What is the Syllabus of UPSC Mains Exam?

The UPSC civil services mains exam is the second hurdle you have to cross if you wish to enter the prestigious civil services of the country. Unlike the prelims, the IAS mains exam consists of nine descriptive papers. This article will answer your question, “What is the syllabus for IAS exam?”,  it will also explain in detail, the syllabus of UPSC mains exam.

First of all, let us check the papers in the UPSC mains exam:

  1. Essay paper – 250 marks
  2. Compulsory Indian language – 300 marks
  3. Compulsory English language – 300 marks
  4. General studies paper 1 – 250 marks
  5. General studies paper 2 – 250 marks
  6. General studies paper 3 – 250 marks
  7. General studies paper 4 – 250 marks
  8. Optional paper 1 – 250 marks
  9. Optional paper 2 – 250 marks

Essay paper: There is no prescribed syllabus for the essay paper. You are expected to write 2 essays (one topic to be selected out of a choice of four topics). As per the UPSC, “Candidates are 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.”

Indian Language: The question paper pattern will be as follows:

  1. Comprehension of passages
  2. Précis writing
  3. Usage and vocabulary
  4. Short essay
  5. Translation from and to English

English Language: The question paper pattern will be as follows:

  1. Short essay (600 words)
  2. Comprehension passage
  3. Précis writing
  4. Questions on grammar

General Studies Papers:

There are 4 General Studies (GS) papers in the IAS mains exam. The syllabus of UPSC mains GS papers are given below:

GS Paper 1: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society

Indian Culture:

Salient features of Literature, Art Forms, and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Modern Indian History:

  • Significant events, personalities, issues during the middle of the eighteenth century until the present.
  • Various stages and important contributors and contributions from different parts of the country in ‘The Freedom Struggle’.
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.

History of the world:

Events, forms and effect on the society from 18th century like world wars, industrial revolution, colonization, redrawal of national boundaries, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, 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 globalisation on Indian society.


  • 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.
  • Salient features of world’s physical geography.

GS Paper 2: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations

Governance and polity:

  • 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 that of other countries.
  • Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  • Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • 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.
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
  • 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.
  • Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
  • Role of civil services in a democracy.

International Relations:

  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
  • India and its neighbourhood – relations.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

GS Paper 3: Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management


  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  • 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
  • Economics of animal-rearing.
  • 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.
  • 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:

  • 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 Management:

  • Disaster and disaster management.


  • Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
  • 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.
  • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism.

GS Paper 4: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

  • 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.
  • 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 non-partisanship, 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 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 above issues.

Optional Papers:

You can select ONE optional from the list of the following subjects:


Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science




Civil Engineering

Commerce & Accountancy


Electrical Engineering





Political Science & International Relations


Public Administration






Mechanical Engineering

Medical Science



Literature Optional Subjects*


*One of the following literature of languages can also be opted as your Optional Subject.

Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English.

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