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UPSC mains syllabus 2019 – Download

The UPSC Mains Exam comprises nine theory papers. Mark of these papers is considered while tallying the final merit list. The other...

Akshay Palande Written by Akshay Palande · 5 min read >
UPSC mains syllabus

The UPSC Mains Exam comprises nine theory papers. Mark of these papers is considered while tallying the final merit list. The other two papers, English and Indian Language are considered as qualifying papers. Candidates are instructed to score 25% or more in this section

The candidates who score above the cut-off in the first stage (Prelims) of the IAS exam will only be eligible for the Mains. While only objective-type or MCQs questions are asked in Prelims, the subjective Mains exam requires a deeper understanding of the topics. The upcoming  UPSC Mains Exams will start on September 20, 2019. 

The Mains Examination is schemed to test the skill of the eligible candidate with detailed knowledge, aptitude, and skill-based test. This is a written examination consisting of the following papers:

Paper A (consists of Modern Indian Languages) – 300 Marks

Duration: 3 hours

The candidates will have to take on the following areas as depicted:

• Comprehension of given passages

• Precise Writing

• Usage and Vocabulary

• Short Essay

• Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa

• Note 1: The Papers on Indian Languages and English will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking. 

• Note 2: The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where the translation is involved).

One can select one of the languages as enlisted below:

  • Assamese
  • Telugu
  • Sindhi
  • Marathi
  • Bengali
  • Urdu
  • Gujarati
  • Dogra
  • Bodo
  • Kashmiri
  • Hindi
  • Kannada
  • Malayalam
  • Konkani
  • Maithili
  • Nepali
  • Manipuri
  • Tamil
  • Punjabi
  • Oriya
  • Santali
  • Sanskrit

Paper B (English)– 300 Marks

Duration: 3 hours

A candidate’s eligibility for understanding, reading, and writing of the English language will be tested in this paper.

The parameters are depicted below:

• Comprehension of given passages

• Precise Writing

• Usage and Vocabulary

• Short Essay

• *Note 1: The Papers on Indian Languages and English will be of matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted towards the final ranking.

• *Note 2: The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where the translation is involved).

The following table gives a breakdown of the papers that will be counted for merit and thus affect the final ranking of the candidate.

Paper I – (Essay) 250 marks: 

Duration: 3hours

Candidates will have to write two essays from a list of topics. The candidates are advised to present ideas in a strategic and advanced manner. The topic will be according to the subject matter. There is no such syllabus for this.

Paper-II – (General Studies- I) 250 marks:

Duration: 3 hours

  • Modern Indian History
  • Important events, issues, persons of the middle of the eighteenth century (the 1750s) till the date.
  • Various stages and contributors and contributions from various parts of the country titled as the ‘The Freedom Struggle’.
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  • History of the world
  • Series of events, forms and effect on society since the 18th century including world wars, the industrial revolution, colonization, redraw of national boundaries, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism and so on.
  • Society
  • Indian society and diversity and salient aspects of these.
  • Role of women and women’s organizations, population and associated issues, poverty, and developmental issues, urbanization related problems, and remedies.
  • Communalism, social empowerment, regionalism & secularism.
  • Effects of globalization on Indian society in detail.
  • Geography
  • Distribution of natural resources across the world including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent; factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world including India in detail.
  • Earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone, etc – these geophysical phenomena.
  • Geographical features including their location, changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and polar ice caps) and, in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
  • Salient features of the world’s physical geography.

Paper III –(General Studies – II)250 marks

Duration: 3 hours

  • Indian Constitution
  • Historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure 
  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues, and challenges about the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances (up to local levels and challenges therein).
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
  • Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions
  • Structure, organization, and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
  • Parliament and State Legislatures structure, functioning conduct of business powers along with privileges and issues arising out of these
  • Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions, and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
  • Government policies and interventions aimed at development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Development processes and the development industry – the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and the States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions, and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  • Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency, and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures
  • Role of civil services in a democracy
  • International Relations
  • India and its neighbourhood – International relations
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting the Indian interests
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Important International institutions, agencies, their structure, and mandates

Paper IV – (General Studies – III) 250 marks: 

Duration: 3 hours


  • Indian Economy and issues related to planning, mobilization of resources, development, growth, and employment.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • Inclusive growth and associated issues/challenges
  • Effects of liberalization on the economy (post-1991 changes), changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
  • Infrastructure includes Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.
  • Investment models (PPP etc)
  • Agriculture
  • Major cropping patterns in various areas 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
  • Economics of animal rearing.
  • Food processing and related industries in India include scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  • 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
  • Land reforms in India.
  • Science and Technology
  • Recent developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • Significant achievements of Indians in science & technology.
  • Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  • General awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nanotechnology, bio-technology
  • Issues relating to intellectual property rights
  • Environment
  • Conservation,
  • Environmental pollution and degradation
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Disaster Management includes laws and Acts etc.
  • Security challenges to internal security (external state and non-state actors)
  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges,
  • Basics of cybersecurity and money-laundering and its prevention
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism

Paper V – (General Studies – IV) 250 marks: 

Duration: 3 hours

  • Ethics and Human Interface
  • The essence of Ethics, Determinants, and Consequences of Ethics in Human Interaction
  • Dimensions of Ethics
  • Ethics in private and public relationships
  • Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, administrators, and reformers
  • Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating moral and ethical values
  • Attitude
  • Structure, content, and function of attitude
  • Influence of attitude in thought and behaviour
  • Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour
  • Moral and Political attitudes
  • Social influence and persuasion
  • Aptitude
  • Aptitude and foundational values of Civil Service
  • Integrity
  • Impartiality and non-partisanship
  • Objectivity
  • Dedication to public service
  • Empathy, tolerance, and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Concepts of emotional intelligence
  • Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance
  • Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality
  • Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration
  • Status and associated problems
  • Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions
  • Laws, rules, regulations, and conscience as sources of ethical guidance
  • Accountability and ethical governance
  • Strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance
  • Ethical Issues in international relations and funding
  • Corporate governance
  • Probity in Governance
  • Concept of public service
  • The philosophical basis of governance and probity
  • Information sharing along with transparency in government
  • Right to Information
  • Codes of ethics
  • Codes of Conduct
  • Citizen’s Charters
  • Work culture
  • Quality of service delivery
  • Utilization of public funds
  • Challenges of corruption

Paper VI (Optional Paper – I) 250 marks

Duration: 3 hours

Topics will be decided according to the optional subject chosen by the candidate.

Paper VII (Optional Paper-II) 250 marks

Duration: 3Hours

Topics will be decided according to the optional subject chosen by the candidate.

Total marks: 1750

Choices of optional subjects:

For the Mains exam, candidates are allowed to choose out of the following optional subjects as enlisted: 

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Anthropology
  • Chemistry
  • Botany
  • Commerce and Accountancy
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Economics
  • Geology
  • Geography
  • Law
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Management
  • Medical Science
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physics
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Public Administration
  • Zoology
  • Statistics

Candidates also allowed to select the literature of one of the following languages as the optional subject:

Assamese Maithili Sanskrit
Bengali Malayalam Santhali
Bodo Manipuri Sindhi
Dogri Marathi Tamil
Gujarati Nepali Tamil
Hindi Odia Telegu
Kannada Punjabi Urdu
Konkani English

To conclude

The syllabus of UPSC mains is quite vast. In-depth knowledge is required for a successful result. If a candidate can clear the Mains Exam, he or she will be allowed to the next stage that is the UPSC personality test of 250 marks for final selection.

For more details visit: 

Written by Akshay Palande
Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology. Profile

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