UPSC Syllabus

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UPSC Syllabus

The Union Public Service Commission [UPSC] conducts several recruitment examinations for various departments and services in the central government. This includes Engineering Services, Defense Services, Indian Economics Service, Indian Statistical Service, Central Armed Police Service, and the highly revered Civil Services. Within Civil Services, there are multiple Group-A and Group-B posts for which UPSC conducts exams including Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Indian Revenue Service, amongst others. Regarded amongst the toughest exams in the world, there are only a few topics that might be left out of the vast UPSC syllabus. 

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Exam Stages & Pattern

The Civil Services exam is carried through a three-stage process namely, Prelims, Mains, and Interview. While the prelims section tests the basic understanding of topics from an array of subjects like Science, Economics, Social Studies, etc, and aptitudes like verbal ability and comprehension, the Mains UPSC syllabus is much more advanced and comprehensive. The following sections shed more light on the complete exam pattern and the topics covered under each paper.


Paper Type Marks Duration Questions NegativeMarking
General Studies-I  Qualifying [Not Counted towards Final Ranking], Candidates have to qualify for the cut-off as declared by the commission 200 2 hours 100 ⅓ of the total marks
General Studies-II (CSAT) Qualifying [Not Counted towards Final Ranking, i.e, only 33% marks required] 200 2 hours 80 ⅓ of the total marks

Must-Know Facts about UPSC Prelims

  • Students pan-India except those who hail from the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Nagaland, and Mizoram, must select any Indian language mentioned in the eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution. 
  • Prelims marks are not added to the final merit list. 
  • The purpose of the preliminary exam is to only select candidates for the subsequent stages of the exam.


Paper-I Essay 250 3 hours
Paper-II General Studies I 250 3 hours
Paper-III General Studies II 250 3 hours
Paper-IV General Studies III 250 3 hours
Paper V General Studies IV 250 3 hours
Paper VI Optional Subject Paper I 250 3 hours
Paper VII Optional Subject Paper II 250 3 hours
Paper VIII Paper A-Indian Language* [Qualifying Paper] 300 3 hours
Paper IX Paper B-English Language [Qualifying Paper] 300 3 hours
Interview Personality Test 275

Must-Know Facts about UPSC Mains

  • The second phase of the Civil Services Exam is the Mains examination. Candidates wouldn’t be able to take the IAS Mains unless they had successfully passed the prelims test.
  • The Mains exam assesses a candidate’s depth of academic competence and capacity to effectively and concisely communicate their grasp of a topic in a given amount of time.
  • Nine exams make up the UPSC Mains exam, of which two are qualifying papers at 300 points each.
  • Candidates have to appear for two qualifying exams consisting of Indian Language and English Language.
  • Only those candidates will have their essays, general studies, and optional subject exams taken into consideration for review if they meet the minimum qualifying requirement of 25% on both language exams.
  • The marks acquired by such candidates will not be taken into account or credited if they fail to qualify in these language examinations.

Also Read: NDA Exam Pattern

UPSC Syllabus Prelims

Comprising of two papers on general studies, the preliminary section of the Civil Services Exam acts as a screening test of candidates for eventual selection. Ranging from questions on current affairs, Indian and World Polity, Governance, History, and Basic Sciences to questions testing mental ability, communication and problem-solving skills, the UPSC Syllabus for prelims is vast and only a handful of candidates go through the next stage. Tabulated below are the topic covered under this level: 

UPSC Syllabus for General Studies Paper (Prelims Paper I) 

  • General Science
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, etc
  • General Issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change 
  • Current Events of National and International Importance
  • History of India and Indian National Development
  • India and World Geography
  • Economic and Social Development

UPSC Syllabus for CSAT Paper (Prelims Paper-II) 

  • General Mental Ability 
  • Logical Reasoning 
  • Decision Making and Problem-Solving 
  • Interpersonal Skills 
  • Communication Skills
  • Basic Numeracy 
  • Data Interpretation 

Related Articles: IFS Exam Pattern

UPSC Syllabus Mains

Coming to the Mains section of the UPSC syllabus, it consists of 9 papers out of which the English Paper and Indian Language Paper are qualifying but securing at least 33% on both is necessary. Further, candidates need to select an optional subject on which two papers of 300 marks each shall be conducted. 

