UPSC Mains General Studies Paper-II Strategy, Syllabus & Structure

UPSC Mains GS-II is one of the nine subjective papers of the second stage of the Civil Services Examination. The  UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination is conducted over 5 days. Out of these, the first two papers in IAS Exam – English and compulsory Indian language, are qualifying in nature. Candidates have to secure at least 25% marks in these two to be eligible for merit ranking, based on the rest of the UPSC Mains papers and the interview.


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Candidates can refer to the strategy, syllabus, and structure of GS-I, GS-III and GS-IV from the links mentioned below:

UPSC Mains GS-I Strategy, Structure & Syllabus
UPSC Mains GS-III Strategy, Structure & Syllabus
UPSC Mains GS-IV Strategy, Structure & Syllabus

Table of Contents:

IAS Mains General Studies-II
Strategy for UPSC Mains GS 2:

GS-II Structure
GS-II Syllabus – Detailed Syllabus of Mains GS Paper 2
GS-II Trend Analysis
Must-Read Important Topics in GS-II for UPSC
IAS Exam Pattern

IAS Mains General Studies-II

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 few direct questions which are related to one topic. This paper needs a fair bit of critical thinking to answer the questions correctly as many times; interrelated topics will appear. If candidates are targeting UPSC 2024, they may check the linked article.

Strategy for UPSC Mains GS 2

GS-II Strategy – Recommended Videos
Strategy for Polity:

Strategy for International Relations:

Focus Areas in GS 2 Paper
The table below gives the focus areas in Mains GS Paper-II, which an aspirant should focus on:

Focus Areas in GS Paper-II

Subject Topics
  • Indian Constitution
  • Features of Indian Constitution
  • Amendments in Indian Constitution
  • Provisions
  • Constitutional and non-constitutional bodies
  • Government policies and interventions
  • Governance
  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • E-governance applications
Social Justice
  • Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger
International Relations
  • Bilateral Groupings
  • Regional and global groupings 
  • Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
How to approach Mains General Studies Paper 2

The following table will mention the important sources which an aspirant can refer to prepare for UPSC Mains GS-II:

Subject Sources
Polity Books:

  • ‘Indian Polity’ by Laxmikanth (Do read this book at least three times)
  • Class 11 NCERT – ‘Indian Constitution at Work’
Governance Daily reading of newspaper to be complemented with:

  • Select articles from ‘The Hindu’
  • Economic Survey
  • Press Information Bureau (PIB)
  • ARC reports
Social Justice Select articles from ‘The Hindu’ newspaper
International Relations
  • MEA Website
  • Select articles from ‘The Hindu’

Questions from each of the topics mentioned above are asked in the general studies 2 paper. To get the topic wise GS 2 questions in UPSC Mains, you can check the linked article. These questions can help aspirants devise a strategy to prepare for each of the GS-II topics.

To get answers to the majority of doubts related to topics of Indian Polity subject, please visit the IAS Polity Questions Portal. It contains all the answers tailored to your UPSC needs for the polity subject.

As IAS Mains GS-II is heavily inclined towards current affairs, aspirants can take help from the below-mentioned links to prepare accordingly:

Daily News Analysis Best of PIB
ARC Reports Gist of Yojana

GS-II Structure

GS-II Paper - Mains GS-II Structure

Detailed Structure of Mains General Studies Paper-II for IAS

The important features of the UPSC 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 while filling out the application form. Questions that are answered in any other language are not evaluated.
  • The paper is of a total of 250 marks.
  • The word limit for 10 marks questions is 150, and for 15 marks is 250.
  • There is a heavy emphasis on governance and polity related topics, with a significant overlap between them and social Justice and international relations. The type of polity questions is mostly about the applicability of constitutional amendments, rights and significance of certain parts of the constitution.

GS-II Syllabus – Detailed Syllabus of Mains GS Paper 2

The detailed syllabus for UPSC Mains General Studies Paper-II (UPSC GS 2 syllabus) is tabulated below:

Topic Sub-Topics
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

Check Previous Years’ Constitution Questions from UPSC Mains GS 2 in the linked article.

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 the polity
  • Salient features of the People’s Representation Act

Candidates can get the relevant Polity Notes for UPSC from the linked article.

  • 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 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
  • e-governance
    • applications
    • models
    • successes
    • limitations and potential
    • citizens charters
    • transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  • Role of Civil Services in a Democracy

Check the compilation of old Governance Questions from UPSC Mains GS 2 in the linked article.

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

The Social Justice Questions in UPSC Mains GS 2 are mentioned in the linked article.

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

Click on the links to aid your IR preparation:

  1. Booklist for IAS International Relations
  2. UPSC Previous Years’ International Relations Questions of Mains GS 2

Aspirants can find the complete Indian Polity syllabus for UPSC from the links mentioned in the table below:

Polity Syllabus for UPSC Prelims
Polity Syllabus for UPSC Mains
UPSC Political Science & International Relations (PSIR) Optional Syllabus

GS-II Trend Analysis

As we can see from the UPSC GS 2 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 UPSC GS 2 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. UPSC aspirants can also refer to IAS Topper strategies to better understand the exam.

Here, we are giving the GS 2 trend analysis for the years 2018-2020. UPSC candidates can read the detailed trend analysis of UPSC Mains GS Paper 2 from 2013 to 2016 in the linked article.

The following table gives the total marks asked in each broad category in GS 2 in 2018-2020.

Category 2018 2019 2020
Polity 70 105 125
Governance 45 10 30
Welfare 55 60 40
International Relations 80 75 55
Total 250 250 105

Now, we analyze each broad category by classifying them into subtopics:

Polity Trend Analysis

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2020:

Polity Trend Analysis 2020

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2018 and 2019:

GS-II Structure & Syllabus - Polity Trend Analysis

Governance Trend Analysis

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2020:

Governance Trend Analysis 2020

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2018 and 2019:

GS-II Structure & Syllabus - Governance Trend Analysis

International Relations Trend Analysis

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2020:

IR 2020 Trend Analysis

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2018 and 2019:

GS-II Structure & Syllabus - International Relations Trend Analysis

IAS aspirants can check the UPSC Prelims Subject-Wise Weightage 2011-2019 in the linked article.

Must-Read Important Topics in GS-II for UPSC

The table below mentions the GS-II topics that are important for IAS Exam:

Constitution of India Preamble
Important Amendments in the Indian Constitution Lok Sabha
Rajya Sabha President
Prime Minister Chief Minister
Governor Speaker
UN Government Schemes
WHO 42nd Amendment Act, 1972
44th Amendment Act, 1976 Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG)

IAS Exam Pattern

Check the table below to understand the scheme and subjects of IAS examination:


Pattern of IAS Exam

Preliminary Examination
  • General Studies
  • Aptitude Test
Mains Examination
  • Qualifying
    • 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

There were significant 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, essays, 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.

Candidates can understand the complete UPSC Exam Pattern from the linked article. 

Due to the increasing trend of UPSC papers being analyzed heavy in 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.

The following articles given in the table below can be referred to for UPSC IAS exam preparation:

UPSC Calendar 2024 IAS Questions & Answers
Current Affairs Previous Year UPSC Question Papers
UPSC Online Application 2024 IAS Notification 2024
UPSC Notes PDF UPSC Calendar 2024
UPSC Mains Syllabus Gist of Kurukshetra


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