UPSC Mains Syllabus for IAS Exam

The IAS mains exam comprises nine theory papers and marks in seven of those papers are taken into consideration for preparing the final merit list. The other two papers, English and Indian Language, are qualifying in nature (candidates have to score 25% or above to be eligible for selection). The UPSC mains syllabus for 2024 is discussed below and aspirants can also download the IAS syllabus in pdf form.

UPSC Mains Syllabus
Download PDF Here

Download UPSC Previous Years Question Papers from the linked article!

Download UPSC Mains Question Papers from the linked article!

The UPSC Notification for the year 2024 was released on 14th February 2024. The aspirants can check out the linked article to download the notification PDF to know more information related to the exam.


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Download the UPSC Prelims Answer Key 2023 from the linked article.

The candidates who score above the cut-off in the first stage (Prelims) of the IAS exam only will be eligible for the Mains. While only objective-type (MCQs) questions are asked in Prelims, the subjective Mains exam requires a deeper understanding of the topics.

Serious IAS aspirants must already be aware that UPSC Civil Services Exam 2024 calendar (latest) states that the Prelims will be held on 26th May 2024, and the Mains will commence from September 2024, onwards. However, the UPSC Mains 2023 were held from 16th September 2023, onwards. This gives enough time to prepare the comprehensive exam syllabus.

UPSC 2024 | IAS Mains syllabus

UPSC Mains Syllabus For IAS Exam 2020-2021

UPSC 2024 Syllabus for Mains Exam as mentioned in the UPSC CSE Notification can be downloaded from below:

The purpose of this stage of the UPSC exam is to test the understanding of the candidates and to check whether they have the intellectual capacity to present the answers in a clear, concise and coherent manner in the given time frame.

UPSC Mains Pattern

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, Economic Development, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Security & 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

If you want to download UPSC Mains Syllabus 2023 pdf, please click below:

UPSC Mains Syllabus
Download PDF Here

Given below are some quick reference links related to IAS/UPSC preparation. For the detailed UPSC mains syllabus, please scroll down.

UPSC Mains Answer Writing Practise IAS Toppers’ Optional Subject List IAS Study Material All You Need To Know About The IAS Interview Process
IAS Preparation ‘Difference Between’ Articles UPSC Best Optional Subject: Top 10 Optional Subjects For IAS Mains Daily News Analysis

UPSC Mains Syllabus

Language Papers (Indian language and English)

Although both these papers are only qualifying in nature, candidates should not be complacent as if they fail to score below 25% in either of them, their remaining answer sheets won’t even be evaluated. Both the papers follow a similar pattern of questions as given below.

  • One essay question for 100 marks – candidates have to select one out of a few given topics
  • Reading comprehension and related five-six questions for a total of 60 marks
  • Precis writing for 60 marks – the answer sheet will have a separate grid structure where this has to be written
  • Translation from English to chosen language for 20 marks
  • Translation from chosen language to English for 20 marks
  • Grammar and basic language usage such as synonyms, sentence correction etc. for a total of 40 marks

UPSC Mains paper gives an opportunity to candidates where can opt for subjects under a few sections. This acts as an advantage for the aspirants can they can pick their strengths and increase their overall scores. To check out the list of IAS Subjects in the mains examination, candidates can visit the linked article.


The UPSC mains syllabus does not have any prescribed syllabus for the essay paper as such. As per the UPSC, “Candidates are expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in an orderly fashion, and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.”

Candidates are required to write two essays from a list of given topics for a combined total of 250 marks.

Also, read ⇒ UPSC Mains Paper Analysis – Essay 

GS Paper 1

  • Indian Culture – Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian History
    • Significant events, issues, personalities during the middle of the eighteenth century (1750s) until the present.
    • Different stages and important contributors and contributions from various parts of the country in ‘The Freedom Struggle’.
    • Post-independence consolidation and reorganisation within the country.
  • History of the world
  • Events, forms and effect on society since the 18th century (world wars, industrial revolution, colonisation, redrawal of national boundaries, decolonisation, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc.)
  • Society
    • Indian society and diversity – Salient aspects.
    • Role of women and women’s organisations, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanisation, their problems and remedies.
    • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
    • Effects of globalisation on Indian society.
  • 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 polar ice caps) and, in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
    • Salient features of world’s physical geography.

Given below are the links that can help candidates understand the UPSC Mains syllabus for the GS Paper 1 and strategize a plan for preparation:

UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 1 Syllabus, Strategy & Structure
Topic-Wise GS 1 Questions in UPSC Mains
UPSC Mains GS 1 Questions Answer Writing

GS Paper II

  • Indian Constitution
    • historical underpinnings,
    • evolution, features
    • amendments, significant provisions
    • basic structure doctrine
    • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
  • 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
  • Structure, organisation and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
  • Parliament and State Legislatures
    • structure, functioning
    • conduct of business
    • powers & privileges and issues arising out of these
  • 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 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, Self Help Groups, 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 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
  • International Relations
    • India and its neighbourhood – International relations
    • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting the Indian interests
    • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
    • Important International institutions, agencies, their structure and mandates

Complement your preparation for Mains GS 2 paper with the links given below:

UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 2 Strategy, Syllabus & Structure
Topic-Wise GS 2 Questions for UPSC Mains
UPSC Mains GS 2 Questions Answer Writing

GS Paper III

  • Economy
    • 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), changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
    • Infrastructure – Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
    • Investment models (PPP etc)
    • Agriculture
      • 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
      • 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.
  • Science and Technology
    • Recent developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
    • Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
    • Indigenisation of technology and developing new technology.
    • General awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nanotechnology, bio-technology
    • Issues relating to intellectual property rights
  • Environment
    • Conservation,
    • Environmental pollution and degradation
    • Environmental impact assessment
  • Disaster Management (Laws, Acts etc.)
  • Security
    • Challenges to internal security (external state and non-state actors)
    • 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
    • Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organised crime with terrorism
    • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandates

For a better understanding of the GS 3 paper in detail, along with the strategy to be followed for UPSC mains paper preparation, candidates can refer to the links given below:

UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 3 Strategy, Syllabus & Structure
Topic-Wise GS 3 Questions for UPSC Mains
UPSC Mains GS 3 Questions Answer Writing

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.

