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UPSC Syllabus 2021 | Civil Services Syllabus for Prelims, Mains

UPSC Syllabus 2021: UPSC IAS Syllabus is given in the form of topics but it is actually the deep-rooted interlinking between the topics given in the official notification. The current events of national and international importance are the top layer of the UPSC syllabus which connects the present and the past. UPSC syllabus is mentioned in the official UPSC IAS notification released at UPSC syllabus is the root of the IAS preparation and the first component of the selection in the IAS exam. IAS syllabus is the nerve center of the IAS preparation. Everything in the IAS exam flows through the IAS syllabus. Understanding the UPSC syllabus is the first step towards success in the IAS exam. The candidates need to understand that the current event of national and international importance is the connection link to the fundamental topics of the General Studies Syllabus and the candidate can understand the relevance of the issue with the help of the current affairs. IAS Syllabus is notified in the UPSC notification every year for the IAS Prelims and IAS main exam.

UPSC Civil Services Complete Syllabus

Civil Services Exam (IAS Exam), the most coveted exam of all, is conducted by UPSC every year to recruit candidates to various services & posts in the Government of India. It is a two stage exam consisting of:

  1. Civil Services Preliminary Examination (objective type) for the selection of candidates for the Main Examination.
  2. Civil Services Main Examination (Written & Interview) for the selection of candidates for various services & posts as mentioned in official notification.

UPSC Syllabus 2021

UPSC IAS syllabus was released along with the official notification for the Civil Service Exam. The UPSC IAS syllabus can be found at the UPSC official website or check the UPSC Syllabus PDF for both Prelims and Mains exams.

StageExam NameType
Stage IPrelims ExaminationObjective Type
Stage IIMains ExaminationDescriptive Type
Stage IIIPersonal InterviewPersonality Test

UPSC Preliminary Exam Pattern & Syllabus

PaperQuestions & TimeMarks
General Studies Paper I100 Questions, 2 hours (9:30 AM to 11:30 AM)200
General Studies Paper-II (CSAT – Qualifying only)80 Questions , 2 hours (2:30 PM to 4:30 PM)200


  1. There is a negative marking of 1/3 marks assigned to the question for the wrong answer marked.
  2. In General Studies (Paper I) candidates will be awarded 2 marks for correct answers and 0.66 will be deducted for each wrong answer.
  3. In CSAT (Paper-II) candidates will be awarded 2.5 marks for each correct answer and 0.833 marks will be deducted for each wrong answer marked by the candidates.
  4. There is no negative marking for leaving any questions attempted in both papers.
  5. The marks of the Prelims exam will not be included in the final result (merit list).
  6. Paper-II of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination will be a qualifying paper with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%.

The first stage of the exam i.e., the Civil Services Preliminary Exam is only a screening test and is conducted to shortlist candidates for the Main Examination. Marks secured in Preliminary Exam are not taken into account while preparing the final merit. The preliminary Exam consists of two papers of objective type carrying a maximum of 400 marks.

1. General Studies I

Type of QuestionsObjective (MCQ) type
Total Maximum Marks400 (200 each paper)
Duration of Exam2 hrs. each (20 minutes per hour extra time for blind candidates & candidate with Locomotor Disability & Cerebral Palsy [minimum 40% impairment])
Negative Marking1/3rd of the marks assigned to a question
Medium of ExamBilingual (Hindi & English)

It has 100 questions broadly covering the following topics carrying a maximum of 200 marks to be solved in 2 hours.

  • 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, Demography, Social Sector Initiatives etc.
  • General issues on environmental ecology, biodiversity and climate change
  • general Science

It is important to note that the UPSC has given the top spot to current affairs in the IAS syllabus for the prelims exam. We can say that this can be a factor in deciding the orientation of the IAS preparation. The IAS aspirants should study all the topics in light of the current events of national and international importance. 

All the other topics are equally important for the IAS prelims exam, but the candidate should develop a habit of leaving irrelevant topics in the IAS preparation. Indian Politics is one such topic where the candidate end up wasting time reading about the political statements of the leaders. But we suggest restricting this habit and limit it to the constitutional functionaries only. 

