UPSC Question Paper Analysis - Mains 2018 General Studies Paper I


The UPSC Civil Services Examination is conducted annually in three stages, the prelims, mains and interview. Out of these, the mains exam is the lengthiest with nine descriptive papers conducted over a period of five days. As preparation depends a lot on analysing the pattern of questions that were asked in the previous years, we at BYJU’s bring you a detailed analysis of the Mains 2018 General Studies Papers. In this series of articles, we will analyse the subject wise and topic wise distribution of questions in the General Studies Question Papers from 2018.

The General Studies Paper I in the 2018 Mains was a balanced one with questions dealing with current events as well as analysis of historical facts. You can check out the Mains 2018 Question Papers here.

The two main subjects that are covered by UPSC General Studies I in the mains exam are:

  • Indian Heritage and Culture
  • History and Geography of the World and Society

The following was the distribution of the number of questions from the two subjects:

  • Indian Heritage and Culture: 4
  • History and Geography of the World and Society: 16

While on cursory analysis, it looks like preparing only one subject would be sufficient to secure decent marks, the nature of the questions in the second subject is interdisciplinary. Many of the questions drew concepts from Indian Culture as well as History and Geography of the World and Society.

The General Studies I Syllabus can be broken down into six major topics which should be covered in detail to be successful in the examination. They are:

  • Indian Culture (Includes a fair bit of Ancient and Medieval Indian History)
  • Modern Indian History (Includes the Freedom Movement and Post-Independence Reorganisation as well as related topics)
  • Indian Society
  • World History
  • Women’s Empowerment
  • Geography (Includes Recent Advances in the field, Factors Responsible for the Location of Industries, etc.)

Subject Wise Analysis of UPSC Mains 2018 General Studies Paper I

Let us analyse the 2018 Mains General Studies I question paper in the light of this information. Given below are the number of questions and percentage of marks per topic:

Topic Number of Questions Percentage of Marks Recommended Reading
Indian Culture 4 20% Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania, CCRT books from Ministry of Culture (available on the CCRT Website)
Modern Indian History (Note: Post Independence consolidation and reorganization within the country is covered under this topic for 2018 due to the nature of the concepts covered, the subject requires specialised preparation and has a heavy emphasis on current affairs) 2 10% History of Modern India by Bipan Chandra,

India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra, India Since Independence by Bipan Chandra

Indian Society 4 18% Social Problems in India by Ram Ahuja
World History 1 6% History of the World by Arjun Dev, Mastering Modern World History by Lowe Norman
Women’s Empowerment 1 6% Social Problems, Women Empowerment, Population Issues & Diversity of India for Civil Services Main Examination by Bitasta Das
Geography 8 40% Physical, Human and Economic Geography for Civil Services Examination by D R Khuller,India:Physical Environment (NCERT XI), India:People and Economy (NCERT XII)

Like the papers from 2016 and 2017, Geography contributed the largest proportion of questions in 2018. This trend is expected to continue in the UPSC Mains 2019 as well. This is due to the fact that Geography in the UPSC Syllabus encompasses a wide variety of topics such as Physical Geography, Economic Geography, Bio-Geography as well as Recent Developments in the Field of Geographical Research.

The second highest number of questions are from Indian Society, with questions ranging from Economic to Social Issues facing the country.

Modern Indian History has the next highest number of questions covering the Freedom Movement and Post-Independence consolidation and Reorganisation within the Country.

Women’s Empowerment had one direct question related to Role of Women and Women’s Organisations while there was one question related to World History in 2018.

Candidates need to study in a comprehensive manner for UPSC 2019 as the trend in recent years has shifted to asking questions related to the application of a concept from one topic to a problem or statement in another topic which may or may not be in the same subject.

Question Wise Analysis of UPSC Mains 2018 General Studies Paper I

  • Q.1. Safeguarding the Indian art heritage is the need of the moment. Discuss.

Concept: Salient features of art forms, literature and architecture from ancient to modern times

  • Q.2. Assess the importance of the accounts of the Chinese and Arab travellers in the reconstruction of the history of India.

