top of page
  • Writer's pictureUnlimited Apps

UPSC Syllabus | Exam Pattern, Syllabus for CSE Prelims and Mains

Updated: Feb 19

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination stands as a formidable challenge, beckoning aspiring individuals to step into the realm of civil services and contribute to the governance of the world's largest democracy. Considered a benchmark for intellectual prowess, leadership, and ethical acumen, the UPSC examination demands not just diligence but a profound understanding of a diverse range of subjects.

UPSC Syllabus and Exam Pattern
UPSC Syllabus and Exam Pattern

In this article, we will delve into the examination structure of the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) and meticulously examine the syllabus associated with the examination.

Note: Ready to tackle the UPSC exam? Try UPSC Unlimited, the best app out there! It's got all the NCERT syllabus and book questions you need to succeed. With simple study materials and fun quizzes, it's perfect for everyone, whether you're just starting or you've been studying for a while. Download UPSC Unlimited now and get ready to ace your UPSC exam!


The official UPSC civil services examination structure is formally categorized into two phases known as the Preliminary and Main Examination. However, in practice, the examination unfolds as a three-stage process, with the third stage comprising the Personality Test/Interview.

UPSC Exam Pattern
UPSC Exam Pattern


The prelims examination serves as a qualifying round to shortlist candidates for the mains exam. While the marks obtained in this stage do not contribute to the final merit list, candidates must diligently prepare for this exam as cut-offs can be unpredictable and are contingent on the annual average score. The UPSC prelims pattern details are provided below

  • The UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern includes two papers: GS Paper 1 and GS Paper 2 (CSAT), both comprising objective-type multiple-choice questions.

  • Of the two papers, the CSAT Paper (GS Paper 2) is of a qualifying nature, with applicants required to attain a minimum score of 33% to pass.

  • The UPSC Prelims Cut-Off is determined based on GS Paper 1 alone, and marks obtained in the prelims stage do not contribute to the Final Merit List.

  • In accordance with the UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern, negative marking is applied to both papers in the prelims stage.

  • The Prelims GS Paper 1 comprises 100 questions, while the CSAT Paper consists of 80 questions. Each paper is allocated 200 marks.

  • Candidates are granted a time limit of 2 hours for each paper during the prelims stage.


The Mains stage of the UPSC exam follows a pattern that includes nine papers conducted over a span of 5-7 days. Only candidates who achieve the prescribed cut-off in General Studies I and secure a minimum of 33% in General Studies II in the Prelims are eligible to participate in the Mains Examination. The UPSC mains pattern details are provided below

  • The UPSC Mains Exam Pattern encompasses a total of 9 papers, which are as follows:

    • Compulsory Indian Language Paper

    • English Paper

    • Essay Paper

    • 4 General Studies Papers (GS1, GS2, GS3 & GS4)

    • 2 Optional Papers

  • In adherence to the UPSC Mains exam pattern, all papers in the mains stage are of a descriptive type. Each paper has a time duration of 3 hours, with an additional 30 minutes provided for blind candidates.

  • The cumulative marks obtained in the mains exam contribute to the final merit list. The language papers (Mains Paper A & Paper B) are of a qualifying nature.

  • Paper A is not mandatory for candidates from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim, as well as candidates with hearing impairment. However, they are required to confirm the exemption of such 2nd or 3rd language courses from their respective university or board.

  • Candidates have the flexibility to choose any one optional subject from the list of 48 optional subjects provided by UPSC as given in below table


Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science




Civil Engineering

Commerce and Accountancy


Electrical Engineering







Mechanical Engineering

Medical Science



Political Science and International Relations


Public Administration




The 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.


  • The final phase of the UPSC exam is the personal interview, reserved for candidates who successfully clear the main examination. During this stage, the board assesses the candidate's mental and social attributes through questions of general interest.

  • The board looks for qualities such as mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balanced judgment, a diverse range and depth of interests, capabilities for social cohesion and leadership, as well as intellectual and moral integrity.

  • Candidates' selection for the UPSC IAS is determined by the combined marks they achieve in the mains exam and the personal interview.

  • The interview process carries a weightage of 275 marks in total.


The UPSC syllabus serves as a pivotal guide for steering your preparation in the right direction. Whether you are in the midst of revising for your upcoming UPSC exam or gearing up to commence your preparation for the Exam, adhering to the topics outlined in the official UPSC Syllabus is paramount. Align your study plan with the syllabus to ensure comprehensive coverage of all essential subjects. It's noteworthy that the syllabus pattern remains consistent across various services, including the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Revenue Service, and other civil services. Explore this article for a detailed understanding of the Exam pattern and syllabus for each stage of the UPSC examination.


Understanding the syllabus for the IAS Prelims is crucial, as it serves as the screening test determining candidates' eligibility for the the Mains. As mentioned earlier prelims consists of two papers. Let us see he syllabus for both the papers


The General Studies test marks the initiation of the preliminary examination. Designed to evaluate a candidate's broad knowledge, it encompasses a diverse array of subjects, including Indian Polity, Geography, History, Indian Economy, Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology, International Relations, and pertinent UPSC current affairs. The syllabus is as mentioned below

  • Current Affairs (Events) of national and international importance.

  • History of India and Indian National Movement.

  • Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, and 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 specialization.

  • General Science


The syllabus for the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) aims to evaluate the candidate's aptitude in addressing 'Reasoning and Analytical' queries, in addition to 'Reading Comprehension' and sporadically included 'Decision Making' questions. Typically, 'Decision Making' questions are excluded from negative marking.

  • 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)


The UPSC Mains examination comprises a total of nine papers, with two designated as qualifying papers each carrying 300 marks. Two Qualifying Papers are "Any Indian Language from Eight Schedule " and "English Language Paper". Candidates need to score 25% in both qualifying papers that is 75 marks each. Let us see the syllabus for each of this paper.


