UPSC Mains Strategy: Tips to Prepare for GS Paper 2 By Yuvraj IAS

UPSC Mains Strategy: Tips to Prepare for Genral Studies GS Paper 2 By Yuvraj IAS


The General Studies Paper 2 covers the subjects polity, governance, social justice and international relations. This article gives you tips on how to prepare for GS paper 2 and also illustrates with an example how to answer questions from these topics.

First of all, a few basic pointers are given for you to keep in mind when you write answers in GS paper 2:

  • Don’t leave any question unanswered. If you come across a question which you think you aren’t prepared for, avoid leaving it blank. It is highly likely that you know something about the topic. Write what you know related to the topic so that you have the chance of scoring at least 1 or 2 marks. Each mark counts in the final tally.
  • Keep track of time when you write answers. In order to complete the paper, you must time your answer writing. Also, you must understand and write according to the ‘demand’ of the question.
  • It is recommended that you write the polity and governance related questions in points and avoid writing in points for the international relations questions.

Now we give you the important topics in GS paper 2 which you must cover to fare well in the IAS mains exam.

Polity & Governance

  • Relation between the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) and Fundamental Rights. Questions can be asked on the issue of ban on cow slaughter. The issue of cow protection as laid down in the DPSP versus the possible violation of fundamental rights when cow slaughter is banned is to be explored. Also important in this regard is the right to privacy and the Aadhar card issue.
  • Article 377 and transgender rights.
  • Judicial appointments and the National Judicial Appointments Commission.
  • Good governance – concept of e-governance.
  • Poverty estimation and the Socio Economic and Caste Census.
  • Comparison of the Indian Constitution with other constitutions.

International Relations

  • SAARC and regional connectivity. South Asia and India’s relations with her neighbours are very important topics in the IR section. Almost every year a question is asked from this topic.
  • India-Central Asia relations.
  • India-Israel relations.
  • India-Iran relations.
  • India-Qatar relations.
  • India-Africa relations.
  • India-USA relations.
  • India-EU relations.
  • India-Russia relations.
  • Relations with Pakistan/China and the border issues.
  • Climate change negotiations.
  • Past global agreements.
  • India’s economic interaction and relation with the world.
  • UNSC reforms.

How to structure an answer in GS paper 2?

For illustration, a question is taken from the 2014 mains GS paper 2.

Q) Starting from inventing the ‘basic structure’ doctrine, the judiciary has played a slightly proactive role in ensuring that India develops into a thriving democracy. In light of the statement, evaluate the role played by judicial activism in achieving the ideals of democracy.

Here, the question asks you to write about the working of the Indian judiciary from the time the basic structure doctrine was proposed in the Kesavananda Bharathi case in 1973. You should also write about judicial activism, the strengths and weaknesses of the judiciary with respect to its working. When the question says ‘evaluate’, you should write about the strengths and weaknesses of a topic and then take a measured stand on the issue. In this question, you should also talk about Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that goes along with the idea of judicial activism.

First, define judicial activism and explain the idea of PIL. Then, give examples where the judiciary interfered in matters of legislature and executive.

An example of judicial interference in the legislature: Direction given by the Supreme Court in 1998 giving guidelines to prevent sexual harassment of women at the workplace.

An example of judicial interference in the executive: Court monitoring of cases involving the CBI.

An example of PILs being taken up by the judiciary: Delhi air pollution PIL being taken up by the Supreme Court.

After writing all the above, you must also point out that when taken overboard, judicial activism can lead to judicial overreach, and this is in violation of the separation of powers of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. In the long run, this can be detrimental.

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