2. General Studies Paper-II

General Studies II (CSAT)

Type of QuestionsObjective (MCQ) type
Total Maximum Marks200
Duration of Exam2 hrs. each (20 minutes per hour extra time for blind candidates & candidate with Locomotor Disability & Cerebral Palsy [minimum 40% impairment])
Negative Marking1/3rd of the marks assigned to a question
Medium of ExamBilingual (Hindi & English)

It comprises of 80 questions from the following topics carrying a maximum of 200 marks to be solved in 2 hours.

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision making and problem-solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic Numbers (numbers and their relationships, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X Level), Data Interpretation (Charts, Graphs, Tables, Data Sufficiency, etc. – Class X Level)

UPSC Main Exam Pattern & Syllabus

The IAS main exam is a descriptive type(conventional) paper-based exam in which the candidates need to write long answers for the questions. In addition to general studies papers, there is an essay paper in which the candidates need to write two essays. Following are the IAS main papers and their marks. Civil Services Main Examination consists of a written examination and interview (personality test). Civil Services Main Examination consists of the following papers divided into 2 categories – qualifying & papers to be counted for merit.

Qualifying PapersName of the PaperMarks
Paper-AOne of the Indian Language to be selected by the candidate from the Languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution300

Paper to be counted for merit

Qualifying PapersName of the PaperMarks
Paper IEssay250
Paper-IIGeneral Studies-I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)250
Paper IIIGeneral Studies-II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)250
Paper IVGenera Studies-III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)250
Paper VGeneral Studies-IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)250
Paper VIOptional Subject – Paper 1250
Paper VIIOptional Subject – Paper 2250
Sub Total (Written Test)1750
Personality Test275
Grand Total2025

IAS main exam, as the name suggests, is the main exam for the candidates. The IAS selection is based on the marks got in the IAS main (written) and IAS main (personality test) only. UPSC provides the IAS syllabus topic list in the official notification. The UPSC syllabus is provided in a paper-wise format and the candidates need to prepare for the IAS exam in the same manner.

Syllabus of UPSC Main Examination Papers

I. Qualifying Papers on Indian Languages and English

The pattern of questions would be broadly as follows:

English Language:

  1. Comprehension of given passages.
  2. Precis Writing.
  3. Usage and Vocabulary.
  4. Short Essays.

Indian Languages:

(i) Comprehension of given passages.

(ii) Precis Writing.

(iii) Usage and Vocabulary.

(iv) Short Essays.

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

UPSC Syllabus 2021- Essay Paper

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.

Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.

UPSC Syllabus 2021- General Studies Paper-I

Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

(i) Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

(ii) Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

(iii) The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.

(iv) Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.

(v) 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.

(vi) Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.

(vii) Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

(viii) Effects of globalization on Indian society.

(ix) Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

(x) Salient features of world’s physical geography.

(xi) 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).

(xii) 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.

UPSC Syllabus 2021 – General Studies Paper-II

Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

(i) Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

(ii) 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.

(iii) Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

(iv) Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.

(v) Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

(vi) 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.

(vii) Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

(viii) Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

(ix) Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

(x) Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

(xi) Development processes and the development industry —the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

(xii) 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.

(xiii) Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

(xiv) Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

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

(xvi) Role of civil services in a democracy.

(xvii) India and its neighborhood- relations.

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

(xix) Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

(xx) Important International institutions, agencies and fora – their structure, mandate.

UPSC Syllabus 2021 – General Studies Paper III

Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

(i) Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

(ii) Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

(iii) Government Budgeting.

(iv) 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.

(v) 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.

(vi) Food processing and related industries in India- scope’ and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.

(vii) Land reforms in India.

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

(ix) Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

(x) Investment models.

(xi) Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

(xii) Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

(xiii) Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

(xiv) Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

(xv) Disaster and disaster management.

(xvi) Linkages between development and spread of extremism.

(xvii) Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

(xviii) 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.

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

(xx) Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

UPSC Syllabus 2021Ethics Syllabus

Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

This 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:

(i) 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.

(ii) Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.

(iii) 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.

(iv) Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.

(v) Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.

(vi) 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.

(vii) 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.