Concept: Salient features of art forms, literature and architecture from ancient to modern times

  • Q.3. Throw light on the significance of the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi in the present times.

Concept: The Freedom Struggle – Important contributors and contributions from different parts of the country (concepts borrowed from topics listed in Indian Society can also be used while answering this or similar questions, candidates should take care to stick to the point in such cases)

  • Q.4. Why is Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) needed? How does it help in navigation?

Concept: This question draws two concepts from Geography, namely “Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent)” and “Geographical features and changes in their location”. This is a tricky question in the sense that it draws from concepts of Geography, Modern Indian History (specifically India’s Space Program which is part of Post-Independence History) as well as current affairs.

  • Q.5. Why is India taking a keen interest in resources of the Arctic region?

Concept: Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent)

  • Q.6. Define mantle plume and explain its role in plate tectonics.

Concept: Important Geophysical phenomena: Volcanic Activity

  • Q.7. What are the consequences of spreading ‘Dead Zones’ on marine ecosystem?

Concept: Changes in critical geographical features (including ice caps and water bodies) and in flora and fauna and their effects.

  • Q.8. “Caste system is assuming new identities and associational forms. Hence, caste system cannot be eradicated in India.” Comment.

Concept: Salient features of Indian society along with concepts from Diversity of India, Social Empowerment

  • Q.9. ‘Despite implementation of various programmes for eradication of poverty by the Government of India, poverty is still existing.’ Explain by giving reasons.

Concept: Poverty and developmental issues

  • Q.10. How the Indian concept of secularism is different from the western model of secularism? Discuss

Concept: Secularism along with concepts from Diversity of India and Communalism

  • Q.11. The Bhakti movement received a remarkable re-orientation with the advent of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Discuss

Concept: Salient features of art forms, literature and architecture from ancient to modern times

  • Q.12. Discuss whether formation of new states in recent times is beneficial or not for the economy of India.

Concepts: Post Independence consolidation and reorganization within the country

  • Q.13. Why indentured labour was taken by the British from India to other colonies? Have they been able to preserve their cultural identity over there?

Concepts: Colonization

  • Q.14. “The ideal solution of depleting ground water resources in India is water harvesting system.” How can it be made effective in urban areas?

Concepts: Urbanization and its problems and their remedies along with concepts from Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent)

  • Q.15. Defining blue revolution, explain the problems and strategies for pisciculture development in India.

Concepts: Factors responsible for the location of primary and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India) along with concepts from Poverty and developmental issues

  • Q.16. What is the significance of Industrial Corridors in India? Identifying industrial corridors, explain their main characteristics.

Concept: Factors responsible for the location of primary and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India)

  • Q.17. Mention core strategies for the transformation of aspirational districts in India and explain the nature of convergence, collaboration and competition for its success.

Concepts: Poverty and developmental issues along with concepts from Regionalism, Social Empowerment, Effects of globalization on Indian Society, Factors responsible for the location of primary and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India). Such questions require a high degree of precision in writing as the word limit is low and the answers have to be on point.

  • Q.18. ‘Women’s movement in India has not addressed the issues of women of lower social strata.’ Substantiate your view.

Concepts: Role of women and women’s organization

  • Q.19. ‘Globalization is generally said to promote cultural homogenization but due to this cultural specificities appear to be strengthened in the Indian Society’ Elucidate.

Concepts: Effects of globalization on Indian Society

  • Q.20. ‘Communalism arises either due to power struggle or relative deprivation.’ Argue by giving suitable illustrations.

Concepts: Communalism

Most of the questions draw heavily from interpretation of Current Affairs in the context of the topic in question. This means preparation should focus on Current Affairs and News analysis. Reading reputed newspapers like The Hindu should be made into a habit. If this is not possible on a daily basis, BYJU’S Comprehensive News Analysis and the Hindu Video Analysis are good sources to brush up your current affairs knowledge regularly. Reading a regular current affairs update like a Monthly Current Affairs Magazine would help you with preparation in the run up to the examination.

As we can see from the above analysis, the probability of getting a cross-functional question is high in the next examination, i.e. UPSC Mains 2019. Candidates should keep this in mind while preparing for the Civil Services Examination 2019.

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