Syllabus for UPSC Civil Services (IAS) Exam

The UPSC Civil Services Exam is one of the most prestigious exams in India. This Exam is very popularly known as the IAS Exam. The full form of “IAS” is “Indian Administrative Service” and the dream of most of the Civil Services aspirants is to become an IAS officer. In this article, the complete syllabus of the UPSC exam is given.

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The UPSC civil services exam is held in three stages;

  1. Prelims (Preliminary Exam)
  2. Mains (Main Exam)
  3. Interview

However, As per the official documents of UPSC Interview is a part of the main exam itself. It is further explained in the main examination section below.

The detailed UPSC syllabus for the prelims and main examination is given below;


Preliminary examination

The preliminary or prelims exam consists of two papers;

  1. Paper – I (General Studies)
  2. Paper – II (Aptitude Test)

Syllabus for Paper -1 (Maximum 200 Marks, Duration – Two Hours);

  • 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, Bio-diversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization.
  • General Science.

Syllabus for Paper –II (Maximum 200 Marks, Duration – Two Hours);

  • 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)


  • Note 1: Paper-II of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination will be a qualifying paper with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%.
  • Note 2: All questions (paper – I & paper – II)   will be of multiple-choice, objective type.
  • Note 3: Candidates who qualify in the preliminary examination gets an opportunity to write the main examination of civil services. The total number of candidates to be selected for the Main Examination will be about twelve to thirteen times the total number of vacancies to be filled in that particular year.
  • For Example, if the number of vacancies in a particular year is 1000 then approximately 12000 to 13000 candidates will be selected from the preliminary examination and will be given a chance to write the main examination.
  • Note 4: There will be negative marking for incorrect answers as detailed below:
    • There are four alternatives for the answers to every question. For each question for which a wrong answer has been given by the candidate, one-third (0.33) of the marks assigned to that question will be deducted as a penalty.
    • If a candidate gives more than one answer, it will be treated as a wrong answer even if one of the given answers happens to be correct and there will be the same penalty as above for that question.
    • If a question is left blank i.e. no answer is given by the candidate, there will be no penalty for that question.


Main examination

The main examination consists of two stages;

  1. Written test (Subjective)
  2. Interview Test (Personality Test)

Many people consider Interview as a separate or 3rd stage in the civil services exam. However, as per UPSC official documents Interview is a part of the main exam only. The final ranking of a candidate is decided by the Main exam score (1750 marks maximum) + Interview Score (275 marks maximum).

About the written test of the main exam:

The written test consists of 9 papers. Out of 9 papers, 2 papers are qualifying in nature, and the remaining 7 papers are considered for merit. The qualifying papers (paper A & paper B) and the papers which will be counted for the merit (ie. Paper – I to Paper VII) is given below;

Qualifying Papers:

  • Paper A (Any Indian language as per rule, to be selected by the candidate)
  • Paper B (English)

Paper A & B are qualifying in nature and only 25% marks are required for passing these papers. The marks obtained in these papers are not counted for merit hence candidates should make effort to pass these two papers only. The level of question in the above two papers are of matriculation or equivalent only.

Papers to be counted for the merit:

Paper-I: Essay [250 Marks]

Paper-II: General Studies – I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society [250 Marks]

Paper-III: General Studies – II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations [250 Marks]

Paper-IV: General Studies – III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management [250 Marks]

Paper-V: General Studies – IV: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude [250 Marks]

Paper-VI: Optional Subject – Paper 1 [250 Marks]

Paper-VII: Optional Subject – Paper 1 [250 Marks]

Total Marks (Paper – I to Paper – VIII): 1750
Interview (Personality Test): 275 Marks
Grand Total (Written test + Interview) = 1750 + 275 = 2025 Marks

Paper VI & VII are from the optional subject which a candidate needs to choose as per his/her own interest. The list of optional subjects is given below;

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Anthropology
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Commerce and Accountancy
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • History
  • Law
  • Management
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Science
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Psychology
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Zoology
  • Literature of any one of the following languages;

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

Syllabus for the main examination

PAPER-I: Essay:

Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to keep close 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.

PAPER-II: 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- 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.
  • History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal 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 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 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.
PAPER-III: General Studies-II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.
  • 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 dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.
  • Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
PAPER-IV: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, 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, nano-technology, 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, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; moneylaundering 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.
PAPER-V: 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 utilise 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; role of family society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
  • Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; 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-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and 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 above issues.
PAPER-VI & PAPER-VII: Optional Subject Papers I & II

The candidate may choose any optional subject from amongst the List of Optional Subjects (given above).

The Services and Posts mentioned which are given to the successful candidates who clears the Civil Services exam are as follows;

(i) Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
(ii) Indian Foreign Service (IFS).
(iii) Indian Police Service (IPS).
(iv) Indian P & T Accounts & Finance Service, Group ‘A’.
(v) Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
(vi) Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise), Group ‘A’.
(vii) Indian Defence Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
(viii) Indian Revenue Service (I.T.), Group ‘A’.
(ix) Indian Ordnance Factories Service, Group ‘A’ (Assistant Works Manager, Administration).
(x) Indian Postal Service, Group ‘A’.
(xi) Indian Civil Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
(xii) Indian Railway Traffic Service, Group ‘A’.
(xiii) Indian Railway Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
(xiv) Indian Railway Personnel Service, Group ‘A’.
(xv) Post of Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force, Group ‘A’
(xvi) Indian Defence Estates Service, Group ‘A’.
(xvii) Indian Information Service (Junior Grade), Group ‘A’.
(xviii) Indian Trade Service, Group ‘A’.
(xix) Indian Corporate Law Service, Group ‘A’.
(xx) Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service, Group ‘B’ (Section Officer’s Grade).
(xxi) Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service, Group ‘B’.
(xxii) Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar HaveliPolice Service, Group ‘B’.
(xxiii) Pondicherry Civil Service, Group ‘B’.
(xxiv) Pondicherry Police Service, Group ‘B’.

Please note that the above-mentioned services and posts are indicative only and the candidate needs to check the official notification by UPSC for the list of services and posts being offered by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

Important Notice:

The Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2021, which was scheduled to be held on 27th June 2021, has been rescheduled. Now, this Examination will be held on 10th October 2021. 

Click here to download the official notification from the UPSC.

Important  Link:

UPSC Website: Click Here