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UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 1 – Syllabus, Strategy & Structure

UPSC Mains is the second stage of the Civil services Exam. Aspirants who obtain the required cut-off qualify to write Mains. General Studies Paper-1 is one of the Paper in the UPSC Mains examination. Major topics under G.S.


Paper 1 include Indian history, World History, Indian Society, Culture, and Geography. Most of these topics overlap with the syllabus of the preliminary exam which is one of the biggest advantages. The paper is for 250 marks and contains 20 questions.


An aspirant needs to answer in 150 to 250 words depending on the marks assigned to the question. Maximum marks obtained in this paper range between 100-120. Pradeep Singh, AIR 1, in the 2019 Civil Services Exam scored 108 out of 250 in GS paper-1.


It is important to note that scoring very high marks in General Studies papers demands more effort compared to Essay or Optional Papers. General Studies being common to every candidate appearing for the Mains examination, the unpredictability associated with these papers is usually high.


There is an average score where a candidate scores in these papers and scoring very high marks in these is tough. But this is also not impossible. Yes, it is a little difficult but if you have chosen the path of civil services then you should not doubt that you have chosen a difficult path.


GS Paper-1 checks your analytical ability, and thoroughly following current affairs and interconnecting with the static portion enhances your analytical skills.


There are 9 papers in UPSC Mains Exam. These 9 papers also include four General Studies Paper which are GS Paper I, GS Paper II, GS Paper III, and GS Paper IV, Essay Paper, Compulsory English Paper, Compulsory Indian Language Paper, and Optional Subject Paper I and Paper-II.

      Papers  Subject  Nature of Exam Marks  Total  
Paper AIndian LanguageQualifying300
Paper BEnglishQualifying300
Paper IEssayCounted for Merit250
Paper IIGeneral Studies (GS) ICounted for Merit250
Paper IIIGeneral Studies (GS) IICounted for Merit250
Paper IVGeneral Studies (GS) IIICounted for Merit250
Paper VGeneral Studies (GS) IVCounted for Merit250
Paper VIOptional Subject Paper-ICounted for Merit250
Paper VIIOptional Subject Paper-IICounted for Merit250

Syllabus of UPSC GS Paper 1 for Civil Services Main Examination

General Studies I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society

  • Indian Culture – Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
  • The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.
  • Post-independence Consolidation and Reorganization within the country.
  • History of the World will include events from the 18th century such as the Industrial Revolution, world wars, Redrawal of National Boundaries, Colonization, Decolonization, political philosophies like Communism, Capitalism, Socialism, etc.— their forms and effect on the society.
  • Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
  • Role of Women and Women’s Organization, Population and Associated Issues, Poverty and Developmental issues, Urbanization, their problems, and their remedies.
  • Effects of Globalization on Indian society.
  • Social Empowerment, Communalism, Regionalism & Secularism.
  • Salient features of the World’s Physical Geography.
  • Distribution of Key Natural Resources across the world (including 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).
  • 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.

The Following Table Lists The Major Topics Under GS-1 and Important Sub Topics Under it:

   SubjectImportant Topics
Indian Art and CultureArt Forms, Literature, Architecture, Classical dance forms, Music and Musical Instruments
Modern Indian HistoryBritish conquest of India and economic policy, Major revolts before and after 1857, Social/religious reform movements: personalities and their contributions, Freedom struggle, Contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.
Post IndependenceConsolidation, Reorganization 
World HistoryIndustrial revolution, World wars, Redrawal of National Boundaries, Colonization, Decolonization, political philosophies
Indian SocietySalient features of Indian Society, Diversity in India, Women Empowerment, Effects of globalization
GeographyDistribution of Key Natural Resources Climate change, Location of industries in India, Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone, etc

Refer the following table for complete booklist for General Studies paper-1:

SubjectReference books
   HistoryHistory Of Modern India – Bipan Chandra, A Brief History of Modern India – Spectrum BookIndia’s Ancient Past – R.S. Sharma
   Art and CultureClass XI NCERT An Introduction to Indian Art, 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“NIOS Art and Culture”. Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania.
  Post IndependenceHistory Of Modern India – Bipan ChandraIndia After Gandhi – Ramchandra Guha 
  World HistoryWorld history from NCERT books of class IX, X, and XI (only modern world history part). Mastering Modern World History by Norman LoweOnline videos
    Indian SocietyIndian Society – Ram AhujaNewspapers and Current Affairs
    GeographyNCERT Class-XI – Fundamentals of Physical Geography, NCERT Class XII – Human Geography, NCERT Class-XII – India-People and Economy, Geography of India – Majid Husain, Oxford School Atlas – Oxford Certificate Physical and Human Geography – Goh Cheng Leong

How to prepare for UPSC GS Paper 1: Strategy & Tips

  • UPSCsyllabus should be your guiding light. It is very important to read the UPSC syllabus very thoroughly. Try to memorize all the topics and sub-topics mentioned in the syllabus.
  • History: One has to mainly focus on events after the 1750s till 1947. Freedom struggle forms an important part of this. Ancient and Medieval Indian History questions can also be asked as part of art and culture.
  • Topics from Indian Society have to be extensively covered through newspapers and current affairs magazines.
  • Geography: These questions can be answered through maps. For example, If a question is asked about Indian Monsoon, you can draw a map of India and show the arrival and retrieval of the monsoon along with their direction. This increases the visibility of your answer to the examiner. Maps can also be drawn in history questions.
  • Include current examples to support your answers. Quote data or facts to add value to your answer.
  • Focus on key areas. Do not devote more time to the topics from which questions are rarely asked. For example, there are very few questions asked from world History. If you devote 3 months to the preparation of world history, then you are wasting your precious time.
  • Do not take any political stand in your answer i.e., in support or against a political party. Your answer should reflect a sufficient amount of objectivity. If you want to quote a negative point, support it with additional points. However, your answer should always be balanced with a multi-dimensional approach.
  • Do not follow multiple resources. Always stick to few books and revise them multiple times. This will lead to a clear understanding and save a lot of time.
  • Make notes for topics you find difficult. It makes revision easy. 
  • Practice answer writing: Daily answer writing practice is very important. It is equally important to practice in a controlled exam environment adhering to the word limit and completing the questions in a given time i.e., in a 3-hour format. Here test series plays a key role as it induces discipline in your preparation. Timely evaluation of answer scripts is also important and getting enrolled in one of the Best IAS Institute in Bangalore will surely help.
  • Previous year’s question papers: go through the previous year’s question papers. It helps you to analyze the type of questions asked, know the current trend, and orient your preparation according to it.
  • Last but not the least, revision is one of the most important steps which aspirants often tend to forget. All the notes and tests taken should be revised from time to time.

February 2024