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The syllabus for UPSC Prelims is discussed in-depth in this article. Ever since the pattern change in the UPSC Prelims exam in 2011, the syllabus has remained the same. Also, aspirants must note that the conducting body has rescheduled the prelims examination to October 10, 2021. Thus, candidates can prepare themselves accordingly.
UPSC Prelims is the screening stage of the Civil Services Exam which is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission every year. This stage is officially known as the Civil Services (Preliminary) exam, but in common parlance, aspirants refer to it as UPSC Prelims or IAS Prelims.
** The official syllabus of UPSC exam is released along with the IAS notification. The official UPSC notification was released on 4th March 2021.
IAS Prelims Syllabus
The UPSC Prelims syllabus can be divided into two parts:
- General Studies Paper I
- CSAT or General Studies Paper-II
|UPSC Prelims Syllabus 2021||Maximum Marks||Duration Of Exam|
|General Studies Paper – I
||200 Marks||2 Hours|
|CSAT/ General Studies Paper-II
||200 Marks||2 Hours|
UPSC Prelims Syllabus 2021 PDF Download PDF Here
UPSC CSAT Syllabus
The General Studies Paper-II in UPSC Prelims is often referred to as CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test. The CSAT exam has been part of controversy ever since its introduction. A section of candidates has alleged that CSAT is negatively biased towards them. In 2014-2015, CSAT was declared to be a ‘Qualifying Exam’ with a 33% pass criteria. The GS II or CSAT intends to check the analytical skills of the IAS aspirants.
For complete details on CSAT (exam pattern, strategy, previous question papers, study material), please refer to the article CSAT 2021.
UPSC Prelims Syllabus for GS I
The GS I paper in the IAS prelims comprises topics from History, Geography, Economy, polity and governance, general science, and most importantly current affairs. The subtopics are mentioned below.
Current Affairs Syllabus
In UPSC Prelims (and in Mains), the focus on dynamic questions has increased in recent years. Even from sections like Polity which were considered to be static, more and more questions seem to have their base in some recent issue/topic in the news. Moreover, Indian Economy and Environment portions in the UPSC Prelims Syllabus focus mostly on Current Affairs.
A few essential sources for current affairs preparation are:
- Yojana Magazine and Kurukshetra Magazine
- Economic and Political Weekly
- Press Information Bureau Releases (PIB)
- The Hindu and The Indian Express
Important links related to UPSC Prelims syllabus for current affairs:
- Comprehensive daily news analysis
- The gist of Yojana
- The gist of EPW
- Daily video analysis of The Hindu
- Economy This Week for UPSC Preparation
UPSC Prelims Syllabus – History of India and Indian National Movement
The UPSC 2021 notification released on 4th March 2021. The notification gives all the relevant details about the exam, how to apply, UPSC syllabus, eligibility criteria, etc. Candidates can keep a track of the UPSC Online Application 2021, information of which is provided in the linked article.
The syllabus of UPSC Prelims GS 1 mentions that the paper will have questions on “History of India and Indian National Movement”. This is a broad classification and to prepare History as per UPSC Prelims syllabus, candidates need to use “divide and conquer” to speak.
Ancient History of India
- Prehistoric cultures in India
- Indus Valley Civilization. Origins- the different phases- society, economy, and culture- Contacts with other cultures- factors lead to the decline.
- Geographical distribution and characteristics of pastoral and farming society.
- Vedic society-Vedic texts- change from Rigvedic to later Vedic phases.
- Vedic society Religion- Upanishad thought-Political and social organisation, the evolution of the Varna system and monarchy.
- Formation of the State and urbanisation, from the Mahajanapadas to the Nandas.
- Buddhism and Jainism- Factors for the spread of Buddhism.
- The Mauryan Empire- Chandragupta and Megasthenes.
- Ashoka and his inscriptions, his dhamma, culture, administration, and art
- Society of Post-Mauryan India, BC 200- AD 300- Evolution of Jatis.
