New year has already started and January is almost over. Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts civil services examination annually. And invites the application with the release of official notification. The dates for civil services examination 2021 are out. CSE Prelims is scheduled for 27th June 2021. The notification comes with an opening and closing date. The applications are invited through online mode on the commission's official site .The aspirants preparing for the civil services examination can get all relevant details about the exam in this article.

Table of Contents:

The civil services examination or UPSC Exam takes place annually. It recruits candidates for the All-India Services – IAS, IPS, IRS, etc. It is done through 3 screening process

  1. Preliminary examination
  2. Mains Examination
  3. Interview

UPSC Calendar 2021

Important dates: 

UPSC CSE Prelims 2021 – 27th June 2021

UPSC CSE Mains 2021 – 17th September 2021

UPSC Notification 2021

The commission will release the notification on 10th February 2021 for the civil services examination application process 2021. The notification contains the following details:

  1. The starting date of the application for the IAS Exam.
  2. Closing date of the application for the IAS Exam.
  3. UPSC Eligibility
  4. UPSC Syllabus
  5. Other instructions

UPSC Syllabus 2021

For the preliminary and the main stage, the commission releases the UPSC syllabus every year. There has been no change in the UPSC syllabus since 2013.

UPSC Eligibility 2021

There are a few conditions applied to the candidates to sit for the UPSC Examination. The eligibility conditions stated by the commission are related to the:

  1. Age limit for candidates belonging to different categories
  2. Education Qualifications
  3. Age exemptions for different categories
  4. Number of attempts
  5. EWS criteria

UPSC Prelims 2021

The first stage of the IAS examination is the preliminary stage. A few important facts about this stage are mentioned below:

  1. It has two papers – General Studies 1 (GS1) and CSAT (GS 2)
  2. Each paper is of 200 marks – objective and multiple-choice questions.
  3. GS 1 has 100 questions, while CSAT has 80 questions.
  4. There is a negative marking of 0.33 marks
  5. CSAT is qualifying in nature – 33% marks required.
  6. Candidates qualify for Mains stage on the basis of marks obtained in GS 1.

UPSC Mains 2021

Candidates who clear the preliminary stage are qualified to appear for the second stage of the UPSC Exam which is the Mains stage. The important facts about the Mains examination are given below:

  1. It has nine theory/descriptive papers
  2. Out of nine papers, two language papers (English and Regional Language) are qualifying in nature – 300 marks each paper.
  3. GS 1, 2, 3 and 4 are four general studies papers – 250 marks/each.
  4. There is one essay paper and 2 optional papers (based on the subject a candidate opts for.) – 250 marks each.
  5. Candidates qualify for the interview stage based on the marks scored in GS 1-4, Essay and Optional Papers and these scores are considered for the final merit rankings along with the interview score.
  6. There are 26 optional subjects from which aspirants can choose any one irrespective of its background.

UPSC Mains Pattern




Total marks

Paper A

Compulsory Indian language

3 hours

300 (Qualifying)

Paper B


3 hours

300 (Qualifying)

Paper I


3 hours


Paper II

General Studies I – Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society

3 hours


Paper III

General Studies II – Governance, Constitution, Welfare Initiatives, Social Justice & International Relations

3 hours


Paper IV

General Studies III – Technology, Economic Development, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management

3 hours


Paper V

General Studies IV – Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude

3 hours


Paper VI

Optional Subject – Paper I

3 hours


Paper VII

Optional Subject – Paper II

3 hours



UPSC Mains Syllabus

Language Papers (Indian language and English)

Although both these papers are only qualifying in nature, candidates should not be complacent as if they fail to score below 25% in either of them, their remaining answer sheets won’t even be evaluated. Both the papers follow a similar pattern of questions as given below.

  • One essay question for 100 marks – candidates have to select one out of a few given topics
  • Reading comprehension and related five-six questions for a total of 60 marks
  • Precis writing for 60 marks – the answer sheet will have a separate grid structure where this has to be written
  • Translation from English to chosen language for 20 marks
  • Translation from chosen language to English for 20 marks
  • Grammar and basic language usage such as synonyms, sentence correction etc. for a total of 40 marks


The UPSC mains syllabus does not have any prescribed syllabus for the essay paper as such. 

Candidates are required to write two essays from a list of given topics for a combined total of 250 marks.

