GS1: Past Papers

How to prepare for General Studies

General Studies Guidelines: The focus Civil Services Main examination has shifted from Optional subject to the “FOUR” General Studies papers that are compulsory.

Each General Studies paper carries 250 marks and combing them would entail 1000 marks out of 1750 marks Mains exam. This means General Studies forms the core of Civil Services Mains exams and its score plays a big role in the making of the merit list of the Mains results.

The questions in the general studies papers are a test of candidate’s basic understanding of variety of subjects. The nature of questions will be such that a well prepared candidate can answer them comfortably.

However, mere answering them is not enough it’s meant to be a test the candidate’s ability to analyse, and take his opinion on the subject.

The answer has to be tailored to ability to connect with the career in the Civil Services. So the civil service aspirants must give relevant, meaningful and succinct answers to impress the examiner.

If you look at the syllabus given below, it’s very sketchy but there is no option other than to devote a great deal of time in its preparation.

Paper-1 and 2 are same as old one. One can pick up further details on them by going through the previous syllabus.

The new addition to General studies is Paper 3. It deals with Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management etc. Even though it sounds vague it requires a through preparation in each of its content.

Another new addition to general studies is Paper 4. This is of general nature and deals with Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude. It may sound easy but it requires serious preparation and due importance must be given to this paper.

Here is a detailed syllabus of the General Studies papers and candidates are advised to go through them carefully before starting their preparation on each of them.



Paper- 1

General Studies -I 250 Marks

(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 or contributions from different parts of the country.
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  • 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.
  • 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 world’s physical geography.
  • 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).
  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location – changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.


UPSC CIVIL SERVICES MAINS EXAM 2016: General Studies Paper – 1 Question Paper

  1. Early Buddhist Stupa-art, while depicting folk motifs and narratives, successfully expoundsBuddhist ideals. Elucidate.
  2. Krishnadeva Raya, the king of Vijayanagar, was not only an accomplished scholar himself but was a also a great patron of learning and literature. Discuss.
  3. Explain how the upraising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India.
  4. Discuss the role of women in the freedom struggle especially during the Gandhian phase.
  5. Highlight the differences in the approach of Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for freedom.
  6. Has the formation of linguistic states strengthened the cause of Indian unity?
  7. The anti-colonial struggles in West Africa were led by the new elite of Western -educated Africans. Examine.
  8. To what extent globalisation has influenced the core of cultural diversity in India? Explain.
  9. “An essential condition to eradicate poverty is to liberate the poor from the process of deprivation.” Substantiate this statement with suitable examples.
  10. Why are the tribals in India referred to as ‘the Scheduled Tribes’? Indicate the major provisions enshrined in the Constitution of India for their upliftment.
  11. With a brief background of quality of urban life in India, introduce the objectives and strategy of the ‘Smart City Programme.”
  12. What is the basis of regionalism? Is it that unequal distribution of benefits of development on regional basis eventually promotes regionalism? Substantiate your answer.
  13. Discuss the concept of air mass and explain its role in macro-climatic changes.
  14. “The Himalayas are highly prone to landslides.”Discuss the causes and suggest suitable measures of mitigation.
  15. The effective management of land and water resources will drastically reduce the human miseries. Explain.
  16. South China Sea has assumed great geopolitical significance in the present context. Comment.
  17. Major cities of India are becoming vulnerable to flood conditions. Discuss.
  18. Present an account of the Indus Water Treaty and examine its ecological, economic and political implications in the context of changing bilateral relations.
  19. Enumerate the problems and prospects of inland water transport in India.
  20. In what way micro-watershed development projects help in water conservation in drought-prone and semi-arid regions of India?


UPSC Mains 2015 GS1 Question Paper

Note: Each question carries 12.5 Marks (12.5×20 = 200 Marks )

