What Is The UPSC Exam Syllabus?

What Is The UPSC Exam Syllabus?

UPSC CSE is one of the toughest and the most challenging exam of the country. UPSC exam has a vast syllabus which is a bit difficult to cover if not studied strategically. Every year lakhs of students appear for the UPSC CSE exam but only few of them are able to clear the exam because the candidates who clear the exam firstly understand the syllabus in detail and then start preparing according to it. So before starting the preparation for the UPSC one must go through the detailed structure of syllabus and thoroughly understand the exam pattern of UPSC. Let us have a look at what exactly this exam is, the difficulty level of the exam and the exam pattern.

Let us start with knowing about the exam conducting body that is UPSC. UPSC stands Union Public Service Commission. The headquarters of the commission are situated in New Delhi. The contact details and address is also mentioned below-

Postal Address: UNION PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION, DholpurHouse, Shahjahan Road, New Delhi – 110069
Facilitation Counter: 011-23098543/23385271/23381125/23098591
Email: feedback-upsc@gov.in

The exam is also referred by some other names like the UPSC examination, UPSC CSE and the Civil Services Exam.

It is a national level examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission- UPSC for recruitment in the services of the Government of India like the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Indian Police Service. The UPSC CSE exam is conducted in three phases: 

1- a preliminary examination which consists of two objective-type papers 

2- a main examination that consists of nine papers that include essaywriting, in which two papers are qualifying and only marks of seven are counted

3- an interview round

Listed below are the services that one gets recruited on after the successful qualification the examination-

All India Services

• Indian Administrative Service (IAS)

• Indian Police Service (IPS)

Central Services (Group A)

• Indian Foreign Service (IFS)

• Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IA&AS)

• Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS)

• Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS)

• Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS)

• Indian Defence Estates Service (IDES)

• Indian Information Service (IIS)

• Indian Postal Service 

• Indian P&T Accounts and Finance Service 

• Indian Railway Protection Force Service (IRPFS)

• Indian Revenue Service (IRS-IT)

• Indian Revenue Service (IRS-C&CE)

• Indian Trade Service (ITrS)

Central Services (Group B)

• Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services (AFHCS)

• Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service (DANICS)

• Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Police Service (DANIPS)

• Pondicherry Civil Service (PCS)

• Pondicherry Police Service (PPS)

UPSC Eligibility Criteria-

Before we discuss the syllabus it is important to understand about the eligibility criteria as per the exam conducting body UPSC.

In order to appear for the UPSC examination there are some eligibility criteria that one needs to  fulfill and in case any criteria is not fulfilled the candidate is not eligible to apply for the examination. 

Given below are the different eligibility criteria issued by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC):

The UPSC 2023 uploaded a notification on 1st February 2023. The age limit is a very important eligibility criterion so before the preparation starts one must go through the age eligibility criteria.

IAS Exam Age Limit21 to 32 years
Age RelaxationAs per category (mentioned below)
Educational Qualification for IASGraduation
NationalityIndian citizens only

UPSC Age Limit – Minimum and Maximum Age for UPSC Exam-

The candidates must be 21 years old and should be less than 32 years as of on 1st August 2023 it means that the candidate should have born not before 2nd August, 1990 and not later than 1st August, 2001. 

CategoryMinimum Age Limit for UPSCMaximum Age Limit for UPSC
IAS exam Age Limit for General Category2132
IAS OBC Age Limit2135

UPSC Reservation Criteria-

There is no specific reservation for women in UPSC civil services examination. Although there is reservation in UPSC exam for categories such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, and Economically Weaker Sections to promote social equity and diversity.

Category                                                     UPSC Reservation Quota
Schedule Caste                                                             15%
Schedule Tribes                                                             7.5%
Other Backward Classes                                               25%
Economically Weaker Section                                       10%
Persons with Benchmark Disabilities                             4%

There are some age relaxations also, they are listed below-

UPSC Age Relaxation & Number of Attempts

The age relaxations are given below-

UPSC Exam Age Limit for General, SC/ST, OBC & Other categories
CategoryUPSC Age Limit- Upper RelaxationNumber of Attempts
SC/ST37Unlimited (Up to age limit)
Disabled Defence Services Personnel359
Persons withBenchmark Disability – EWS (Economically Weaker Section)429

UPSC Qualification Criteria-

• Minimum qualification to appear for the UPSC exam is that the candidate must hold a bachelor’s degree from a Government recognised University or possess an equivalent qualification.

• Candidates who are in their final year or those candidates whoseresults are awaited are also eligible to appear for UPSC preliminary Examination but for main exam there must be a proof of qualification.

