UPSC Syllabus: Details about Prelims and Mains

The Union Public Service Commission, simply UPSC conduct the Civil Service Examination, a nationwide competitive examination in India for the recruitment of varied Civil Services of the Government of India, including Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and India Police Service (IPS). The Civil Service Examination is based on the British Era Imperial Civil Service tests. From the period of Mughal and Mauryan Empire, civil service tests were conducted in India. It is regarded as the most difficult competitive exam. A single attempt takes a long time preparation. The actual exam takes 32 hours from prelims to interview. Approximately 550000 candidates sit for the exam every year. Results of Prelims published in Mid-August and the final results come out in May next year.

To appear in UPSC examination an aspirant must qualify some of the eligibility criteria. Those are as following:


Eligibility for the exam, in Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service, the candidate must be the Citizen of Indian. For another service, the aspirant must fulfill one of the criteria from the following:-

  • He or she should be a Citizen of India.
  • A citizen of Nepal of a Subject of Bhutan.
  • A Tibetan refugee who settled in India permanently before 1962, 1 January.

A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia or Vietnam with the intention of permanently establishing in India.

A candidate must have a degree from a Central, State or a Deemed University OR a degree received through distance education or Open University or a qualification recognized by the Government of India which is equivalent to one of the above. Also, the candidates who have a degree from any foreign university acknowledged by the Association of Indian Universities or a degree from a private university or having the MBBS degree without completing an internship can appear for the exam.

The candidate must have attained the age of 21 years and must not have attained the age of 32 years in case he/she is from General Category on 1 August of the year the candidate attempting. There is also relaxation of age with respect to the caste reservations:-

For OBC (35), SC/ST (37), PWD (37), EWS (Standard age Limit) and a defence person disabled in the Operation (40).

If a candidate attempt one of the papers in the Preliminary examination is counted as one attempt, candidates may qualify or disqualify the attempt. But applying to sit the exam is not counted until the candidate attempt any paper. A general category candidate can attempt 6 times, OBC category can attempt 9 times and SC/ST category candidate can attempt unlimited times till 37 years of his/her age.

There is various post or services a candidate will qualify depending on the rank. 

Following are the services which one gets on qualifying the Civil Service 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 Ordnance Factories Service (IOFS)
  • Indian Postal Service (IPoS)
  • Indian P&T Accounts and Finance Service (IP&TAFS)
  • Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS)
  • Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS)
  • Indian Railway Protection Force Service (IRPFS)
  • Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS)
  • Indian Revenue Service (IRS-IT)
  • Indian Revenue Service (IRS-C&CE)
  • Indian Trade Service (ITrS)

Group B Services

  • 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)

A candidate have to go through three phase as a process of UPSC. Following are the phase:

The UPSC syllabus is divided into Preliminary, Mains and Interview in these three categories.

Phase 1 of UPSC Syllabus:  Preliminary

The preliminary Examination – Held in June every year and results come out in August. It is consisting of two objective type papers; General Studies Paper 1 and General Studies Paper 2, which is also known as the Civil Service Aptitude Test or CSAT. The Preliminary syllabus is primarily designed to examine a candidate’s awareness of current affairs and ability within the stipulated duration. The Preliminary paper is the qualifying and compulsory paper for the candidates.

UPSC Syllabus Phase 2: Mains

The Mains syllabus designed to judge a candidate’s educational expertise in his/her specialised subject. Also, focus on aspirant ability to present knowledge in a clear and distinct manner.

  • The examination is held in October every year and results come out in January.
  • The personality test or Interview Held in March and final results announced in May.

The syllabus is organized according to the subjects specified. Both Preliminary and Mains is designed for the written test. The mains examination consisting of nine essay type paper where two papers are for qualifying and the rest of seven are counted for marks followed by personality test or interview. Candidates, who successfully clear Preliminary and Mains, are eligible for the Personality test or Interview. Training started in the following September for the selected candidates in interview.