- The Satavahanas and formation of the state in the Peninsula.
- Sangam texts and society.
- Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Parthians, Kushans, Kanishka-Contacts with the outer world.
- Different Religion- Bhagavatism, Shaivism, Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana, Jainism and Culture and art.
- The Guptas and their descendants.
- Literature Science, Arts, Economy, and society -Modification in the political organisation of empire.
Medieval Indian History
- Early Medieval India. Major dynasties; Political and Agrarian organisation. Status of women, Extent of social mobility. The Arabs in Sind and the Ghaznavids.
- Cultural trends, 750-1200, Religious circumstances: the significance of temples and monastic institutions; Sankaracharya; Islam; Sufism. Art and architecture. Literature and Science.
- 13th and 14th Centuries: Ghorian invasions reasons and consequences. Delhi Sultanate under the Slave Rulers. Aladdin Khalji: invasion; administrative, agrarian and economic measures. Muhammad Tughlug’s innovations. Firuz Tughluq and the decline of the Delhi Sultanate. Development of urbanisation and commerce. Spiritual movements in Hinduism and Islam. Literature. Architecture, Technological changes.
- The 15th and early 16th Century: Key Provincial dynasties; Vijayanagara Empire. The Lodhis, First stage of the Mughal Empire: The Sur Empire and administration. Monotheistic movements: Kabir; Guru Nanak and Sikhism; Bhakti. The spread of regional literature. Art and Culture.
- The Mughal Empire, Akbar: invasion, administrative measures, Policy of Sulh-I-Kul. Jagir and Mansab systems; Jahangir, Shahjahan, and Aurangzeb: extension of Mughal empire in the Deccan; religious policies. Shivaji. Persian and regional literature. Religious idea: Abul Fazl; Maharashtra dharma. Architecture. Painting. Economy: state of affairs of peasants and artisans, escalation in trade; trade with Europe. Social stratification and position of women.
- The decline of the Mughal Empire, Reason behind the decline. Maratha power under the Peshwas. The Afghans. Regional states. Most important components of composite culture. Sawai Jai Singh, astronomer. The rise of the Urdu language.
Modern India -Indian National Movement
- British extension: The Carnatic Wars, invasion of Bengal. Mysore and its confrontation to British expansion: The three Anglo-Maratha Wars. Regulating and Pitt’s India Acts. Early composition of the British raj.
- Economic Impact of the British Raj: land revenue settlements like Zamindari, Ryotwari, Mahalwari; Deindustrialisation; Railways and commercialisation of agriculture; increase of landless labour.
- Cultural encounter and social changes: the inception of western education and modern thoughts. Indian Renaissance, religious and social reform movements; Social reforms events before 1857. Development of Indian middle class; the vernacular press and its effects: the rise of modern literature in Indian languages.
- Confrontation to British rule: Early uprisings; The 1857 Revolt-reasons, character, course and result.
- Indian Freedom struggle the first stage: Growth of national consciousness; creation of Associations; Establishment of the Indian National Congress and its Moderate stage; Swadeshi Movement; Economic Nationalism; The development of Extremism and the split in Congress; The policy of Divide and Rule; Congress-League Pact of 1916.
- Gandhian thoughts and techniques of mass mobilisation- Civil Disobedience, the Khilafat movement, Non-Cooperation Movement, and Quit India Movement; another strand in the National Movement-Revolutionaries, Subhash Chandra Bose, and the Indian National Army.
- Separatist movements in Indian politics- the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League; Partition and Independence; The post -1945 developments.
- India independent to 1964. A parliamentary, democratic, secular. Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision, Foreign policy of Non-alignment, Planning and state-controlled industrialisation. Agrarian modification.
The art, culture and architecture in the ancient and medieval times are quite crucial from the IAS exam perspective, although it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the syllabus for UPSC Prelims.
