UPSC Syllabus-Reading or even thinking about this may give chills to many. The syllabus is what appears to be very vast, demands a proper analysis. The IAS syllabus hides in itself 70-80% direct questions and thus imprinting it in the mind becomes mandatory.

The nature of the UPSC CSE is very unpredictable. One keeps on reading unnecessary content not even realizing its relevance as per the prescribed UPSC syllabus. The problem during the preparation is that a candidate in order to satisfy himself keeps on reading about a particular topic in so much depth that it ultimately loses its significance as to what is actually there in the syllabus.

Nature of UPSC CSE

The UPSC conducts the CSE exam on an annual basis. The exam is conducted in 3 stages that are the Prelims, Mains and Interview. The marks secured in the Prelims are not considered for creating the final merit list.

The Prelims or the Preliminary test or the PT is the first and the foremost stage of this exam. This stage is ‘Eliminatory’ in nature i.e. it is a screening test and fans out the maximum. 4 lakh people sit for the CSE exam while only 10-12 thousand sit for the mains examination.

The Preliminary examination consists of two objective papers (MCQ based) Paper 1 being the General Studies and Paper 2 being the CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test). One needs to qualify this exam (CSAT) for the consideration of the GS paper, for the list of qualifying candidates.

Mains Examination, on the other hand, is subjective in nature and consists of nine papers (7 compulsory and 2 qualifyings). Marks obtained in these 7 papers along with the final interview for personality tests are considered for making the final rank list.

The Interview is the final score booster and has the power to change the ultimate rank of any candidate. The interview carries 275 marks with no minimum qualifying criteria. The interview session checks the overall personality of a candidate.

Importance of Remembering the UPSC Syllabus.

  • 80% of the questions asked in the examination are directly from the prescribed syllabus.
  • The syllabus when imprinted deeply can guide an aspirant as to what to read and what to skip, be it any source.
  • One can frame questions while reading something.
  • Along with the syllabus, one must also go through the previous year’s questions as they can hint at which part of the syllabus holds more weight over the other.
  • One comes across a lot of discussions on TV and radio on a daily basis. Knowing the syllabus by heart makes a person alert to these and concentrate on them.

UPSC Syllabus for the Preliminary Examination:

   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


  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • General mental ability.
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc)
  • English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level)
  • Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. Class X  level).

  Important to Note:

  • Note 1: Questions relating to English Language Comprehension skills of  (Class X level) will be tested through passages from English language only without providing Hindi translation. 
  • Note 2: The questions will be of objective type in multiple-choice.
  • Note 3: It is mandatory for the candidates to appear in both the Papers of Civil Services (Prelim) Examination for the purpose of evaluation.  Therefore, a candidate will be disqualified in case he/she does not appear in both the papers of Civil Services (Prelim) Examination.  
  • Note 4: Each wrong answer carries with itself a penalty of 1/3rd marks i.e. 0.33%.
  • Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT): Since the CSAT score does not carry forward to the main exams, preparation should be sufficient to pass the CSAT. Here is the list of suggested books, Newspapers, and magazines for UPSC Prelims.

UPSC Syllabus for the Main Examination

Qualifying Papers: 

The aim of the paper is to test the candidate’s ability to read and understand serious discursive prose and to express their ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian Language concerned. The pattern of questions would be broad as follows:

Paper A - Modern Indian language

  • Qualifying nature (Marks not counted, Passing mandatory)                                          
  • Comprehension of given passages.
  • Precis Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary.
  • Short Essay
  • Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa.

For the Language medium/ literature of languages, the scripts to be used by the candidates will be as under:

Sl no.















































Devanagari or Arabic





















Devanagari or Olchiki

Paper B - English Language

Qualifying nature (Marks not counted, Passing mandatory) 300 Marks

The aim of the paper is to test the candidates' ability to read and understand serious discursive prose and to express his ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian Language concerned.

The pattern of questions would be broad as follows:-

  • Comprehension of given passages
  • Precis Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary
  • Short Essay.

Important Note:

  • 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 language papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where the translation is involved).
  • Note 3: For Santhali language, the question paper will be printed in Devanagari script; but candidates will be free to answer either in Devanagari script or in Olchiki.
  • Note 4: Paper A will not be compulsory for candidates hailing from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim.



Essay Writing:

  • Essay paper is a great score booster if attempted attractively. An aspirant is expected to write one essay each from the two sections mentioned. They are expected to  keep close to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in an orderly fashion and to write concisely. Weight age will be given for effective and exact expression.


General Studies - I

  • Indian Heritage and Culture, History and  Geography of the World and Society.
  • 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-which includes significant events, personalities.
  • The Indian Freedom Struggle will include 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 the 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redraw 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 the world’s physical geography.
  • Distribution of important 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, cyclones, 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 - II: 

[Governance, Constitution of India, Polity, Social  Justice and International relations.]  

  • Functions and duties 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.
  • 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 Diasporas.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora-their structure, mandate. 
  • 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.
  • Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, the conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.



General Studies - III

[Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity,  Environment, Security and Disaster Management.]  

  • 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 its prevention.  
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.  
  • networking sites in internal security challenges, basics  of cybersecurity; money laundering and 
  • Various security forces and agencies and their mandate.


General Studies-IV:

[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 utilize the case study approach to determine these aspects. The following broad areas will be covered.  

  • 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 nonpartisanship, 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.


Optional Subject: Papers I & II Candidate may choose any optional  subject from amongst the List of Optional Subjects mentioned below:

  1. Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  2. Anthropology
  3. Botany
  4. Chemistry
  5. Civil Engineering
  6. Commerce and Accountancy
  7. Economics
  8. Electrical Engineering
  9. Geography
  10. Geology
  11. History
  12. Law
  13. Management
  14. Mathematics
  15. Mechanical Engineering
  16. Medical Science
  17. Philosophy
  18. Physics
  19. Political Science and International Relations
  20. Psychology
  21. Public Administration
  22. Sociology
  23. Statistics
  24. Zoology
  25. The literature of anyone the following language: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, English.
  26. Agriculture

Paper VIII & IX: Language paper (mentioned above)

Connecting the dots

The syllabus of UPSC through appears to be never-ending could be dealt with very easily with proper analysis and understanding. One must keep a copy of the same on the table while reading and learning any topic or subject. It is very much necessary for any candidate to be very thorough with the syllabus before starting a full-fledged preparation.

All the very best!!!

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