Preparation Strategy for GS Paper I- UPSC Mains

UPSC Mains exam preparation

Is your Civil Services Mains preparation underway? Are you looking for the right study plan and material for the General Studies Paper I preparation? 

If yes, then you have landed on just the right page.

Here we will discuss the preparation strategy, tips, essential books, and valuable resources that will assist you in preparing for the UPSC Mains seamlessly.

It is a well-known fact that the marks obtained in the UPSC Mains are counted for the final merit list of the examination and interview. Hence, you should leave no stone unturned and devote extra time during the UPSC exam preparation to make it more productive.

Before moving further in this article, we want you to quickly look at the General Studies Paper I syllabus of the UPSC Mains to know what has to be studied for the paper. 

Also read: How To Stay Motivated Throughout Your UPSC Preparation Journey

Syllabus of General Studies Paper 1 of UPSC Civil Services Examination

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

  • Indian culture will cover the 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 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, cyclones 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.

It is evident that there is too much to study and grasp during the GS Paper I. To save you crucial time and to ensure that you invest your energy at the right place, we have compiled a list of important topics that you must study on priority while preparing for General Studies Paper I of UPSC Mains.

Also read: How to Write Good Quality Answers for UPSC Mains

High-Priority Topics of GS Paper I

TopicSub-topics
Art & CultureIndian Art Forms
Classical Dance Forms
Folk Dance Forms
Ancient Indian Literature
Classical Sanskrit Literature
Medieval Literature
Modern Indian Literature
Harappan Architecture
Temple Architecture
Cave Architecture
Indo-Islamic Architecture
Medieval Architecture
Modern Architecture
Contribution of Buddhism & Jainism to the Development of Indian Architecture 
Modern HistoryEuropean Penetration of India
British Conquest of India
British Policies & Their Impact – Economic, Administrative & Socio-cultural
Socio-cultural Reform Movements
Uprisings Against British Pre-1857
Growth of Nationalism in India (1858-1905)
Political, Economic & Administrative Unification of the Country
Role of Western Education
Role of Press
Rediscovery of India’s Past
Early Political Movements
Formation of INC
Swadeshi & Boycott Movement
Surat Split
International Influence
Morley – Minto Reforms
Growth of Communalism
Mahatma Gandhi – His Ideas & Leadership
Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms
Rowlatt Act Satyagrah and Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
Non-cooperation & Khilafat Movement
Swarajists & No-Changers
The emergence of New Forces – Socialistic Ideas, Youth & Trade Unionism
Communal Award & Poona Pact
Participation in Elections to Central Legislature (1934) & Provincial Assemblies (1937)
Government of India Act, 1935
Towards Freedom & Partition (1939-1947)
National Movement During World War II
August Offer
Individual Satyagraha
Growth of Communalism
Peasant Movements
State People’s Struggle
Cripps Mission
Quit India Movement
Post-Independence IndiaNation Building
Partition and Its Aftermath
Integration of Princely States
Reorganisation of States
Issue of Official Language
Tribal Consolidation
Non-Aligned Movement
Panchsheel
Wars with Pakistan & China
Nuclear Policy
Planned Development
Green Revolution, Operation Flood & Cooperatives
Agrarian & Land Reforms
The era of One-Party Dominance
The emergence of Opposition Parties
Emergency: Crisis of Democratic Order
Communalism
Indian Women Since Independence
Naxalism 
World HistoryRenaissance
Discovery of Sea Routes
Reformation
Counter-Reformation
Rise of Capitalism, Colonialism & Imperialism
Industrial Revolution
World War I
Causes of the War
Scope & Course of the War
Russian Revolution
Europe After the War – Fascism & Nazism
The Great Depression
The emergence of the Soviet Union
The US as a Strong Power
World War II
Fascist Aggression & Response of Western Democracies
Europe after World War II
Cold War
Rise of Asia & Africa
Developments in West Asia & North Africa
Communism
Capitalism
Socialism
Indian SocietyDiversity (Types – caste, linguistic, social and religious, race, tribe and ethnicity, culture)
Challenges posed by Diversity
Unity
Pluralism
Unity in Diversity
Women’s Organisations – Empowerment through Action
19th Century Social Reform Movements and Early Women’s Organisations – (1) Agrarian Struggles and Revolt, (2) Participation in Freedom Struggle
Women’s Organisations Post – 1947
Basic Demography of India
Population Trends in India and their Implications
Causes and Effects of Overpopulation
Challenges of Population Explosion
Changing Age Structure of Indian Population
Demographic Dividend: Boon or Bane for India
Population Aging in India
India’s Population Policy & Initiatives
Concept of Development and Poverty
Types of Poverty
Measurement of Poverty – Poverty Line
Causes of Poverty
Poverty as a Social Problem
Poverty Alleviation Initiatives
Urbanisation Trends in India and Their Implications – Demographics and Social Dimensions
Factors Driving Urbanisation
State of Service Delivery and Challenges posed by Urbanisation
Problems of Urban Areas
Social Consequences of Urbanisation
Impact of Urbanisation in Rural Areas
Urban Planning and Role of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)
Reforms Required and Government Initiatives Taken So Far
Understanding Globalisation – Its Different Dimensions
Globalisation & Culture – Homogenisation vs. Glocalisation
Factors Driving Globalisation
Globalisation & India
Communalism – Its Characteristics
Communalism in India in the Past
Communalism in Contemporary India
Causes of Communalism
Consequences of Communalism
Concept of Region & Regionalism
Different Forms of Regionalism
Regionalism in India
Causes of Regionalism
Concept of ‘Sons of Soil’
Consequences of Regionalism
Federalism & Regionalism
Concept of Secularism
Indian Model of Secularism
Secularism in India
Nature & Practice of Secularism in India
Uniform Civil Code
Challenges faced by Secularism in India
GeographyGeomorphology
Origin & Evolution of Earth
Interior of the Earth
Distribution of Continents & Oceans
Plate Tectonic Theory
Distribution of Earthquakes & Volcanoes
Rocks & Rock Cycle
Hydrological Cycle
Seafloor Spreading
Ocean Floor Configuration
Temperature & Salinity of Oceans
Movement of Oceans – Waves, Tides, Currents
Climatology
Earth’s Atmosphere – Composition & Structure
Solar Radiation, Heat Budget & Temperature
Atmospheric Circulation & Weather Systems
Soil & Soil Contents
Process of Soil Formation
Soil Forming FactorsTypes of Soils (examples)
Land Utilisation
Land Use Pattern
Types & Distribution – Grasslands, Forests etc.
Causes of Depletion
Conservation of Forests
Marine & Freshwater
Water Scarcity & Need For Conservation
Types of Farming
Cropping Patterns
Contribution to Economy, Employment & Output
Classification of Minerals – Ferrous & Non-Ferrous
Occurrence of Minerals
Conservation of Minerals
Location & Distribution of the Industries on the Basis of Raw Material, Labour, Market, Capital, Land, Grants & Financial Incentives, Power, Transport, Water, and Communication.
Earthquakes
Earthquake Waves
Shadow Zone
Types of Earthquake
Tsunami
What Causes Tsunami
Effect of Tsunami
Types of Volcanoes
What Causes Volcanoes?
Volcanic Landforms
Cyclone
Tropical Cyclones
Anti-Cyclone
Extra-Tropical Cyclones
Factors Causing Changes in Critical Geographical Features
Examples of Changing Geographical Features – Melting of Ice Sheets, Desertification etc.
Impact of Changing Geographical Features

