UPSC CSE (IAS) Mains 2023 Preparation Strategy for General Studies Paper I

UPSC CSE (IAS) Mains 2023 Preparation Strategy for General Studies Paper I: UPSC CSE (IAS) Mains 2023 contains 4 General Studies papers. The General Studies Paper 1 is divided into 5 sections: Art and Culture, Modern History, World History, Indian Society, and World and Indian Geography. Among these sections, Indian society and Indian & World Geography are more important. If you judge this paper in the point of view of difficulty level, it is moderately difficult depending on the candidate’s educational background. 

Read more[GS Paper 1] UPSC Civil Services Prelims 2023 Most Important Notes Pdf Download For General Studies Paper

Ques. Can I qualify General Studies Paper – I without coaching?

Ans. Yes Anyone can with a good focus on self-study. It may not be for everyone. But if you think that you are confident enough, you should go for it. But taking advice in times of need is less time-consuming.

UPSC CSE (IAS) General Studies Paper I: Topic-wise division

In UPSC Mains exam, questions of General studies Paper: I, are mainly taken from 9 major topics. Through analyzing previous years questions papers, the expected number of questions comes every year is shown below:

SectionsNumber of Questions (10 marks)Number of Questions (15 marks)
Art and Culture1 – 20 – 2
Modern History of India and World2 -3 1 – 3
Indian Society and Economy2-3 1 – 3
Geography and Environment3-42-4
Current Affairs0 – 2 1 – 2
Miscellaneous0 – 10 – 1

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IAS (UPSC CSE) General Studies Paper I: Previous Years Question Papers

Previous Years Question Papers really matter while preparing for IAS General Studies Paper-I. Practicing sample question papers and mock tests are also beneficial for each type of candidate. In the below chart, candidates can easily download question papers.

Name of YearsLink to download

IAS (UPSC CSE) Mains 2023: General Studies Paper I Topic-wise Strategy and Study Materials

When you start preparing for General Studies Paper-I, it is important to note the minute details of the important topics. Knowing important topics and sections will help you to get ready for that section very minutely and in between the lines so that you don’t have to miss any questions unattempted.

Indian Arts & Culture for General Studies Paper I

In the General Studies Paper I, Arts and Culture, also known as the ‘Indian Heritage and Culture’ is 15 % of the total questions. Before start preparing, divided this section as per the important topics. Indian Art can be classified under three headings such as Performing Arts, Visual Arts, and Literary Arts.

Performing Arts :

  • Performing arts include the various dance forms, music, Indian theatre and puppetry.
  • Dance forms are majorly divided into Classical Dances and Folk Dances.
  • Classical dance forms include some very famous dance forms for example Bharatanatyam (Tamil Nadu), Mohiniyattam (Kerala), Kathakali (Kerala), Kathak (North and West of India), Odissi (Odisha), Manipuri (Manipur), Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh), and Sattriya (Assam).
  • The Folk dance forms of India includes Chhau, Bihu dance, Garba, Dhamal dance, Dumhal, Chakyar Koothu, Lavani, Bhangra, etc. which are very important for this section.
  • Another performing art is Music which can be divided into three styles: Carnatic music, Hindustani music and Folk music.
  • Indian theatre is basically of two types: modern and traditional.
  • Puppetry incudes string puppets, rod puppets, shadow puppets and glove puppets.
  • The difference among these are and the characteristics of each form of performing art are very important. ‘-

Visual Art:

  • Visual arts can be divided into three such as architecture, sculpture and painting.
  • Indian architecture can be studied through these major topics: Prehistoric architecture, Indus valley civilization, Temple architecture, Buddhist architecture, Indo-Islamic architecture, Modern architecture.
  • The most famous sculptures which are important for General Studies Paper – I, are : Prehistoric sculpture, Indus valley civilization sculpture, Buddhist sculpture, Gupta sculpture, Medieval sculpture, Modern India sculpture.
  • Indian painting can be studied through the leading painting methods such as Miniature paintings, Wall paintings of India, Modern Indian painting.

Literary Arts:

Literary arts can be studied under Vedic literature, Puranas, Classical Sanskrit literature, Early Dravidian literature, Pali and Prakrit literature, Medieval literature, Trends in medieval literature, Women poets in Bhakti literature, Modern Indian literature, Emergence of nationalism, Literature of nationalism, reformism and revivalism, Indian romanticism, Emergence of Gandhi, Progressive literature, Literary scene after independence, Dalit literature, Use of mythology, Contemporary literature.

