Part-4 Mains General Studies Paper 1 & 2: Trend Analysis & Suggested Booklist

Detailed analysis and booklist for Mains General Studies Paper-1 & Paper-2. Two Topics of Prelims Syllabus are almost covered in these two papers of Mains.
By IT's Research & Analysis Wing
May 02, 2017


  • Mains Analysis: Present structure
  • Mains Trend Analysis (From Pre-2013 to Post-2013)
  • Indian Art and Culture
  • Modern Indian History and Freedom Struggle
  • Post-Independence Consolidation
  • World History
  • Geography
  • Polity, Governance & Social Justice
  • International Relations

This is the fourth part of the series of Strategy for UPSC Civil Services Examination by IASToppers. To read previous or subsequent parts, click here.

Note: Almost all topics of Prelims are covered in Mains General Studies papers. So, it is a highly preferable to prepare Prelims and Mains GS papers simultaneously.


Mains Analysis: Present structure

In 2013, the structure of Mains examination was revamped.

Now following pattern of Mains are observed from 2013-


250 Marks

General Studies-1

250 Marks

General Studies-2

250 Marks

General Studies-3

250 Marks

General Studies-4

250 Marks

Optional Subject Paper-1

250 Marks

Optional Subject Paper-2

250 Marks

Sub Total (Written Test)

1750 Marks Total

Personality Test

275 Marks

Grand Total

2025 Marks

[Above pattern has also two compulsory papers, one of Compulsory English and other of Compulsory Language. Marks of these two papers are not counted in final merit list, so they are qualifying in nature. Both papers are of 300 marks. You need to score 25% marks in each paper to qualify]

Mains examination has two parts- [a] Written Test (1750 marks) and [b] Personality Test (275 marks).


Mains Trend Analysis (From Pre-2013 to Post-2013)

Prior to 2013, there are only two papers of general studies.

Up to 2008, the nature of questions of Mains G.S. were conventional as well as factual. More number of questions were asked directly or indirectly from conventional books. Students read current affairs from compilation of any publication available in the market. At that time, successful candidates suggested to read The Hindu or any one National newspaper, but because of time constraint between Pre and Mains and lack of regularity very few aspirants were able to read them.

In the year 2009, more questions of current affairs were asked but still of factual in nature. This year witnessed a sudden rise of importance of newspapers.      

From 2010 onwards, importance of current affairs was gradually increasing. Nature of questions were also changed from factual to analytical.

In 2013 when General Studies Paper was divided into four parts from existing two parts, the importance of currents affairs also rose.

Now you can see the scope of current affairs in Personality Test (Interview) as well as in Mains exam (from Essay to four papers of G.S.) and also in some optional subjects like Public Administration, Political Science, Sociology etc.


Year-wise Analysis of Mains GS Paper 1:





ias toppers mains 2016 paper-1 pie


Topic-wise Analysis of Mains GS Paper-1


Indian Art and Culture

Syllabus Topics

“Indian Culture will cover the salient aspects of Art forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.” [Mains G.S. Paper-1]


Trend Analysis:

ias toppers mains paper-1 Art & culture


Suggested readings:

  • NCERT Class XI -An Introduction to Indian Art. 
  • NIOS study material on Indian Art & Culture
  • CCRT documents.
  • Current culture- Prepare from your current affairs section [Newspapers and IT’s Current Affairs Analysis]


We suggest you to read NIOS first. NIOS material is written in a very simple manner but very full of junk. So, you can condense all important stuffs within 20 to 25 pages out of 150 pages.

Then read NCERT. The same formula can be applied here also and in last read CCRT.