  • Ethics and Human Interface
    • 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
  • Attitude
    • 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
    • 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
  • Emotional Intelligence
    • 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
  • Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration
    • 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
  • Probity in 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

Also, refer to the following related links:

UPSC Mains General Studies Paper 4 Strategy, Syllabus & Structure
Topic-Wise GS 4 Questions for UPSC Mains
UPSC Mains GS 4 Questions Answer Writing

Optional Subject (Two Papers)

A candidate has to choose one optional subject (out of a total of 48 options). There will be two papers for a combined total of 500 marks. Selecting the best optional subject for UPSC mains should be a careful and considered decision. Refer to the link given above to understand which optional subject will be the best for you.

Get the list of optional subjects in UPSC in the linked article.


The IAS mains syllabus is comprehensive and the questions asked in the CSE require not only a certain depth of understanding but also the ability to present the answers in a coherent manner. The syllabus of UPSC mains comprises both static and dynamic aspects. Hence, it is essential for the IAS aspirants to track and sort the current affairs under appropriate papers/headings as per the UPSC mains syllabus.

The Mains exam is for a total of 1750 marks (7 papers * 250 marks) and, the aspirants who clear the stage reach the interview (UPSC Personality Test). The candidates’ score in the interview (out of 275 marks) is added to their marks in UPSC mains and this makes the final merit list of recommended candidates.

For the latest exam updates, study material and preparation tips, visit BYJU’S.

FAQ about UPSC Mains Syllabus


Is 3 months enough for UPSC mains?

Provided that the candidate has finished reading all the basic books like the NCERT during his/her prelims preparation, then 3 months will be enough. Those 3 months of preparation will be better put to use on honing ones answer writing skills and revision.

Is UPSC Mains consisting of MCQ?

No, the UPSC Mains does not consist of MCQs. UPSC Mains is a subjective type paper where detailed and comprehensive answers are expected.

Is UPSC very tough?

As far as the syllabus is concerned, the UPSC is tough but with proper strategy and hard work, the UPSC exams can be passed with relative ease.

What happens if you fail UPSC mains?

If one fails UPSC Mains then, he/she cannot appear for the final round – the Interview. One has to pass the Prelims, Mains and Interview round to make it to the final merit list.

Is calculator allowed in IAS Mains?

Only the use of Non-Programmable type of calculators is allowed during IAS Mains. Any other type of calculators or interchanging them during the exam is strictly prohibited


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  1. Nice Information

  2. Very useful!

  3. What are the indian languages in IAS mains?

  4. Optional Subject (Two Papers)
    A candidate has to choose one optional subject (out of a total of 48 options).
    How to choose the other optional subject sir? What are the subjects.

  5. Do the students from the northeast have to appear in only paper B (english) for the qualifying as they are exempted from paper A? , or is there any alternative paper they need to give for that. Also how is the marks calculated in that case ?

    • Hi
      Yes, they only have to write English language paper. Since both the language papers are of qualifying nature, marks are unaffected by this exemption provided to candidates hailing from the north-eastern states of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland

  6. hello sir I tried finding out syllabus for prelims and mains from the website. But did not find can you please help me with it

  7. Hi sir
    I want to ask few questions regarding CSE preparation
    How to start? , How to manage time during preparation? , How to manage CSE and engineering study?, Which engineering branch is good for CSE? Is electronic and telecommunications or computer engineering is better for CSE? How to improve English?
    Sir my grasping power is good, if I read chapter one time then I able to understand every concept so shall I go with ncert reading?

    • *How to start?
      1. Understand UPSC Syllabus
      2. Start with NCERTs and complement with daily newspaper.
      3. Refer to UPSC previous years’ question papers.
      4. Read Rajiv Ahir’s Brief of Modern History, M. Laxmikanth’s Indian Polity for GS 1 and 2 respectively.
      5. Revise often.
      6. Take mock tests periodically.
      *How to manage time? – You can get an idea here
      *Which engineering breach – Though any branch is fine till you hold interest, but civil or mechanical are often suggested.
      *Refer to how to improve English in the linked article.
      *NCERTs are the basic books. You must read them once.

  8. Sir
    I am a student of B. Sc. 2nd yr I have do that at any cost. Sir would you please suggest me from where I have to start, how to start, what to start everything.
    Please Guide Me Sir What To Do !!!!
    Thanking you!
    *UPSC IAS*

  9. I just want to ask that how to read newspaper?

  10. if i select english language for mains exm , can i change my interview language to my native language. after mains qualified.

    • Hi,
      One can give IAS Interview in any one of the official languages of India, other than Hindi/English. One has to mention the language medium of the interview while filling the DAF.

  11. which is the best book for the UPSC exam

  12. Hi sir/mam. good morning.
    can u please separate the topics of GS-2 and tell which topics comes under constitution and social justice and polity and governance.
    I’m finding difficult to make notes or find topics under certain sections.

    • Dear Aspirant,
      We have provided the section-wise strategy for GS 2 of UPSC Mains here.

      Also, if you wish to get the topic-wise GS 2 questions of mains to have a better understanding of its syllabus; please click here.

      For any further queries, please reach out to us at +919243500460.

      All the best!

  13. Thanks for sending the syllabus and download pdf option