UPSC Syllabus for IAS/IPS Exam

Topics Covered: UPSC IAS/IPS Syllabus, UPSC Prelims Syllabus for Paper 1 (General Studies) & Paper 2 (Civil Services Aptitude Test), UPSC Mains Syllabus for Language Papers, Essay, General Studies 1, General Studies 2, General Studies 3, General Studies 4 & Optional Subjects

Many years ago, I had gone on a Biking expedition to the Himalayas. It was sometime around the Diwali season and I had taken a week’s leave from my SBI PO desk job.

I needed to get my mind off from stuff and going on a solo biking expedition seemed like the best thing to do.

I was also planning to appear for the UPSC exams for the first time, the coming year.

However, I wouldn’t say that the plan to clear my mind off all worldly pressures while on the mountain roads was entirely successful.

This was because, during the entire duration of my tour, I often found myself ruminating on my prospects of clearing the IAS exam the next year.

I know what you must be thinking, you’re thinking,

“what’s all this about bike trips and The Himalayas? I thought this was supposed to be an article on the syllabus of UPSC.”

Well, I request you to read along and you’ll soon catch my drift.

So, while on the journey I happened to chance upon a serene valley in the lap of the mountain that I was driving on. This valley was nothing like I had ever seen before.

I was standing on the mountain directly above it and the valley seemed to stretch on for as far as my sights could reach.

Seeing the vastness of the valley my mind went absolutely blank at first. However, after a while, the usual thoughts about the IAS exams started infiltrating the peace of my mind.

The sight of the beautifully vast and serene valley had begun to remind me about the vastness of the UPSC syllabus.

It was at that moment I realized that my trip would have to be cut short.

The valley had incidentally acted out to be a big enough reality check for me to get chillingly reminded about the immensity of the UPSC syllabus, and also that I would have to entirely read through it in the coming months.

Hence, I started my bike, took a U-Turn, and hit the gas in the direction back to my place in Delhi.

I guess this story aptly emphasizes the anxiety an IAS/IPS aspirant normally feels every time he is reminded about the UPSC syllabus that he’s yet to cover and rest assured there’s always something that remains to be covered.

Such is the immensity of the syllabus of UPSC.

By now it should be pretty evident that clearing the UPSC exam is not for the faint of heart. As a matter of fact, it is officially listed as one of the toughest exams in the world.

Mostly because a candidate brave enough to appear for it may be asked questions from any and every topic under the sun.

So, before I get down to writing about the UPSC syllabus in detail, I would like to mention in brief the exam pattern.

Basically, the UPSC exam is a 3-phase affair:

Phase 1 is the UPSC Preliminary Examination, also called UPSC Prelims. This exam contains questions of the objective type.
Phase 2 is the UPSC Mains Examination, also called UPSC Mains. This exam contains descriptive type questions.
Phase 3 is the Personal Interview round conducted to test the Personality of the Candidate.

To know more about the UPSC Exam pattern, you can read my blog on the same.

Having said that I will now start off with the first part of the article which is the UPSC prelims syllabus.

You ready?

I repeat, the IAS syllabus is not something that a lot of people are able to wrap their heads around. Anyway, assuming that you are ready for it, here goes nothing.

Table of Content –  UPSC Syllabus for IAS/IPS Exam

UPSC Prelims Syllabus

Starting off with the UPSC prelims syllabus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you if I say that the UPSC Prelims Syllabus is pretty oceanic in its own right.

However, the UPSC Prelims examination is basically conducted for the purpose of screening only, meaning that the marks that you receive in the Prelims exam will decide your eligibility to appear for the UPSC Mains exam.

Also, your Prelims marks will not be considered in your final order of merit, provided you manage to make it through to the interview round.

The UPSC prelims examination comprises 2 papers, namely the General studies paper and the CSAT paper or the Civil Services Aptitude Test. Both of these papers have objective-type questions.

I have given a table below that should give you a better idea about both the papers of the UPSC Prelims exam.

Paper Subjects Total Marks Duration
I General Studies (GS) 200 2 hours (9:30 AM to 11:30 AM)
II CSAT 200 2 hours (2:30 PM to 4:30 PM)

I guess the table above sufficiently informs you about the UPSC Prelims papers and the respective time durations and maximum marks allotted to them.

