General Studies GS 3 Strategy, Book list , Syllabus,Pattern and Past trends

The  General Studies paper 3 contains the broadest portion including a whole range of subjects encompassing a variety of topics, ranging from the Indian Economy to the External Security Issues.

The potential to score is very high in general studies paper 3 compared to other papers. This is because, to a large extent, looking at the previous papers, we can easily understand and predict the scope, contours and the nature of questions being asked in GS paper 3. Most of the questions are current affairs based. 

As a person aspiring to be bureaucrat is expected to know and understand a wide range of issues, in depth as well as in breadth, with a thorough understanding with its aspects dealing with issues from its scope to implementation. 

GS III question Pattern 

  • General Studies Paper 3 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

GS paper III include Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.

How to start

  • One has to be well versed with all the dimensions of the topics given in the syllabus.
  • You don’t have to master the topics, all you need is basic understanding .
  • Issues like economy and development, of which one or the other aspect is always in the news, can never be dealt with by studying a mere static portion, and employing ‘rote memorization’ is useless.
  • Reading newspapers, magazines and committee reports are very much necessary for this paper.
  • While reading the newspaper keep an eye on the topics mentioned in the syllabus. Newspaper gives you more information and dimensions that you rarely find in a book. 
  • This is a very broad area and includes both static and dynamic part. To understand the dynamic part you need to be strong in basic part because basics are pillar to your answer from which you have to build your structure called dynamic part.



Indian Economy and Economic Development

  • Syllabus:
  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.
  4. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
  5. Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
  6. Investment models.


  • Trends:

This is a very broad area so before going for big books, it is recommended to read the following NCERTs for basic knowledge.

  1. Understanding Economic Development Class 10th 
  2. Indian Economic Development Class 11th
  3. Introductory Macroeconomics Class 12th

After understanding your concepts, you have to read the above topics by relating them to the current events.


For example 2018 GS question  How would the recent phenomena Of protectionism and currency manipulations in world trade affect macroeconomic stability Of India? 

  • You need to know the keywords of a topic and also how to substantiate your answers. So make note of schemes ,reports & surveys to substantiate your answer.


  • Exploring different dimensions of an answer is important because of the recent surge in analytical questions.
  • For better integration of standard issues of GS 3 with current developments, writing practice is very much needed. Its only with writing practice that you can see how well you could use the information of economic survey and macroeconomic data available to improve the quality of answers. 
  • Writing Practice is very important as you prepare so following insightsonindia secure initiative and forumias mains marathon  or any other answer writing initiative is also helpful.
  • Sources:
  1. Understanding Economic Development Class 10th 
  2. Indian Economic Development Class 11th
  3. Introductory Macroeconomics Class 12th
  4. Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  5. Economic Survey
  6. Budget compilation
  7. Various government schemes and reports as and where you feel required.



  • Syllabus
  1. Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, – different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
  2. Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
  3. Food processing and related industries in India- scope’ and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  4. Land reforms in India.


  • Trends

  • Sources:
  1. No specific sources. These topics will get covered as you cover economy and current affairs.
  2. Any good coaching material will also suffice.


Disaster and disaster management

  • Syllabus:
  1. Disaster and disaster management.
  • Trends

  • This is a very current and dynamic topic, with issues such as floods, cyclones and tsunamis getting frequent attention in the Indian subcontinent and Asia in particular.
  • We can predict the area of questions with recent incidents where UPSC usually focuses. Disaster management questions are mainly based on current events. Follow the current affairs topics on disaster management. It will help u a lot.
  • For example 2017 GS question ‘On December 2004, tsunami brought havoc on fourteen countries including India. Discuss the factors responsible for occurrence of tsunami and its effects on life and economy. In the light Of guidelines Of NDMA (2010) describe the mechanisms for preparedness to reduce the risk during such events.

Prepare notes on various steps of disaster, starting from source of disaster to rehabilitation. Understand the national policy on disaster management.


  • Sources:
  1. Current affairs from newspapers, internet and coaching material.
  2. Second Administrative Reforms Commission- 3rd Report Crisis Management 
  3. National policy on Disaster Management. Or read Our Post about this.
  4. Prepare concise notes on NDMA (structure, functions, rules etc), international agreements such as Sendai Framework, etc.
  • Remember to prepare your own concise notes from the sources for revision.

