Class XII –  Political Science II

NCERT Class X –  Democratic Politics


 Indian Constitution– historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

This part is very useful both for Prelims and Mains. Best book to study this section is D.D. Basu’s “Introduction To The Constitution Of India” First 5 chapters in this book exclusively deal with this part of the syllabus.

For Basic Structure, These two articles might help you.

1) Basic Structure of the constitution revisited – The Hindu (PDF)

2) The Basic Structure of the constitution (PDF)


Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

One good source to get the critical perspective about these topics is – Report of the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission, named – Organizational Structure Of Government of India (13th Report)

For devolution of finances to local bodies, Read This.. (Don’t look anywhere else)

For the concept part read – Laxmikant’s Indian Polity. Buy the new updated  4th edition.  (Chapters 12, 13 14 and 30).

But Mains demands not only basic understanding of these topics, but your critical and analytic abilities to answer questions on these topics.  So, try to relate these concepts to current event topics and write small articles. ARC reports will help you in this regard.

Eg. ” Though devolution of funds, functionaries and functions is taking place in the local governments, development is still a mirage in many parts of India”. Critically analyze. (you can frame many questions like this)


Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

BASICS: Public Grievances and Redressal Mechanism

This topic is a dynamic portion – we read lot about conflict between the Judiciary and the Executive – to answer dynamic topics, one should first understand the constitutional provisions, redressal measures with the constitution, checks and balances provided in the constitution etc.

ARC reports come to the rescue again. 7th report of 2nd ARC named “Capacity Building for Conflict Resolution” talks elaborately on various issues such as Left Wing Extremism, Regional Disparities, Land and Water related issues, SC and ST issues, Religious conflicts and North East conflicts – which involve numerous institutions in the conflict management and resolution.

Later, scan current events and find any latest instances of conflict between any constitutional bodies, or between a constitutional body and statutory body.

Again, concepts can be studied either from D.D. Basu or Laxmikat..


Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries

A book by S.  Chand – Select Constitutions of the world is famous among Law students. This covers this topic comprehensively. One should be careful to not to study this topic in depth.

In case you can afford to buy costly book – D.D. Basu’s Classic on the Indian Constitution – Shorter Constitution Of India not only covers all above topics, it also covers the present topic.

Few links that might help:

Try to know some basics about the New Constitutions/reforms being framed/brought out in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Pakistan.

(Again, emphasis should be on relating all these topics to the current events)


Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

To cover this topic, one stop source is Subhash Kashyp’s Our Parliament. (Why this book? Because it is written by someone who worked inside the Parliament for most of his career, and this book gives a detailed idea about the functioning of our Parliament – as the above topic suggests, you should be familiar with all aspects of our Parliament. This books is cheap, and is highly readable with lot of insights)


Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the JudiciaryMinistries and Departments of the Government; Pressure Groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.


Again, Laxmikant is enough for this topic.  Regarding pressure groups/ informal associations – recent activism shown by Civil society, conflict with the government and other such topics should be studied in depth.


 Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

First read this beautiful article by Yogendra Yadav. (PDF)

This topic has generated more heat in the past and present – eg, office of profit bill, anti-defection bill, electoral reforms bill etc.

This topic should be

Recent supreme court ruling disqualifying MPs and MLAs with criminal background, and current topics like this should be studied carefully.

TOPIC-8 and 9

Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

Read Laxmikant for this part. Part VII,VIII and IX of this book completely covers these topics.

This part of the syllabus has given rise to some contentious issues such as political interference in the appointment to various constitutional posts and statutory bodies. Eg EC, CBI, CVC, CAG, SC, Governors, Lokayukta, Lokpal (if it comes into existence) etc. So, read this topic keeping in mind these above issues.

As I said before, you need to read all the above topics with an analytical perspective. To provide you with this, there is a wonderful book published by Oxford University Press and authored by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, named – “Public Institutions in India – Performance and Design“, will be immensely useful.

As its back cover says, “This volume analytically assesses the design, performance, and adaptability of the principal institutions of governance in India and their critical role in a democratic polity.” That is what you need for this paper.


Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

This part is covered well in the same book I mentioned above: “Public Institutions in India – Performance and Design

Also, refer Economic Survey for government policies and PIB site regularly.


Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders

[Please note the phrase “Development Industry” – it refers to aid industry developed around NGOs, UN bodies, Charities etc and their role in the development process.]

Planning commission has various articles on these topics.

This report gives critical account of success and failure of SHG’s in India. (just read the summary, conclusion and recommendations – NEVER read full report)

Article on NGO – their evolution and role.



Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Note the word “STATE” – schemes by the states are also important.

  • Focus on the schemes being implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child welfare, Ministry of Social Justice, Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Tribal affairs.

List Of Government Schemes – India – Wikipedia link.

List of All state and central scheme – Govt. of India Website (here you can filter queries by the ministry- it is not easy though, govt site you know..)

One more option is visit this link on my site to go to the site of any Ministry and find schemes there.

TOPICS 12 and 13

 Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

. Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

We read lot about this these days: Food security bill, PDS reform, Poverty reduction schemes, Poverty-line controversy, Malnutrition figures, report on malnutrition(remember HungMa report?) etc.


Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

This introductory article on 2nd ARC site and 2nd ARC report on “Promoting e-Governance: The SMART Way Forward” will be very useful to cover this topic.

E-governance – Concept and  Significance (IGNOU)


Role of civil services in a democracy

Again, 2nd ARC report (10th report) – Refurbishing of Personnel Administration has whole chapter (ch-4) on this topic.

International Relations


India and its neighborhood- relations.

Two sources for this topic:
India and its neighboursMEA Website

2. For critical analysis – This Book by Rajiv Sikri – Challenge and Strategy – Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy is must for reading this part of the syllabus.

TOPIC – 16

Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

For India’s relations with the other countries, click here. (read only important counries – USA, UK, EU, SA, Brazil, Japan, Russia,  Australia etc)

Ministry of External Affairs has briefs on all bilateral relations of India with regional and global groupings:

eraction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) August 2012



Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

This is a dynamic part – effects of globalization, WTO policies, domestic policies of developed countries and their effect on other countries (lot of examples from USA, UK can be given – visa row, war on terrorism, immigration policies, economic policies etc)

Indian diaspora – their contribution to India, India’s contribution to them, Their contribution to the world etc. Their problems in the residing countries, their rights in India – constitutional/statutory provisions if any, their participation in track two diplomacy, their role in Indian economy etc etc.

Newspaper is the best source I guess. For more info, visit the official site.


Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

UNO and its various bodies, agencies must be studied with respect to their structure, role, relevance and reforms. UN reforms is the hot topic.

International Organizations (no UN bodies) such as APEC, ADB, ASEAN, OECD, NATO should be studied.

For links to all these organizations: click here.

Finally, for some articles from Yojana magazines (2013) that are related to many  topics from this Paper, click here.

Five Indispensable Books For paper-III

  1. D.D.Basu
  2. Introduction to the Constitution of India 20 Edition
  3. Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations 4th Edition – Laxmikanth
  4. Select Constitutions: 16th Edition – S Chand
  5. Challenge And Strategy : Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy – Rajiv Sikri
  6. Public Institutions in India: Performance and Design – Pratap Bhanu Mehta

TWO RECOMMENDED BOOKS (Only If You Have More Time At Your Disposal) – Both By Granville Austin – Classics On Indian Polity

1) The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of A Nation (Classic Reissue) – Review

2) Working a Democratic Constitution: A History of the Indian Experience – Review


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.