Strategy and Tips to Prepare Art and Culture:

  • Other than these important topics, one also should study Musical Instruments, Religion, and Indian Philosophy topics.
  • Art and Culture can get a bit confusing. So, when trying to note the definitions of each term so that you can memorize them.
  • Begin your preparation with NCERT Books.
  • You should look for topics related to art and culture and make notes on each topic.
  • Along with the above NCERT books, you should also start reading NIOS Book on art and culture as they can find all information related to art and culture in one place.

Recommended Books for Art And Culture:

  1. Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania
  2. Indian Culture and Heritage of NIOS
  3. National Culture of India – Abid Hussain
  4. NCERT Standards Textbooks: IX, X, XI, and XII

Indian History and World History

This section contains almost 30- 35 % of General Studies Paper: I. History according to movements and timespans, is divided into 7 major topics. The following table will guide you about the topics you need to cover for UPSC:

Important TopicsDetails
Modern Indian HistorySocio-Economic Condition of People

Middle of the Eighteenth Century Until the Present European Penetration of India

British Conquest of India

British Policies and their Impact

Socio-Cultural Reform Movements

Uprisings Against British Pre-1857
The Freedom Struggle
Growth of Nationalism in India (1858-1905) Political, Economic and Administrative

Unification of the Country

Role of Western Education

Role of Press

Rediscovery of India’s Past

Early Political Movements

Formation of INC

Era of Moderates
Growth of Militant Nationalism and Revolutionary Activities (1905-1918)Swadeshi and Boycott Movement

Surat Split

International Influence

Morley-Minto Reforms

Growth of Communalism
Beginning of Mass Nationalism
Mahatma Gandhi-ideas and leadership

Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms Rowlatt Act,

Satyagraha and Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

Non-Cooperation Movement

Swarajists and No-changers

The emergence of new forces

Revolutionary Activity

Simon Commission and Nehru Report

Civil Disobedience Movement

Round Table Conferences

Communal Award and Poona Pact

Participation in Elections to Central Legislature (1934) and Provincial Assemblies (1937)

Government of India Act,1935
Towards Freedom and 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

Wavell Plan

INA and Subhash Chandra Bose

Cabinet Mission

Nationalist Upsurge Post-World War II

Independence with Partition
Post-Independence Consolidation
Nehruvian Era

Shastri Era

Indira Gandhi Era

Rajiv Gandhi Era

Post-1991 Era
History of the world
American Revolution

Russian Revolution

French Revolution




Unification of Italy

Unification of Germany

Bi-Polar World and Cold War

Uni-polar World

Disintegration of USSR

Tips and Strategy For History

  • History questions are some of the easiest questions and direct questions asked in Prelims Examination.
  • Almost 70% of questions asked in Prelims from post-1857 history can be attempted with a thorough reading of Spectrum’s book. So you can study this section with IAS Prelims.
  • History will always remain that subject which requires you to invest more time than others in GS I.
  • After completing each portion candidates should practise previous year question papers.
  • Revision is considered as an essential part of the preparation for history.
  • One should prepare short notes and jot down the important points. This will help you in the last-minute revision.
  • IAS Mains is a descriptive type. So while writing answers one should mention the dates of events and wars accurately.
  • Follow the current affairs to stay updated about researches and discoveries.

Recommended Books for History:

NCERT Books:

  1. NCERT Standards XI Modern India- Bipan Chandra
  2. NCERT Standards XI Medieval India – Satish Chandra
  3. NCERT Standards XI Ancient India
  4. NCERT Standards XII Theme in Indian History- I , II and III
  5. Contemporary World History for Standards XII of Old NCERT Book
  6. Contemporary World History (NCERT) -Arjun Dev

Preferable Books:

  1. Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe
  2. History Of Modern India – Bipan Chandra
  3. A New Look at Modern Indian History From 1707 to the Modern Times- Alka Mehta and B L Grover S
  4. Europe Since 1815 -W.C. Craig
  5. Industry & Empire -E.J. Hobsbawm
  6. History of the World from the Late Nineteenth to the Early Twenty-First Century by Arjun Dev.
  7. Current Affairs:

Economy and Social Development

Economy and Social Development is majorly overlapping General Studies Paper: III as well as General Studies Paper-I. So preparing for this section will help you to prepare for both papers simultaneously. In the case of General Studies Paper-I, 20 % of the total questions are form Economy and social Developments. While preparing you must focus on the below-listed topics:

  • Economic growth and development – basic concept and definition of economy and economics, use and transfer of resources, distributive effects, macro and microeconomic policy, micro-macro balance, the distributive impact of economic policies, development versus growth, determinant of growth and development, concepts such as HPI/MPI, HDI, PQLI, GEM, GDI/GII, TAI, Green index, sustainable development, India’s ranking in the various indices.
  • Poverty – definitions, causes, distribution-deprivation, income versus calories, measurement of poverty, the status of poverty, eradication programs, poverty and resource policy, tribal rights and issues, livelihood mission.
  • Demographics – census data, populations by gender, by state, by age group, socio-economic status, caste, religion, literacy levels, etc. Trends in human development – interstate comparison, etc.
  • Fiscal policy – definition, component, receipts, revenue and capital account, tax revenue, expenditure, budget.
  • Social issues – financing health policy, education policy, sanitation, drinking water, social security, infrastructure policy, international trade issues, regional cooperation.
  • Also, focus on issues currently in news related to the above topics – NREGA, MSMEs, Make in India, industrial corridors, NITI Ayog, black money, international treaties and organizations, India’s policies with neighbors.

