UPSC Mains General Studies Paper-II Syllabus & Structure

UPSC Mains GS-II is among the nine subjective papers in the second stage of the Civil Services Examination, which spans five days. The first two papers in the IAS Exam, namely English and a mandatory Indian language, serve a qualifying purpose. Candidates must achieve a minimum of 25% marks in these two papers to qualify for merit ranking, which is determined by their performance in the remaining UPSC Mains papers and the interview.

IAS Mains General Studies-II encompasses the following subjects:

  1. Governance
  2. Constitution
  3. Polity
  4. Social Justice
  5. International Relations

Similar to General Studies I, General Studies II features relatively few direct questions tied to individual topics. Answering these questions correctly often requires a good deal of critical thinking, as they frequently involve interconnected themes.

Focus Area in GS2 Paper

PolityIndian Constitution
Features of Indian Constitution
Amendments in Indian Constitution
Constitutional and non-constitutional bodies
Social JusticeIssues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services
Issues relating to poverty and hunger
GovernanceGovernment policies and interventions
E-governance applications
International RelationsBilateral Groupings
Regional and global groupings 
Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

How to Approach GS2 Paper

‘Indian Polity’ by Laxmikanth
Class 11 NCERT – ‘Indian Constitution at Work’
Social JusticeSelect articles from ‘The Hindu’ newspaper
GovernanceDaily reading of newspaper to be complemented with:
Select articles from ‘The Hindu’
Economic Survey
Press Information Bureau (PIB)
ARC reports
International RelationsMEA Website
Select articles from ‘The Hindu’

GS-II Structure

Key aspects of the UPSC General Studies II Mains paper include:

  1. Question Format: There are 20 compulsory questions presented in both Hindi and English, to be answered in the chosen language specified during the application process. Responses in any other language are not assessed.
  2. Total Marks: The paper carries a total of 250 marks.
  3. Word Limit: For 10-mark questions, the word limit is 150, and for 15-mark questions, it is 250.
  4. Focus Areas: This paper places a strong emphasis on governance and polity-related topics, with substantial overlap with social justice and international relations. Polity questions often revolve around the applicability of constitutional amendments, rights, and the significance of specific constitutional provisions.

For a comprehensive understanding of UPSC Mains General Studies Paper-II (UPSC GS 2 syllabus), please refer to the detailed syllabus outlined below:

Indian ConstitutionHistorical underpinnings of the constitution
Evolution of the Constitution
Salient features
Basic structure
Significant provisions
Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the states
Issues and challenges related to the Federal Structure
Devolution of powers and finances up to local government level
Challenges in the devolution of power
Separation of powers between various organs of the government
Dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions
Comparison of India’s constitutional scheme with other countries
Governance & PolityParliament and State Legislatures:
Conduct of Business
Powers & Privileges
Issues arising out of Powers & Privileges of legislative bodies
Executive and Judiciary:
Ministries and departments of the government
Pressure groups
Formal & Informal associations and their role in the polity
Salient features of the People’s Representation Act
GovernanceAppointment to various constitutional posts
Powers, functions and responsibilities of various constitutional bodies
Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
Government policies and interventions for the development of various sectors
Issues arising out of design and implementation of government intervention
Development processes and the development of industry
The role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
limitations and potential
citizens charters
transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
Role of Civil Services in a Democracy
Social JusticeWelfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by centre and states
The performance of welfare schemes
Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections of the population
Issues related to the development and management of the social sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
Issues related to poverty and hunger
International RelationsIndia and its neighbourhood
Relations between India and neighbouring countries
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s Interests
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Indian diaspora
Important International institutions, agencies and fora:

GS-II Trend Analysis

The UPSC GS 2 syllabus clearly exhibits a significant overlap between subjects, a crucial consideration during your preparation. An in-depth examination of current affairs pertinent to UPSC GS 2, coupled with a strong grasp of the constitution, its organization, and the governmental structure, should constitute a central focus in your preparation efforts. UPSC aspirants can also benefit from insights derived from the strategies of successful IAS toppers.

Here, we present a trend analysis for GS 2 spanning the years 2017 – 2020.

International Relations807555

IAS Exam Pattern

UPSC IAS ExamPattern of IAS Exam
Preliminary ExaminationGeneral Studies
Aptitude Test
Mains ExaminationQualifying:
Paper-A (One of the 22 Indian Languages)
Paper-B (English)
Papers to be counted for merit:
Paper-I (Essay)
Paper-II (GS-I)
Paper-III (GS-II)
Paper-IV (GS-III)
Paper-V (GS-IV)
Paper-VI (Optional Paper-I)
Paper-VI (Optional Paper-II)
Personality Test

The UPSC IAS Exam witnessed significant structural modifications in 2013, with minor adjustments occurring in 2015 and 2016. The alterations pertaining to General Studies are as follows:

  • 2013: The number of General Studies papers increased from 2 to 4.
  • 2015: CSAT marks ceased to contribute to the merit list, with only General Studies papers, essays, and optional papers considered for merit ranking, while CSAT became a qualifying paper.
  • 2016: The marks distribution for General Studies Papers shifted to a two-tier system, departing from the earlier uniform marks allocation for all questions.

Given the recent trend of in-depth analysis of UPSC papers, it is imperative to thoroughly comprehend the topics covered in General Studies Paper-II. Additionally, reviewing previous years’ UPSC questions and answers can enhance your ability to respond effectively and efficiently.

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