To pass the UPSC civil services exam, the syllabus is essential. As seen from previous years’ question papers, over 80% of the questions originate directly from the syllabus. You can make the best use of the newspapers for UPSC Exams if you know your syllabus well. Having the syllabus at your fingertips will ensure that you are tuned in to any relevant topic in the paper. The same is true when you watch the news or a debate on television.

The syllabus for UPSC civil service exam is vast like the ocean, and when you prepare for the civil services, you are likely to have a limited amount of time. Weak topics won’t make it onto the question paper, so you cannot afford to waste time on them. Thus, knowing the syllabus will save you precious time. Sticking to the syllabus will help you focus your preparations and make them more effective.

Therefore, you should use the UPSC syllabus as your guide for the UPSC exam preparation. That’s why, when you are preparing for the UPSC exam, it’s important to know the latest updates about the exam syllabus and patterns.

Before knowing the changes in UPSC civil service examination, let’s have a look at the latest syllabus and exam pattern.

UPSC Civil Service Exam Syllabus 2020

Stage One: UPSC IAS Preliminary Exam Pattern & Syllabus

The Preliminary Examination is only a screening test for the Civil Services Main Examination and is conducted to rectify candidates for the Main Examination. When determining the final merit, the marks obtained in the preliminary exam are not considered. Two objective papers carrying a maximum of 400 marks form the part of the preliminary exam.

General Studies Paper-I Syllabus

There are 100 questions covering the following topics, each carrying 200 marks to be answered in two hours:

#. International and national events of importance.

#. The history of India & the Indian National Movement.

#. Geographical geography of India and the world – Physical, Economic, and Social geography of India and the world.

#. Governance of India – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues.

#. Social Sector Initiatives, Poverty Reduction, Inclusion, Demographics, Economic Development – i.e., Social Sector Initiatives, Economic & Social Development.

#. The general issue of environmental ecology, biodiversity, and climate change – without having to specialize in a specific field.

#. General Science.

General Studies Paper-II Syllabus

A maximum of 200 marks is offered for each of the following 80 questions:

#. Comprehension.

#. Skills related to interpersonal relationships, including communication skills.

#. Ability to reason logically and analyze.

#. Making decisions & solving problems.

#. Ability to think generally.

#. Mathematical literacy (numbers & relations, magnitude, etc.) (Class X level). Interpretation of data (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. – Class X level).

For the UPSC Exam, General Studies Paper-II is a qualifying paper with a requirement of 33% as the minimum qualifying mark.

For evaluation, all the candidates must appear in both papers of the IAS Preliminary Exam.

Stage Two: UPSC IAS Main Exam Pattern & Syllabus

Written examination and interview (personality test) together constitute the Civil Services Main Examination.

There are two categories of papers in the civil service main examination – those that are to count towards qualifying for the civil service commission & those that will be counted for merit.

#1. English and Indian Languages Qualifying Papers.

#2. Paper-I (Essay).

A candidate may be required to write essays on more than one topic.

#3. Paper-II (General Studies-I).

Subject: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

#4. Paper-III (General Studies-II).

Subject: Politics, Government, Social Justice, and International Relations.

#5. Paper-IV (General Studies-III).

Subject: Science, Engineering, Biotechnology, Environment, Security, and Disaster Management

#6. Paper-V (General Studies-IV).

Subject: Integrity, ethics, and intelligence

#7. Paper- VI & VII (Optional Subject Papers one and two).

Optional Subjects

The following are available as Optional Subjects:

#. Agriculture

#. Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

#. Anthropology

#. Botany

#. Chemistry

#. Civil Engineering

#. Commerce and Accountancy

#. Economics

#. Electrical Engineering

#. Geography

#. Geology

#. History

#. Law

#. Management

#. Mathematics

#. Mechanical Engineering

#. Medical Science

#. Philosophy

#. Physics

#. Political Science and International Relations

#. Psychology

#. Public Administration

#. Sociology

#. Statistics

#. Zoology

#. Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, English, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, and Nepali.

We know the syllabus can make you feel overwhelmed. That’s why UPSC Pathshala has all the solutions for you. Read till the end how we can help you with your UPSC preparation.

Will There Be Any Changes in UPSC Civil Service Examination?

UPSC syllabuses are released every year for the preliminary and main stages of examinations. Since 2013, the UPSC syllabus has remained unchanged. Although slight pattern changes had occurred over the years.

Let’s look at those changes in the UPSC civil service examination.

The Year 2012

To keep the syllabus of the CSE mains a bit more generic, UPSC changed the question pattern entirely. For each exam, there were two additional questions. A similar pattern was followed in 2012, which included two papers on general studies and an essay. Also, marks obtained in CSAT and GS were considered when preparing a merit list for the prelims exam.

The Year 2013

The number of optional subjects was reduced from two to one. In General Studies, the number of papers increased from two to four. In addition to the two previous GS papers, a new paper, ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’ (Paper 4), was introduced. As a result, the essay received a total mark increase to 250. In total, there were more questions, and the word limit was reduced.

The Year 2014

The essay count increased to two. A change resulted in two sections with four optional choices instead of one section with four options earlier. Examinees can now attempt the exam a total of six times instead of four. Furthermore, the maximum age limit for general candidates was raised from 30 to 32 years.

The Year 2015

Merit was accounted for based on both CSAT and GS results before 2015. CSAT marks were used for qualifying exams, and only GS marks were used for merit.

The Year 2018

A change in the exam pattern was not mentioned in the UPSC notification for 2018. Rather, it discussed the vacancies and added a new section to their existing interview process.

The Motto of the Changes

Candidates can now crack the exam through their intelligence, skills, and smart methods of learning since the exam questions are now more direct. Aspirants are now less preoccupied with mugging up and more interested in analysis and smart learning.


Year to year, slight changes can be seen in the UPSC exam pattern, but the syllabus has not changed since 2013. The questions asked now are more to the point that tests candidates’ basic abilities to recruit them as civil servants.

Do you aspire to join the civil services as well? In that case, check out UPSC Pathshala to accelerate your preparation. Our customised courses for the UPSC exam can assist you in preparing for it and ensuring continuous improvement. Our mentors are masters in their fields, experts in teaching with deep knowledge. With our assistance, you can solve any doubts, keep track of your progress, and focus on weak areas.

UPSC Pathshala offers a free demo class where you can experience the quality of its teaching methods. There are over 15000 students who have been trained in many different locations across the country by us.

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Does the Syllabus of UPSC CSE Change from Year to Year? Know Everything Here
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Does the Syllabus of UPSC CSE Change from Year to Year? Know Everything Here
UPSC syllabuses are released every year for the preliminary and main stages of examinations. Read the changes in UPSC civil service examination that occurred over the year
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About the Author


Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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