GS Paper 1

  • Indian Culture – Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian History
    • Significant events, issues, personalities during the middle of the eighteenth century (1750s) until the present.
    • Different stages and important contributors and contributions from various parts of the country in ‘The Freedom Struggle’.
    • Post-independence consolidation and reorganisation within the country.
  • History of the world
  • Events, forms and effect on society since the 18th century (world wars, industrial revolution, colonisation, redrawal of national boundaries, decolonisation, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc.)
  • Society
    • Indian society and diversity – Salient aspects.
    • Role of women and women’s organisations, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanisation, their problems and remedies.
    • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
    • Effects of globalisation on Indian society.
  • 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 polar ice caps) and, in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
    • Salient features of the world's physical geography.

GS Paper II

  • Indian Constitution
    • historical underpinnings,
    • evolution, features
    • amendments, significant provisions
    • basic structure doctrine
    • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
  • 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
  • Structure, organisation and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
  • Parliament and State Legislatures
    • structure, functioning
    • conduct of business
    • powers & privileges and issues arising out of these
  • 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 aimed at 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, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and the 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
  • International Relations
    • India and its neighborhood – International relations
    • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting the Indian interests
    • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
    • Important International institutions, agencies, their structure and mandates

GS Paper III

  • Economy
    • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth, development and employment.
    • Government Budgeting.
    • Inclusive growth and associated issues/challenges
    • Effects of liberalisation on the economy (post 1991 changes), changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
    • Infrastructure – Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
    • Investment models (PPP etc)
    • Agriculture
      • Major 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
      • Economics of animal rearing.
      • Food processing and related industries in India – scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
      • 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
      • Land reforms in India.
  • Science and Technology
    • Recent developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
    • Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
    • Indigenisation of technology and developing new technology.
    • General awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nanotechnology, bio-technology
    • Issues relating to intellectual property rights
  • Environment
    • Conservation,
    • Environmental pollution and degradation
    • Environmental impact assessment
  • Disaster Management (Laws, Acts etc.)
  • Security
    • Challenges to internal security (external state and non-state actors)
    • Linkages between development and spread of extremism
    • 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 management in border areas; linkages of organised crime with terrorism
    • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandates

GS Paper IV

This Ethics paper in the UPSC mains syllabus includes questions to check the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity and probity in public life and his/her problem-solving approach to various societal issues. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects and the exam covers area as mentioned in the syllabus given below.

  • Ethics and Human Interface
    • Essence of Ethics, Determinants and Consequences of Ethics in Human Interaction
    • 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 moral and ethical values
  • Attitude
    • Content, structure and function of attitude
    • Influence of attitude in thought and behaviour
    • Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour
    • Moral and Political attitudes
    • Social influence and persuasion
  • Aptitude
    • Aptitude and foundational values of Civil Service
    • Integrity
    • Impartiality and non-partisanship
    • Objectivity
    • Dedication to public service
    • Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society
  • Emotional Intelligence
    • Concepts of emotional intelligence
    • Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance
  • Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers
    • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality
  • Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration
    • Status and associated 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
    • The 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

Optional Subject (Two Papers)

A candidate has to choose one optional subject (out of a total of 48 options). There will be two papers for a combined total of 500 marks. Selecting the best optional subject for UPSC mains should be a careful and considered decision. Refer to the link given above to understand which optional subject will be the best for you.

UPSC Interview 2021

It is called the Personality Test. It is the final stage of the UPSC Examination. It is expected to take place in March/April 2021.

  1. The IAS Interview is of 275 marks.
  2. It is conducted in the UPSC office in Delhi.
  3. It takes place in different time slots spread across different days.

It is always advisable to aim for the IAS interview from the beginning of the preparation. It helps in confidence-building of the aspirants.


The IAS mains syllabus is comprehensive and the questions asked in the CSE require not only a certain depth of understanding but also the ability to present the answers in a coherent manner. The syllabus is both static and dynamic. Hence, it is essential for the aspirant to track and sort the current affairs under appropriate papers/headings as per the UPSC mains syllabus.

The Mains exam is for a total of 1750 marks (7 papers * 250 marks) and aspirants who clear the stage reach the interview (UPSC Personality Test). The candidates’ score in the interview (out of 275 marks) is added to their marks in UPSC mains and this makes the final merit list of recommended candidates.