Indian Society - Syllabus, Strategy Overview [UPSC Exam]

Indian Society is one of the important subjects in the UPSC syllabus. The subject finds its mention in Prelims, Mains and Optional papers of the IAS Exam. This article will help you get an overview of the Indian Society syllabus, the right strategy to prepare for it and also relevant notes’ articles for UPSC preparation.

Indian Society Syllabus – What is asked in the IAS paper?

UPSC Indian Society - Social Issues Overview for IAS Exam

Indian Society & UPSC Prelims

In prelims examination, candidates know that UPSC has not mentioned an elaborative syllabus but has mentioned major topics from which questions are asked. The table below mentions all those topics that are related to the Indian Society subject so that candidates know which segment to focus on for its UPSC Syllabus completion. Though the topics that can be related to Indian Society are also relevant to Economy & Social Development, hence, aspirants should take a wider view while covering these.

Indian Society Syllabus for UPSC Prelims

S.No Topic
1. Social Development
2. Poverty
3. Inclusion
4. Demographics
5. Social Sector Initiatives

#Indian Society & UPSC Mains

After prelims, there are nine subjective papers in UPSC Mains. Indian Society is covered under its syllabus of General Studies Paper 1 and certain facets are also covered in Mains General Studies Paper 2. The table below will mention what topics related to Indian Society are mentioned by the commission in GS 1 and 2 syllabi:

Indian Society Syllabus for UPSC Mains
S.No Topic
1. Salient features of Indian Society
2. Diversity of India
3. Role of women
4. Role of women’s organisations
5. Population and associated issues
6. Poverty and

developmental issues

7. Urbanization, their problems and their remedies
8. Government schemes related to various sectors
9. Welfare schemes health, education, human resources, poverty, hunger,
10. Issues & Development related to the management of social sector services relating to:

  • Health
  • Education
  • Human Resources

Indian Society & UPSC Optionals

Candidates should know that there is no such subject called ‘Indian Society,’ but there is a Sociology subject that covers important fragments of Indian Society. Under paper-II of the Sociology subject, topics related to structure and changes of Indian Society are mentioned. You can get the full Sociology Optional Syllabus from the linked article. Some of the Indian Society topics that are covered in UPSC Sociology optional syllabus are mentioned in the table below:

Indian Society Topics in UPSC Optional
S.No Topic
Politics and Society:

  • Power elite, bureaucracy, pressure groups and political parties
  • The protest, agitation, social movements, collective action, revolution
Perspectives on the Study of Indian Society:

  • Indology (G.S. Ghurye)
  • Structural functionalism (M. N. Srinivas)
  • Marxist sociology (A. R. Desai)
Impact of colonial rule on Indian society:

  • Social background of Indian nationalism
  • Modernization of Indian tradition
  • Protests and movements during the colonial period
  • Social reforms
Caste System
Social Classes in India
6. Religion and Society
7. Rural and Agrarian Transformation in India
8. Industrialization and Urbanisation in India
9. Politics and Society
10. Social Movements in Modern India
11. Population Dynamics
12. Challenges of Social Transformation


Candidates can enhance their UPSC exam preparation by attempting UPSC Previous Years Question Papers now!!

To complement your preparation for the upcoming exam, check the following links:

Indian Society Questions Trend Analysis – Prelims & Mains

In Prelims, questions are majorly asked from social sector schemes, or welfare schemes that the central government or state government flag off for the attainment of development goals.

Check the kind of questions asked in UPSC Prelims on topics related to Indian Society:

Year Questions Related to Indian Society in UPSC Prelims
2019 In the context of any country, which one of the following would be considered as part of its social capital?

    • The proportion of literates in the population
    • The stock of its buildings, other infrastructure and machines
    • The size of the population in the working-age group
    • The level of mutual trust and harmony in society

Consider the following statements about Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India:

  1. PVTGs reside in 18 States and one Union Territory
  2. A stagnant or declining population is one of the criteria for determining PVTG status.
  3. There are 95 PVTGs officially notified in the country so far.
  4. Irular and Konda Reddi tribes are included in the list of PVTGs.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

  1. 1, 2 and 3
  2. 2, 3 and 4
  3. 1, 2 and 4
  4. 1, 3 and 4

In a given year in India, official poverty lines are higher in some states than in others because

  1. poverty rates vary from State to State
  2. price levels vary from State to State
  3. Gross State Product varies from State to State
  4. quality of public distribution varies from State to State
2018 With reference to Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, consider the following statements

1. It is the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

2. It, among other things, will also impart training in soft skills, entrepreneurship, financial and digital literacy.

3. It aims to align the competencies of the unregulated workforce of the country to the National Skill Qualification Framework.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

With reference to the provisions made under the National Food Security Act, 2013 consider the following statements:

1. The families coming under the category of ‘below poverty line (BPL)’ only are eligible to receive subsidised grains.

2. The oldest woman in a household, of age 18 years or above, shall be the head of the household for the purpose of issuance of a ration card.

3. Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to a take-home ration of 1600 calories per day during pregnancy and for six months thereafter.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3

(d) 3 only

2017 One of the implications of equality in society is the absence of

(a) Privileges

(b) Restraints

(c) Competition

(d) Ideology

Which of the following are the objectives of ‘National Nutrition Mission’?

a. To create awareness relating to malnutrition among pregnant women and lactating mothers.

b. To reduce the incidence of anaemia among young children, adolescent girls and women.

c. To promote the consumption of millets, coarse cereals and unpolished rice.

d. To promote the consumption of poultry eggs.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 1, 2 and 3 only

(c) 1, 2 and 4 only

(d) 3 and 4 only

Points to note for Indian Society Questions asked in UPSC Prelims:

Referring to the above-mentioned questions that have been asked in Prelims 2019, 2018, 2017 respectively, candidates can take note of the points mentioned below:

  1. Questions are majorly targeted at the social sector schemes that are for the welfare of people.
  2. Questions on basic concepts like social capital, equality in the society have also found a place in UPSC Prelims.
  3. Unlike in the Mains exam where questions on Indian Society are general in nature, in Prelims Indian Society questions will need good factual understanding so as to opt for the correct option while answering.

Indian Society Questions – UPSC Mains

The graph below explains the trend in a number of questions that are asked from the Indian Society topic in UPSC Mains:

UPSC Indian Society Syllabus - Social Issues Questions in IAS Mains

As the graph suggests, UPSC Mains GS 1 has seen an increase in questions related to Indian Society or Social Issues. For reference and practice of the Indian Society questions related to different topics, one can get all the previous years’ Indian Society Questions of UPSC Mains GS 1, in the linked article.

For complete preparation of UPSC Mains GS 1, candidates can refer to the links below:

GS 1 Structure, Strategy and Syllabus Topic-Wise GS 1 Questions for UPSC Mains
History Questions for UPSC Mains Art & Culture Questions for UPSC Mains GS 1
Geography Questions for UPSC Mains Social Justice Questions for UPSC Mains

How to Prepare Indian Society Topic for UPSC?

Prelims Strategy:

The IAS candidates can take help of the points mentioned below before they start their preparation of GS 1 topic – Indian Society:

  1. The topics related to Indian Society are not technical in nature rather general. Hence, aspirants should focus on:
    1. What is the topic?
    2. Why is it important?
    3. Has the topic been in the news?
  2. Cramming the figures for the topics related to social issues is not very important from the exam perspective, rather aspirants should try to focus on the root causes of social issues. For issues like women’s safety, social empowerment, poverty, urbanization, health; an aspirant should know the background of such topics with the current initiatives taken up by the government (central or state) for the improvement of the same.

Mains Strategy:

While practicing Mains answer writing, aspirants should know what will make it easier for them when they write answers on questions related to Indian Society and its issues:

  1. Focus on the crux of social issues like casteism, communalism, poverty, gender inequality, hunger issues and other similar Indian Society issues. An aspirant should be aligned with the development initiatives relating to these issues.
  2. A general view on social issues is important rather than an extreme view. An aspirant should try to find answers to these issues by analysing the problems recurring in the Indian Society.
  3. A holistic view of the social issue is desired in the UPSC exam by an aspirant. A candidate who knows what, where, why, which, who and how of a social issue, becomes a desirable candidate.
  4. An aspirant should always keep in mind that his/her aim will be to crack the exam and not change the world that day; hence he/she should shy away from writing unfeasible and unrealistic solutions to the social issues in the Indian society.
  5. A desirable candidate is who knows how to connect culture, society, polity, geography, and economics with the issues of the Indian Society. Hence, one should always try to read from different perspectives and try to form a balanced opinion.

To get the best books for the Indian Society, you can check the linked article. Here, you will get a list of books that are useful for both prelims and mains.

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