Modern Indian History and Freedom Struggle

Syllabus Topics

  1. “Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present– significant events, personalities, issues” [Mains G.S. Paper-1]
  2. “The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.” [Mains G.S. Paper-1]
[Note: Prelims Topic “History of India and Indian National Movement” is totally covered under these above two topics of Mains]


Trend Analysis:

ias toppers mains paper-1 Modern Indian History and Freedom Struggle


Suggested readings:

  1. Old NCERT Class 12 History of Modern India. [This book is not available everywhere. This book is reprinted under the title ‘History of Modern India’ by Bipan Chandra publisher- Orient Blackswan] Read Chapter no. 1 to 6 (around 125 pages)


Tamilnadu Board Class 12 History Lesson no. 1 to 10 (around 100 pages)

  1. A Brief History of Modern India- Spectrum Publication
  2. India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra


If you are a senior aspirant or already read above books two-three times, then you can go for this book- “From Plassey to Partition” by Shekhar Bandyopadhyay.


Post-Independence Consolidation

Syllabus Topics

“Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country” [Mains G.S. Paper-1]


Trend Analysis:

ias toppers mains paper-1 Post-Independence Consolidation


Suggested readings:

  1. India Since Independence – Bipan Chandra (Only selective reading)


Some aspirants suggest “India After Gandhi: The History Of The World’s Largest Democracy” by Ramchandra Guha instead of above book. But Bipan Chandra is more appropriate for Civil Services Mains. If time permits, you can read Guha also.


World History

Syllabus Topic

“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 effect on the society”

[Mains G.S. Paper-1]


Trend Analysis:

ias toppers mains paper-1 World History


Suggested readings:

  1. NECERT Old Class 12 “History of the World” by Arjun Dev [Now this book is available under the title “History of the World” by Arjun Dev publisher- Orient BlackSwan]
  2. Tamilnadu Board Class 12 History Lesson no. 21 to 35
  3. Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe


You can also refer IASToppers’ following sections

  • Current Affairs Analysis
  • Editorial Notes/Explained
  • Quintessence of the Magazines
  • Video summary
  • Mains Articles/RoundUp (we will provide you various articles on Mains topics from time to time)
  • Mind Maps
  • Mains Answer Writing Practice


Here read Tamilnadu Board book first, then read Arjun Dev [read only those parts which are not covered in Tamilnadu Board book]. Lastly read Norman Lowe [only read those topics which are not covered in first two books.]

In this way prepare World History topic by reading three books selectively.


Social Issues

Syllabus Topics

  1. “Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India” [Mains GS paper-1]
  2. “Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies” [Mains GS paper-1]
  3. “Effects of Globalization on Indian society” [Mains GS paper-1]
  4. “Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism” [Mains GS paper-1]


Trend Analysis:

ias toppers mains paper-1 Indian Society & Social Issues


Suggested readings:

  1. NCERT Sociology Class 11 and 12 (selectively)
  2. India Year Book chapters related to above topics
  3. Newspapers

You can also refer IASToppers’ following sections

  • Current Affairs Analysis
  • Editorial Notes/Explained
  • Quintessence of the Magazines
  • Video summary
  • Mains Articles/RoundUp (we will provide you various articles on Mains topics from time to time)
  • Mind Maps
  • Mains Answer Writing Practice


Questions asked in the exam on above topics are mostly related to current issues. Read NCERTs for fundamentals and read newspapers (especially editorials and opinion page) for current issues.



Syllabus Topic

  1. “Salient features of world’s physical geography.” [Mains G.S. Paper-1]
  2. “Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)” [Mains G.S. Paper-1]
  3. “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.” [Mains G.S. Paper-1]
[Note: Prelims Topic “Indian and World Geography- Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and World” is almost covered under these above three topics of Mains]


Trend Analysis:

ias toppers mains paper-1 Geography


Suggested readings:

  1. NCERT Class 6 to 12 Geography
  2. Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
  3. ICSE Class-6 to 8 by Oxford publication (These books are very good source for World Geography)
  4. Atlas (Oxford or BlackSwan)


If you are a beginner or if you have any difficulty to understand various fundamentals of Physical Geography, we suggest you to refer NIOS Physical Geography for that particular topic.


Start your reading with NCERT Class 6 to 12. Make your fundamentals clear with these basic books.

Suggested way of reading NCERT Geography:

Here we give you a systematic method to read Geography NCERTs, the method helps you to correlate various aspects of Geography.

