This articles needs to be tweaked further in the light of actual papers of Mains-2013. However should give the basic idea to new players.

  1. Prologue
  2. What is not changed?
  3. Prelims approach
  4. What about the current affairs?
  5. Mains Exam: Change of format
  6. GS1: Culture History Geography
  7. GS2: Polity, Yearbook, IR
  8. GS3: Economy, Environment, S&T, Agro, Disaster and Security
  9. GS4: Ethics
  10. Personal Opinion?


  • Ok, so few days back UPSC released the much awaited notification for 2013  So you already know, what is changed. It is a stale news.  This article is just an overview article for future approach.
  • I’ll upload a full fledged strategy / approach / studyplan for General studies (Mains), combined with all list of topics to be prepared, resources, downloads etc. Yes i know preliminary is over, but it takes time for me to wade through all the books and pdfs myself. You don’t want me to misguide you in haste, do you? hahaha. Besides I’ve other exams to look into IES, CDS, RAS et al.

What is not changed?

  1. Age- attempt limit is not changed.
  2. Age is still counted on 1st August of the given year. (rumor market said UPSC was planning to count age on 1st Jan.)
  3. Vacancies are almost the same (2012: 1037 vacancies, 2013: approx. 1000)
  4. Mains to Interview quota is same (twice the number of vacancies. It was same in 2011 and 2012)
  5. Prelims syllabus is not changed even one bit. (so the approach / strategy for prelims remains one and same.)

Prelims approach

Approach to general studies for prelims, already given long time ago.Here is just a checklist, ask yourself:

  1. I’ve finished reading NCERT, NIOS, Yearbook, Laxmikanth etc. (+static topics from GS Manual) multiple times. I’ve rock solid command over them (or I’ll be revising them often until I get rock solid command).
  2. I’ve tried/ will try myself with the MCQs given in GS Manual.
  3. For aptitude, I’m doing maximum practice at night (so I don’t fall asleep by simply reading some book).

That’s Well and good, you’re on right track.  Now the question that bothers a lot of candidates:

What about the current affairs?

Current affairs itself is quite big. But for prelims, you’ve to concentrate only on the current affairs associated with specific sectors:

High priority current affairs
  1. Environment n biodiversity
  2. Science tech
  3. Polity
  4. Economy.
  5. Yearbook stuff (Government schemes/ org. etc)
Low priority current affairs
  1. International relations.
  2. Misc.GK (Sports, awards, persons in news, books, authors etc): Lists already given for 2012 and 13 click me
  • If you’ve been maintaining notes out of Hindu/Indianexpress past one year, that’s totally awesome. Just keep doing it.
  • But those of you, who joined the game late and or did not diligently read newspapers/maintained notes. What to do now? Here is a firefighting tip. Do any one of the following

Option A:

  • Get a book called Wizard’s Current Affairs 2013. (they publish it every year. Please note, other publication houses also release similar books. Use whatever is easily available to you.)
  • It doesn’t guarantee UPSC  is directly going to asks questions from it. But such book gives an  overview of what happened past one year (in topicwise fashion: bilateral, sci-tech etc.)
  • The book itself is quite thick but you don’t have to prepare everything, just concentrate on the high priority areas. Then you dig internet, standard reference books etc. for topics that are directly indirectly related to it and are “basic” in nature. For example, there is news about Libya, then you check Libya’s location in the map, its capital, its bordering nations and so on. There is some news about Eastern Dedicated freight corridor, then you dig out from which states does this corridor pass through? …..Prelims is not about Ph.D. Prelims is mostly about tricky questions from very basic concepts / facts.

Option B:

  • hit the public library. Pick past 1 years’ current affairs magazines (CST, Chronicle, PD, Wizard..whatever is available).
  • Go through the first 20-25 pages :the important national international affairs are given here.
  • And Remaining pages of magazines is usually filler material (toppers’ interviews and recycled articles on polity), you can read them if you’ve time and mood.
  • But from those first 20-25 pages, note down the exam worthy current affairs, come back home dig net +/- standard reference books as and where required.