As History portion overlaps in UPSC Syllabus for Prelims and Mains, aspirants should make notes keeping in mind the descriptive nature of questions in IAS Mains, and practice MCQs for Prelims.
Important links related to UPSC Prelims Syllabus for History:
- Check out the UPSC Mains syllabus for General Studies
- Some tips, tricks and infographics for History portion of UPSC Prelims
- UPSC mains optional History Syllabus
UPSC Prelims Syllabus – Indian and World Geography
As per the UPSC Prelims Syllabus, Geography portion comprises Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World. Similar to History, Geography is a vast subject with an overlap in both UPSC syllabus for Prelims and Mains. Also, Geography is an optional subject choice in IAS Mains.
- The basic idea about India
- Location, latitude, longitude, time zone,
- Neighbouring countries
- States and its position and the states on International boundaries
- Important straits
- Physical features of India
- The Himalayas
- Geological Formation
- Physiographic divisions
- Climate, Vegetation, Soil and Biodiversity
- Major passes
- Recent issues
- The Great North Indian plains
- Geological Formation
- Physiographic divisions
- Climate, Vegetation, Soil and Biodiversity
- Peninsular Plateau
- Geological formation
- Deccan plateau
- Central Highlands
- Western and Eastern Ghats
- Socio-economic issues related
- Indian Desert
- Coastal plains and Islands
- The Himalayas
- River systems – Characteristics, comparison and significance
- Himalayan rivers
- Peninsular rivers
- River basins
- Hydro-Power projects, Power plants and Major Dams
- Regional development and planning
- West flowing and east-flowing rivers
- Interlinking of rivers
- Climate in India
- Driving mechanism
- Effects of La-Nino and El-Nino
- Recent theories
- Season of India
- Mineral and industries
- Distribution of minerals
- Industrial policies
- Location factors
- Issues and challenges of the industries
- Industrial clusters
- Agriculture and Allied-characteristics and Problems
- Land utilisation
- Types of agriculture practices
- Soils and Crops
- Trends agriculture (Green revolution )
- Major irrigation projects
- Land reforms
- Government policies and schemes
- Animal husbandry (livestock resources)
- Natural vegetation and fauna- Characteristics, importance, comparison and significance
- Classification of natural vegetation
- Rainfall distribution
- Wildlife sanctuaries
- National Forest Policy
- Biosphere reserve
- National parks
- Environmental issues
- Red-listed species (in recent news)
- Economic infrastructure
- Road(National Highways)- Rail- Air- Water(Major inland waterways) and its Significance
- Power and energy sector
- Sources of conventional and non-conventional energy
- Energy conservation and crisis
- Recent developments
- Human Geography
- Recent census- 2011
World Geography & Physical Geography
- Theories related to Solar System
- Theories related to the formation of the universe
- Recent updates on the same
- The basic idea about Earth
- The motion of the Earth – Rotation and Revolution
- Latitudes and Longitudes
- The inclination of the Earth’s Axis – effect on seasons
- Solar Eclipse, Lunar Eclipse and Tides and their significance
- Earth’s movement (exo-genetic and endo-genetic)
- Earthquakes, volcanic activity
- The basic idea about Continental Drift Theory, Plate Tectonics Theory, Sea Floor Spreading
- Interior of the earth
- Interaction of lithosphere with other spheres
- Boundaries and composition
- Mass Movements of landforms, erosion and deposits
- Basic information about geographical landforms and their significance
- Rock system and Classification of Rocks
- Structure and composition of the atmosphere
- Factors controlling the temperature distribution
- Insolation and terrestrial radiation
- Heat budget
- Global warming and ozone layer
- Humidity and condensation
- Classification of clouds
- Precipitation mechanism
- Different types and forms of precipitation
- Pressure belts
- Atmospheric circulation
- Planetary Winds
- Seasonal and Local Winds
- Cyclones Tropical and Temperate cyclone
- Formation of cyclone, characteristics and impact
- Jet streams
- Various atmospheric phenomenon
- The hydrosphere
- Bottom relief of ocean
- Salinity and temp variation
- Ocean Currents
- Ocean deposit
- Ocean resources
- Recent issues and development with ref to oceanography- Eg: UNCLOS
- Major Biomes
- Flora and fauna
- International organisation for biodiversity
- Conservation of Biodiversity
- Recent issues
- Economic geography
- Map work
- Places in News
Note – Part of Geography portion and Environmental Ecology overlap in the syllabus of UPSC Prelims.
