UPSC Syllabus

UPSC Syllabus

UPSC syllabus

IAS Exam is one of the most competitive exams of the country. To crack one of the toughest exam , you need to start preparing right away. The first step leading towards your preparation is to know and understand the UPSC syllabus completely.

UPSC Syllabus

This article will provide you a detailed overview of the complete UPSC Syllabus.

UPSC Civil Services Exam is conducted in three phases –

Stage 1: Preliminary Examination (Objective)
Stage 2: Main Examination (Subjective)
Stage 3: Interview (Vocal)


Preliminary exam , popularly known as prelims is the first stage of Civil Services examination. Getting acquanited with the detailed UPSC Syllabus for Civil Services Prelims is a must.


Paper – I 100 Questions

Will be counted for qualifying to the Mains exam

200 Marks Two Hours
Paper- II 80 Questions

Of qualifying nature, must score at least 33%. Marks not counted for going to mains.

200 Marks Two Hours

 General Studies Paper I

  1. Current Affairs: Events of national and international importance
  2. History of India and Indian National Movement
  3. Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic geography of India and the World.
  4. Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  5. Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.
  6. General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change (no subject specialization required)
  7. General Science

 General Studies Paper II

  1. Comprehension
  2. Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  3. Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  4. Decision making and problem solving
  5. General mental ability
  6. Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude etc.) (Class X level), Data Interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)

Note: UPSC Civil Services General Studies Paper II is popularly known as Aptitude paper. However this is not an official term.

UPSC Syllabus was modified for this paper starting 2014 onwards. Now there is no question on only english comprehension. The comprehension passages that are put in the paper are in BOTH english and hindi.

This modification in the UPSC Syllabus was a welcome change for students with a hindi background.



Paper A

Language – 300 MarksCandidate can take any modern Indian language. This paper is of qualifying nature.


Paper B

English – 300 Marks

This paper is of qualifying nature


Paper – I

Essay – 250 Marks

Can be written in the medium or language of the candidate’s choice


Paper II

General Studies – I 

250 Marks

Indian Heritage and Culture

History and Geography of the World

Paper – III

General Studies -II

250 Marks

Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations


Paper – IV

General Studies – III

250 Marks

Technology, Economic Development, Bio-Diversity, Environment, Security & Disaster Management


Paper – V

General Studies -IV

250 Marks

Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude


Optional Subject – Paper I

250 Marks

Candidate is allowed to take up literature as an optional subject “without the conditionality of having to do his/her graduation in that language’s literature. This means that a student without a background in literature is also eligible to take up the same. However, i strongly recommend to go through the detailed UPSC Syllabus for different literatures before opting for it.



Optional Subject – Paper II 

250 Marks

Candidate is allowed to take up literature as an optional subject “without the conditionality of having to do his/her graduation in that language’s literature.

Sub Total (Written test) 1750 Marks

Marks of English and Language will not be counted so total marks for Written exam will be 1750 Marks Only

Interview/Personality Test – 275 marks

Candidate can give preference of the language in which they may like to be interviewed. UPSC will make arrangement for the translators.

Grand Total 2025 Marks

A candidate is allowed to use any one language from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution or English as the medium of writing the examination.

UPSC Syllabus

Currently, there are 7 + 2 = 9 papers to be answered in the IAS mains examination. Each paper is of subjective type.

There are two qualifying papers-

Paper A – Any Modern Indian Language

300 Marks

This paper is of qualifying nature

Paper B – English

300 Marks

This paper is of qualifying nature

Paper I – Essay

The essays must be written in the medium as specified in the admission certificate issued to the candidates. The name of the medium must be stated clearly on the cover of the answer- book in the space provided for the purpose. No credit will be given to the essay written in a medium other than that specified in the admission certificate.

Any page or portion of the page left blank, must be struck off clearly.

From 2014, there was a slight change in the UPSC Syllabus. Now, there are 8 topics in the IAS Mains Essay paper segregated in 2 sections. Write two essays choosing one from each of the sections A and B in about 1,000-2,000 words each. The word limit must be adhered to strictly.

Each essay will be marked out of 125 Marks.

Candidates 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.

Keep in mind that the essay paper does not have a prescribed UPSC Syllabus as such. In fact no essay can ever have a syllabus. One needs to be aware about the things around to be able to write a good essay.

According to the new UPSC exam pattern there are ‘Four General Studies Papers’ each of 250 Marks with a total of 1000 Marks. The mains syllabus of General Studies is of degree level.

Paper II – General Studies I

General Studies- I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

(250 Marks)

  • 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 vents 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 sub-continent); 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.

Paper III – General Studies II

General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

(250 Marks)

  • 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 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 neighborhood- 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.

Paper IV – General Studies III

General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.

(250 Marks)

  • 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, nano-technology, bio-technology 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, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention
  • Security challenges and their linkages of organized crime with terrorism
  • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

Paper V – General Studies IV

General Studies- IV: Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude

(250 Marks)

  • 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 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 above issues.

Paper VI – Optional Subject 1

250 Marks

Paper VII – Optional Subject 2

250 Marks

Candidates may choose any ONE optional subject from the list of subjects given below.
(Candidates are strongly advised to go through the detailed subject wise UPSC Syllabus before making a choice)

Agriculture Management
Animal Husbandry & Vetinary Science Mathematics
Anthropology Mechanical Engineering
Botany Medical Science
Chemistry Philosophy
Civil Engineering Physics
Commerce & Accountancy Political Science & International Relations
Economics Psychology
Electrical Engineering Public Administration
Geography Sociology
Geology Statistics
Indian History Zoology


In case you want to make Literature as your optional , here is the list.

Arabic Gujarati Manipuri Sanskrit
Assamese Hindi Nepali Sindhi
Bengali Kannada Oriya Tamil
Chinese Kashmiri Pali Telugu
English Konkani Persian Urdu
French Marathi Punjabi
German Malayalam Russian
















Now that you are familiar with the UPSC Syllabus for Civil Services Exam , go ahead with your preparation.
All the best 🙂

  • Sahil

    This is very helpful article. Plz tel me how to prepare ethics paper ?

    • Thank you Sahil.

      Going through the UPSC Mains ethics (GS4) previous year question papers, it becomes clear that conventional rote learning will not turn fruitful here. What one needs is awareness about himself/herself. Good writing skills are a must. Devote time for preparation and reading; that will make you better equipped. Treating Ethics paper as a subject to attempted directly at exam hall without preparation may not turn beneficial for you.

      The best way to start Ethics paper of IAS Mains GS is by building basic ideas related to the areas mentioned in this from post from the IGNOU text books related to ethics (BA and MA philosophy). NCERT text books of Sociology and Psychology (available online and offline) can also help to write better answers. 4th report of ARC – Ethics in governance – can help in getting insights about lot of aspects related to governance and public administration. Also build your fundamentals on ethics and moral philosophies from basic books on philosophy.