First of all, complete the Physical and Human Geography section in a following manner:

  • Class 6 The Earth Our Habitat (Chapter no. 1 to 6)
  • Class 7 Our Environment
  • Class 8 Resource and Development
  • Class 11 Fundamental of Physical Geography
  • Class 12 Fundamentals of Human Geography

Second, read Indian Geography section in a following way:

  • Class 6 The Earth Our Habitat (Chapter no. 7 and 8)
  • Class 9 Contemporary India Part-1
  • Class 10 Contemporary India Part-2
  • Class 11 India Physical Environment
  • Class 12 India- People and Economy

Then read Goh Cheng Leong (If you have time constraint, in that case read the second part of G.C Leong i.e. chapter no. 13 to 25. Reason is that if you have already cleared your fundamentals of Physical Geography with NCERT Class 11, no need to read those chapters from G.C. Leong)

We here suggest you to read ICSE Class-6 to 8 books by Oxford publication for world geography. These three books are comparatively costly, but they explain world geography in more lucid manner in comparison to bulky reference books on world geography.  

Please refer any standard Atlas while reading any above books. Referring Atlas helps you to understand various geographical location factors and even Geography subject as a whole more easily and also helps you to solve any map based questions asked in the examination.



Year-wise Analysis of Mains GS Paper 2:





ias toppers mains 2016 paper-2 pie


Topic-wise Analysis of Mains GS Paper-2


Polity, Governance & Social Justice


[Note: Prelims syllabus Topic: “Indian Polity & Governance- Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Right Issues etc.” is totally covered in below mentioned topics]

Mains syllabus Topics:

  1. “Indian Constitution– historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  2. “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.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  3. “Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  4. “Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  5. “Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  6. “Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary; Ministries and Departments of the Government; Pressure Groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  7. “Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  8. “Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  9. “Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  10. “Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  11. “Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  12. “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.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  13. “Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  14. “Issues relating to poverty and hunger.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  15. “Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens’ charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  16. “Role of civil services in a democracy” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]


Trend Analysis:

ias toppers mains paper-2 Indian Polity

ias toppers mains paper-2 Administration, Governance & Welfare schemes etc.


Suggested readings:

Above topics require a combination of conventional as well as current preparation. Keeping this fact in mind, we suggest you a list of following references:

  1. NCERT Class 11 Constitution At Work
  2. Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth
  3. Governance in India by M. Laxmikanth
  4. India Year Book
  5. Economic Survey (Latest)
  6. Yojana and Kurukshetra Magazines
  7. Newspapers
  8. (Bill summary)

You can also refer IASToppers’ following sections

  • Current Affairs Analysis
  • Editorial Notes/Explained
  • Quintessence of the Magazines
  • Video summary
  • Mains Articles/RoundUp (we will provide you various articles on Mains topics from time to time)
  • Mind Maps
  • Mains Answer Writing Practice


International Relations

Syllabus Topic

  1. “India and its neighbourhood- relations.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  2. “Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  3. “Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]
  4. “Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.” [Mains G.S. Paper-2]


Trend Analysis:

ias toppers mains paper-2 International Relations


Suggested readings:

For fundamental aspects on above topics, read following books:

  1. International Relations in the 21St Centaury by Pushpesh Pant
  2. Antharashtriya Sangatan by Pushpesh Pant
  3. Bharat Ki Videsh Neeti by Pushpesh Pant
  4. Challenge And Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy by Rajiv Sikri (If time permits)

For current aspects on above said topics, read following

  • Newspapers (C. Raja Mohan articles on IR & Foreign policy published in Indian Express editorial page)
  • and (selective articles)
  • Ministry of External Affairs website- (refer only when you need it)

You can also refer IASToppers’ following sections:

  • Current Affairs Analysis
  • Editorial Notes/Explained
  • Quintessence of the Magazines
  • Video summary
  • Mains Articles/RoundUp (we will provide you various articles on Mains topics from time to time)
  • Mind Maps etc.


This is the end of the part-4. In the next part, we’ll discuss in detail about the remaining papers of Mains GS i.e. paper-3 & 4.


If you find this part of Series on Strategy helpful, please like and share.

Thank you



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