The Structure & Syllabus of UPSC Mains General Studies Paper II


The UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination consists of 9 papers conducted over a period of 5 days. Out of these, the first two papers of English and a compulsory Indian language out of the 22 languages included in the eighth schedule of the Constitution of India are qualifying papers. Candidates have to secure at least 25% marks in each language paper to be eligible for merit ranking based on the rest of the IAS Mains Papers and the Interview.

There are 7 papers which have significance for merit ranking. Marks secured in these papers along with the marks secured in the Personality Test/Interview are counted towards a merit rank.

There are 4 General Studies papers in the mains examination. In this article, the second of a series on General Studies we will discuss the important features of the General Studies Paper II. There were major structural changes in the pattern of the UPSC IAS Exam in 2013 and a few minor changes in 2015 and 2016. The changes related to General Studies are listed below:

  • 2013: General Studies papers increased from 2 to 4
  • 2015: CSAT marks no longer counted towards merit list, only General Studies papers, essay and optional papers are counted for merit ranking while CSAT became a qualifying paper.
  • 2016: General Studies Papers marks distribution changed to a two-tier system instead of the earlier equal marks distribution for all questions.

These were the major changes related to General Studies. The present structure of the General Studies papers test the candidates’ ability to apply concepts from one area of general studies to another such as economic concepts applied to the analysis of the spread of extremism, etc. A lot of critical thinking skills are tested in the General Studies papers. Not many changes are expected in UPSC Mains 2019 though candidates should develop a deep understanding of the subjects covered to be ready for any unexpected questions or changes in the pattern.

The following subjects are covered in the Mains General Studies Paper II:

  • Governance
  • Constitution
  • Polity
  • Social Justice
  • International relations

Like General Studies I, General Studies II has very less direct questions which are related to one topic. As is evident from a cursory look through the last three years papers, while we may be able to classify the questions based on a broad interpretation of the subject, it needs a fair bit of critical thinking to answer the questions correctly as many times, interrelated topics will appear in the questions.

Structure of Mains General Studies Paper II

The important features of the General Studies II Mains paper are:

  • There are 20 compulsory questions printed in Hindi and English which are to be answered in the language selected during application. Questions which are answered in any other language are not evaluated.
  • The question paper is divided into two sections, the first has ten questions worth 10 Marks each and the second has ten questions worth 15 marks each.
  • The paper is of a total of 250 marks.
  • The word limit for 10 marks questions is 150 words and for 15 marks is 250 words.
  • There is a heavy emphasis on the Governance and Polity related topics, with a significant overlap between them and Social Justice and International relations. The type of questions related to polity is mostly about the applicability of constitutional amendments, rights and significance of certain parts of the constitution.

Syllabus of Mains General Studies Paper II

The detailed syllabus for UPSC Mains General Studies Paper II is tabulated below:

Topic Subtopics
Indian Constitution
  • Historical underpinnings of the Constitution
  • Evolution of the Constitution
  • Salient features
  • Basic structure
  • Amendments
  • 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 & Polity
  • Parliament and State Legislatures
    • Structure
    • Functioning
    • Conduct of Business
    • Powers & Privileges
    • Issues arising out of Powers & Privileges of legislative bodies
  • Executive and Judiciary
    • Structure
    • Organization
    • Functioning
    • Ministries and departments of the government
  • Pressure groups
  • Formal & Informal associations and their role in polity
  • Salient features of the People’s Representation Act
  • Appointment to various constitutional posts
  • Powers, functions and responsibilities of various constitutional bodies
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
  • Government policies and interventions for 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
  • e-governance
    • applications
    • models
    • successes
    • limitations and potential
    • citizens charters
    • transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  • Role of Civil Services in a Democracy
Social Justice
  • Welfare 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 Relations
  • India 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
    • Structure
    • Mandate

As we can see from the syllabus, there is a high degree of overlap between subjects and this should be kept in mind during preparation. A thorough analysis of current affairs related to General Studies II as well as a good understanding of the constitution and its structure along with the structure of the government should be a major part of preparation.

Due to the increasing trend of UPSC papers being analysis heavy in the recent years, it is very important to read and understand the topics covered in the General Studies Paper II and also previous year’s UPSC questions and answers to be able to answer effectively and efficiently.

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