^Please note, these option A / B are just firefighting tools. They’d work fine for SSC, SBI type exams. But Current affairs for UPSC is a different game altogether. That’s the reason I’ve always advised people to read daily newspapers and maintain notes out of it. As a UPSC aspirant, Current affairs must be part of your daily routine. If you don’t do it on dailybasis, that’s when you’ve to turn to such (not so reliable) ^firefighting tools.
And don’t put too much of your time in current affairs, because lot of questions come from static part (theory) too.

Another concern is regarding “Cutoffs possibly getting high” because IFoS and IAS have common preliminary exam. My point is: Just read revise and practice. Leave rest in the hands of God. Don’t enter the exam hall with the cut off mindset or negative marking will dig your grave.

That’s for prelims. Now let’s move to Mains.

Mains Exam: Change of format

Before (upto 2012) After (2013)
Paper Marks Paper Marks
Regional language paper.
Marks not counted in merit.
300 Same as Earlier 300
English Paper. But marks
not counted
in final merit list.
300 same as earlier 300
Essay Yes 200 Yes 250
General Studies 2 papers 600 4 papers (new topics included) 1000
First optional 2 papers 600 2 papers 500
Second optional 2 papers 600 Removed 0
Interview Yes 300 Yes but marks reduced 275
total 2900
Merit from 2300.
Merit from 2025

What is removed from general studies?

  1. Statistics and data interpretation topic removed from General Studies (Mains).
  2. Public Health, Health education and ethical concerns regarding health-care, medical research and pharmaceuticals topic removed. (It is no longer Explicitly mentioned under syllabus, although doesn’t prevent UPSC from asking this under GS3!)

GS1: Culture History Geography

#1: History and Culture

  1. Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Same as usual. NIOS, IGNOU tourism studies, Spectrum book on Culture.
  1. Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues
  2. The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.
Same as usual. Bipin Chandra +/- Spectrum +/- GS Manual.

#2: History of World

  1. events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries,
  2. colonization, decolonization,
  3. political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
  1. NCERT.
  3. Any one book: Norman Lowe, Jain and Mathur or Arjun Singh.

#3: Socio stuff

  1. Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  1. For Post independence India, use Bipin Chandra: India Since Independence. (Ramchandra Guha’s book not giving good cost:benefit ratio.)
  2. Starting point is IGNOU MPS 003 India democracy and Development.
  3. Then there is Decent material scattered in IGNOU Sociology, political science and Public Administration (BA, MA).
  1. Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
  1. Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
  1. Effects of globalization on Indian society
  1. Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

#4: Geography

General Studies Before change 2013
Preliminary exam Geography = Physical + World  + India Same
Mains Geography = only Indian Geography. Now Geography = Physical + World  + India.

Now, Let’s check the syllabus of geography (general studies)

Physical Geography

Topics Comment
  1. Salient features of world’s physical geography.
Starting point is NCERTS / GS Manual.
  1. Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.,
  2. geographical features and their location.
  3. changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
Starting point is NCERTS + GS Manual + NIOS biodiversity + selective reading of IGNOU Disaster  Management.+Indian Geography by Khullar.

India and World Geography

Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent
  1. Starting point NCERTs
  2. then
factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)

GS2: Polity, Yearbook, IR

#1: Polity + rights issue

Basic Constitution

  1. Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions basic structure.
  2. Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States,
  3. Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
  4. Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
  5. Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
  6. Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  7. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
  • Starting point is: yes you guessed it right, the great M.Laxmikanth. Then DD Basu if you’ve time and mood.
  • +net digging and newspapers for new stuff e.g. right to education.
  • Also
Advanced topics