UPSC Exam : Prelims Syllabus

UPSC Prelims Exam Syllabus (Paper 1 & Paper 2)

UPSC Prelims Syllabus for Paper 1: General Studies (GS)

This GS paper or paper 1 is designed to test your overall knowledge about your surroundings and the world, and also to test how observant you are as a person, by asking questions related to current affairs.

The paper contains 100 objective-type questions. Each right answer would fetch you 2 marks, whereas selecting the wrong answer will cost you 1/3 of those 2 marks, or in other words, 0.66 marks will be deducted for every wrong answer.

Leaving out a question will not cost you any marks.

The UPSC prelims syllabus for the GS paper consists of topics from a wide range of subjects making it extremely difficult to pinpoint the kind of questions that might be asked in the upcoming paper.

Anyhow, I have listed further down below, the topics that you’d need to broadly cover in order to get a gist of what the GS paper is all about.

On the question of where all you can read about the IAS topics in detail, refer to the blog I have written on the IAS books.

And on the question of how you can prepare for the topics, you can read my blog on how to prepare best for the IAS exam.

Getting back, I have written down the list of topics below:

  • Current events of national and international importance
  • History of India and Indian National Movement
  • Indian & World Geography – Social, Physical, Economic Geography of the World and India.
  • Governance and Polity in India –Rights Issues, Constitution, Public Policy, Political System, Panchayati Raj, etc.
  • Social & Economic Development –Social Sector initiatives, Demographics, Sustainable Development, Inclusion, Poverty, etc.
  • General issues on Biodiversity, Environmental Ecology, & Climate Change – these topics do not require subject specialization.
  • General Science

UPSC Prelims Syllabus for Paper 2: Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)

The CSAT or Paper 2 is conducted with the intention to test you on your reasoning, comprehension, and analytical abilities.

This is because, as a Civil Servant it is of paramount importance that you are able to perceive the world and the problems therein with utmost precision and rationality.

The CSAT paper includes questions from the subjects of Reasoning & Analysis and Reading Comprehension. It also occasionally tests your decision-making skills by asking you questions pertaining to the same.

Rest assured, the decision-making-based questions do not carry negative marking.

Given below is the list of topics from which questions are asked in the CSAT Paper:

  • Comprehension
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Analytical ability and Logical Thinking
  • Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • General Mental ability
  • Basic Numeracy, i.e. orders of magnitudes, numbers & their relations, etc (class 10 level)
  • Interpretation of Data (charts, tables, graphs, data sufficiency, etc. – Also class 10 level )

That pretty much sums up the IAS syllabus for the Prelims exam. Now it’s time to get down to the big daddy of all exam syllabi, The UPSC Mains syllabus.

The syllabus of UPSC Mains is no less than an ocean. It is huge. I repeat, it is absolutely and horrendously immense. With that said let’s get down to it.

UPSC Mains Syllabus

Remember what I wrote about the Himalayan valley reminding me about the Syllabus of UPSC.

Well, it was actually the UPSC Mains syllabus that came to my mind then.

The vastness of the IAS syllabus for the Mains is quite capable of stirring up anxiety-ridden shivers in even the most seasoned UPSC aspirants.

So, the UPSC Mains syllabus can also be called the Phase 2 syllabus.

UPSC Exam : Mains Syllabus

UPSC Mains Exam Syllabus (All Papers)

This is because only the candidates that are able to successfully clear the Phase 1 or the UPSC Prelims, are allowed to appear for the Phase 2 or UPSC Mains exam. In other words, only the candidates that are able to score above the UPSC cut offs for the Prelims are then allowed to take the UPSC Mains papers.

Moreover, the UPSC Mains exam consists of 9 subjective type papers out of which 2 are qualifying language papers, one English, and any other Indian language of 300 marks each.

The rest of the 7 papers have a maximum mark of 250. Also, it should be noted that not qualifying in the 2 language papers will cause the rest of your 7 papers to be disbarred from further evaluation. The minimum qualifying mark in the language papers is 25%.

