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How To Prepare UPSC Civil Services Mains Paper IV (GS-3)

How to prepare GS – 1 (i.e, Paper-II)

How to prepare GS – 2 (i.e, Paper-III)

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 – 3 (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.

upsc gs 3 strategy, upsc mains paper 4 strategy, strategy for IAS main examination, UPSC


GS-3 broadly covers – 

  • Technology,
  • Economic Development,
  • Bio diversity,
  • Environment,
  • Security and 
  • Disaster Management.

(You can observe that it resembles GS-2 of old patters sans statistics and international relations) 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-3? Assuming you are now familiar with the syllabus of GS-3, we will discuss a topic by topic what to read, from where to read and what not to read for these topics. TOPIC-1

 Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

This is a very broad area and includes both static and dynamic part. Before going for big books, it is compulsory to read following NCERT textbooks (download full textbooks -PDF without watermark)

  1. NCERT Class X – Understaning Economic Development 
  2. NCERT Class XI – Indian Economic Development
  3. NCERT Class XII – Macroeconomics (chapters 2,5 and 6 are very important)
  4. ET in The Classroom

(This is important in getting acquainted with basics of dynamic part of Economics – It is an excellent source. I have archived previous articles Here.)

Three books above will make your concepts very clear.  After understanding your concepts, you have to read the above topics by relating them to the current events. For this reading one Business newspaper helps a lot. Business standard is the best (if you are comfortable with ET or FE, it is fine. But do try BS once)

More questions from Economics can be expected in this paper henceforth. To be ready for any questions that UPSC might ask, it is good to read a standard book on these topics.

There are many books on Indian economy – all bulky. Fortunately, TMH has released a book on Indian economy for Prelims and Mains, and it is very good (by Ramesh Singh)

1. Indian Economy for Civil Services Examinations – Ramesh Singh

I think reading this book is a must. Don’t go for Uma Kapila, Dutt and Sundaram and Mishra-Puri unless you have plenty of time for these. For now sticking to one good book is advised.


Inclusive growth and issues arising from it

We had 11th Five year plan which exhorted the ‘Inclusive Growth’ mantra and then 12th Fiver year document, going a step further aiming for a ‘Faster, More Inclusive and Sustainable Growth’.

These two documents are good to understand issues related to inclusive growth, approach of the government and achievements in the 11th plan period. However, to get conceptual clarity, reading one or two articles from the following document would help you immensely.

Conceptualizing Inclusive Growth

For a thorough review of Inclusive Growth strategy in India read this article:

Inclusive Growth in India – Past Performance and Future Prospects


 Government Budgeting

It is nothing but knowing about what is a budget and how it is passed in the parliament and then how it is implemented.

These documents should help you understand these:


 Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems; storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers

Understanding concepts is important here too. NCERT comes to the aid here;

NCERT – Resources and Development (a quick reading of this book will also help in understanding many other topics in this paper)

For cropping pattern read this, only this document:

Cropping Pattern in India (give stress to understanding the concept in it, no need to read entire paper)

For irrigation methods, irrigation systems and Irrigation in India,

  • Irrigation Methods
  • Types of Dams (storage structures)
  • Irrigation types (Government Source)

For agriculture marketing, storage and reforms in these areas, one should resort to ‘State of India Agriculture report’ and Economic Survey.

  • Agriculture Marketing Reforms
  • Agricultural Prices and Markets – State of India Agriculture Report

E-technology for the aid of Farmers

E-technology in the aid of farmers


Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing

This is the most important topic in this paper – all sub-topics are dynamic in nature and 1-2 questions will be directly asked from these. This topic encompasses the broad area of Food Security, which is a hot topic these days.

Apart of getting conceptual clarity on these topics, aspirants also have to develop critical perspective on these sub-topics. I will provide links to important articles that have come in The Hindu, Business Standard and Business Line.

First, Minimum Support Price and Farm Subsidies:

Agriculture – Price Policy and MSP

News Articles (to develop opinion)

  • Farms need a free market -BusinessLine
  • How to fix agricultural pricing mess – Business Standard
  • India’s food conundrum – The Hindu

Regarding Public Distribution System, it is a vast area, so careful study of less materials is needed.

  • Public Distribution System – IGNOU Notes – 1
  • Public Distribution System and Food Security – IGNOU Notes – 2

News Articles;

  • Food Security Bill – The devil is in the detail – The Hindu
  • The shaky geopolitics of India’s food security – The Hindu

For basics of Food Security – NCERT source – Class IX Economics

Now, technology missions! Government of India is fond of launching these technology missions for various crops to boost their production, area coverage and make their production profitable.  This is a boring topic and I don’t think UPSC will ask any question on this (it is completely factual)

I will provide links to few such Technology Missions;

(You need to know only what these missions were meant for and what’s their progress so far)

Economics of Animal Breeding! – This has come from nowhere. Study it here

You can have a look at this report of Planning Commission (only 3 pages)

  • Role of livestock in Indian Economy


 Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.

