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

The UPSC GS 3 is one of the nine subjective papers of UPSC Mains. The subjects asked in the GS Paper 3 are Economic Development, Technology, Biodiversity, Environment, Security, Disaster Management. This article will provide you with the detailed GS 3 syllabus and structure for the preparation of the IAS Exam.

This article will give a GS preparation strategy for IAS, syllabus, and structure of GS-I, GS-III and GS-IV from the links mentioned below:

IAS Mains GS Paper 3

The GS 3 Syllabus is focussed on the following subjects::

  • Technology
  • Economic Development
  • Biodiversity
  • Environment
  • Security
  • Disaster Management

As we can see, there is scope for significant overlap between the topics covered in General Studies II and General Studies III. Candidates preparing for UPSC 2022, can check the linked article.

Strategy for UPSC Mains GS 3

GS-III Strategy – Recommended Video
UPSC Mains GS3 Structure and Strategy
Focus Areas in GS 3 Paper
The table below gives the focus areas in GS 3 mains as well as the syllabus which an aspirant should focus on:

Focus Areas in GS Paper-III

Subject Topics
  • Economic Development in India
  • Macroeconomics
Science & Technology
  • Dark Matter
  • Higgs Boson
  • Rare Earth Elements
  • GM Crops
  • Gene Editing
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Space Technology
  • Defence Technology
  • Types of Biodiversity
  • Biodiversity and Environment
  • Internal Security Challenges in India
  • Extremism
  • Terrorism
  • Money-Laundering
Disaster Management
  • Disaster Management in India
  • PM Cares Fund
  • National Disaster Management Plan 2016
How to approach Mains General Studies Paper 3

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



Economic Development
  • Current Affairs
  • Select articles from ‘The Hindu’
  • Class 12 NCERT – ‘Introductory Macroeconomics’
  • Economic Survey of India and India Year Book
Biodiversity, Environment
  • Current Affairs
  • ‘Textbook of Environmental Studies For Undergraduate Courses’ by Erach Bharucha
  • Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) Official Website
  • Yojana (January 2020) – Click the link to get the gist of Yojana.
Technology Current Affairs
Security & Disaster Management
  • Current Affairs
  • Yojana (January 2017) edition- this covers Disaster Management perspectives.

Quick Tips to prepare for GS Paper 3:

  • Focus on Current Affairs – Many topics from IAS Mains GS-III overlap with current affairs and hence, aspirants can take help from the below-mentioned links to prepare accordingly:
  • Make notes on blank sheets of paper, or alternatively on an unruled notebook –  Draw margins on both sides of the paper, as this familiarizes you with the format of the answer booklet given to candidates appearing for the Mains Examination.
  • Use Mnemonics wherever possible – You can create mnemonics that work for you. For Example, the schemes under, ‘Bharat Nirman’ can be memorized using the mnemonic ‘WRITE H’- wherein each alphabet denotes one component, i.e. W: Water, R: Roads, I: Irrigation, E: Electricity, T: Telephone, and H: Housing.
  • Use illustrations while making notes –  You can use sticky notes for drawing brief diagrams, flowcharts, etc. which you can then paste on the textbook page you are referring to, or on the notebook you are maintaining for points that you are jotting down from the tablet. This will help during revision.
  • Get answers to even the most minute doubt related to economy, science, environment or agriculture from BYJU’S education portal. The links are mentioned below:

Questions from each of the above-mentioned topics are asked in general studies 3 paper. To get the topic wise GS 3 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.

GS 3 Structure for UPSC

GS 3 Structure - UPSC IAS Mains GS Paper 3

Detailed Structure of Mains General Studies Paper-III for IAS

The major features of the General Studies Paper III in Mains Exam are:

  • There are 20 questions printed in both English and Hindi, the questions can be answered only in the language specified during application.
  • The paper is of a total of 250 marks.
  • The word limit for 10 marks questions is 150 and, for 15 marks is 250.
  • The paper has a special emphasis on Economic Development, so it is expected to have questions answers to which would theoretically spill over to Social Justice and international relations from GS II. Also, the questions from Environment may have some overlap with the Geography knowledge required for GS-I and Economic Development and Biodiversity from GS II itself. Due to this, analyzing each question and writing to the point answers within the word limit is important. A careful analysis of the UPSC GS 3 Syllabus will help in this regard.
  • The questions related to Security and disaster management are mostly asked in the second half of the paper, so it is important to brush up on topics related to Internal Security and Disaster Management as well as new age topics like cybercrime.

Get the Strategy for Mains GS Paper III in the linked article.

It is always advisable to check IAS Toppers of previous years’ exams so as to know their strategies to ace the examination.

IAS GS 3 Syllabus – Detailed Syllabus of Mains GS Paper 3

The following is the detailed Syllabus for General Studies III Paper in the UPSC Mains Examination:

Topic Subtopic
Indian Economy
  • Issues related to planning
  • Mobilization of resources
  • Growth
  • Development
  • Employment

Download previous years’ Indian Economy Questions from the linked article.

