IAS General Studies Paper 2 Preparation Strategy for UPSC Mains 2020

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May 20, 2020

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Sudeshna Bhar

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IAS Mains, the second stage of the selection process, has 9 examinations in total followed by a personality test. The tentative date is September 2020 which can be postponed due to COVID- 19 pandemic. General Studies Paper-II is a mandatory paper for appearing candidates. This paper is completely based on Polity, Governance, and International Relations which makes it a scoring paper.

IAS General Studies Paper II: Topic-wise division:

The first step of preparing General Studies Paper-II is dividing it into the 4 sections. When anyone goes through previous years’ question papers and sample questions, one can get an idea of the expected number of questions comes from each section of this paper:

Sections Number of Questions (10 marks) Number of Questions (15 marks)
Indian Polity and Constitution 4 - 5 3-4 
Governance 0 -2 1 - 3
International Relations Section 2 - 3 2- 3
Miscellaneous 1 - 2 1 - 2
Prepp Test Series

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IAS General Studies Paper 2: Previous Years Question Papers:

There are many candidates go through so much hustle and bustle to find the previous years’ question papers. But this article will save you time. Here you can download the question papers of 2019 to 2014 of IAS General Studies Paper-I and also get a print out if needed without any cost.

Name of Years Link to download
2019 Download
2018 Download
2017 Download
2016 Download
2015 Download
2014 Download

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IAS General Studies Paper 2: Important Topics: Strategy and Preferable Books:

IAS General Studies Paper-II is mandatory for all candidates. The total marks of this paper is 250 marks. Throughout the years, this paper has been proved to be more scoring in spite of being non-technical paper. It can be divided into 4 sections as per the subjects included. The following part of the article will help you with the strategies and most preferable books for every sort of candidate of IAS Main 2020.

  • Indian Polity and Constitution:

In General Studies Paper - I, Polity and constitution hold the major portion of the whole syllabus and questions come every year. Almost 40 % of the total questions of this paper comes from this section which makes it the most and foremost important part to prepare. The following paragraph contains a detailed description of the syllabus of polity and constitution which needs to cover up first:

Syllabus of Polity and Constitution of General Studies Paper-I:

  • Indian Constitution:
    • Historical Underpinning & Evolution: Regulating Act (1773) to Independence Act (1947), Constituent Assembly, Objective Resolution, Enactment & Enforcement of Constitution
    • Features: Written, Flexible & Rigid, Federal & Unitary, Parliamentary Form of Government (Presidential vs. Parliamentary Type of Government).
    • Significant Provisions: Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy, Judicial Review, Universal Adult Franchise, Single Citizenship, Separation of Powers.
    • Basic Structure: The Doctrine, Judgments & Cases, Amendments: List of Significant Amendments & Their Provisions, Procedure for Amending Constitution.
  • Functions & Responsibilities of the Union and the States: 7th Schedule, Legislative Functions, Financial Functions, Administrative & Quasi-Judicial Functions.
  • Issues & Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure: Federal Structure in India - Is India truly Federal, Cooperative & Competitive Federalism, Centre-State Relations, Legislative Relations, Administrative Relations, Financial Relations, Trends in Centre-State Relations, Inter-State Relations
  • Devolution of Powers & Finances to Local Levels & Challenges Therein: 11th & 12th Schedule, Reasons for Ineffective Performance, Panchayat Devolution Index ( NITI Aayog), Steps That Can Be Taken to Improve Their Performance.
  • Separation of Powers Between Various Organs: Doctrine of Separation of Power, Separation of Power in Indian Constitution, Doctrine of Checks & Balances, Provisions for Checks & Balances in Indian Constitution, Related Judgments - Golaknath case, Kesavananda Bharati, Indira Gandhi Vs Raj Narain, Ram Jawaya vs Punjab.
  • Dispute Redressal Mechanisms and Institutions: RTI, PIL and Tribunals, etc.
  • Comparison of the Indian Constitutional Scheme With That of Other Countries Parliament & State Legislatures: Structure, Functioning, Conduct of Business, Powers & Privileges - Written Constitution, Blend of Rigidity and Flexibility, Federal System with Unitary Bias, Parliamentary Form of Government, Synthesis of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Judicial Supremacy, Integrated and Independent Judiciary, Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles of State Policy, Fundamental Duties, Secular State, Universal Adult Franchise, Single Citizenship, Emergency Provisions, Three-tier Government, Due Process of Law vs. Procedure Established by Law, Impeachment of President, etc.
  • Structure, Organization & Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary: Executive of Union: President, Prime Minister, Council of Ministers, Cabinet Secretariat. Executive of State - Governor, Chief Minister, Council of Ministers, Secretariat. Judiciary - Three-Tier Structure, Chief Justice of India, SC & HC Judges, Jurisdiction
  • Ministries and Departments of the Government: Cabinet Ministries, Other Ministries, Parliamentary Secretaries
  • Pressure Groups & Formal/informal Associations & Their Role in Polity: Characteristics of Pressure, Pressure & Political Parties, Pressure & Interest Groups, Types, Functions, Role & Importance Techniques/Methods of Pressure Groups, Pressure Groups in India, Shortcomings of Pressure Groups
  • Salient Features of Representation of People's Act
  • Appointment to Various Constitutional Posts: Election, Union Public Service, State Public Service Commission, Finance Commission, National Commission for SCs, National Commission for STs, Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Attorney General of India, Advocate General of the State
  • Statutory, Regulatory & Quasi-Judicial Bodies: NITI Aayog ,RBI, National Human Rights, State Human Rights Commission, Central Information, Central Vigilance, Central Bureau of Investigation, Lokpal and Lokayuktas, National Commission for Women, National Commission for Backward Classes, National Commission for Minorities, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, Securities and Exchange Board of India, Competition Commission of India, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Central Pollution Control Board, Medical Council of India, Inland Waterways Authority of India, Central Ground Water Authority, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, Bar Council of India, University Grants Commission, Financial Stability and Development Council, All India Council for Technical Education, National Green Tribunal, Competition Appellate Tribunal, Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal, Cyber Appellate Tribunal ,Intellectual Property Appellate Board.

Must Read: How to Prepare for IAS Exam?

Strategy and Tips for Polity and Constitution:

  1. The syllabus of Polity and Constitution is quite large. So start your preparation 6 months before at least so that you could cover the syllabus of the whole General Studies Paper-I within the beginning 3 months.
  2. If you are a beginner in this, start your polity preparation with NCERT books. These are written in the easier language and good to give basic concept clearing.
  3. When you have completed the basic stage, go for the advanced books which will give you the depth of knowledge.
  4. Start your Advance preparation with Laxmikant’s books.
  5. Read the articles thoroughly. This will help you to build a basic understanding of each Article.
  6. Repeated reading for 4-5 times is really necessary. The more times you read the better you would remember with clarity.
  7. The primary aim will be extracting the knowledge without going in depths.
  8. Prepare short notes with highlighted keywords as well as include current issues in a pragmatic way so that your writing looks more updated.
  9. UPSC, nowadays do not ask direct current affairs, it asks about background knowledge of any matter/issue. So current affairs related to polity and constitution needs to be noted in entails.
  10. Most importantly, analyze the previous years’ question papers. See what type of question is asked and how they are asked.
  11. Practising previous year questions and sample question papers will help you to find out the areas where you commit mistakes and your weak areas.

Download IAS 2020 Sample Papers

Preferable Study Materials for Polity and Constitution of GS Paper - I:

  • NCERT Books:
    • NCERT Class XI – Political Science: Indian Constitution at Work (New)
    • NCERT Class XII – Political Science I: Contemporary World Politics(New)
    • NCERT Class XII – Political Science II: Politics in India since Independence(New)
  • Advanced sources:
    • Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations – M. Laxmikanth
    • Objective Indian Polity: General Studies – Paper I by M. Laxmikanth
    • Constitution of India
    • Introduction to the Constitution of India - DD Basu
  • Other Sources:
  • Governance for General Studies Paper-I of IAS Mains 2020:

From Governance, each year around 25 marks of questions comes and it varies every year. This section holds 10% of the whole syllabus. But the syllabus of Governance is a bit confusing and it is possible that you overdo the reading. That is why to make better and compact plan, detailed syllabus of Governance is mentioned below:

  • Government Policies & Interventions for Development: Government Policies & Interventions in Various Sectors, Health, Gender, Education, Poverty, Economic, etc. Issues Arising Out of Their Design & Implementation - Concerns/Issues, Suggestions for Improvement, Critical Assessment of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS), Rationalisation of CSS, Analysis of Main Schemes: Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Smart City, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, MGNREGA, Digital India, Make in India, Skill India, PM Jan Dhan Yojana, Start-up India, etc.
  • Development Processes & the Development Industry: Role of Social Capital Organisations, Indian Context, Classification, Provisions for the Third Sector in the Indian Constitution, National Policy on the Voluntary Sector 2007, Non-Governmental Organisations - Role and Impact of Non-governmental Organizations, Issue Areas: Accreditation, Legitimacy & Accountability, Foreign Funding, etc. Self Help Groups (SHGs), Case Studies: Kudumbashree (Kerala), Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (Maharashtra), Societies, Trusts and Cooperatives- Need for Cooperatives, Constitutional Provisions, National Policy on Co-operatives, 2002, Issues and Challenges in the Cooperatives Sector
  • Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency & Accountability: Governance:, E-Governance, Citizens Charters (CC), Aspects of Transparency, Elements & Types of Accountability, Means to ensure Transparency & Accountability:
  • Role of Civil Services in a Democracy: Relationship Between Civil Service And Democracy, Role Played By Civil Services, Ailments/Issues Afflicting Indian Civil Services, Reforming Bureaucracy to Strengthen Democracy:

Must Read: Mistakes to avoid in IAS Exam

Strategy and Tips for Governance Section of GS Paper-II:

  • Reserve 4 weeks to prepare the Governance Section.
  • Follow up every scheme and detail of governance recent. UPSC has a tendency to make a question from recent updates.
  • Prepare this section with polity revision so that you can find similarities that will help you to speed up your process.
  • By analyzing the previous years’ question papers, it is observed that some types of questions have chances to be repeated.
  • Make a chart of the most important topics chronologically so that you can complete them step by step according to your comfort zone.
  • It is important to make your own notes with standard definitions for topics like Social audit, e-governance, SHGs, etc along with the recent initiatives.
  • Keep in mind that examples play a crucial role in this paper. So observe the examples and use them while writing answers.
  • Analysis of government schemes with respect to vulnerable and marginalized sections of the society is also important.
  • Do not make notes contain around 250 words because the word limit of answers for 10 marks questions is 150 words.

Source of Governance for General Studies Paper-II:

  • From Government to Governance - Kuldeep Mathur
  • Ethics in Governance - ARC Report
  • Governance in India - M. Laxmikanth
  • International Relations for General StudiesPaper-III :

International Relations is an important topic for General Studies Paper-II as well as Essay paper of UPSC IAS Mains. The international relations topic encompasses foreign policy of India, bilateral relations, regional cooperation, etc. Approx 30% of the total questions of this paper comes from this section. To ease the complexity, here is the syllabus:

Syllabus of International Relations Section:

India and its Neighborhood – Relations, Bilateral, Regional & Global Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India's Interests, Effect of Policies & Politics of Developed & Developing Countries on India's Interests, Indian Diaspora, Important International Institutions,

Check IAS Mains: How to Prepare for Indian Polity

Strategy and Tips for International Relations Section:

  • Aspirants Should make a habit of reading newspapers regularly and one should know that this syllabus cannot be covered in a week as it is will be an on-going process.
  • Always give importance to columns related to international relations in the Newspaper.
  • Make a list of all important international events of last year’s where India was involved.
  • To cover the Indian Diaspora First understand the basic concepts like OCI, PIO, NRI, Citizenship issues, then correlate the current issues with the traditional topics
  • The policy is impacted by global, provincial and internal growths. Therefore, current affairs are really important.
  • The global, regional and interior atmosphere of India has become extremely complicated, posing numerous challenges to the foreign policy of India.
  • IGNOU contains important details that are essential to cover the static/traditional portion of India’s Foreign Relations after independence.
  • Don’t give much importance to the dates of visits.
  • While making notes, keep the words limit in the mind of 150 - 250 words as per the number of the questions.