(viii) Case Studies on above issues.

UPSC Syllabus 2021Paper – VI & VII

Optional Subject Papers I & II.

There are 25 optional subjects in the IAS main exam and the candidates need to choose only one out of them. The optional subject carries 500 marks out of 1750. It is around 30% of the total. So the candidates are suggested to select the optional subject very carefully because it can make or break the dream of becoming an IAS officer.

The following is the official list of IAS main optional subjects. The candidates can choose any one subject as the optional subject.

AgricultureAnimal Husbandry and Veterinary ScienceAnthropology
BotanyChemistryCivil Engineering
Commerce and AccountancyEconomicsElectrical Engineering
Mechanical EngineeringMedical SciencePhilosophy
PhysicsPolitical Science and International RelationsPsychology
Public AdministrationSociologyStatistics

The candidates can choose the Literature of any one of the following languages as their optional subject:


There are 25 optional subjects in the IAS main exam and the candidates need to choose only one out of them. The optional subject carries 500 marks out of 1750. It is around 30% of the total. So the candidates are suggested to select the optional subject very carefully because it can make or break the dream of becoming an IAS officer.

The following is the official list of IAS main optional subjects. The candidates can choose any one subject as the optional subject.

UPSC Syllabus 2021 | UPSC Interview Process

August 2, 2021 and will continue till September 22, 2021. It must be noted that the personality test or interview will be conducted in two different batches, the morning session from 9 AM and the afternoon session from 1 PM.

The interview process is the last and final stage of the selection process. The interview consists of 275 marks which makes the grand total of maximum marks 2025. Some of the qualities that the board assess in a candidate are:

  • Mental acuity
  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical thinking
  • Risk assessment skills
  • Crisis management skills
  • Ability to become a leader
  • Intellectual and moral integrity

This was a brief overview of the UPSC Exam Pattern 2021. Keep following our articles to apprise yourself with the latest information about the exam. Watch the below video to further understand the UPSC Exam Pattern:

UPSC Syllabus 2021 FAQs

Q. What is the UPSC Syllabus for the Civil Services exam?

A. UPSC Syllabus is notified in the IAS notification every year. In short, we can say it includes everything which is linked and relevant to the nation and its citizens.

Q. How to prepare UPSC syllabus?

A. IAS syllabus can only be prepared with the right strategy. The candidates need to study the fundamentals first and then go for the application part of the topics. Interlinking the topics is the key to scoring more marks in the IAS exam.

Q. How many language literature subjects are there in UPSC IAS Syllabus?

A. There are 23 literature subjects in the UPSC syllabus. The candidates can opt for any literature subject. The list of the subjects is given above for perusal.

Q. How much time will it take to cover the UPSC Syllabus?

A. IAS syllabus can be covered in 1.5 to 2 years’ time with a consistent effort The IAS toppers and mentors always suggest covering the IAS main syllabus first.

Q. How many optional subjects are there in UPSC Syllabus?

A. The total number of subjects in the IAS exam is 48. UPSC provides full opportunity to all the candidates to select his subject from the list of optional subjects notified in the IAS notification every year. There are 25 subjects and 23 literature languages subjects to choose from.

Q. What is the role of current affairs in the IAS syllabus?

A. Current Affairs plays a very important role for IAS preparation. All the topics in the IAS Syllabus need to be linked with the current events national and International happenings. Current affairs should have the roots in the static General Studies Topics.

Q. Where anyone can get details of IAS syllabus topics?

A. The IAS prelims syllabus is not well defined in the UPSC notification. But the IAS main exam syllabus is very well defined and explained in the notification itself. The candidates need to read, understand, learn and explore the IAS main syllabus.

Q. Is UPSC Syllabus covers everything?

A. The IAS syllabus covers everything which is relevant to India and Indian citizens. But in the case of the Science and Technology area, there are no limits for the IAS syllabus. Previous year’s question papers can immensely help in ascertaining the boundaries of IAS syllabus.

Q. Does UPSC Syllabus changes every year?

A. No, IAS syllabus is very much static and before changing the syllabus, the UPSC needs to take approval from the Ministry of Personnel and Training.

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