Internal security

  • Syllabus
  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, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.
  4. Security challenges and their management in border areas – linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
  5. Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.


  • Trends:

    • Some questions related to internal security are asked in essay paper so a holistic preparation of this part of syllabus is crucial for success in the exam.


  • For example 2018 Essay question Management of Indian Border Disputes- a complex task. 
  • Have holistic views on security issues.Relate current affairs with the static part and let the Current affairs guide  the static part of the portion. 


  • For example 2018 GS question Left Wing Extremism (LWE) is showing a downward trend, but still affects many parts of the country. Briefly explain the Government of India’s approach to counter the challenges posed by LWE.
  • Selective reading of newspaper articles on topics like naxalism, role of media in security, etc., & IDSA articles,Ministry of Home Affairs report can be analyzed.
  • Refer MHA website.Proper preparation and strategy will yield very good marks in this area.
  • Sources:
  1. IDSA articles
  2. Ministry of Home Affairs reports.
  3. The Hindu –Editorial
  4. Any coaching material you find relevant.


Science & technology


  • Syllabus


  1. Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
  2. Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  3. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nanotechnology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


  • Trends:


    • This topic is very wide as it mentions about General Science and Technology, starting from its development to application and its effects in everyday life.
    • There’s no single book or resource to help one navigate this section and it all feels like one big haze. But the good news is questions asked in S&T are mostly from current affairs and you are expected to have only a general understanding of the topics


  • Note down scientific term or technology that’s frequently in news. For instance, terms such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Machine Learning etc.
  • The Questions need not always be from a deeper section of the syllabus. They can be very general too – For example 2018 GS question Why is there so much activity in the field of biotechnology in our country? How has this activity benefitted the field of biopharma?


  • Understand these scientific concepts and their practical applications, potential threats, benefits into the future etc.
  • Refer our post on How to prepare Science and Technology.


Biodiversity &  Environment


  • Syllabus:
  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
  • Trends:

    • Environment is a term which is widely discussed all over the world and is related to us all. UPSC question papers year after year are proving that Environment and related areas are a must-know for every Civil Services aspirant. 
    • Questions from Environment touch areas of basic understanding as well as hot topics of current importance like Global warming, Endangered species,  pollution, recent climate summits etc.


  • After understanding your concepts, you have to read the above topics by relating them to the current events.
  • For example 2018 GS question What are the impediments in disposing the huge quantities of discarded solid wastes which are continuously being generated? How do we remove safely the toxic wastes that have been accumulating in our habitable environment?


  • So aspirant is expected to know the basic concepts and the recent happenings in the sphere of Environment and Biodiversity Protection, like Paris Climate Agreement, UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Green Energy Mission and Targets of India, INDC’s etc.
  • Sources:
  1. Environment By SHANKAR- Latest
  2. Use online resources 
  3. Ministry of Environment and Forests website
  4. Union Ministries of Water Resources website
  5. Union Ministry of Power website
  6. Content from any other ministry websites you find relevant.

Things to remember:

  • You need to remember that for GS-3, questions revolve around current affairs and there is so much material available that it is very easy to lose your way in the current affairs and coaching material. Remember to restrict yourself to material that’s good enough for you to write a 250-word answer for all topics.
  • So for each topic mentioned in the syllabus, make concise notes from the resources mentioned above or from the various sources you cover.
  • This topics are quiet broad and there is a lot to cover, but these topics form a major chunk in the Preliminary exams and therefore it becomes a little bit easier to complete these.
  • Many aspirants make the mistake of covering many different books and sources for the same topic.This is just a waste of time. Learn to limit your resources and avoid the temptation of researching any topic too deep! Quality over quantity,always.
  • As with all other papers, keep practicing answer writing with the help of answer writing initiatives of many different coaching institutes.
  • Keep revisiting  the syllabus and past papers so that you keep reminding yourself what you are preparing for. This will help you in focused preparation.
  • Remember that note making is as important as covering all the sources. You need to revise as many times and in as less time as possible and nothing will help you in this endeavour than your own concise notes.
  • Prepare your own strategy and stick to it religiously. No need to be over-ambitious. Prepare a strategy which you know you can follow religiously for the entire period of preparation.


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