  • Essay – 100 marks

  • Reading comprehension – 60 marks

  • Precis Writing – 60 marks

  • Translation:

    • English to compulsory language – 20 marks

    • Compulsory language to English – 20 marks

  • Grammar and basic language usage – 40 marks


In the Essay Paper, candidates might need to compose essays on various topics. They are anticipated to adhere closely to the essay's subject, organize their thoughts in a systematic manner, and express themselves concisely. Recognition will be accorded for articulate and precise expression.


This constitutes the initial General Studies paper, focusing on the History, Heritage, Geography, and Culture of the World and Society. As outlined by the commission, candidates can review the key elements of the General Studies I syllabus below.

  • 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.


It primarily encompasses Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International Relations. The comprehensive syllabus for this paper, as provided by UPSC, is outlined below.

  • 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.


The main subjects addressed include Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security, and Disaster Management. The detailed UPSC syllabus for this paper is provided below.

  • 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, 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 organized crime with terrorism.

  • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.


This section primarily addresses Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. The paper incorporates questions designed to evaluate candidates' attitudes and approaches toward issues related to integrity, probity in public life, and their problem-solving approach to various societal conflicts. The questions may employ a case study approach to assess these aspects. The following broad areas will be encompassed:

  • 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.


  • The success rate of UPSC optional papers serves as a valuable indicator of the accessibility of IAS study material for those subjects. A higher success rate suggests a wealth of resources available for candidates.

  • Additionally, the expertise of candidates in their chosen optional subjects is crucial; for instance, a practicing doctor may opt for Medical Science, leveraging their existing knowledge to streamline UPSC preparation efforts.

  • The historical choice of UPSC optional subjects by successful UPSC toppers further highlights the potential for high scores and the availability of preparatory materials in those specific subjects.

  • Please refer UPSC official website to get the detailed syllabus for each optional subject.

Note: Ready to tackle the UPSC exam? Try UPSC Unlimited, the best app out there! It's got all the NCERT syllabus and book questions you need to succeed. With simple study materials and fun quizzes, it's perfect for everyone, whether you're just starting or you've been studying for a while. Download UPSC Unlimited now and get ready to ace your UPSC exam!


  • The candidate will undergo an interview conducted by a Board equipped with a comprehensive record of their career. During the interview, candidates will be queried on topics of general interest. The primary aim of this assessment is to evaluate the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service, conducted by a board of competent and impartial observers. This evaluation seeks to gauge not only the candidate's intellectual capabilities but also their social qualities and interest in current affairs.

  • The interview process aims to assess various qualities, including mental alertness, critical assimilation skills, clear and logical communication, balanced judgment, diverse and profound interests, the ability for social cohesion and leadership, as well as intellectual and moral integrity.



How to Present in the Interview


Mental Alertness

  • Pay close attention to the subtle cues provided by the board members.

  • Stay mentally and physically involved in the interaction with the Board.

  • Ensure a thorough understanding of questions by focusing on each word, avoiding the need to request clarification from Board members.


Balance of Judgement

  • Strive to articulate a reasoned argument.

  • Avoid adopting extreme positions rooted in limited or biased perspectives.

  • Provide practical and truthful solutions that align with the Constitutional principles.


Variety and Depth of Interest

  • Demonstrate proficiency in your Optional, Hobbies, and other aspects of the Detailed Application Form (DAF).

  • Stay informed and attentive to a range of socioeconomic issues.


Ability for social cohesion and leadership

  • Show reverence for Constitutional values such as Fraternity and Equality.

  • Respect India's Unity in Diversity, embracing the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

  • Possess a profound understanding of India's rich and varied culture.

  • Highlight instances of collaborative teamwork and leadership with a clear vision.


Critical powers of assimilation

  • Demonstrate the capacity to draw conclusions.

  • Ensure a clear understanding of the question and approach the matter with rational reflection.


Clear and logical exposition

  • Respond to the questions in a logical sequence.

  • Address the most crucial and pertinent aspects in a well-organized manner.

  • Steer clear of vague and illogical points.


Intellectual and moral integrity

  • Ensure coherence in your responses while exuding trust and confidence.

  • In case of a discussion, provide a real-life example showcasing your demonstration of integrity.

  • Unlike a strict cross-examination, the interview technique involves a natural and purposeful conversation designed to unveil the mental attributes of the candidate. It is crucial to note that the interview is not meant to test specialized or general knowledge, as these aspects have already been assessed through written papers. Candidates are expected to exhibit an intelligent interest not only in their academic subjects but also in current events within and outside their state or country, as well as in contemporary trends and discoveries that pique the curiosity of well-educated individuals.


In conclusion, the UPSC exam pattern and syllabus represent a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation system designed to identify individuals with the necessary qualities for serving in top administrative positions. The three-stage examination process, comprising the Preliminary, Mains, and Personality Test, is structured to assess candidates' intellectual abilities, analytical skills, and personality traits. The broad spectrum of subjects covered in the syllabus, ranging from general studies to optional subjects, reflects the need for a well-rounded understanding of diverse topics.

In this article we have covered the exam pattern of UPSC and the Syllabus for each stage of UPSC.

Note: Ready to tackle the UPSC exam? Try UPSC Unlimited, the best app out there! It's got all the NCERT syllabus and book questions you need to succeed. With simple study materials and fun quizzes, it's perfect for everyone, whether you're just starting or you've been studying for a while. Download UPSC Unlimited now and get ready to ace your UPSC exam!

Thanks for reading the article!!!

Check out more information on UPSC on website Unlimited Apps

12 views0 comments


bottom of page