UPSC Syllabus 2021 – Civil Services Syllabus 2021 for Prelims, Mains

What is the IAS Syllabus?

The IAS Syllabus is informed in the UPSC’s annual report on major IAS Prelims and IAS tests. The UPSC syllabus is mentioned in the official UPSC IAS notice issued at The IAS syllabus is the IAS preparation center for IAS. Everything in the IAS test runs through the IAS syllabus. The first important thing in preparing for the IAS is a clear understanding of the IAS system. All IAS executives and advisors press on the topic smart notes of the IAS syllabus. The IAS Prelims syllabus and the main IAS syllabus are mentioned separately in the UPSC notification but the main IAS syllabus is a broad extension of the IAS prelims syllabus. The IAS system is an important part of preparing the IAS. Candidates can download the UPSC syllabus here as well, but it is important to understand the depth of the IAS syllabus. To understand the UPSC syllabus, last year’s questionnaires that serve as the light bearer and the baptismal candidates need to follow the current daily news to stay on track to prepare for the IAS.

Before going for the syllabus for the IAS prelims exam, let’s have a glance of IAS Prelims Scheme of Exam. The time duration of each of the paper is two hours.

IAS Syllabus – Prelims

PaperQuestions & TimeMarks
General Studies Paper I100 Questions200
General Studies Paper-II (CSAT – Qualifying only)80 Questions200 ( Marks not considered)

The IAS prelims syllabus is an abridged version of the IAS main exam except for the Ethics syllabus. The IAS prelims exam is a multiple-choice question-based exam where the candidates require marking the right answer from the options. The IAS prelims exam has two papers. The General Studies Paper-II CSAT paper is qualifying in nature only and needs not be discussed. The IAS prelims syllabus as given in the UPSC notification is:

IAS Prelims Syllabus – General Studies Paper I

  • Current national and international significance events.
  • History of India and the Indian National Movement.
  • Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Indian Economic Geography 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 Sectors, etc.
  • Common issues with the natural environment, biodiversity and climate change – which do not require subject expertise
  • General Science.

It is important to note that the UPSC has given a high priority to current issues in the IAS prelims testing program. We can say that this could be a factor in the decision-making process for IAS. IAS applicants should study all the topics related to the current event.

IAS Prelims Syllabus – General Studies Paper-II (CSAT)

  • 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)

IAS Syllabus – Main Exam

The IAS main exam is 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.

PaperName of the PaperMarks allotted
AOne of the Indian language to be selected by the candidate from the languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the constitution(Qualifying only)300 (Qualifying Only)
BEnglish(Qualifying Only)300 (Qualifying Only)
1Essay Paper250
2General Studies I250
3General Studies II250
4General Studies III250
5General Studies IV250
6Optional Subject Paper I250
7Optional Subject Paper I250
 IAS Main (written)Total1750
 IAS Interview275

IAS Syllabus – Essay Paper

There is no mention of the IAS paper syllabus in the UPSC notice. Only a comprehensive framework is provided in the official notice. But the expectations of the nominees are stated in the notice. “They will be expected to approach the subject in order to formulate their ideas in an orderly and concise manner. It will be given credit for speaking well and directly.”
The UPSC has always given a theme from Philosophy, Public Administration and the state of the world. Nominations for the nominees are being tested with these articles. How the baptism candidate recognizes the underlying problems and how they propose solutions.

IAS Syllabus – General Studies Paper-I

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

  • 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, re-drawal 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 the 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.

IAS Syllabus – General Studies Paper-II

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

  • 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.
  • Government strives to have a workforce which reflects gender balance and women candidates are encouraged to apply.
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.
  • Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, the 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 the 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 neighbourhood- 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.

IAS Syllabus General Studies Paper III

Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management 

  • 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, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cybersecurity; 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. 

IAS Ethics 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 : 

  • 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. 
  • 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 nonpartisanship, 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 the 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 the above issues.

What are the subjects in IAS?

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:


UPSC 2021 Syllabus 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 India and our citizens.

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. 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 the perusal.

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 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. What are the sources to prepare the UPSC IAS Syllabus?

A. The topics given in the IAS syllabus should be covered through the standard textbooks. Starting with the NCERT books, the candidates should prepare the topics from the standard reference books and relate it with the newspapers.

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. 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. Which subjects are best for IAS Exam?

A. There is no right answer to these questions. Every year is different and every year the passing percentage of each subject is different. But after analysing the trend, we can say that the following subjects have the highest success ratio are Law, Medical Science, Psychology, Anthropology, Geography.

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. 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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