The UPSC Mains exam, fundamentally, is designed to test your understanding of the various subjects falling under the purview of the UPSC Mains syllabus, and it is designed to make you do so in a time-bound fashion.

An important thing to note is that all the papers except for the 2 language papers included in the UPSC Mains syllabus can be written in any of the languages mentioned in Schedule 8 of the Indian Constitution.

Okay, now that we have already talked about the 2 language papers it’s time to look at the 7 main papers of the UPSC Mains exams. To help you better understand I have given below a table listing of all the papers included in the Mains syllabus of UPSC:

List of Papers in UPSC Mains Exam

Papers Subjects Marks
Paper A Any Indian Language (compulsory) - qualifying paper 300
Paper B English - qualifying paper 300
Paper 1 Essay (you can choose to write it in a medium of your choice) 250
Paper 2 General Studies 1 (Indian and World history, Culture, heritage, & Geography) 250
Paper 3 General Studies 2 (Polity, Constitution,Governance, International Relations & Social Justice) 250
Paper 4 General Studies 3 (Economic developement, Technology, Disaster Management & Security, Biodiversity) 250
Paper 5 General Studies 4 (Aptitude, Ethics, & Intergrity) 250
Paper 6 Optional Subject : Paper 1 250
Paper 7 Optional Subject : Paper 2 250

In the table given above, you can see the various papers that are included in the UPSC syllabus for the Mains exam. Now let us go through each in detail.

UPSC Syllabus for Language Papers: (Any Indian Language & English)

In these papers there’d be:

  • An essay question of 100 marks where you’d have to select one out of a few given topics.
  • 5-6 questions related to reading comprehension: of a maximum of 60 marks.
  • Precis writing questions worth 60 marks which you’d have to attempt on special answer sheets with grid lines.
  • Translation-based questions: English to the chosen Indian language & vice versa for 20 marks each, totaling 40 marks.
  • Questions based on grammar, synonyms, sentence corrections, and basic language usage, of a total of 40 marks.

Syllabus of UPSC Mains Essay: (No prescribed syllabus)

The IAS Syllabus for Essay in the Mains exam is not specifically defined. According to the UPSC, you are expected to keep a close watch on the subject of the essay topic and to write your points and ideas in an orderly and concise fashion.

In this paper, you’d be needed to write 2 essays from a list of given topics. The maximum mark for this paper is 250.

UPSC Mains Syllabus for General Studies 1 (GS 1)

The IAS syllabus for GS 1 includes the Culture, History, Heritage & Geography of India and the World. I have listed below the points in detail:

  • Culture of India: Major aspects of the various Indian art forms, Architecture & literature of India, from ancient to modern India.
  • Modern Indian History
    • Personalities from the mid 18th century to the present, issues, Important events, etc.
    • Stages of the freedom struggle and the people who played a part in it.
    • History from the post-independence perspective and the reorganization and consolidation of the Indian states following that.
  • World History
  • World events from the 18th century onwards and their effects on the society & the world at large. (industrial Revolution, world Wars, delineation of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, effects of political philosophies like communism, capitalism, etc.)
  • Society
    • Society of India, its diversity and important aspects.
    • Population and issues related to it, the role of women and women-led organizations in Indian societies, poverty, and development related issues, urbanization, problems due to it and solutions, etc.
    • Communalism, regionalism, & secularism in India, social empowerment.
    • Globalization and its effects on Indian society.
  • Geography
    • Important natural resources around the globe especially in South Asia and the Indian Subcontinent; factors effecting the location of the primary, secondary and tertiary sector industries across the world along with India.
    • Key geographical phenomena and their causes like tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones, volcanic activities, etc.
    • The various geographical features and their locations, changes of features with location like water bodies and polar ice caps, effects of these changes on flora and fauna.
    • Key features of the planet’s physical geography.