  1. The ancient civilization in Indian sub continent differed from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece in that its culture and traditions have been preserved without breakdown to the present day. Comment.
  2. Mesolithic rock cut architecture of India not only reflects the cultural life of the times but also a fine aesthetic sense comparable to modern painting. Critically evaluate this comment.
  3. How difficult would have been the achievement of Indian independence without Mahatma Gandhi? Discuss.
  4. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B R Ambedkar, despite having divergent approaches and strategies, had a common goal of amelioration of the downtrodden. Elucidate.
  5. It would have been difficult for the Constituent Assembly to complete its historic task of drafting the Constitution for Independent India in just three years, but its experience gained with the Government of India Act, 1935 .Discuss.
  6. Why did the industrial revolution first occur in England? Discuss the quality of life of the people there during the industrialization. How does it compare with that in India at present times?
  7. To what extend can Germany be held responsible for causing the two World Wars? Discuss critically.
  8. Describe any four cultural elements of diversity in India and rate their relative significance in building a national identity.
  9. Critically examine whether growing population is the cause of poverty OR poverty is the mains cause of population increase in India.
  10. How do you explain the statistics that show that the sex ratio in Tribes in India is more favourable to women than the sex ratio among Scheduled Castes?
  11. Discuss the changes in the trends of labour migration within and outside India in the last four decades.
  12. Discuss the positive and negative effects of globalization on women in India?
  13. Debate the issue whether and how contemporary movements for assertion of Dalit identity work towards annihilation of caste.
  14. Explain the factors responsible for the origin of ocean currents. How do they influence regional climates, fishing and navigation?
  15. Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three Mega cities of the country but the air pollution is much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so?
  16. India is well endowed with fresh water resources. Critically examine why it still suffers from water scarcity.
  17. The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are reaching the limits of ecological carrying capacity due to tourism. Critically evaluate.
  18. How far do you agree that the behaviour of the Indian monsoon has been changing due to humanizing landscape? Discuss.
  19. Smart cities in India cannot sustain without smart villages. Discuss this statement in the backdrop of rural urban integration.
  20. What are the economic significance of discovery of oil in Arctic Sea and its possible environmental consequences?


UPSC Mains 2014 GS1 Question Paper

There were TWENTY-FIVE (25) questions printed both in HINDI and ENGLISH. All the questions were compulsory. Each question was of 10 marks. UPSC wanted to answer the questions in NOT MORE THAN 150 words each. It was also mentioned that contents of the answer is more important than its length. 2 pages were left blank to answer each question. 

  1. To what extent has the urban planning and culture of the Indus Valley Civilization provided inputs to the present day urbanization? Discuss.
  2. Gandhara sculpture owed as much to the Romans as to the Greeks. Explain.
  3. Taxila university was one of the oldest universities of the world with which were associated a number of renowned learned personalities of different disciplines. Its strategic location caused its fame to flourish, but unlike Nalanda, it is not considered as a university in the modern sense. Discuss.
  4. The third battle of Panipat was fought in 1761. Why were so many empire-shaking battles fought at Panipat?
  5. Sufis and medieval mystic saints failed to modify either the religious ideas and practices or the outward structure of Hindu / Muslim societies to any appreciable extent. Comment.
  6. Examine critically the various facets of economic policies of the British in India from mid-eighteenth century till independence.
  7. In what ways did the naval mutiny prove to be the last nail in the coffin of British colonial aspirations in India?
  8. What were the major political, economic and social developments in the world which motivated the anti-colonial struggle in India?
  9. What were the events that led to the Suez Crisis in 1956? How did it deal a final blow to Britain’s self-image as a world power?
  10. The New Economic Policy – 1921 of Lenin had influenced the policies adopted by India soon after independence. Evaluate.
  11. How does patriarchy impact the position of a middle class working woman in India?
  12. Why do some of the most prosperous regions of India have an adverse sex ratio for women? Give your arguments.
  13. The life cycle of a joint family depends on economic factors rather than social values. Discuss.
  14. Discuss the various economic and socio-cultural forces that are driving increasing feminization of agriculture in India.
  15. How do the Indian debates on secularism differ from the debates in the West?
  16. Most of the unusual climatic happenings are explained as an outcome of the El-Nino effect. Do you agree?
  17. Why are the world’s fold mountain systems located along the margins of continents? Bring out the association between the global distribution of fold mountains and the earthquakes and volcanoes.
  18. Explain the formation of thousands of islands in Indonesian and Philippines archipelagos.
  19. Tropical cyclones are largely confined to South China Sea, Bay of Bengal and Gulf of Mexico. Why?
  20. Bring out the relationship between the shrinking Himalayan glaciers and the symptoms of climate change in the Indian sub-continent.
  21. Whereas the British planters had developed tea gardens all along the Shivaliks and Lesser Himalayas from Assam to Himachal Pradesh, in effect they did not succeed beyond the Darjeeling area. Explain.
  22. Why did the Green Revolution in India virtually by-pass the eastern region despite fertile soil and good availability of water?
  23. Account for the change in the spatial pattern of the Iron and Steel industry in the world.
  24. Critically evaluate the various resources of the oceans which can be harnessed to meet the resource crisis in the world.
  25. How does India see its place in the economic space of rising natural resource rich Africa?