  1. issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure,
  2. Devolution of powers + finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  3. Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  4. Pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  5. Representation of People’s Act: Salient features
Starting point is (again) IGNOU MPS 003. Then again lot of good stuff scattered around in IGNOU Public Administration, Political science and sociology.Also newspapers, columns, net digging from current affairs point of view (e.g. Pressure groups –> Lokpal)
Rights issue

  1. Vulnerable sections: protections, Betterment: mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies.
  2. Vulnerable Sections: Welfare schemes.
  • Starting point again our good old Laxmikanth.
  • For welfare schemes, INDIA Yearbook, list of topics given here click me
  • + newspaper + official websites of respective ministries.

Yearbook, Welfare schemes

  1. Ministries and Departments of the Government;
  2. Government policies for development in various sections.
  3. Social Sector development: Health, Education, Human Resources.
  4. Poverty and hunger: Issues relating to
Basic functions and overview of policies given in India yearbook. After that, Newpapers, Yojana Kurukshetra, official sites of respective ministries.12th Five Yearplan PDFs click me. (they contain truckload of fodder points).

Public Administration related

  1. Governance: Important aspects of
  2. Development processes and the development industry
  3. the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
  4. transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  5. e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential;
  6. Citizens charters
  7. Role of civil services in a democracy.
  • Respective chapters from IGNOU BA, MA Public Administration.
  • 2nd ARC reports click me (selective reading).

IR / Diplomacy

  1. India and its neighborhood- relations.
  2. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  3. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests,
  4. Indian diaspora.
  5. Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
Approach remains same as earlier.

  • Starting point is selected topics on international relations from IGNOU BA (Political Science) click me
  • Dispora strategy given separately click me
  • Then IGNOU MA (Political Science) MPS 002 click me
  • + newspapers, magz, net digging And

GS3: Economy, Environment, S&T, Agro, Disaster and Security

For a paper worth 250 marks, UPSC has packed way too many topics here!

#1: Economy

  1. Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  2. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  3. Government Budgeting.
12th FYP plan PDF files.Basic of budgeting is explained in Laxmikanth, Ramesh Singh etc. But hardly any direct-static questions come in mains. So this is mostly yearbook, IGNOU (Economics) newspaper and current affairs.+
  1. Effects of liberalization on the economy.
Basic given in NCERT Class 11 economics. More can be found in Ramesh Singh, Netdigging.
  1. changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
  2. Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
  3. Investment models
Basic given in India Yearbook.Then IGNOU (Economics BA, MA) selective reading, Newspaper columns, 12th FYP pdfs for more fodder points.

#2: SnT + Environment

  1. Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  2. Achievements of Indians in science & technology;
  3. Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  4. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
  1. Starting point is India Yearbook.
  2. Then The Hindu’s Sci-tech portion, net digging and
  4. +/- Spectrum’s book on Science Tech.
  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
  1. NIOS, IGNOU material on Environment-Biodiversity.
  2. India Yearbook
  3. Official site of MoEF
  4. Newspaper columns, Yojana, Kurukshetra.

#2: Agro

Now this is a new topic introduced in 2013.

  1. Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country,
  2. Irrigation: different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage,
NCERT geography,  GS Manual+ Indian Geography Khullar etc.
  1. e-technology in the aid of farmers
  2. Farm subsidies: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies
  3. minimum support prices;
  4. Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security;
  5. Technology missions;
  6. Land reforms in India.
  • Starting point is INDIA Yearbook, List of topics given here: click me
  • Official website of Agriculture ministry.
  1. transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints;
  2. Animal rearing: economics of
  3. Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain managemen
  • Yojana-Kurukshetra old archives + new me
  • food processing already covered in my article series. visit


1.         Disaster and disaster management. Selective reading IGNOU MPA 018


1. Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate This is given in India Yearbook. Click me for the topicwise list
2. basics of cyber security Also given in India yearbook. More stuff can be found the previous writing competition held at

For the remaining topics:

  1. Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
  2. Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  3. Challenges to internal security through communication networks,
  4. role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges,
  5. money-laundering and its prevention
  6. border areas: Security challenges and their management
  7. linkages of organized crime with terrorism

For above topics, Lot of revision friendly content available in the previous writing competition held at

+newspaper and net digging.