UPSC Preliminary Syllabus in Details:

Civil Services Prelims Format

General Studies  No of Questions No of Marks Duration
Paper-I 100 200 120 minutes (2 hours)
Paper-II 80 200 120 minutes (2 hours) 
Total 180 400 240 minutes (4 hours)

Both papers includes syllabus as follows:

  • Paper I tests the candidate’s knowledge on current events, history of India and Indian national movement, Indian and world geography, Indian polity Panchayti Raj system and governance, economic and social development, environmental ecology, biodiversity, climate change and general science, Art and culture.
  • Paper II (also called CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test), tests the candidate’s skills in comprehension, interpersonal skills, communication, logical reasoning, analytical ability, decision making, problem solving, basic numeracy, data interpretation, English language comprehension skills and mental ability. It is qualifying in nature and the marks obtained in this paper are not counted for merit. However, it is mandatory for the candidate to score a minimum of 33 per cent in this paper to qualify the Prelims exam.

UPSC Mains syllabus in Details:

UPSC mains consist of Mains Written and Interview.

Civil Services Mains Written Format

Paper  Subject Marks
Paper A One of the Indian languages listed below, to be selected by the candidate (from the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India) (Qualifying) 300
Paper B English (Qualifying) 300
Paper I Essay 250
Paper II General Studies I (Indian heritage and culture, history and geography of the world and society) 250
Paper III General Studies II (Governance, constitution, polity, social justice and international relations) 250
Paper IV General Studies III (Technology, economic development, bio-diversity, environment, security and disaster management) 250
Paper V General Studies IV (ethics, integrity and aptitude) 250
Papers VI, VII Two papers on one subject to be selected by the candidate from the list of optional subjects below (250 marks for each paper) 500
Sub Total (Written Test) 1750
Personality Test (Interview) 275
Total Marks 2025

List of languages in UPSC

Languages for UPSC examinations (the scripts are in brackets):

                Assamese (Assamese)

                Bengali (Bengali)

                Bodo (Devanagari)

                Dogri (Devanagari)

                English (English)

                Gujarati (Gujarati)

                Hindi (Devanagari)

                Kannada (Kannada)

                Kashmiri (Persian)

                Konkani (Devanagari)

                Maithili (Devanagari)

                Malayalam (Malayalam)

                Manipuri (Bengali)

                Marathi (Devanagari)

                Nepali (Devanagari)

                Odia (Odia)

                Punjabi (Gurumukhi)

                Sanskrit (Devanagari)

                Santhali (Devanagri or Ol Chiki)

                Sindhi (Devanagari or Arabic)

                Tamil (Tamil)

                Telugu (Telugu)

                Urdu (Persian)

Optional subjects in UPSC

The subjects available for Papers VI and VII are:


                Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science




                Civil Engineering

                Commerce and Accountancy


                Electrical Engineering





                Literature of any one of the languages listed above



                Mechanical Engineering

                Medical Science



                Political Science and International Relations


                Public Administration




Civil Services Interview

The aim of the Personality Test or Interview is to examine the personality appropriateness of the candidate for public service by the unbiased spectators or interviewers. Examine the mental caliber, critical power of assimilation, clear and reasonable analysis, the balance of his judgements, depth of interest, leadership quality, intellectual and ethical values of a candidate is the intention of the Personality Test. The purpose is to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate through natural and purposeful conversation.

The intention of the interview is not to test their General Knowledge or Specialization, because it has been tested in the written exam. Candidates are expected to have an intelligent dividend in the events happening in the world, not only in his subject. It consists of high standards so required the preparation with commitment.

Candidate must know that his syllabus should be his Bible. All the aspirants need to be focused and committed. In such a long duration of preparation, many times you will lose focus from your study. So you should know yourself well. Need to keep motivating yourself. You have to study smartly with the best method you feel easier. The best way to know your syllabus is to check the UPSC website time to time. Candidates should prepare with their own strategy which will help to clear the exam.  We wish all the best to all the candidates.

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