UPSC IAS Syllabus: For Prelims and Mains Exams

upsc syllabus

Let’s take a detailed look at the UPSC Syllabus for prelims and mains. Below we go through each paper in detail and then give links to the detailed syllabus of each optional in UPSC.

This article will provide you complete UPSC syllabus so that you can focus on your UPSC preparation.

The Civil service exam is conducted in three phases:

Phase 1: Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination (Objective Type)

Phase 2: Civil Services (Mains) Examination (Descriptive Type)

Phase 3: Personal Interview (Personality Test)

The Civil Services Preliminary exam comprises of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each (General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II). The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type. The marks in prelims will not be counted for final ranking, but just for qualification for the main exam.

The Commission will draw a list of candidates to be qualified for Civil Service (Main) Examination based on the criterion of minimum qualifying marks of 33% in General Studies Paper II of Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination and total qualifying marks of General Studies Paper-I of Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination as may be determined by the Commission.

Civil Services (Prelims) Exam Facts

UPSC Syllabus for Paper I – (200 marks)   Current events of national and international importance.
Duration: Two hours   History of India and Indian National Movement.
(Counted for the merit rank in the Prelims) Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
  Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  Economic and Social Development Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization.
  General Science.
UPSC Syllabus for Paper II- (200 marks)   Comprehension.
Duration: Two hours Interpersonal skills including communication skills.
(Not counted for the merit rank in Prelims but a qualifying Paper; just needs 33% marks) Logical reasoning and analytical ability.
  Decision-making and problem-solving.
  General mental ability.
  Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level).

Civil Services (Mains) Exam Facts

No. of Papers Two (2) – written test (9 papers) and an Interview test
Type of Questions Subjective
Total Marks Written Test: 1750 marks | Interview Test: 275 marks (with no qualifying marks)
Duration of Exam 3 hrs each
Medium of Exam Hindi and English (other than the literature of language papers)

IAS Mains Exam Pattern

  • The written exam will consist of 9 papers of conventional essay type out of which two papers will be of qualifying nature.
  • Marks obtained in Interview for Personality Test will be counted for ranking.
  •  Candidates will be allotted to the various Services keeping in view their ranks in the examination and the preferences expressed by them for the various Services and posts.
  • For paper A, candidate has to choose one of the Indian Language that is included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. Paper B will have questions from English.
  • Questions will be objective and subjective in nature, depending on the paper.
  • Each paper is of 250 marks. 
  • The marks obtained in the qualifying papers are not counted in the formation of IAS Merit List.
  • The question paper is bilingual in nature.
  • The total time duration of IAS Mains is 3 hours.
  • Blind candidates will be given 20 minutes for each paper.

Here is the brief about all the papers in IAS Mains:

Paper Subject Marks
Paper 1 Essay writing 250
Paper 2 General Studies I Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society 250
Paper 3 General Studies II Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations 250
Paper 4 General Studies III Technology, Economic Development, Bio‐diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management 250
Paper 5 General Studies IV Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude 250
Paper 6 Optional Subject – Paper 1 250
Paper 7 Optional Subject – Paper 2 250
Personal Interview 275
Grand Total 2025

Papers to be counted for merit ranking:

  Major Areas of Focus
1. PaperI: (Essay) 250 Marks. In Essay Paper, candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.
2. Paper‐2: (General Studies 1) 250 Marks. Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
3. Paper‐3: (General Studies 2) 250 Marks. Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.
4. Paper‐4: (General Studies 3) 250 Marks. Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.
5. Paper‐5: (General Studies 4) 250 Marks. Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. This paper will include questions to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem-solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects.
6. Paper6: (Optional Subject Paper 1) 250 Marks.  
7. Paper7: (Optional Subject Paper 2) 250 Marks.  

Detailed Syllabi

General Studies 1 Paper Syllabus for UPSC Civil Services Mains  
  Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
  The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.
  Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars,
  redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism,
  capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
  Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
   Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and
  developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
  Effects of globalization on Indian society
  Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
  Salient features of world’s physical geography.
  Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent);
  factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in
  various parts of the world (including India)
  Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.,
  geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
General Studies 2 Paper Syllabus for UPSC Civil Services Mains  
  Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
  Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
  Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
  Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
  Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
  Government policies and interventions for 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, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
  Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and 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.
  India and its neighbourhood- relations.
  Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
  Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.
  Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
General Studies 3 Paper Syllabus for UPSC Civil Services Mains  
  Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  Government Budgeting.
  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.
  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.
  Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  Land reforms in India.
  Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
  Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
  Investment models.
  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.
  Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
  Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
  Disaster and disaster management.
  Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
  Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.
  Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
  Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.
General Studies 4 Paper Syllabus for UPSC Civil Services Mains  
  Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
  Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.
  Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections.
  Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
  Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world.
  Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and 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; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and 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.
  Case Studies on the above issues.

Qualifying Papers – Not counted for final ranking:

  • Paper ‐ A – Indian Language – Syllabus. (One of the Indian Languages to be selected by the candidate from the Languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. This paper will not be compulsory for candidates hailing from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.) 300 Marks.
  • Paper‐ B – English Language – Syllabus. 300 Marks.

UPSC Syllabus – Civil Services Interview

  • All candidates who successfully clear IAS Prelims and Mains will be called for the interview round.
  • This stage is of total 275 marks.
  • Candidates will be asked some general interest questions.
  • Candidates can also choose one language in which they wish to be interviewed.
  • This interview will test a candidate’s mental calibre, mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgment, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity and the personality fit.
  • Candidates must secure at least 55% in this round.
  • A candidate securing 60% and above will most likely get a service of his choice.
  • Marks obtained by a candidate in IAS Interview will be added in the Mains stage. This will form the basis of the final merit list.
  • The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination but of a natural, though directed and purposive conversation which is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.
  • The interview test is not intended to be a test either of the specialised or general knowledge of the candidates which has been already tested through their written papers. Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their own state or country as well as in modern currents of thought and in new discoveries which should rouse the curiosity of well-educated youth.

Sub Total (Written test): 1750 Marks
Personality Test: 275 Marks
Grand Total: 2025 Marks

UPSC Mains Optional Subject Syllabus

Optional Subjects Literature Optional
History SyllabusAssamese
Geography SyllabusBengali
Economics SyllabusBodo
Sociology SyllabusDogri
Public Administration SyllabusEnglish
Philosophy Syllabus Gujarati
Philosophy Syllabus Hindi
Political Science Syllabus Kannada
Agriculture SyllabusKashmiri
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science SyllabusKonkani
Anthropology Syllabus Maithili
Botany SyllabusMalayalam
Chemistry SyllabusManipuri
Civil Engineering SyllabusMarathi
Commerce Syllabus Nepali
Electrical Engineering SyllabusOriya
Geology Syllabus Punjabi
Law Syllabus Sanskrit
Mathematics SyllabusSanthali
Management Syllabus Sindhi
Mechanical Engineering SyllabusTamil
Medical Science SyllabusTelugu
Physics SyllabusUrdu
Statistics Syllabus
Zoology Syllabus

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