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UPSC Syllabus and Exam Pattern for Upcoming IAS Exam

Aug 12, 2021


Before starting preparation for any exam, it is essential to have a basic understanding of its structure. The Civil Services examination (CSE) conducted by UPSC (Union Public Service Commission of India) is no exception to this statement, and cracking the exam is a dream of many aspirants.

Being fine-tuned with the UPSC syllabus is crucial to ace the most coveted IAS exam. This article will provide you with an overview of the UPSC syllabus for CSE 2023 in depth. It will help you to manage your time and UPSC exam preparation effectively.

UPSC Exam Pattern

The Civil Services Examination has three following phases, namely:

  • Preliminary Examination
  • Mains Examination
  • Personality Test (Interview Round)

Once a candidate clears all the above-stated rounds, he becomes eligible for joining the Civil Services in India. However, the journey to becoming a Civil Servant (IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS) isn’t a smooth one.

You can only write the Mains examination if you clear the Prelims round. That means each level is an elimination round! Hence, you need to qualify each one to appear for the next one.

UPSC Preliminary Syllabus

Preliminary Examination or Prelims is a screening test to filter/select candidates for the Civil Services Mains examination. It has two papers namely General Studies I and CSAT (General Studies Paper-II) of 400 marks comprising objective type questions.

Important Points

  • The marks obtained in the General Studies Paper I determine your selection for the UPSC Mains.
  • CSAT or General Studies Paper II is qualifying in nature. A candidate has to score 33% to qualify for CSAT.
  • There is a negative marking for every incorrect answer. 1/3rd of the marks assigned to a question.
  • The marks obtained in the Prelims are not counted for the final order of merit.
PaperTypeNo. of QuestionsMarksDurationNegative Marks
General Studies IObjective1002002 HoursYes
General Studies II (CSAT)Objective802002 HoursYes

UPSC Prelims Syllabus for General Studies Paper-I

The syllabus for UPSC Prelims General Studies Paper I is mentioned below:

  • 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.

UPSC Prelims Syllabus for CSAT (General Studies Paper-II)

The General Studies-II or CSAT paper of UPSC Prelims consists of questions from the following topics:

  • 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);

Read more: How to Prepare for UPSC Prelims CSAT?

UPSC Mains Syllabus

Once a candidate clears the Preliminary exam, the next step is appearing for the UPSC Mains exam. This is indeed the ‘Main’ exam and has 9 papers that are descriptive, qualifying and merit-ranking in nature. The Main Examination is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates rather than merely the range of their information and memory.

UPSC Mains Pattern

PaperSubjectDurationTotal Marks
Paper ACompulsory Indian Language3 Hours300(Qualifying)
Paper BEnglish3 Hours300(Qualifying)
Paper IEssay3 Hours250
Paper IIGeneral Studies I – Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society 3 Hours250
Paper IIIGeneral Studies II – Governance, Constitution, Welfare Initiatives, Social Justice & International Relations 3 Hours250
Paper IVGeneral Studies III – Technology, Economic Development, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management3 Hours250
Paper VGeneral Studies IV – Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude3 Hours250
Paper VIOptional Subject – Paper I3 Hours250
Paper VIIOptional Subject – Paper II 3 Hours250

Important Points

  • Paper A and Paper B are qualifying in nature and the marks scored in them don’t count for the final merit list.
  • Marks obtained by the candidates for Paper I-VII only will be counted for merit ranking. 
  • The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where the translation is involved). 

UPSC Mains Syllabus


The aim of these papers is to test the candidate’s ability to read and understand serious logical prose and to express his ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian language.

The pattern of questions would be broadly as follows:

  • Comprehension of given passages.
  • Precis Writing.
  • Usage and Vocabulary.
  • Short Essays in Indian Languages.
  • Comprehension of given passages
  • Precis Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary
  • Short Essays
  • Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa.

Also read: How to Prepare for UPSC Mains 2021?

Syllabus for Paper I Essay

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

Syllabus for 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 the 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 the 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, 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.

Also read: Recommended Books For UPSC Mains Preparation

Syllabus for 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, the 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.

Also read: How to Write Good Quality Answers for UPSC Mains

Syllabus for Paper IV 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, nano-technology, bio-technology 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 networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cybersecurity; money-laundering 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.

Syllabus for Paper V General Studies IV – Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude.

The Ethics 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; the 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 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.

Also read the Contribution of Tribals in Freedom Struggle of India and elevate your IAS preparation.

Syllabus for Optional Subject: Paper VI and Paper VII

A candidate has to choose only one optional subject for UPSC Mains that has two papers for 250 marks each. The score in the optional subject becomes a determining factor in securing a place in the merit list. Hence, a candidate should choose the optional subject wisely and cautiously.

Read more: How to Choose the Right Optional Subject for the UPSC Mains?

A candidate can choose any one subject based on his interest from the following list of optional subjects:

  • 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.

Personality Test (Interview Round)

After successfully passing the Mains exam, a candidate appears for the final stage of the UPSC exam i.e the Personality Test (Interview Round). A candidate is interviewed by a Board who will have before them a record of the candidate’s career. The candidate will be asked questions on matters of general interest. The objective of the Interview/Personality Test is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a Board of competent and unbiased observers.

Also read: 7 Quick Tips to Crack the UPSC Interview

The Personality Test is intended to judge the mental calibre of a candidate. In broad terms, this is really an assessment of not only intellectual qualities but also social traits and interest in current affairs.

Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, the balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity. 

We hope you will now have a proper understanding of the UPSC syllabus and exam pattern after reading this article. You can now prepare for the UPSC exam with PrepLadder, the most comprehensive preparation resource for UPSC. It has everything you need to ace UPSC on one single platform.

This includes concise, effective, and well-planned video lectures by our Dream Team for UPSC, a well-structured and high yield QBank, highly competitive PrepTests based on real exam patterns, and Previous Year Papers in the form of tests

Keep following our articles to apprise yourself with the latest information about the exam. All the best for your exams.

Auther Details

Raminder Singh

Raminder is a Content Manager at PrepLadder. He has worked in several aspects of the education industry throughout his career and has assisted numerous candidates in cracking major competitive exams.


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