UPSC Civil Services Syllabus (Prelims + Mains)

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To understand the highly competitive UPSC exam, candidates must understand the UPSC syllabus in depth. Understanding the IAS syllabus will help you to put all the efforts in an organized manner, will let you invest your energy in the right direction, and keeps you aligned to the expectations of the UPSC from the first day of your preparation. The UPSC Prelims paper is completely objective while the Mains syllabus is quite vast as this stage comprises nine theory papers.

The UPSC Civil services exam is comprised of three phases:

  • Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination
  • Civil Services (Mains) Examination
  • Personal Interview (Personality Test)
UPSC Prelims Syllabus

The Civil Services Preliminary Examination consists of two papers of objective type, each of 200 marks of two hours duration. To qualify for the mains exam, a candidate must attempt both the papers.

The General Studies (GS) paper of UPSC consists of 100 questions and the CSAT paper consists of 80 questions. There is a negative marking of ⅓ for each wrong answer.

Paper Subjects Total Marks Duration
Paper- 1 General Studies (GS) 200 2 Hours
Paper-2 CSAT 200 2 Hours

In Paper 1- GS, most of the questions are asked by UPSC to test the conceptual clarity and understanding of the basics of syllabus topics. The GS Paper 1 marks are counted for cut-off marks to qualify for the IAS Mains exam. Each question carries 1 mark. For every wrong answer, 1/3rd marks will be deducted as negative marking.

The syllabus topic for GS Paper 1 are given below:

General Studies Paper – I

  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and Indian National Movement.
  • 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, Biodiversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization.
  • General Science


UPSC IAS Prelims Syllabus 2020 for Paper 2 – CSAT:

 Paper 2, popularly called as Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) exam is to test a candidate’s reasoning and aptitude ability. Most of the questions are simple numerical maths, reasoning, and reading comprehension questions. CSAT paper marks are not included in the IAS prelims exam cut off consideration, this paper is qualifying in nature. Candidates need to get to 66.67 marks out of 200 marks to qualify for Paper 2 in UPSC Prelims exam.

IAS Prelims Paper 2 (CSAT) Syllabus topics are mentioned below:

CSAT/ General Studies Paper-II:

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • 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)
UPSC Mains Syllabus

UPSC IAS mains exam tests the candidate’s understanding ability on the issues and events that are happening at national and international levels. Most of the questions demand the candidate’s analytical ability along with writing skills. UPSC Mains exam is all about writing the answers to address the demand of the question in a well-structured manner. Every year roughly 12 to 15 thousand candidates appear for the IAS Mains exam. Roughly this is 12 to 13 times the number of vacancies. The mains qualified candidates will face the final phase of the UPSC civil services exam, i.e interview round to get the services listed in the civil services exam.

IAS Mains Syllabus topics and pattern are mentioned below: 

Paper Exam Pattern Marks
A Indian Language – UPSC 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 (25% for Qualifying)
B English Language 300 (25% for Qualifying)
Paper-1 Essay – UPSC Syllabus, can be taken in the language of choice. Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to stick to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in an orderly fashion and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression. 250
Paper-2 General Studies-I – UPSC IAS Syllabus Topics – Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society 250
Paper-3 General Studies-II – UPSC IAS Syllabus Topics – Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations 250
Paper-4 General Studies-III – UPSC IAS Syllabus Topics – Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management 250
Paper-5 General Studies-IV – UPSC IAS Syllabus Topics – Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude 250
Paper-6   Optional Paper 1 250
Paper-7 Optional Paper-2 250

GS Paper 1 Syllabus Topics:

Subject Topics
Indian Heritage and Culture
  • Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Modern Indian History
  • 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.
World History 
  • History of the world will include events from the 18th century such as the industrial revolution, world wars, redraw of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc, their forms and effect on the society.
Indian 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 the 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,s, etc., geographical features and their location – changes in critical geographical features (including waterbodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

GS Paper 2 Syllabus Topics:

Subject Topics
Indian Polity and Constitution
  • 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 disputes redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.
  • Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, the 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.
Social Justice
  • 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 or 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 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.

GS Paper 3 Syllabus Topics:

Subject Topics
Indian Economy
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development, and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • Major crop 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
  • 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 Management
  • 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 cybersecurity; 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.

GS Paper 4 Syllabus Topics:

Subject Topics
Ethics and Human Interface
  • 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; the role of family, society, and educational institutions in inculcating values.
  • Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; 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
  • Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world.
Civil Services Values and Probity in Governance
  • 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.

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