General Studies GS 2 – Syllabus, Books, Preparation Strategy,Pattern and Past Trends

It is noteworthy that GS II is one of the most interesting papers of General Studies-Mains compared to all the other papers. What sets it apart from all the other papers is its evolving and dynamic nature.

GS II has such complex and intertwined issues with history, society, polity, economy etc. that you need to have good, crisp writing skills that address the core of the question. Therefore, a lot of writing practice is a must for this.


GS II question Pattern 

  • General Studies II will carry 250 marks.
  • There are TWENTY questions all are compulsory.
  • Paper Pattern and Marking Scheme: The marking scheme is not specified in the syllabus, but looking at past papers, there are two types.
  1. 20 question of 12.5 marks each to be answered in 250 words: 2014, 2015 and 2016
  2. [10 questions of 10 marks each to be answered in 150 words]+ [10 questions of 15 marks each to be answered in 250 words]: 2017 and 2018


General Studies –II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

How to start

  • One has to be well versed with all the dimensions of the topics given in the syllabus. If you are able to understand them, then half the battle is won! 
    • It will help you in picking up the relevant issues from the exam perspective while reading a newspaper or going through any material. The aspirants must go through the Previous Year Question Papers of General Studies II (Paper III) to have general idea about weightage and proportion of different sections and the requirement of the exam.
    • Try to develop or brush up your prelims preparation which will help you to correlate the current events with the static topics.
  • Try to analyze the various dimensions of various topics and make note of it which will help you to write your answers in an extraordinary manner.


How to prepare

  • Most of the topics and sub-topics are interconnected
  • It is important to read the basics first which helps you form a strong conceptual foundation.
  • Mains demands not only the basic understanding of these topics, but your critical and analytic abilities to answer questions on these topics too.  So, try to relate these concepts to current event topics and write small articles.
  • Scan current events and find any latest instances of conflict between any constitutional bodies, or between a constitutional body and statutory body.
  • As Supreme Court judgments are very important, make a list of important judgements (both historical and current) and quote them to substantiate your answers. For example, when you answer a question like ‘Whether the supreme court judgement( July 2018) can settle the political tussle between the Lt. Governor and elected government of Delhi? Examine.250 [mains 2018]’, or anything about the tussle between the LG and the elected government of Delhi, you need to know the Govt. of NCT of Delhi V. Union of India & Anr judgement.
  • Make note of latest statistics pertaining to health, employment, women, education, poverty etc. ,government schemes and initiatives.
  • Use constitutional articles ,preamble,important quotes by political thinkers/personalities while writing your answer.
  • For a debatable topic, never be biased, and always think about both sides of the issue even if not explicitly asked in the question. For example, take this question from mains 2018: ‘How far do you agree with the view that tribunals curtail the jurisdiction of ordinary courts? In view of the above, discuss the constitutional validity and competency of the tribunals in India.’ Explain why tribunals curtail the jurisdiction of ordinary courts, but also counter it in the next paragraph as to how tribunals are useful. Try to end on a balanced note.
  • It is advised not to take any extreme side and avoid criticizing government(constructive criticism can be done).
  • Substantiate with statistics and current affairs .
  • We can broadly divide the syllabus into three categories for analysing.
    • Polity
    • Welfare
    • International Relations


  • Syllabus
  1. Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
  2. Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  3. Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  4. Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.
  5. Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
  6. Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  7. Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
  8. Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  9. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.


  • Trends


  1. For static portion read ‘Indian Polity’ by Laxmikanth.
  2. Refer DD Basu – Introduction to the Constitution of India.
  3. The Hindu editorial
  4. The Big Picture on RSTV
  5. PRS India for latest legislation
  6. All India Radio – Spotlight
  7. 13th Report Organisational structure of Govt of India 
  8. 6th Report Local Governance 
  9. 7th Report Capacity Building for Conflict Resolution 


Welfare: Policies & Schemes

  • Syllabus
  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Development processes and the development industry —the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
  3. Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  4. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  5. Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
  6. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  7. Role of civil services in a democracy.