UPSC Syllabus for Mains paper: General studies 2 (GS 2)

The IAS syllabus for GS 2 includes the subjects of Polity, Constitution, Governance, International Relations, and social justice. I have listed below the points in detail:

  • The Indian Constitution
  • Responsibilities and functions of the Union & States, challenges and issues related to the federal structure, finances and devolution of powers down to the local levels, and the challenges that lie therein.
  • Segregation of power between the various government bodies, redressal mechanisms pertaining to conflict and dispute management and the various institutions.
  • Organization, structure, and functions of the Judiciary, legislature, & Executive.
  • State and Parliamentary legislatures:
  • Departments & Ministries of the government; pressure groups and their informal/formal roles and associations in polity.
  • Key features of the Representation of people’s Act
  • How the various constitutional posts are appointed, their functions, & powers. Also, those of the various constitutional bodies.
  • Various quasi-judicial, statutory, and regulatory bodies.
  • The various governmental interventions and policies aimed at developing various sectors.
  • The development sector and its processes – role of SHGs, NGOs, and other associations and groups, institutions and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes issued by the Centre and states for vulnerable sections, performance of these schemes; laws, mechanisms, bodies and institutions set up for the protection and development of the vulnerable sections.
  • Issues in development and management of the social/service sectors.
  • Problems pertaining to hunger and poverty.
  • Key aspects of governance, e-governance- applications, successes, potential, accountability and transparency, models, limitations; citizen charters, and other measures.
  • The role of Civil Services in a democracy.
  • International Relations
    • India and its relationship with its neighbours
    • Various international groupings and agreements involving India and other states.
    • The effects of policies and politics of other countries on Indian interests and the Indian diaspora.
    • Key international entities, institutions, agencies, their mandates and structures.

UPSC Syllabus for Mains paper: General studies 3 (GS 3)

The UPSC Mains syllabus for GS 3 includes the subjects of Economic Development, Environment, Disaster Management & Security, Technology, and Biodiversity. I have listed below the points in detail:

  • Economy
    • Economy of Indian and planning related issues.
    • Government budgeting.
    • Inclusive growth and issues/challenges associated to it.
    • Liberalization and its effects on the economy (post 1991).
    • Infrastructure – Ports, Airports, Roads, Energy, Railways, etc.
    • Investment models like PPP, etc.
  • Agriculture
    • Predominant Cropping patterns in various parts of the nation, various types of irrigation techniques and systems, storage, marketing, transportation of agricultural produce, and challenges/issues related to it; use of e-technology in the agricultural sector.
    • Rearing of animals and the economics related to it.
    • Industries related to food processing and its kind in India – significance and scope, upstream-downstream requirements, location, supply chain management.
    • Problems related to indirect and direct farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Objectives of Public Distribution System, functioning and its limitations, revamping; food security and buffer stock issues; technological missions.
    • Land reforms in India
  • Science & Technology
    • Recent technological Developments and their effects.
    • Indians and their achievements in science & technology.
    • Indigenous technological innovation and the development of new tech.
    • General Awareness of Space, IT, Robotics, Computers, biotechnology, and nanotechnology.
    • Problems related to intellectual property rights.
  • Environment
    • Conservation
    • Pollution of the environment and its degradation
    • EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment)
  • Disaster Managements (Act, laws, etc.)
  • Security
    • Challenges to internal security (non-state actors and external state)
    • How extremism develops and spreads.
    • Internal security challenges pertaining to communication network.
    • Fundamentals of cyber security; money laundering and how to prevent it.
    • Challenges to security and managing security in border areas; connection between organized crime and terrorism.
    • The names of the various security agencies and forces and their mandates.

UPSC Syllabus for Mains paper: General studies 4 (GS 4)

The IAS syllabus for GS 4 includes topics that will test you on your sense of integrity, ethics, and aptitude.

The GS 4 paper has questions that will check the approaches and attitude that you may employ in situations requiring integrity and uprightness, and also superior problem-solving capabilities. Questions in the GS 4 paper may be case study-based.

