The Civil Services Mains examination aims to test the academic talent and the ability of the candidate to present the answers in a clear and coherent manner. The Examination is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and understanding of the concepts rather than merely to check their information and memory. Aspirants become eligible for Mains only after qualifying the Prelims Exam held by UPSC.

UPSC Mains Pattern And Papers

The mains syllabus for optional papers is generally of the honours degree level that is between the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree. It contains 9 papers, where there are two qualifying papers and seven papers counted for ranking and the syllabus is framed according to the subjects with a total of 1750 marks. The syllabus for the mains is widespread and the subjects are roughly the same as the prelims except for the focus on Disaster management, government policies and Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude.

Compulsory Subjects for IAS UPSC Exams in the Mains Round

  • General Studies – 4 Papers of 250 marks each
  • Essay – 250 marks, any language as a medium
  • English – Qualifying 300 marks
  • Indian Languages – 300 marks, qualifying

General Studies Compulsory Subject for IAS

  • GS Paper 1 of UPSC Mains is one of the four general studies papers. It is a subjective type of paper consisting of subjects like History, Geography, Art and Culture, and Indian Society.
  • The subjects covered in the Mains General Studies Paper-II are Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations
  • UPSC GS 3 is one of the compulsory subjects of UPSC Mains. The subjects asked in the GS Paper 3 are Economic Development, Technology, Biodiversity, Environment, Security, Disaster Management.
  • UPSC Mains General Studies Paper IV (GS-IV) is about Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude.

Also Read: Complete IAS UPSC Planner for The Year 2020

Essay Compulsory Subjects for IAS

Candidates will be required to write an essay on a specific topic. There will be a choice given for the candidate to choose one topic from a variety of subjects. The candidate is expected to stick to the subject of the essay and arrange their ideas in an orderly way. The writing has to be in a concise way with numerous points in support of your essay topic. Those who have presented the essay in an articulate way with effective expression are likely to score high marks. This paper plays a crucial role in determining the rank of the student. Most of the top rankers have scored above 55% in this paper.  The correct choice of topic and the appropriate method of writing are important. It is advised to choose factual topics where you can pack in a lot of information. Try to avoid topics that are controversial in nature.

2 Qualifying Language Papers in the IAS Mains

There are two qualifying papers. They are listed below.

  1. Modern Indian Language
  2. General English

Marks scored in these papers are not counted for ranking. Minimum Scoring is 35%. The paper consists of an Essay, Translation, Precis writing, Sentence formation, idioms/proverbs and their meaning etc. The right strategy is to answer all the questions in the examination without overconfidence.

Must Read Topics for GS Paper 1

History, Art & Culture

  • Independence Struggle
  • Rowlatt Act & Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
  • Salt Satyagraha
  • Wood’s Despatch
  • Puppetry
  • Types of Classical Dances of India
  • Tribal Paintings of India
  • Temple Architecture Styles

Indian Society

  • Women Empowerment
  • Poverty
  • Secularism
  • Communalism


  • Earthquake
  • Cyclones: Amphan Cyclone, Nisarga Cyclone
  • Types of Rocks
  • Erosional Landforms

Must Read Topics for GS Paper 2

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)

Must Read Topics for GS Paper 3

Indian Economy

  • Economic Planning in India
  • Economic Growth & Development
  • Unemployment in India
Inclusive Growth

  • Inclusive Growth
  • Financial Inclusion

  • Union Budget 2020
Major Crops

  • Major Crops in India
  • Agricultural Produce Market Committee
Subsidies, Agriculture

  • Minimum Support Price (MSP)
  • Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP)
  • PDS & TPDS
Food Processing

  • Food Processing
Land Reforms

  • Land Reforms in Post-Independent India

  • Difference between Globalization & Liberalization
  • Industrial Policy in India

  • List of Major Ports in India
  • List of Important National Highways in India

  • Public-Private Partnership (PPP)
Science & Technology

  • Nanotechnology
  • Intellectual Property Rights in India

  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
Disaster Management

  • Disaster Management in India

  • Cyber Security
  • Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

Must Read Topics for GS Paper 4

  • Difference between Democracy & Dictatorship
  • Difference between Ethics and Values
  • Difference Between Ethics & Morality
  • Difference Between Communism, Capitalism and Socialism
  • Difference Between Democracy and Monarchy

Also Read: A Complete Collection of Study Material for IAS UPSC


You must be aware of the fact that the UPSC Mains exam is a descriptive type. You have to write 150-300 words answers for each question. Hence, answer writing practice is a must for Mains and this can be achieved through taking regular tests along with preparing appropriate notes. It is also advised that while making notes from current affairs, one should try writing around 150-300 words for each topic so that it becomes easy for him/her to write answers in the exam.

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Compulsory Subjects for UPSC Exam: What to Prepare for the General Studies Paper for IAS?
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Compulsory Subjects for UPSC Exam: What to Prepare for the General Studies Paper for IAS?
After an aspirant qualifies for the Prelims, the next stage is a dedicated approach and smart preparation plan for conquering the Mains exam. Learn about the pattern, syllabus, and subjects.
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UPSC Pathshala
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