• Medical students who have passed the final year of MBBS, but are yet to complete their internship also have eligibility for the UPSC exam.

UPSC Eligibility Criteria – Nationality

For IAS and IPS:

• Candidate must be a citizen of India

All other Services:

• Candidate must be either:-

1. A citizen of India, or

2. A subject of Nepal, or

3. A subject of Bhutan, or

4. A Tibetan refugee who came to India before 1st January 1962 intending to settle in India permanently, or

5. A person of Indian origin (PIO) who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zaire and Vietnam intending to settle in India permanently.

Although there are some exceptions for recruitment in certain posts-

• The candidates belonging to categories (2), (3), (4) and (5) should furnish a certificate of eligibility issued by the Government of India

• A person belonging to categories (2), (3) and (4) is not eligible for appointment to the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).

• One must go through the details of the eligibility criteria before starting the preparations because if a person is unable to fulfill any of the eligibility criteria he/she is not eligible to take the UPSC exam.

UPSC Exam Pattern and Syllabus-

The UPSC CSE exam is conducted in three phases: 

1- THE PRELIMS- a preliminary examination which consists of two objective-type papers 

2- MAINS- a main examination that consists of nine papers that include essay writing, in which two papers are qualifying and only marks of seven are counted 

3- An interview round

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern

The candidates should understand the exam pattern of the UPSC Prelims, for better understanding a table is given below-

Two Compulsory Papers• General Studies Paper-I • General Studies Paper-II (CSAT)
Number of Questions asked in GS Paper-I100
Number of Questions asked in CSAT80
Total Number of Marks400 marks that means 200 marks each for every subject
Negative MarkingFor every incorrect answer 1/3 of the marks are deducted from the allotted question
Time AllottedTwo hours each

The subjects in Prelims are common and compulsory to all the students. But there are optional subjects in the mains exam.

Syllabus for Paper-1 (GS-1)

Listed below is the syllabus for GS-1 that is General Studies Paper -1

• Current events of national and international importance

• Current affairs

• Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, and Economic Geography of India and the World

• Indian History 

• Indian National Movement

• Economic & Social Development (Poverty, Demographics, Sustainable Development, Social Sector Initiatives)

• Biodiversity

• General Issues on Environmental Ecology

• Climate Change

• General Science

• International Relations

• Indian Polity

• Indian Governance

UPSC Prelims Syllabus Paper-2 (CSAT)

Listed below is the syllabus for GS-2 that is General Studies Paper -1 or CSAT- Civil Services Aptitude Test.

• Interpersonal skills including communication skills

• Comprehension

• Decision-making and problem-solving

• Logical reasoning and analytical ability

• General mental ability

• Basic numeracy (orders of magnitude, numbers and their relations & others)

• Data Interpretation (Charts, Tables, Graphs Data Sufficiency, etc. Class 10 level knowledge would be sufficient for these topics.

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern-

• After clearing the Prelims the candidate is eligible to appear for the main exam which is the second phase of the UPSC exam. 

• The Mains examination constitutes of  total 9 papers

• Two papers of language out of 9 are the qualifying papers of 300 marks each

• These two qualifying papers are English Language Papers and Any Indian Language

• The papers on General Studies, Essay and Optional Subjects of only those candidates are evaluated who get 25% marks in both language exam papers. If a candidate fails to do so the marks are not counted.

Paper-IEssay (can be written in the medium of the candidate’s choice)250
Paper-IIGeneral Studies – I (Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)250
Paper-IIIGeneral Studies – II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice & International Relations)250
Paper-IVGeneral Studies – III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management)250
Paper-VGeneral Studies – IV (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude)250
Paper-VIOptional Subject – Paper I250
Paper-VIIOptional Subject – Paper II250

I. Paper 1-

Qualifying Papers on Indian Languages and English

Structure of the language papers:

The types of questions asked are –

1. Essay – 100 marks

2. Reading comprehension – 60 marks

3. Precise Writing – 60 marks

4. Translation:

• English to compulsory language (e.g. Hindi) – 20 marks

• Compulsory language to English – 20 marks

5. Grammar and basic language usage – 40 marks

The rest of the seven papers can be written in any of the languages mentioned under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India or in English.

The pattern of the papers is as follows-

English Language:

• Comprehension of given passages.

• Precise Writing.

• Usage and Vocabulary.

• Short Essays.

Indian Languages:

• Comprehension of given passages.

• Precise Writing.

• Usage and Vocabulary.

• Short Essays.

Translation from English to the Indian Language and vice-versa.