Source of Study for International Relations Section for GS Paper-II:

  • India's Foreign policy - NBT publication
  • Political Science - IGNOU
  • International Relations (4th Rev. & Enl. Edn.) - Vinay Kumar Malhotra
  • International Relations: The Key Concepts (Routledge Key Guides) - Terry O’Callaghan, Martin Griffiths, Steven C. Roach.
  • Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy - Rajiv Sikri
  • International Relations in the 21st Century - Pant

Check IAS Previous Years’ Cutoff

  • Miscellaneous topics of General Studies Paper-II of IAS Mains 2020:

This section is actually accumulated form of several topics like Social Justice Poverty and Hunger, Human Development, Welfare scheme, current affairs, etc. Near about 15 - 20 % of all questions of this paper is taken from this section. After topic wise question division, any aspirant looks for a compact syllabus, here is the syllabus:

Syllabus for Miscellaneous of General Studies Paper-II:

Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections, Performance of These Schemes, Women & Children, Issues Relating to Development & Management of Social Sector/Services, Issues Relating to Poverty & Hunger, etc.

Strategy and Tips for Miscellaneous of GS Paper-II:

  • General Studies II is a very scoring paper. Preparing for each section will help you to make the most out of it.
  • For this section, following current affairs minutely is a very useful key.
  • The difficulty level ranges from easy to moderate depending on your educational background and intellectual ability.
  • Don't go for this section first.
  • After completing the above sections, you will find most of these topics of Miscellaneous section known which will save you time.
  • When you schedule current affairs in your daily life, it is very normal and expected to read the hard copies and making notes.
  • Try to make notes online from online sources. This will speed you up twice than the usual.
  • Read those sources which are affordable for you as well as beneficial.
  • Read newspapers that focus on National and International affairs more than political affairs.
  • Last but not the least, for being a non-technical paper, practicing answer writing is mandatory so that you can be more productive than your usual and speed up in IAS Exam hall.

Other Sources for General Studies Paper-II:

  • Governance, Constitution and Social Justice - Salman Khurshid and Gaurav Gupta
  • NCERT Class IX – Political Science: Democratic Politics Part – I, & II
  • Polity: NCERT Class XII – Political Science II: Politics in India since Independence
  • Polity: NCERT Class XII – Political Science I: Contemporary World Politics

Must Read: IAS 2020 Syllabus for Prelims and Main, Pattern and Books

Only the following strategies are not enough to crack IAS Mains. To get a good score each candidate needs to study 12 - 15 hours on a daily basis. Schedule writing answers on alternate days so that you can keep it within the track. If possible, make notes online or on, therefore it will a lot easier to count words or maintain it within the word limit. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, candidates having a hard time maintaining their preparation as before. We wholeheartedly hope for your success and our strategies will help you get through IAS Mains with desired marks and Rank.

FAQs related to General Studies Paper-II

Ques. Are NCERT books enough for IAS?

Ans. No, NCERT books are a must for the IAS exam. However, candidates should also go for other specified books mentioned above section-wisely.

Ques. How many exams are there in IAS?

Ans. In short 11 exams are IAS Exam: IAS Prelims includes 2 papers, IAS Mains consists of 9 papers which are followed by a personality test.

Ques. Is Laxmikant enough for General Studies Paper 2?

Ans. For General Studies Paper 2 as well as IAS Prelims, Laxmikant is essential but it is not enough. You have to go to other books enlisted above.

Ques. How long does it take to read Laxmikant?

Ans. To be exact, 23 - 26 days are enough to cover it. But before start reading Laxmikant, NCERT Books are essential to have the basic ideas and to cover it faster.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.

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