IAS Mains 2015 GS Paper Analysis: The Ringside View

Ok, so finally the cat is out of the bag and so are the number of analysis!

Some viewing it as a different coloured cat this time, some claiming a particular question was frame taking a cue from a particular news which appeared on a particular date in the newspaper (phew!), some delving deep into the question-wise analysis while others still wondering what exactly happened!

 Even though the real UPSC- bashing will start only after the Optional Papers are over, let us see if we can really make out anything from investing time in analysing the GS papers.

#1. Questions can be divided into the statements picked up from different sources and others which were actually framed with just the topic in mind.

The former one are naturally difficult to deal with while the second category is still manageable.

 The questions from GS 1 as under are more likely statements picked up from the novels/books/reference sources that the examiner might have read out of hobby or may be with an ulterior motive to vent his/her anger at UPSC candidates in the guise of  keeping its standards high.

“The ancient civilization in Indian sub-continent differed from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece in that its culture and traditions have been preserved without breakdown to the present day. Comment.”

“Mesolithic rock cut architecture of India not only reflects the cultural life of the times but also a fine aesthetic sense comparable to modern painting. Critically evaluate this comment.”

I, for one, refuse to believe that this question was asked because a Mesolithic site was discovered and the news appeared in the Hindu on 09.11.2015. A one-off discovery does not really motivates an examiner to frame a question. And, even if the assertion is assumed to be true, we cannot really do anything about it. Every other day some sites are discovered and until and unless a particular discovery becomes all too important and appears regularly in news, we really need not rack our brains doing a PhD on them.

“It would have been difficult for the Constituent Assembly to complete its historic task of drafting the Constitution for Independent India in just three years, but its experience gained with the Government of India Act, 1935 .Discuss.”

It shall be foolhardy to set ourselves a target of reading all the novels/books available in the remote hope of getting a statement from them in the paper. The cost-benefit ration shall be extremely poor. And have it from me the battle shall not be won by such questions. Even the topper might not have attempted them well. So don’t lose your sleep over them.

#2. Major events of last two-three years assume significance as many a questions are being from them.

This should not come as a surprise as UPSC is known to keep the topics that become too common in cold storage to revive them in coming years. But we must give it to UPSC that while framing questions from such events they pick up only the ones that really got everyone sit and take notice.

“What are the economic significances of discovery of oil in Arctic Sea and its possible environmental consequences?”

“Public health system has limitation in providing universal health coverage. Do you think that private sector can help in bridging the gap? What other viable alternatives do you suggest?

#3. Though not a rule but it was generally observed that UPSC shied away from controversial topics (even if moved enough eyeballs) that had political underpinnings.

This time around they picked up such issues and framed questions.

“Khap panchayats have been in the news for functioning as extra – constitutional authorities, often delivering pronouncements amounting to human right violations. Discuss critically the actions taken by the legislative, executive and judiciary to set the things right in this regard.

 The only reference to Khaps was in a Psychology Paper – II way back in 2009 or 2010.

#4.  Issues that appear that appeared too simplistic or routine to warrant any serious attention from Mains point of view were converted to questions.


“Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three Mega cities of the country but the air pollution is much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so?

“Does the right to clean environment entail legal regulation on burning crackers during Diwali? Discus in the light of Article 21 of Indian Constitution and judgements of the apex in this regard.

 It has been observed that so-called simple issues are more complex to answer. 

#5. GS2 and GS3 remain heavily lopsided towards Current Affairs which should be a respite.

 “Too many questions to be quoted here.”

#6. Geography continues its march with not too difficult or unheard of topics.

“India is well endowed with fresh water resources. Critically examine why it still suffers from water scarcity.”

“How far do you agree that the behaviour of the Indian monsoon has been changing due to humanizing landscape? Discuss.”

#7. They stick to the pattern of asking questions from the topics that generally remain in oblivion.

It seems to be their way of ensuring that these topics get the respect they deserve.

“Livestock rearing has a big potential for providing non- farm employment and income in rural areas. Discuss suggesting suitable measures to promote this sector in India.”

#8. World History remains hinges on popular topics. It is expected to remain so for at least few more years till they exhaust the common topics.

“Why did the industrial revolution first occur in England? Discuss the quality of life of the people there during the industrialization. How does it compare with that in India at present times?”

“To what extend can Germany be held responsible for causing the two World Wars? Discuss critically.”

#9. The number of questions has been maintained at 20 in all three papers which can be taken as a hint that now UPSC is really serious about “content matters more than the size of the answer.”

No 25 questions papers where candidates need to rush even to attempt all questions. They might continue with this pattern in coming years as well.

#10. What does all this entail for a future aspirant?

  • Cover all topics.
  • While reading a topic, think over its different dimensions and answer them all before you label it as “covered”.
  • Newspaper continues to remain the latest textbook to be covered every day.
  • No escape from note-making and keep updating them.
  • While reading issues, try to answer the seemingly innocuous questions in pointed manner. Many might have fumbled for words while answering “What is ISIS and its mission?”
  • Do not read too much into the paper and drive judgements. Every years papers looks the toughest for first few months and then it appears quite easy.
  • Do not think that you can never answer such questions and shall never be able to secure a rank. Many a toppers shall have below 100 marks in multiple papers. So take it easy.
  • Study regularly (14 hour study one fine day and then a 2 day break is not the way to go), Stay focused, Don’t just listen to advice but also follow them, Don’t compare yourself to others but just make yourself better than you were the previous day!

That’s all for now. Stay blessed!

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By Amit Bhardwaj

Engineer by training | Educationist at heart | Indulgences? Reading, Quizzing and Teaching.

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