Paper  Topics
Essay Topic-Based
General Studies I Indian Heritage & Culture, Modern Indian History, Indian Society & Issues, Indian Flora & Fauna, Indian Industries World History & Geography, Disasters, etc
General Studies II Indian Constitution, Union & States, Indian Political System- Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, Representation of People’s Act, Constitutional Bodies, Govt Policies & Welfare Schemes, Issues, International Issues and Relations, Transnational Institutions, etc
General Studies III Indian Economy & its Issues-planning, development, mobilization of resources, growth and employment, land Reforms in India, Indian Infrastructure, Investment Models, Technological developments, Security Issues, Biodiversity, Environment, Disaster Management, etc.
General Studies IV Ethics and HR, Emotional intelligence, Moral and Political Attitude, Contribution of leading Thinkers and Philosophers of the World, Public Service Values, Probity in Governance, Case Studies

Optional Subject Paper I & II

Any One Subject from History; Geography; Economics; Sociology; Public Administration; Philosophy; Psychology; Political Science; Agriculture; Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science; Anthropology; Botany; Chemistry; Civil Engineering; Commerce; Electrical Engineering; Geology; Law; Mathematics, Management; Mechanical Engineering; Medical Science; Physics; Statistics; Zoology or Literature {English, Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Punjabi Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani, Oriya, Nepali, Santhali, Manipuri, Marathi, Maithilli}
Paper A-Indian Language* [Qualifying Paper] English, Hindi*, Bengali, Assamese, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Sanskrit*, Sindhi**, Punjabi Bodo*, Dogri*, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani*, Oriya, Nepali*, Santhali***, Manipuri, Marathi*, Maithili*
*Devanagari** Devanagari or Arabic*** Devanagari or Olchiki [Question paper in Devanagari script but candidates can answer in either Devanagari or Olchiki]
Paper B-English Language [Qualifying Paper] Essay, Reading Comprehension, Precis Writing, and Translation

UPSC Syllabus IAS Interview

The last phase of the test is the UPSC Interview, often known as the personality test. There is no established UPSC interview syllabus. Numerous different topics are covered in the questions.

  • The “Personality Test/Interview” is required for candidates who pass the UPSC Mains Exam. A Board chosen by the UPSC will interview these applicants.
  • A panel of knowledgeable and objective observers will evaluate the candidate’s personal suitability for a career in the civil service during the interview.
  • The interview is more of a purposeful discussion meant to probe the candidate’s mental capabilities and capacity for analysis.
  • The written exam will have a maximum score of 1750 points, and the interview will be worth 275 points. This adds up to a Grand Total of 2025 Marks, which will serve as the basis for creating the final merit list.

List of UPSC Syllabus for Optional Subjects 

The UPSC Mains syllabus contains a list of 48 elective subjects, including literature in various languages. Candidates must select one of the “optional subjects” from the following list of subjects:

  • Agriculture 
  • Animal Husbandry 
  • Economics 
  • Law 
  • Management 
  • History 
  • Mathematics
  • Botany 
  • Chemistry 
  • Civil Engineering 
  • Sociology 
  • Statistics 
  • Psychology 
  • Physics 
  • Medical Science 
  • Mechanical Engineering 
  • Zoology, etc

Some Famous Subjects’ Syllabus

Public Administration Optional for UPSC

There are mainly two papers in the Public Administration optional for UPSC with Paper 1 having 12 and Paper 2 having 14 subjects.

Public Administration Paper 1 – Administrative Theory Public Administration Paper 2 –
Indian Administration
Introduction  Evolution of Indian Administration 
Administrative Thought  Philosophical and Constitutional Framework of Government 
Administrative Behaviour  Public Sector Undertakings 
Organizations Plans and  Priorities 
Accountability   Union Government and Administration 
Administrative Law Civil Services 
Development Dynamics  Financial Management 
Comparative Public Administration  State Government and Administration 
Public Policy District Administration Since Independence 
Personnel Administration Administrative Reforms Since Independence
Technique of Administrative Empowerment  Rural Development
Financial Administration  Urban Local Government
Law and Order Administration
Significant Issues in Indian Administration

To know more, check out our blog on Public Administration Syllabus for UPSC

Economics Syllabus for UPSC

To crack the highest-paying government jobs in India, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of Economics for the UPSC syllabus. Glance through the detailed list of topics mentioned below; 