Food processing is a sunrise industry and lately there has been a lot of thrust from the government on this industry.



 Land reforms in India

This is a hot favourite topic for UPSC and luckily you get plenty of material to read on this topic. That is the problem. In this exam, sticking to one source is the secret of success (of course, not for all topics)

For this topic read from following two sources (IGNOU):

  • Land reforms – 1
  • Land Reforms – 2


Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth

You can read these topics from the above mentioned book by Ramesh Singh. It is explained very well.

Indian Economy for Civil Services Examinations – Ramesh Singh (Chapters 6 and 10, 4th edition – the above link is for latest 5th edition)


Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc

Just two sources; one, India 2013 and Economic Survey

TOPIC – 10

Investment models

This is a puzzling topic. Because it is given along with Infrastructure related topics, I assume it to be related to investment models applied to the same field. If not, one can enumerate so many investment models just for financial sector alone!

For example, within PPP model, there are various modalities are involved (see below)

Table 1: Schemes and Modalities of PPP


Build-own-operate (BOO)
Build-develop-operate (BDO)
Design-construct-manage-finance (DCMF)

The private sector designs, builds, owns, develops, operates and manages an asset with no obligation to transfer ownership to the government. These are variants of design-build-finance-operate (DBFO) schemes.

Buy-build-operate (BBO)
Lease-develop-operate (LDO)
Wrap-around addition (WAA)

The private sector buys or leases an existing asset from the Government, renovates, modernises, and/ or expands it, and then operates the asset, again with no obligation to transfer ownership back to the Government.

Build-operate-transfer (BOT)
Build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) Build-rent-own-transfer (BROT)
Build-lease-operate-transfer (BLOT) Build-transfer-operate (BTO)

The private sector designs and builds an asset, operates it, and then transfers it to the Government when the operating contract ends, or at some other pre-specified time. The private partner may subsequently rent or lease the asset from the Government.

Source: Public Private Partnership, Fiscal Affairs Department of the IMF.

These two sources might help:



 Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

. Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights

There are many sources for these topics:

First, for non – science grads, a reading of NCERT Class VI to X Science Texts is advised. This will clear many concepts for you and will enable you to understand other topics in the syllabus.

Second, earlier, toppers used to recommend a book by Spectrum publications,

  • Developments in Science and Technology

The problem with this book is its vastness – they have simply dumped every topic in detail like paranoid. For students with science background this book is advised, they have released 2013 edition – you have to study it selectively. Very selectively. This book has all the topics that are included in the syllabus and that are not included also.

If one goes through previous question papers, one can observe that UPSC has always asked questions on S&T from within the syllabus. For example, there will be a question on biotechnology, space, robotics, nanotechnology and computers – they might be from latest developments in the respective fields, but all are from the syllabus.

Third source is The Hindu and Frontline. Every Thursday, The Hindu carries a separate page on S&T –  if one is regular with this page and have the collection of cuttings, this will help in 5 mark and 2 mark questions asked from current event section.

Fourth source is Wikipedia and New Scientist sites. From this site, read articles on Nanotechnology, Robotics, IPR etc.

Under IPR, you may have to read about Novartis case, so The Hindu article is here. Also TRIPS is important.

For India’s achievements in the field of S&T, you must read India 2013 Year Book (chapters on Defence and Scientific and technological developments)


Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


  • Environment and Pollution
  • Atmosphere Oxygen and Pollution (Technical)

This particular topic encompasses topics such as biodiversity and climate change, forest and wildlife conservation, river conservation, pollution in cities, waste management, pollution from human activities, marine pollution etc – so it is a vast area.

This has to be read with respect to India and the world.

First choice should be The Hindu Environmental Survey 2012 (they may release 2013 survey now).

Sources from the ministry of environment(look at the left side for related links  when you land on the page):

Annual Report of the Environment Ministry 2012-13 (for chapters on conservation, EIA and forests etc) – Click Here.

Complete info on Conservation. click here.

Complete details on – Environmental Impact Assessment, FAQ’s on EIA

Current events on EIA – The Hindu article

TOPIC – 13

Disaster and disaster management

This is again a current event and a dynamic portion.

Download special edition of Yojana on Disaster Management.

A report on Disaster Management. (read selectively). You will find everything in it you ever wanted to know about the topic!



. Linkages between development and spread of extremism.

. Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

. Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention

. Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism

Internal Security – Internal Security Challenges

Cyber SecurityNational Cyber Security Policy 2013 – assessment

Money Laundering – 

For a starter, here is a book just released by Oxford University Press, exclusively on these topics. Titled ‘India’s National Security – A Reader’ and written by eminent scholars in this field, it covers external and internal security threats by state and non-state actors, as well as nuclear issues too. Read the review here.

You can buy it from Flipkart . (Buy it only after reading the above review)

(This section will be updated with latest news articles – soon)


Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

This topic is completely factual. You can read it on Wikipedia.


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

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.

(This article is not final yet. It will be updated soon with further inputs and resources. Suggestions are welcome.)