GS Paper I for IAS Mains: Things You should Keep in Mind

Decoding the GS Paper-I

You might feel that GS Paper-I is the easiest of the four GS papers for IAS Mains. True, that it is possible to score well in this paper, but the content and syllabus is a little tricky and confusing.

Mains GS 1 Components

The GS Paper-I actually comprise of a number of subjects, that have been put into a single container:

1. Indian Culture and Art Forms 2. Indian History (Ancient to Modern)
3. Indian Society and Issues (related to Sociology) 4. World History
5. Geography (World) 6. Geography (Theory)


It’s not easy to get hold of each of these subjects. However, left with no choice, you have to go through every bit of the paper, deeply and sincerely.

We would recommend you to devote your time well for the subjects that you are more comfortable with, and save yourself from excessive stress by trying to impose the concepts that just pass over your head.

A few friends of Aspirant Forum have mentioned their inability to study the concepts related to culture (like temple art forms, paintings, dance forms etc.).

You should understand that it is better to devote your time fruitfully for the subjects that can deliver more, rather than trying to struggle hard with the subjects that are unfaithful to you. Any serious aspirant carries a basic knowledge of all the aspects of the syllabus, thus, be confident that you will be at least a couple of points for areas that you are scared of.


What to Do?

Let’s discuss each part of the GS Paper-I and see what should be the strategy:

Indian Culture and Art Forms

First, Let’s put the topics, as given in the UPSC Notification:

Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to
modern times

This section is often the most painful one for the aspirants. Given the wide cultural heritage and diversity, the cultural heritage of India, sometimes, become a pain for the aspirants. However, it is an important part of the paper.

An analysis of the last IAS Mains examination reveals that, out of 25 questions, only about 2 questions (worth 20 marks) were from the Indian Culture. This amount to only 8% of the total marks.

Now think, You have two options:

  1. Either devote a good amount of time for the Culture, and make sure that no part of the paper is missed out.
  2. Or, if you are running low of time and resources, just make a cursory look at the culture portion, and reinforce the other parts of the GS Paper I, so as you may compensate for the loss made at the cultural front, by doing well in other parts.

Some Useful Hint:

Indian History- Ancient to Modern

First, let’s see what the UPSC notification have to say about the Indian History portion:

  • 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

Well, Indian History is a wide but comfortable part of the GS Paper I. Most of us have studies some or the other aspect of the Indian history in our school and college days. So, you just need to brush up your memory and add more facts.

The new exam pattern gives you the advantage of compensating for the lack of mug-up ability, by writing analytical and critical answers. Thus, the exam might not ask you to write down the dates of certain events. But, you might expect something requiring you to analyze or evaluate the impact or contribution of some xyz person to the Indian history.

An Analysis of the last year’s IAS Mains paper reveals that, out of 25 questions, about 8 questions (worth 80 marks) came from this section. This means that this section amount for about 32% of the total marks from GS Paper I. Thus, a serious candidate cannot afford to ignore this section.

GS 1 Mains

Another concern associated with this part of the paper is the great syllabus that falls under it. From ancient to modern Indian history, the content and details of the developments is great. Thus, you might need to put an extra effort to prepare for this section.

For this, you’ll have to be careful while reading the various developments in the history of India. It is more important to read and know about the implications and consequences, than to memorise the dates. You can calculate the approximate time of a particular year, if you have understood the course of events in terms of their bearing on each other.

Some Useful Hints:

  • It is better to study the Indian History from original texts, like Bipin Chandra.
  • A very useful resource in this regard is the school-level text books. Tamil Nadu State Board text books are highly valuable. (Click here to download the book)
  • While Studying, try to link the different events. This way you’ll save an enormous amount of time that is required to mug-up the dates and years.

Indian Society and Related Issues

This section is a dynamic one, especially because it is difficult to find the study material for it in textbooks. You might need to cultivate a sharp analytical attitude towards the world around you.

An analysis of the last year Mains GS Paper 1 reveals the diversity of issues touched under this theme. The questions ranged from urbanization, women’s movement, globalization, to regionalism in India. Thus, it might actually be difficult to keep track of such varied themes from a handful of books.

If you look carefully, you can write the answers for such questions just by analyzing the society and world around you. You don’t need an expert knowledge to reflect upon these issues. However, it is always helpful to be aware of the latest happenings. Here, the importance of newspapers and magazines comes into the picture.

Some Useful Hints:

  • To tackle with the questions in this section, you should read the newspapers regularly, and carefully. (see how to read a newspaper from an exam perspective) Here, the editorials of the newspapers have a great significance.
  • You might read selected articles from good magazines like Economic and Political Weekly (but, be very selective while choosing the article to read. otherwise you’ll be wasting a lot of time in not-so-relevant articles)
  • Knowing about the Government’s plans and approach towards such themes can prove to be very beneficial while writing an answer. Thus, keep a track on major Government announcements.

Part 2 of this article coming soon…

We wish all the Aspirants, All the Best.

feel free to contact us for guidance and help @

Team Aspirant Forum


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