Main topics  Sub Topics 
Economic Growth and Development  The basic concept and definition of economy and economics. Its uses and transfer of resources, distributive effects, macro and microeconomic policy, micro-macro balance, the distributive impact of economic policies, development versus growth, determinant of growth and development, concepts such as HPI/MPI, HDI, PQLI, GEM, GDI/GII, TAI, Green index, sustainable development, India’s ranking in the various indices.
Poverty  Definitions, causes, distribution-deprivation, income versus calories, measurement of poverty, the status of poverty, eradication programs, poverty and resource policy, tribal rights and issues, livelihood mission.
Inclusion Definition, relevance, types, financial inclusion, and recent initiatives.
Demographics Census Data, populations by gender, state, by age group, socio-economic status, caste, religion, literacy levels, etc. Trends in human development – interstate comparison, etc.
Fiscal policy Definition, component, receipts, revenue and capital account, tax revenue, expenditure, budget.
Features of the Indian Economy  Division of economic activities, poverty, unemployment, HDR, measures to eradicate poverty
Basic Economic Indicators  National income, price index, production, population, foreign trade
Population  Growth, census, consumption pattern (energy)
National income Concepts, Methods of Calculation
Agriculture Crops, seasons, agricultural credit agencies, Kisan Credit agencies, land reforms, insurance, green, white, blue, yellow revolutions, irrigation
Industry Industrial policies (1948, 1956, 1991), small-scale industries, key industries, industrial sickness, the different committees, disinvestment, PSU policy, industrial finance
Foreign trade Composition, direction, EXIM policy, WTO, the balance of payments, measures to improve foreign trade
Money and Banking Money market, credit control (different rates), commercial banks, cooperative banks, NBFCs, committees, SEBI, stock market developments, the insurance industry, new banking sector reforms, money supply measures, inflation, deflation
Planning commission Five-year plans
Public finance Finance Commission, taxation, deficit financing, public spending, and debt

Anthropology Syllabus UPSC

Anthropology is one of the important topics of UPSC and it’s important to know the syllabus for better preparation and building exam strategy. Here are some of the topics covered in the Anthropology syllabus for UPSC:

  1. Meaning, scope, and development of Anthropology.
  2. Relationship with other disciplines: History, Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, Life Science, Medical Science.
  3. Main branches of Anthropology, their scope, and relevance
  4. Human Evolution and the Emergence of Man
  5. Phylogenetic status, characteristics
  6. Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology. Chronology: Relative and Absolute Dating methods 
  7. Characteristics of Primates
  8. The Nature of Society & Culture
  9. The biological basis of life
  10. Marriage, Family & Kinship
  11. Political Organization and Social Contro

Best Books for UPSC Syllabus

Following the correct study material and books is quintessential when you are preparing for such a prestigious examination. Here is a list of books that can help you cover all the important topics for UPSC: 

Indian Economy Mishra-Puri, Dutt-Sundaram Buy Here 
The Economics of Development & Planning M. L. Jhingan BuyHere
International Economics H.G. Mannur Buy Here
Public Finance H.L. Bhatia Buy Here
Money and Banking S.B.Gupta  Buy Here
Macroeconomic Theory M. L. Jhingan  Buy Here
New Horizons of Public Administration Mohit Bhattacharya Buy Here
Public Administration Fadia and Fadia Buy Here
Public Administration In India 1st Edition Maheshwari Buy Here

Click Here for UPSC Syllabus PDF in Hindi

Note: You can access the previous year question papers from the official website of UPSC

After successfully clearing both Prelims and Mains, a candidate has to appear for an Interview where the board members assess the overall personality of the candidates, their communication skills and decision-making, and intellectual understanding. Further, the attitude and mental resolve to tackle difficult situations is also major component of the interview.


What is the application form fee of UPSC?

The candidate must pay Rs. 100 application forms. The exception applies to SC/ST/PH categories and female candidates.

Does the UPSC Syllabus PDF contain both the prelims and mains syllabus? 

Yes, the PDF collates the preliminary, mains, and options subjects syllabus.

Can the applicant download the syllabus in Punjabi?

The syllabus is published in English/Hindi languages. It can be downloaded in these two languages only. 

What is the maximum number of attempts a general, OBC and EWS category student do have? 

For general and OBC category students, they can attempt it by 6 times and for EWS category students can attempt the UPSC exam by 9 times. 

The seemingly limitless UPSC syllabus is enough to send even professors into a frenzy. Needless to say, it requires a well-planned approach to successfully cover the topics. If you are someone who wants to pursue Political Science courses or programs like BA History abroad which aligns with the Civil Services syllabus but are not sure about how to get started with it then the experts at Leverage Edu will lend you a helping hand. From completing the admission related formalities to preparing for visa interviews, the counsellors will provide quality guidance throughout the process.

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