I have listed below the points in detail:

  • Human Interface & Ethics
    • The essence of ethics, the determinants & consequences in human interaction.
    • Dimensions of Ethics
    • Ethics in public and private relationships
    • Human values.
    • The role of one’s family, society, and educational institutes in developing ethical and moral values in him/her.
  • Attitude
    • The content of attitude.
    • The influence of attitude in behavior and thought.
    • The relation of attitude to behavior and thought.
    • Political and Moral attitudes.
    • Persuasion and social influence.
  • Aptitude
    • The foundational values and aptitude of civil services.
    • Integrity
    • Non-partisanship and impartiality.
    • Objectivity
    • Dedication to serving the public
    • Compassion towards society’s weaker sections.
  • Emotional Intelligence
    • The concept of emotional intelligence
    • The application and utility of emotional intelligence.
  • Contributions of Philosophers and Thinkers
    • From the world and India to the concepts of morality.
  • Ethics in Public Administration and Civil/public service values
    • Associated problems and Status
    • Dilemmas and Ethical concerns in private institutions and the government
    • Regulation, rules, laws, and conscience as the source of ethical guidance
    • Ethical governance and Accountability
    • Consolidation of moral and ethical values in governance
    • Ethical Issues in funding and international relations
    • Corporate governance.
  • Probity in Governance
    • Concept of public service
    • Governance & probity and its philosophical basis
    • Transparency & information sharing 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

UPSC Mains Syllabus for Optional subject (2 papers – Paper 1 and paper 2)

For the optional subject papers, you need to choose a subject which you have an in-depth understanding of.

The UPSC allows you to choose one from out of a total of 48 different subjects. There’ll be 2 papers, Paper 1 and Paper 2 of 250 marks each pertaining to the subject that you choose.

Having said that, I have shared a table listing all the optional subjects for UPSC, below:

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

Literature of the following languages are likewise a part of the UPSC optional subjects for UPSC Mains Exam from which you can pick your most appropriate optional subject for UPSC:

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

With this I guess we are done with the segment of optional subjects. My advice is that you should choose the optional subject after very careful consideration.

If you have stayed with me till here, I believe you’re a determined soul and have the fire to crack the UPSC exam. So, I would like to provide you the detailed and official UPSC Syllabus PDF as per the latest UPSC CSE 2021 official notification.

You can Download the UPSC Syllabus PDF by just clicking on the button given below. 


With that, we come to the end of this fairly long but hopefully informative article. I think reading through this article carefully enough, you should get a well-rounded gist of the UPSC syllabus. I guess it’s now time for me to bid you farewell and very good luck. Ciao!

Founder & CEO of

About Anuj Jindal


Anuj Jindal, the founder, is an ex-manager from SBI, with an M.Com from Delhi School of Economics. He also has a JRF in Commerce & Management and NET in HRM, along with more than 5 years of experience in the field of Education.

FAQs: UPSC Syllabus for IAS/IPS Exam

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    What is the latest UPSC syllabus for the IAS exam?

    The latest UPSC syllabus for the IAS exam as per the official UPSC CSE 2021 Notification has been provided in the blog above. You can check the latest IAS exam here.

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    What is the syllabus for UPSC Prelims?

    The UPSC Prelims Syllabus has been talked about in detail in this blog above. To go through the UPSC Prelims Syllabus you can click here.

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    What are the optional subjects in UPSC?

    UPSC provides a long list of subjects for candidates to choose one as their optional subject for the UPSC CSE. The list of optional subjects has been mentioned above in the blog. You can check the UPSC Optional Subjects by clicking here.

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    Is the Prelims and UPSC Mains Syllabus different?

    Yes, the UPSC Prelims Syllabus and UPSC Mains Syllabus are different. To learn about the UPSC Prelims Syllabus and UPSC Mains Syllabus you can read the information provided in the blog above.

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    Is there a negative marking in UPSC IAS Exam 2021?

    Yes, there is negative marking in the UPSC Prelims Exam. But on the other hand, there is no negative marking in the UPSC Mains Exam.

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    What are the 9 papers in UPSC Mains?

    The 9 papers of UPSC Mains Exam consists of one Language Paper of your choice, one English Language Paper, one Essay Paper, 4 General Studies Papers, 2 Optional Subject Papers.

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    What is the syllabus of UPSC Mains?

    The UPSC Mains Syllabus has been talked about in detail in this blog above. To go through the UPSC Mains Syllabus you can click here.

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    How to choose the optional subject for the UPSC Mains Exam?

    This is a very good question. But to answer this you need to understand a few things which cannot be explained in written answer format. To understand how to choose the optional subject for UPSC CSE, watch this video – How to choose the UPSC Optional Subject – By Anuj Jindal


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