  1. For static portion read ‘Indian Polity’ by Laxmikanth.
  2. Refer DD Basu – Introduction to the Constitution of India.
  3. The Hindu editorial
  4. The Big Picture on RSTV
  5. PRS India for latest legislation
  6. All India Radio – Spotlight
  7. Economic Survey
  8. 10th Report Refurbishing of Personnel Administration &ndash Scaling New Heights
  9. 11th Report Promoting e Governance : The Smart Way Forward 

Fall out

  • Many aspirants misinterpret the syllabus and spend too much time on static aspects. For a beginner and naive aspirant, the syllabus is intriguing in much sense.
  • Most students have been made to believe that reading only Laxmikant will help tackle GS 2 paper. However, this is an incomplete and potentially lethal approach .
  • Referring multiple source as there are no organized resources of GS 2 in the market as of now.
  • The general rule of not byhearting facts for mains does not suit to GS paper 2.
  • As this paper differs from other papers it needs mugging up certain facts but this has to be done by first understanding the concepts or what is to be mugged up, so that the conceptual understanding and need of relevant facts in quick time can be used in the examination hall.
  • Important constitutional amendments of the past like the 42nd amendment, 44th amendment as well of the present like the 101st amendment should be studied. The background, causes, and its implications should also be studied.
  • Though the syllabus topics may seem factual and static, you will be able to answer the questions asked by UPSC only if you are aware of the current happenings. 
  • You should first be done with the static base, while analysing the current affairs will help you in writing better answers.
  • When you are done with basics, you will realise that a relative study and understanding of the current issues becomes much easier.



  • This part is quite dynamic in nature and includes such topics as India and its neighborhood, Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India, Indian Diaspora, Important International institutions, etc.
  • Considering the trend from the past two years, majority of questions are from the dynamic portion only. One needs to be constantly updated about the recent developments and happenings around the world that affect India directly or indirectly.
  • One should avoid having superficial knowledge in IR and instead aim to gain a holistic understanding as IR also happens to be one of the most analytical segments of the syllabus.

How to prepare

  • Aspirants are advised to keep tab of current affairs related to India’s Foreign Policy, bilateral relations, important international events and international institutions.
  • Along with current status of bilateral and multilateral relations, aspirants should also clear the historical aspects of such relations.
  • Getting updated news related to international relations from newspapers and internet is important in order to prepare well for this section of syllabus.
  • Read any one convention book on IR which is available in market that adequately covers the historical aspect of India’s bilateral relations.
  • Draw map wherever relevant. Example: for India-Iran relations, you can draw a rough map to show how the Chabahar port helps us to bypass Pakistan and reach Afghanistan, same goes for Act East policy
  • Make country specific notes on a regular basis.
  • Make pre prepared notes for International groupings and its relationship with India.
  • Each bilateral relationship or a global grouping is multi-faceted. So your preparation should be comprehensive and of multidimensional perspective that includes: the strategic dimension, defence co-operation, technology, education, culture, diaspora, trade and investment, cooperation in global fora etc.



  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, Indian diaspora.
  4. Important international institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.



What to read

  • Challenging and Strategy book by Rajiv Sikri
  • India’s World on RSTV
  • Think Tanks – IDSA, ORF
  • The Hindu Editorial.
  • MEA Website


Things to remember:

  • Avoid reading multiple books for every topic. It will just increase content for reading without any substantial addition to your knowledge.
  • Decide your sources and stick to them. Avoid the temptation of researching about the topics. The CSE expects basic understanding and not mastery.
  • Make your own concise notes which you know you can revise multiple times before the exam.
  • No matter how much you study, you will never make it through without writing practice, so make it a habit of practicing your answer writing regularly. You can practice the past years papers or join some mock test.

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