Quick Tips:

  • Start your preparation with NCERT books. It may look very basic, but these books will help you to clear the basic concepts.
  • For those who have studied some level of Economy, a good book to read would be TMH’s Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh or Sanjeev Verma’s book.
  • The economy is also an important section of UPSC Prelims. So, you can align your preparation for this section with UPSC IAS prelims.
  • Other than books, do read economy surveys and newspapers emphasis on economic developments and falls.
  • Questions in this area will be very conceptual and a thorough understanding of concepts is required.
  • Economics is a precise science. Make sure to use the correct technical words. For example, don’t use income when you mean revenue.
  • Use the graph.
  • While writing answers, including current updates and economical term, will be very beneficial to gain more scores in IAS Mains 2022.

Recommended Books for Economics and Social Developments:

  1. Indian Economic Development – NCERT Standards XI
  2. Macroeconomics – NCERT Standards XII
  3. TMH’s Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  4. Indian Economy – Sanjeev Verma
  5. Public Finance – H.L. Bhatia
  6. International Economics – H.G. Mannur

Geography and Environment for General Studies Paper I

Geography and Environment is another major section of IAS General Studies Paper-I. This section holds approximately 35 – 40 % of the total. There are several areas to focus to prepare this section:

  • 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, 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.
  • Geomorphology – the interior of the earth, tectonics, physical phenomenon, mountain building, volcanoes, earthquakes, weathering & erosion, rocks, landforms.
  • Climatology – atmosphere, temperature distribution, jet streams, pressure & wind systems, air masses, fronts, cyclones, humidity, precipitation, geographical phenomenon, climatic regions of the world.
  • Oceanography – ocean relief, temperature distribution, ocean currents, salinity, coral bleaching, marine pollution, sea-level change, UN laws, etc.
  • Biography – soil profile, degradation, conservation), biotic regions, deforestation and conservation of forests, changes in critical geographical features, environmental pollution

Quick tips for Geography and Environment:

  • Candidates always can begin their preparation with NCERT books, but make notes of your own with the help of other books.
  • Try to remember and practice definitions and terms related to this section. They will poof to be fruitful in both IAS 2022 Mains and Prelims.
  • Keep an eye on current affairs and the latest news on cyclones and countries affected and the disaster caused.
  • Use graphical maps and draw them if needed while writing answers.
  • Also, practice maps in both India and world so that you get a good idea about the geographical setting.
  • Geography through a nontechnical subject but it is really based on facts.

Recommended Books for Geography and Environment:

Miscellaneous Section of General Studies Paper I:

This section holds more or less 10% of General Studies Paper-I. Among the miscellaneous section, there are numerous topics to cover such as issues related to women, Indian society, Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism, Effects of Globalization on Indian society, General Science. This section is also related to current affairs. So keep an eye on the current affairs.

Recommended Books:

  • Indian Society – Ram Ahuja
  • Social Problems in India – Ram Ahuja

Current Affairs for General Studies Paper I and IAS Mains 2023

While any candidate is preparing for current affairs, this can get a bit confusing because the area of current affairs is really vast as well as hard to cover. This section covers almost 15 % of this paper and there is no limit of preparation for this section and current affairs are essential for all 9 papers of IAS Mains 2022. Preparing for this section will help you to prepare other General Studies Papers as well as the optional papers. Here are a few things one should keep in mind while preparing :

  • Start your preparation at least 7 – 6 months before the exam.
  • Do not go for every source you get. Limit your source. One cannot cover all the sources available in the market.
  • Go for the sources which offer the knowledge and information about India as well as would.
  • Fixed a limited time to prepare. Daily 30 – 45 minutes is enough depending on your intellectual ability and educational background.
  • Make note of important information. This will help you in the time of revisions before exam time.
  • Online reading is also a good source of information and it is also easy to make notes from online sources.
  • Focus on facts and issues and new law amendments or disasters or related to facts not on political news or trivial local affairs due to political parties.
  • Last but not the least, choose source according to your comfort zone, don’t go for the language but on facts.

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