GS4: Ethics

Lot of vague topics added. Anyways, first let’s check the topics for which exact material is available

Probity in Governance:

  1. Concept of public service;
  2. Philosophical basis of governance and probity;
  3. Information sharing and transparency in government,
  4. Right to Information,
  5. Codes of Ethics,
  6. Codes of Conduct,
  7. Citizen’s Charters,
  8. Work culture,
  9. Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds,
  10. Challenges of corruption.

Ethics in Public Administration

  1. Status and problems;
  2. ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions;
  3. laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance;
  4. accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance;

For ^above topics, you’ll find content scattered in around in

  1. IGNOU MPA 011 and 013
  2. 2nd ARC reports.

Remaining topics

  1. Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships.  Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values
  2. Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.
  3. Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service , integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections.
  4. Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
  5. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.
  6. corporate governance.
  7. ethical issues in international relations and funding.
  8. +Case studies

Personal Opinion?

Father Wallace, a renowned Gujarati author and Maths Professor in St.Xaviers’ College, Ahmedabad. Once a TV reporter asked him, “Lot of students in class 10 hate mathematics. So, What is your advice to them?” I was watching TV and hoped that he’d give some awesome set of formulas that will completely demystify mathematics even for the weakest student. But all he said was:

“Mitro maare Etlu j kehvaa nu ke tamne gume ke naa gume, bhanvu toh padshe j!”
(Friends all I’ve to say is, whether you like it or not, you’ll have to study.)

Same applies to the pattern change, you can welcome it, you can condemn it, but as long you’re in this competition business, you’ve to play by UPSC’s rules. Anyways for the sake of timepass reading, here are my opinions.


  • Most of the General studies syllabus (mains) can be covered using IGNOU, Yearbook, Yojana Kurukshetra, newspapers etc. So atleast the reform is not heavy on your pocket (in terms of having  to buy lot of new books / material).
  • Thanks to IGNOU’s material, self-study is easily possible. (available on


  • Reading so many PDFs on computer screen =painful on eyes.

Overlapping topics

  • Each mains paper has 3 hours duration so UPSC can take maximum two papers per day. Now, suppose today is GS1+2, then tomorrow will be GS3+4.
  • Here comes to issue: you’ve to prepare similar topics again and again for two days because of their overlapping nature. for example:
  1. Social empowerment in GS1, and next day Inclusive growth for GS3.
  2. R.T.I, citizen-charter etc. as [Polity] topics for GS2 and next day for Ethics under GS4.
  3. Role of civil services in a democracy (under GS2) and next day almost similar thing for Ethics under GS4.

So it feels as if the topic-list is compiled in haste, and that Agro topic in GS3 (+including supply chain Management!) sticks out like a sore thumb.

One Optional still kept

  • Instead of two, now you’ve to pick only one optional. Makes it difficult for senior player to decide: which subject to keep and which one to drop. (especially when UPSC is yet to deliver marksheets for Mains 2012).
  • UPSC should have removed both optionals. That way, people have to spend less money on books / coaching + more time sparred to pursue any career backplan/ other exams.

Faster results

  • It still takes 1 year to finish the exam. Very painful especially for those who fail in mains and have to reappear in next prelims within 2-3 months.
  • UPSC Should have converted prelims into a computer based MCQ test like IBPS/LIC to hasten the result delivery.

On an unrelated note:

  • If we look at the larger picture, everyone has to give so many exams simultaneously (UPSC, State PSC, IBPS, SSC, LIC, CDS, CAPF….) These should be combined into only 2-3 exams for combined recruitment into all these jobs.