Read more: Tips to Prepare Essay Writing for UPSC Mains

How to Prepare for UPSC Mains GS Paper I

For Modern History: Refer to books such as A Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir as the History area contains almost 30-35% of GS Paper I. Since more time is invested in preparing for the History part, it is recommended to make short notes during preparation. However, for a more detailed study, you can also refer to History of Modern India by Bipin Chandra (Selective Reading)

To fetch more marks, one should memorize and mention the dates of wars and important events accurately. 

For Art & Culture: Also called the ‘Indian Heritage and Culture,’ Art and Culture is roughly 15% of GS Paper I. Indian Art can be classified under three headings, namely Performing Arts, Visual Arts, and Literary Arts. You can also refer to the official website of CCRT India. 

Begin the preparation for Art & Culture with the NCERTs to understand the fundamentals and make short notes. 

For Indian Society: Apart from the NCERT books for a basic understanding, refer to newspapers (The Hindu/The Indian Express) and the internet for preparing notes on the topics mentioned in the syllabus such as Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

Read more: What are PrepLadder NCERT Notes?

For Geography: Mastering this area of GS Paper I is an easy task if you start from the very beginning. This approach will help you to understand the basic concepts. Referring to NCERTs is the best way to start the Geography preparation and studying Certificate Physical and Human Geography – G C Leong will yield good results if studied thoroughly. Memorize important terms and definitions related to this section to fetch extra marks. 

Recommended Books for Mains GS Paper I Preparation

  • Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania
  • Indian Culture and Heritage of NIOS
  • Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe
  • Old NCERT for Ancient India by R S Sharma
  • History Of Modern India – Bipan Chandra
  • NCERT Standard XI -Fundamental of Physical Geography
  • NCERT Standard XI – Indian Geography
  • NCERT Standards XII – Human Geography 
  • Understanding Society- NCERT XI

We hope this article will help you prepare seamlessly for the UPSC Mains GS Paper I.

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Raminder Singh

Raminder is a Content Writer at PrepLadder. He is working to provide students with informative articles and the latest updates about UPSC and GATE exams.