II. 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 orderly fashion, and to write concisely. The more exact and efficient the writing is the better you score.

General Studies -1 Syllabus

Also known as Paper-II of UPSC Mains.  The syllabus here includes- Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

Let us have a look at the detailed syllabus of General Studies-1:

The topic Indian culture includes Art Forms, literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

• Modern Indian History

• The Medieval History 

• The Indian Freedom Struggle, Freedom fighters and their contributions.

• India Post-independence 

• History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.

• 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. 

Mains GS-II (Paper III) Syllabus 

1. Indian Constitution- a detailed study

2. Federal Structure

3. Distribution of Power

4. Comparison between other nations and Indian Constitution

5. Parliament and State legislatures

6. Indian Executive and Indian Judiciary

7. Representation of People’s Act.

8. Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

9. Various quasi-judicial bodies

10. Government policies and implementation

11. The role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders

12. 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

13. Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

14. Issues relating to poverty and hunger

15. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

16. Role of civil services in a democracy

17. India and its neighbourhood- relations

18. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

19. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

20. Important International institutions and agencies.

Mains GS-III (Paper IV) Syllabus

1. Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment

2. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it

3. Government Budgeting

4. 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

5. 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

6. Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management

7. Land reforms in India

8. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth

9. Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways and others

10. Investment models

11. Science and technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

12. Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and development of new technology.

13. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights

14. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

15. Disaster and disaster management

16. Linkages between the development and spread of extremism

17. Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

18. Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money laundering and its prevention

19. Security challenges and their management in border areas – linkages of organized crime with terrorism

20. Various Security forces and agencies 

Mains GS-IV (Paper V) Syllabus

1. 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

2. Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion

3. 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

4. Emotional intelligence concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance

5. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world

6. 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

7. 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, Utilizationof public funds, challenges of corruption.

Mains Optional Paper (VI & VII) Syllabus

It is very necessary to choose an optional subject which is right for you and helps you score better marks. Many candidates do their graduation in fields that they wish to choose their optional subjects in the UPSC exam or even you can choose the subject which you are most familiar to.  Choose a subject which you feel is easy for you and has less syllabus to cover. Many applicants adopt the overlapping technique, in which they select an optional subject that is also a significant component of General Studies. Optional choice should be made correctly as this can boost your marks in the final exam.

Here is a list of total 48 optional subjects in the UPSC Mains exam, which includes 25 core subjects and 22 Literature optional.

• 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


• Assamese, 

• Bengali, 

• Bodo,

• Dogri,  

• Gujarati

• Hindi, 

• Kannada,

• Kashmiri, 

• Konkani, 

• Maithili, 

• Malayalam,

• Manipuri, 

• Marathi, 

• Nepali, 

• Oriya,

• Punjabi, 

• Sanskrit, 

• Santali, 

• Sindhi, 

• Tamil, 

• Telugu, 

• Urdu, 

• English.

The candidate needs to choose any one of the optional subject from the above given list. You can also analyze the success rate of different optional subjects and then make a choice.

Syllabus for Interview

The candidates who qualify the UPSC main exam are called for the personal interview round. The candidates are interviewed by a Board appointed by the Union Public Service Commission –

1.​The main objective of the interview is to examine the candidate’s personality, mental ability, communication skills etc.

2.​In addition to the academic study, the candidates must be aware of the crucial affairs happening in the country or outside the country

3.​The candidate will be examined based on their career, professional and personal records, hobbies and interests which were filled by them in the DAF (Detailed Application Form).

4.​The interview will be 275 marks and the total marks for the written test is 1750, so their sum up is a total of 2025 marks.


One should go through and understand the syllabus in detail. All the compulsory subjects and optional subjects should be understood and then only the candidate must make the choice of the subject which are comparatively easy for the candidate and help in scoring better in the UPSC CSE exam.

Along with self study right guidance is very necessary to pass any examination. A candidate must inculcate positive attitude and mindset which is really very necessary before one starts to prepare for an exam. Self discipline is must. One should consider all the subjects and then choose the optional subject. It is very necessary to make right choice of the optional subject so it helps you in scoring better marks and gives you an overall good ALL INDIA RANK. The right guidance and a proper schedule can help a person to crack an examination with flying colors. Along with hard work it is very necessary to do smart work. One must not waste time on unnecessary topics or easy topics. Clearing the UPSC exam is not easy but it is also not impossible. Hard work and dedication can help in achieving every dream in life. Also it is very necessary to keep yourself motivated throughout the journey. If you stay focused and prepare thoroughly you will definitely succeed.

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