Preparing for General Studies Paper 3 (Mains Examination)

In this post, we list out the sources for various topics in General Studies Paper 3, followed by a discussion on approach towards various topics.

Topic Broad Classification Source
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment. Economics Any standard book on Indian Economy, Uma Kapila etc.
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it. Economics Sriram notes
Government Budgeting Economics Economic Survey of India
Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers. Agriculture Shankar IAS academy book on the subject
Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing. Agriculture Shankar IAS academy book on the subject, Sriram notes
Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management. Agriculture Shankar IAS academy book on the subject, Mrunal
Land reforms in India. Agriculture Shankar IAS academy, Sriram notes
Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth. Economics Uma Kapila
Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc. Economics Sriram notes, GKtoday
Investment models. Economics Gktoday
Science and Technology – developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology. S&T Self prepared notes on topics mentioned on Gktoday’s science and technology section on the website, Youtube videos
Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights. S&T Sriram notes, Youtube videos on related topics
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment. Environment Shankar IAS academy, Mrunal
Disaster and disaster management. DM Sriram notes, ARC
Linkages between development and spread of extremism. Security Self prepared notes, Shankar IAS academy
Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security. Security Self prepared notes, Shankar IAS academy, IDSA book
Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security Security Newspaper articles, IDSA book (read below for link) free ebook available for download
Money-laundering and its prevention. Security Sriram notes, Shankar IAS academy
Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism. Security Sriram notes, Shankar IAS academy
Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate Security Sriram notes, Shankar IAS academy, Internet website of security agencies



About 2-3 questions in this section were directly picked up from Economics Optional Paper 2 of previous years. While keeping an eye on current affairs is important, one can go through previous years’ questions from Economics Paper 2 to understand the topics that may be asked. Some of these include – GST, FRBM, Direct Tax code, framework for inter-governmental transfers in India and issues related to it (including issues and recommendations of any relevant committees), recommendations of latest Finance Commission, any new terms used in Indian budget (e.g. effective revenue deficit), benefits/ drawbacks of various investment models (turnkey, PPP, etc.), FDI in various sectors and why they are not welcome in certain sectors. One may go through the Economic Survey of India to familiarize with the jargons and various issues concerning Indian Economy. Reading Dutt and Sundaram like books is not recommended – they are very dry and often discuss dated topics. One can consider reading Uma Kapila’s book on Indian Economy but that too selectively – do not overload with intricacies, a broad knowledge network is the requirement and not any specialization. If you have started preparing well in advance, reading any one good business daily is worthwhile investment. No need to mug up the entire paper, like The Hindu, but focus on political economy related topics such as financial legislation and regulation related issues. Business Standard, Hindu Businessline and The Mint are some good newspapers.


This is probably one of the most interesting additions to the UPSC syllabus. A very appropriate topic given this sector is the biggest employer of the country, has implications on our food security – making its progress a major concern for the Government. Apart from the sources mentioned above, one can refer to news articles from the newspaper “The Hindu Business Line” as it has a dedicated page for this sector and also has good editorials and expert views. Forward-looking aspects are more important than historical concerns. Thus, for topics like land reforms, while it is good to know how land reforms progressed post independence, it is more important to understand its present context including issues related to land acquisition and how it is linked with stimulating manufacturing sector growth. Some other issues to look into are –APMC Act, various subsidies – reasons behind their existence and existing challenges (incl. subsidy schemes for inputs and indirect subsidies in the form of MSP), supply chain management and micro irrigation and its benefits. Chapter on Agriculture from Economic Survey of India is again very relevant. Besides we also heavily relied on PIB releases related to reform of agriculture, PDS, warehousing etc. There are many schemes introduced to rejuvenate the sector and build infrastructure for its growth, it is worthwhile to know some of them.

Environment and Disaster Management

Clean Energy and Conservation have been important topics for UPSC. Shankar IAS Academy’s book on environment is an exhaustive source for environment section. UPSC has shown keen interest in project tiger and project elephant over the years so it is good to be updated on them. Clean energy is largely based on current affairs and hence one has to rely extensively on newspaper articles. For environment, has summarized the outcomes of all the major environmental summits, which is useful to understand how climate change negotiations have proceeded.

