• This paper is relatively easy when compared to other papers as there is a lot of static part.
• But it doesn’t mean that the questions will be straight forward; there will be a lot of analysis/opinion based questions.
• It is just that the content will remain the same, while answering we have to orient our writing according to the question asked.
• Best way to prepare for this paper is reading the newspaper carefully and connecting it to the static part of the syllabus.
*One’s strategy should be like that of an Eagle in the sky. S/he should be aware of everything around but swoop down and pick only what is required for the exam.*
For example: Lets look into the 2015 question paper
Question: Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, despite having divergent approaches and strategies, had a common goal of amelioration of the downtrodden. Elucidate.
When you see such articles read 5-10 points about it and make a note of it. Information in Wikipedia will do as you do not have to be a scholar, all you have to do is learn enough to write 1.5 to 2 pages.
Topic 1: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
This topic is very tricky as one will not know where exactly to stop. The number of temples, art forms, literary works, etc. is enormous. The number of material too is a lot in the market.
D.R.A.C.S Suggestion: Have a basic understanding (bird’s eye view) about this topic and connect it to the issues which are in current news.
Having a broad view, like it’s shown in the above chart, will simplify your learning process and makes it easier to remember. The mind will be able to easily place the information, appearing in the daily newspaper, under the right subheading.
Note: Such compartmentalisation should be done to the entire syllabus, this will greatly optimise your preparation and enhance your ability to remember.
1. Old NCERT Class 11th – Fine Arts or Tamil Nadu Board Class 11th Book
2. Indian Art and Culture By Nitin Singhania (If you can’t read those two books, refer at least this one)
Newspaper/Websites: (For the dynamic part)
• Careful reading of newspapers and connecting it to the syllabus.
E.g., If Prime Minister delivers a speech in North East with a head gear then learn about the Tribe which uses those headgears and the name of the art forms in that region.
• Go through the Annual Report from the Ministry of Culture.
You don’t have to read the entire report. Give importance to the photos given and the information in the boxes. E.g., in 2015-16 Annual report there is a photo of Sun temple in Konark, Odisha. You have to learn about the time period in which it was built, the dynasty(and King, if possible) which built it and the style of architecture.
Topic 2: Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present –significant events, personalities, issues.
This topic is quite interesting as the events here built up the stage for freedom struggle and have shaped our present scenario. It consists of large number of names and events. It is literally impossible to remember each and every event, personality and issues with relation to each other.
• Best strategy here would be to remember the famous personalities and the works with which they were associated with.
• For events, it’s better to remember the chronological order. Even if you don’t remember the exact year, the chronological order of events will help you place the event in the right time period.
1. Old NCERT Class 11th : It’ll give a good overview of the subject. This will help you in remembering the events in chronological order as the narration is good.(one reading at the beginning is recommended)
2. Comprehensive History of Modern India by Spectrum. This covers the entire syllabus in detail. After one reading of NCERT book, this book should be read and revised as many times as ‘time’ permits.
Other books such as ‘Struggle for Indian Independence’ by Bipin Chandra and ‘From Plassey to Partition’ by Sekhar Bandyopadhyay are good and covers many parts of the syllabus. But it’s not an absolute necessity. Spectrum will suffice. Those who have time can read these books.
Topic 3: The Freedom struggle – it’s various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.
This topic is a continuation of the earlier topic. The events from middle of eighteenth century are directly connected to the freedom struggle. Hence it should be read one after the other.
Same as the above - Comprehensive History of Modern India by Spectrum.
Topic 4: Post-independence consolidation and reorganisation within the country.
As the events of this period has direct impact on the present day happenings, this topic is more interesting compared to the earlier two topics. Here we should know the major changes that occurred along with the individuals involved in it.
• India since Independence by Bipin Chandra (Chapter 6 to 12).
• India after Gandhi: The history of the world’s largest democracy by Ramachandra Guha is also a good read.
But two books is a waste of time, hence read any one.
By Vinay Lal, who teaches in UCLA, his narration is very good. You will also get a different perspective. He also has series of videos about Gandhi which also very interesting.
Note- You can watch such kind of videos when you are bored of reading.
Topic 5: 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 effects on the society.
The trap here is that the list of events to be read, from the above mentioned time period is not e given. Students tend to read all the events in great detail which becomes counterproductive as they won’t be able to remember and recall in exam. At the same time, one cannot leave out certain events just because its not mentioned in the syllabus.
Example, in 2013 mains exam there was a question on American Revolution. Many people failed to answer as they had not prepared for it, as it was not mentioned in the syllabus.
Solution: stick to one source and be in a position to write at least 150 words on every major event.
