UPSC Mains Syllabus: Check Subject-Wise Detailed Syllabus

UPSC Mains Syllabus: Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the Civil Services Examination. It is one of the toughest exams in the country and thousands of candidates appear for the recruitment examination every year. The exam is conducted for the recruitment of candidates in Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS), etc. The syllabus is common for all these services.

The recruitment exam comprises of 3 stages: Prelims, Mains and Interview. Prelims exam has two objective type (MCQ) exam, mains exam comprises nine subjective papers exam and in the interview exam, candidate’s intelligence, attentiveness, logical thinking and human qualities like integrity and leadership are checked.

UPSC Selection Procedure

Stage Exam Name Type
Stage I Prelims Examination Objective Type
Stage II Mains Examination Descriptive Type
Stage III Personal Interview Personality Test


UPSC Mains Exam Pattern

Only the candidates who score above the cut-off in the first stage (Prelims) of the IAS exam are eligible for the mains exam. While only objective-type (MCQs) questions are asked in Prelims, the Mains exam is subjective and requires a deeper understanding of the topics. UPSC Main examination is designed to test the candidate’s academic expertise and also the ability to present his/her knowledge in a consistent manner. The UPSC Mains exam assesses the candidate’s overall intellectual traits and understanding of the concept.

Paper Subject Duration Total marks
Paper A Compulsory Indian language 3 hours 300 (Qualifying)
Paper B English 3 hours 300 (Qualifying)
Paper I Essay 3 hours 250
Paper II General Studies I – Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society 3 hours 250
Paper III General Studies II – Governance, Constitution, Welfare Initiatives, Social Justice & International Relations 3 hours 250
Paper IV General Studies III – Technology, Biodiversity, Agriculture, Security, Economic Development & Disaster Management 3 hours 250
Paper V General Studies IV – Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude 3 hours 250
Paper VI Optional Subject – Paper I 3 hours 250
Paper VII Optional Subject – Paper II 3 hours 250


There are two qualifying paper in the mains exam, Namely “Paper A” and “Paper B” of 300 marks each. The Two Qualifying Papers are Any Indian Language from Eight Schedule and the English Language Paper. Candidates must score atleast 25% each in both qualifying papers. Candidate must also select one optional subject for paper 6 and paper 7. The list of optional subjects has been given below.

UPSC IAS Mains Optional Subjects List
Agriculture Statistics Anthropology History Chemistry
Zoology Physics Economics Philosophy Geography
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science Sociology Commerce and Accountancy Electrical Engineering Mathematics
Political Science and International Relations Public Administration Psychology Mechanical Engineering Medical Science
Civil Engineering Geology Botany Law Management


UPSC IAS Cut Off Prelims & Mains

UPSC IAS Mains Subject-wise Syllabus

Language Papers (Indian language and English)

Paper A and B are only qualifying in nature, but candidates should not be complacent. If they fail to score above 25% in either of them, their remaining answer sheets won’t be evaluated. Paper A and B follow a similar pattern of questions as given below.

  • Essay – 100 marks
  • Reading comprehension – 60 marks
  • Precis Writing – 60 marks
  • English to compulsory language (e.g. Hindi) – 20 marks
  • Compulsory language to English – 20 marks

General Studies Paper 1

  • Indian culture covering the salient features of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian history including the significant personalities, events, issues during the middle of the eighteenth century until the present
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country
  • History of the world involving events, forms and effect on the society from 18th century like world wars, industrial revolution, political philosophies like communism, capitalism etc
  • Salient aspects of Diversity of India and Indian Society
  • Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and remedies
  • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism
  • Effects of globalization on Indian society
  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Volcanic activity, Tsunami, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna.
  • Salient features of world’s physical geography.

UPSC IAS 2020 Exam: Syllabus, Eligibility, Age Limit, Exam Dates, Exam Pattern

GS Paper II

  • 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.
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with other countries.
  • Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions
  • Structure, organisation and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
  • Parliament and State Legislatures
  • Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
  • Government policies and interventions aimed at 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, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and the 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 education Health, Human Resources
  • Role of civil services in a democracy
  • India and its neighborhood- relations

GS Paper III

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • Inclusive growth and associated issues/challenges
  • Effects of liberalisation on the economy (post 1991 changes)
  • Infrastructure – Ports, Roads, Energy, Airports, Railways etc.
  • Major 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
  • Food processing and related industries in India – scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  • 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
  • Land reforms in India.
  • Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
  • Recent developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • Issues relating to intellectual property rights
  • Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  • General awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nanotechnology, bio-technology
  • Environmental pollution and degradation
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism
  • Disaster Management (Laws, Acts etc.)
  • Challenges to internal security (external state and non-state actors)
  • 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

GS Paper IV

  • This Ethics paper in the UPSC mains syllabus includes questions to check the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity and probity in public life and his/her problem-solving approach to various societal issues. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects and the exam covers area as mentioned in the syllabus given below.
  • Essence of Ethics, Determinants and Consequences of Ethics in Human Interaction
  • 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 moral and ethical values
  • Content, structure and function of attitude
  • Influence of attitude in thought and behaviour
  • Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour
  • Moral and Political attitudes
  • Social influence and persuasion
  • Aptitude and foundational values of Civil Service
  • Integrity
  • Impartiality and non-partisanship
  • Objectivity
  • Dedication to public service
  • Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society
  • Concepts of emotional intelligence
  • Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance
  • Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality
  • Status and associated 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
  • Concept of public service
  • The 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

PAPER-VI & PAPER VII- Optional Subject Papers I & II

A candidate may choose any optional subject from amongst the List of Optional Subjects.

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