UPSC Syllabus – Civil Service Syllabus For Prelims, Mains

Civil Service

UPSC Syllabus – Civil Service Syllabus For Prelims, Mains

The complete syllabus for the Civil Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) can be found in this article. The  Civil Services Exam is generally considered as one of the toughest and prestigious exams in India. 

One has to understand the IAS syllabus to understand the UPSC exam. This tends to reduce unnecessary efforts such as reading irrelevant topics that leads to a waste of time. 

The UPSC 2021 syllabus [UPSC Civil Services Prelims and Mains] will be issued along with the official notification by February 2021.


The commission has released UPSC Mains 2020 Admit Card for the Civil Services (Mains) Examination. The IAS Mains 2020 has begun from the 8th of January 2021. 


The applicants can find IAS syllabus on the UPSC official website


For the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise), there is a common   pattern.u Different phases of the IAS exam, has different syllabus. The syllabus of the UPSC Prelims focuses on general and social knowledge that is evaluated through objective type questions (MCQ). The UPSC Mains syllabus is even more detailed  as this stage consists of nine theory papers. 


The Civil Services exam is conducted in 2 phases. 


Phase 1: Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination (Objective Type)

Phase 2: Civil Services (Mains) Examination (Descriptive Type)

Phase 3: Personal Interview (Personality Test)


Let’s discuss different phases in detail. 


Phase 1: Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination (Objective Type) – Also called UPSC Prelims 


The UPSC prelims exam comprises of 2 components – 


Subjects Total Marks Duration
General Studies  200 2 hrs 
Civil Services Aptitude Test 200 2 hrs


To qualify for the Civil Services (Mains) exam, a candidate must attempt both the papers in their Prelims. 


  • There are 100 questions in the UPSC General Studies (GS) paper, while the CSAT paper consists of 80 questions. Both the subjects have negative marking, for every incorrect answer marked at 1/3rd of the overall marks assigned to the question. 


  • Each correctly answered GS question will be awarded 2 marks. For any question that is incorrectly marked, 0.66 marks will be deducted from the total marks.


  • Similarly, every CSAT question correctly answered will attract 2.5 marks each in the CSAT paper. While each incorrectly marked question would incur a penalty of 0.833, which would be deducted from the total. 


No negative marks would be attracted by questions which are not attempted.

Components of IAS Prelims

General Studies 

The first paper of the preliminary examination is the General Studies. This examination is intended to test a candidate’s general knowledge for a wide variety of topics, including: Indian politics, geography, history, Indian economy, science and technology, environment and ecology, international relations and current affairs related to UPSC.

Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)

  • Apart from ‘Reading Comprehension’ and the occasionally asked ‘Decision Making’ questions, the UPSC Prelims syllabus for CSAT seeks to evaluate the candidate’s capacity to solve ‘Reasoning and Logical’ questions.
  • The questions based on ‘Decision Making’ are usually excluded from negative marking. 
  • The aim of the preliminary examination is only to prepare a candidate for the subsequent phases of the examination. When arriving at the final rank list, the marks earned in the Prelims will not be added up.

UPSC Prelims Syllabus

Syllabus for General Science

  • 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 specialisation.
  • General Science

Syllabus for Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)

  • 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)

Phase 2: Civil Services (Mains) Examination (Descriptive Type)

  • The Mains Examination is the second phase of the Civil Services Exam. The candidate will only be permitted to write the IAS Mains after successful qualification in the prelims exam. 
  • The Mains exam thoroughly explores the academic talent of the candidate and their capacity to present understanding in a time-bound manner according to the requirements of the question. 
  • There are 9 papers in the UPSC Mains exam, 2 of which are qualifying papers with 300 marks each.
  • The 2 qualifying papers are-
    • English language paper
    • Any India language paper


The papers on essay, general studies and optional subject of only such candidates who obtained 25% marks in both the language papers, will be taken for evaluation.

In case, the applicant does not qualify in these language papers, the marks obtained by such candidates shall not be considered or counted.


Here’s the structure of language papers- 


  1. Essay – 100 marks
  2. Precise writing – 60 marks
  3. Reading comprehension – 60 marks
  4. Grammar and basic language usage – 40 marks 
  5. Translation – 
    1. Compulsory language to english – 20 marks
    2. English to compulsory language – 20 marks


The candidates can write the rest of the seven papers in any of the languages mentioned under the Eight Schedule of the Constitution of India or in English. 

UPSC Mains Syllabus


Paper Subject Marks
Paper – I Essay (can be written in the medium of the candidate’s choice) 250
Paper – II General Studies – I (Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society) 250
Paper – III General Studies – II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice & International Relations) 250
Paper – IV General Studies – III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management) 250
Paper – V General Studies – IV (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude) 250
Paper – VI Optional Subject – Paper I 250
Paper – VII Optional Subject – Paper II 250


The UPSC Mains syllabus gives a list of 48 optional Subjects which include Literature of different languages. Candidates must select any of the ‘Optional Subjects’ from the list of subjects below:


Agriculture  Zoology –  
Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science  Assamese (Literature)
Anthropology Bengali (Literature)
Botany Bodo (Literature)
Chemistry Dogri (Literature)
Civil Engineering Gujarati (Literature)
Commerce & Accountancy Hindi (Literature)
Economics Kannada (Literature)
Electrical Engineering Kashmiri (Literature)
Geography   Konkani (Literature)
Geology Maithili (Literature)
History   Malayalam (Literature)
Law Manipuri (Literature)
Management Marathi (Literature)
Mathematics   Nepali (Literature)
Mechanical Engineering Odia (Literature)
Medical Science Punjabi (Literature)
Philosophy Sanskrit (Literature)
Physics Santhali (Literature)
Political Science & International Relations Sindhi (Literature)
Psychology Tamil (Literature)
Public Administration Telugu (Literature)
Sociology English (Literature)
Statistics  Urdu (Literature)


Phase 3: Personal Interview (Personality Test)


  • The ‘Personality Test/Interview’ is required for candidates who apply for the UPSC Mains Exam. A board appointed by the UPSC will interview these candidates. 
  • The aim of the interview is to determine, through a board of qualified and impartial observers, the personal suitability of the candidate for a position in the civil service. 
  • The interview is a kind of structured conversation meant to discuss the candidate’s mental qualities and analytical capacity. 
  • The test for the interview will be 275 marks and there will be 1750 total marks for the written examination. This amounts to a Great Total of 2025 Points, on the basis of which the full merit list will be finalised.


If you need any guidance for UPSC Prelims and Main exam, contact Direction. We will guide you throughout your IAS journey. 


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