“etc.” in the syllabus is hard to comprehend. Hence we will make an effort to list out the various headings and sub headings so that it will benefit the students.
Disclaimer: This list is not given by UPSC, it’s only an effort from our end to help the students. It is not the bottom line; UPSC may ask questions from the topics not mentioned below. Apply W-H questions to the below topics and study.
1. Renaissance (have an overview of this topic- changes, effects, individuals. As renaissance is major cause for Industrial revolution).
2. Industrial revolution in England, France, Russia, USA, Germany and Japan.
3. American and French Revolution (including role of Napoleon).
4. Unification of Italy and Germany.
5. Capitalism, Socialism, communism, Colonialism in Asia and Africa.
6. World Wars
7. Russian Revolution & China revolution
8. Cold War (Vietnam war, Suez crisis, Cuban Missile crisis)
9. Break down of USSR, Decolonization and Apartheid
No single book can cover all the topics as per UPSC requirements.
History of the World from the Late Nineteenth to the Early Twenty First Century by Arjun Dev.
Websites: Supplement the above books with Videos from Khan Academy by Salman Khan or videos in Uncademy.
Topic 6: Salient Features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
For topics 6,7,8 and 9 there is no particular book. General understanding of what is happening around us is more than enough. This should be backed by government programmes and schemes which will add weightage to your answers.
Applying W-H (what, when, why, where- How) approach to any question can help you answer the questions from this part of the syllabus.
• NCERT Class 12th – Indian Society (this is enough)
• Indian Society by Ram Ahuja
• Social Problems in India by Ram Ahuja
Only NCERT is enough. We suggest other two books only if one has time and interest.
Newspaper editorials, India Yearbook and Yojana will have fodder for these topics.
Topic 7: Role of women and women’s organisation, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Similar to the above topic, this too doesn’t require any specific book.
Newspapers and Yojana.
One should also remember the different dimensions such as –social, cultural, economic, political, geographical, women, children, family, etc. This will help in tackling a wide range of questions.
Example: Question from 2015,
Q.) Discuss the positive and negative effects of globalisation on women in India.
Applying the above dimensions to this question can be answered.
Socially what are the changes, cultural changes due to globalisation, political and economic changes due to globalisation, etc., All these dimensions should be seen from positive and negative aspect.
This way questions can be approached in a systematic manner and for this no book is required. Just the general awareness is sufficient.
Topic 8: Effects of globalization on Indian society.
This is a General topic. Basic understanding gathered from newspapers and magazine is enough.
Topic 9: Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism and secularism.
Here, one should have clarity about the definitions of each of the mentioned terms.
Books: India since independence by Bipin Chandra has chapters specific to this topic from which you will get a clear understanding of the terms from Indian society perspective.
Topic 10: Salient features of World’s physical geography. Distribution of key natural resources across the world (include South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).
Questions from this topic are more scoring as you will know how to start and how much to write. Questions from this section too can be expected based on the articles in the newspapers. However, one should have thoroughly read the books mentioned below.
NCERT – Class 11th Fundamentals of physical geography
NCERT- Class 12th India – People and Economy
NCERT – Class 12th Human Geography
Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
All these books would have already been covered for prelims.
Mrunal.org has crisp material for - factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).
This is neatly arranged according to different resources.
Topic 11: 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.
These topics will covered in the books mentioned earlier.
NCERT – Class 11th Fundamentals of physical geography
Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
Youtube and Uncademy videos:
There are many good videos explaining the various Geophysical phenomena.
• This is the most crucial part in cracking this exam.
• As the syllabus is vast, a student reads a lot. By the time of exam, one would have acquired a lot of information. Everybody would have read the same standard books and magazines. This applies pretty much to all serious and hardworking candidates.
• But only the smart ones stand out of the crowd. They would have practiced writing. As only through good writing practice one will be able to put the relevant information on paper in a succinct manner. Therefore one should – read precisely, revise repeatedly and write extensively.
Exam scenario: Duration of the exam is 180 minutes. Each paper in General Studies contains 20 questions. This transforms into 9 minutes per question.
A candidate has to, in 9 minutes:
• Read the question (UPSC has a fetish for long questions).
• Analyse it
• Mentally frame the answer
• Write it on the answer sheet in a well-structured manner.
All this will be possible only with good writing practice.
D.R.A.C.S suggestion: write at least 6-8 tests for each Essay, GS and Optional paper before the main UPSC exam (if you are not in the habit of writing daily or weekly). Compulsorily get this paper checked from you teacher or seniors. Have one-to-one discussions and inculcate the suggestions in the subsequent tests. This entire process takes 3 months i.e., the time period between prelims and mains. One should religiously pursue it.