For Disaster Management, reading Sriram material may be sufficient, in addition to going through the summary and recommendations of the ARC report on the same topic. The events of Uttarakhand floods and Cyclone Phailin were relevant case studies in 2013 to understand disaster management.

Science and Technology

We devoted comparatively less time to this section but probably gained most out of it. We referred to Gktoday’s science and technology section from where we picked up various current affairs based topics. However, we kept the number of topics to 50-60 and hoped that one of them may be asked in the examiniation. We extensively used and referred to Youtube videos wherever it was possible to do so. It is far easier to understand a technology and scientific development when you see graphics on it than when you have read about it. For instance, an ISRO video on Mars mission meant to interest high school students is far easier to comprehend than The Hindu article. One should use presence of mind while answering questions (true for all the papers!) in this section, as it is likely that one is reading those terms for the first time. For eg., while answering the question on fixed dose drug combination, I felt the issue was of compliance in taking multiple medicines and hence could write a few lines on it.


Shankar IAS academy had good material on this, which we supplemented with IDSA’s free e-book on India’s insurgency (click here). A broad understanding is required across various dimensions – border security, IT-security related issues, Maoism, insurgency in the northeast and how it has been tackled in states like Tripura, etc. Maoism remains a burning topic and a good understanding of it is important. It also relates to the nature of the process of development and how its absence can fuel extremism. While studying internal security issues, one has to keep a broad mind, and must first get the facts and the history of the problem right. Then, one must try to understand the grievances of the group, which led to adoption of violence and how then how the State has responded. There have been widely different approaches used to tackle internal security problems, for instance Punjab vis-à-vis Meghalaya. It is always better to have a solution centric approach to any internal security issue, be it for J&K or for Northeast.

For money laundering, we referred to couple of speeches made by RBI and finance ministry officials at conferences, easily available online. Recent amendments have been made to the FEMA Act, which are relevant to understand the apparatus of monitoring and preventing money laundering. The economic and social impact of money laundering and its distinction with black money must be clearly understood.

For basics for cyber security, one may familiarize with certain terms like virus, worm, digital signature, encryption methods, cryptography, few cyber attacks of past like Flame, etc. The Economist publishes some great coverage of cyber security related topics and we read some of them. Even otherwise this topic is extensively available on Internet; however, one need not go beyond the basics and definition for the purpose of exam. Social media is an important topic; its role in fueling internal disturbance and its subsequent management is becoming significant. The use of social media in Arab spring is well documented and many similar instances are happening in India. The Economist’s articles are again a good resource. However, more important is to understand the legal apparatus of the IT Act as controversy surrounds its application by law enforcement agencies, especially of Section 66 A. The regulation of social media raises the age-old question of security versus individual’s privacy and freedom of speech and the issue must be understood in that context.

22 thoughts on “Preparing for General Studies Paper 3 (Mains Examination)”

  1. Good strategies for GS mains paper-2 nd Paper-3.
    Please write also for paper-1 and paper-4
    And essay part also.

  2. Thanks a lot, I am a working professional with MA degree in economics from JNU, came to know about this blog/website from one of your classmate. I am in principle against coaching classes and blogs like these really come to rescue. Areas to be covered for UPSC are not rocket science but one should know ” what to prepare and credible source for the same” . Your blog does a wonderful job answering these questions. Thanks, keep writing on this blog you are really helping a lot of aspirants to be on correct path to clear “mother of all exams”.

  3. Thanks a lot for this type of detailed topic wise explanation and their sources.
    One thing I want to know whether shanker ias academy and sriram notes are class room notes or postel study course notes.

    1. We took only postal guidance from Shankar and Sriram’s printed material available in market. No class notes of any coaching were referred by us.

  4. Thanks mam for such a descriptive explanation :)
    From where we could get shankar academy books as there website is not working for purchase?

  5. Thank you so much for taking time off and helping everyone. We would all be additionally grateful if you could complete the series on GS. Thanks!

  6. I found very helpful site…I hve plb that I want to prepare for IAS….but . Not getting proper way will u pls suggest me proper way to start it….my subject is that I m law graduate….will u suggest me option subject to me..and proper notes for general studies…

  7. Sir, Ma’am please post strategy for paper 1, ethics paper and essay too.
    Also ma’am how did you manage job with IAS preparation. Need some guidance. Thank you.

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