Inclusive Growth
  • Inclusive growth
  • Issues arising from or related to inclusive growth
  • Government Budgeting
Major Crops and Cropping Patterns
  • Major crops and cropping pattern in different parts of the country
  • Different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage
  • Transport and marketing of agricultural produce
  • Issues related to transport and marketing of agricultural produce
  • E- technology in the aid of farmers
Subsidies, Poverty Alleviation and Agricultural Technology
  • Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies
  • Issues related to Minimum Support Prices
  • Public Distribution System
    • Objectives
    • Functioning
    • Limitations
    • Revamp
  • Issues related to buffer stocks and food security
  • Technology missions
  • Economics of Animal rearing

Refer to Agriculture Questions from UPSC Mains GS 3 in the linked article.

Food Processing and Related Industries
  • Food processing and related industries in India
    • Scope and significance
    • Location
    • Upstream and downstream requirements
  • Supply chain management
Land Reforms
  • Land reforms in India
  • Effects of Liberalization on the economy
  • Changes in industrial policy
  • Effects of changes in industrial policy on industrial growth
  • Energy
  • Ports
  • Roads
  • Airports
  • Railways etc.
  • Investment models such as Public-Private Partnerships, Build Operate Transfer etc.
Science and Technology
  • Developments in Science and Technology
  • Applications of scientific developments in everyday life
  • Effects of scientific developments in everyday life

Take help from Science & Technology Questions from UPSC Mains GS 3 provided in the linked article.

Achievements of Indians in Science and Technology
  • Important contributions of Indians in Science and Technology
  • Indigenization of technology
  • Developing new technology indigenously
General Awareness
  • Awareness in the following fields:
    • IT
    • Space
    • Computers
    • Robotics
    • Nanotechnology
    • Biotechnology
  • Issues related to Intellectual Property
  • Rights in these fields
  • Conservation
  • Environmental pollution and degradation
  • Environmental Impact Assessment

Previous years’ Environment & Ecology Questions from UPSC Mains GS 3 can be checked in the linked article.

Disaster Management
  • Disasters
  • Disaster Management

The Old Disaster Management Questions from UPSC Mains GS 3 are compiled in the linked article.

  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism
  • Role of state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security
  • Challenges to Internal Security through communication networks:
    • Role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges
  • Basics of Cyber Security
  • Money laundering and its prevention
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas:
    • Linkages of organized crime with terrorism
    • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandates

Mentioned Security Questions from UPSC Mains GS 3 in the linked article can be helpful.

Aspirants can find the complete GS 3 Economics syllabus for UPSC from the links mentioned in the table below:

Economics Optional Syllabus for UPSC Economics Syllabus for IAS Mains

As we can see from the syllabus, internal security occupies a major part of the syllabus along with agriculture and related topics. Hence, aspirants can read the strategy for internal security and disaster management topics for GS 3 in the linked article. 

While preparing for the General Studies Paper III., it is very important to look at the trends from the previous papers to understand the pattern of questions.

GS-III Trend Analysis

Here, we are giving the GS 3 trend analysis for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020. UPSC candidates can read the detailed trend analysis of UPSC Mains GS Paper 3 from 2013 to 2016 in the linked article.

Topic 2018 2019 2020
Economy 50 50 50
Agriculture/Food industry 60 55 50
Science/Tech/Environment/Disaster 100 100 100
Security 40 45 50
Total 250 250 250

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

Economy Trend Analysis

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

Economy Trend Analysis 2020

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

GS-III Structure & Syllabus - Economy Trend Analysis

Agriculture Trend Analysis

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

Agriculture Trend Analysis 2020

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

GS-III Structure & Syllabus - AgricultureTrend Analysis

Science & Technology, and Environment Trend Analysis

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

Science, Technology and Environment Trend Analysis 2020

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2018 and 2019:
GS-III Structure & Syllabus - Science, Technology, EnvironmentTrend Analysis

Security Trend Analysis

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

Security Trend Analysis 2020

The following graph indicates the worth of the total mark of questions asked from each subtopic in 2018 and 2019:
GS-III Structure & Syllabus - Security Trend Analysis

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

Must-Read Important Topics in GS-III for UPSC

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

Indian Economy

Inclusive Growth


Major Crops

Subsidies, Agriculture

Food Processing

Land Reforms




Science & Technology


Disaster Management


Aspirants can get other important Science & Technology notes for UPSC in the linked article.

The full UPSC GS 3 syllabus can be downloaded from the IAS Notification by downloading its PDF given in the linked article.

IAS Exam Pattern

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

The UPSC Civil Services Mains Examination consists of 9 papers conducted over a period of 5 days. Out of these, the first two papers – 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.

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

IAS aspirants may also check out the following links for more General Studies resources for UPSC IAS preparation:

Civil Services Examination
UPSC Syllabus UPSC Preparation UPSC Notes PDF
Previous Year UPSC Question Papers General Studies Syllabus NCERT Books PDFs For UPSC
IAS 2017 General Studies 3 Paper Analysis IAS Questions & Answers for UPSC Current Affairs


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