Important links related to UPSC Prelims Syllabus for Geography:
UPSC Prelims Syllabus – Indian Polity and Governance
As per the UPSC Prelims Syllabus, Polity portion comprises Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc. Polity has a lot of static and dynamic elements, and it has an overlap with the syllabus of UPSC Prelims and Mains.
Indian Polity and Governance
- Features of preamble
- 42nd Amendment
- Swaran Singh committee
- The basic idea about 12 schedules
- Constitution of India
- The basic idea about All articles
- Historical Background
- Drafting committee and the making of the Constitution
- Influence of other constitutions
- Its salient features
- Union and its Territory
- The basic idea about Article 1-4
- State reorganisation and different Commissions
- Federal nature
- Recent issues
- The basic idea about Article 5-11
- PIO, NRI, OCI and Pravasi Bharatiya Divas
- Privileges available for Indian citizens and foreigners
- Citizenship Amendment Act of 2016
- New policies, schemes and recent changes in voting.
- Fundamental Rights (FR)
- The basic idea about Article 12-35
- A thorough understanding of Articles 14- 30 and Art. 32
- Rights and privileges available to citizens of India only and both to citizens and foreigners
- 44th amendment act
- Different types of Writs
- Enforcement and Exceptional cases with regard to FR’s
- RTE and recent issues related to FR
- Fundamental Duties(FD)
- Article 51A
- Difference between FR and FD
- Significance and Criticism
- Enforcement of FD’s
- Recent issues about FD
- Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)
- The basic idea about Article and Article 36-51 and Article 368
- Sources and key features of DPSP
- Classification of DPSP
- Comparison/ conflicts between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles
- Keshavananda Bharathi, Minerva Mills, Golaknath Case, Maneka Gandhi case.
- Important Amendments- 42nd Amendment, 44th Amendment, and 97th amendment
- The basic idea about Article 52-73
- Qualification and Election
- Function and Powers- (Executive, Legislative, Financial, Judicial, Diplomatic, Military and Emergency Powers)
- Resignation and impeachment
- Role and responsibilities and relationship with Prime minister, Council of Minister, Cabinet ministers.
- Prime minister and council of ministers- Basic idea about Article 74-75
- Powers and Functions
- Council of ministers
- Resignation and Removal
- Attorney general
- The basic idea about article related
- Role and functions of the Parliament
- Sessions, Motions, Parliamentary procedure – Summoning, Prorogation, Joint Sitting
- Parliamentary proceedings like Question Hour, Zero Hour, and Adjournment Motion, etc.
- Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,
- Special powers of Rajya Sabha
- Anti-defection law and 10th schedule
- Parliamentary Privileges
- Bill and lawmaking procedure
- Budget, funds and it’s summary
- Parliamentary Committees
- The basic idea about article related to the judiciary.
- Powers of Supreme court and high court
- Qualification and appointment
- Removal procedure
- Recent controversy, verdicts, and constitutional provisions.
- State Government- State Executive
- Governor- appointment, removal and special powers.
- Executive, Legislative, Financial, Judicial powers and discretionary of the governor
- 7th constitutional amendment
- Chief minister and council of ministers
- Power of chief minister
- State Legislature
- State legislature compared to the Parliament with regard to composition, powers, and functions.
- Bicameral legislatures
- Creation and abolition of the Legislative councils
- Administration of Union Territories (UT)
- Special provision for Delhi
- Administration and jurisdiction in UT’s
- Administration of Special Areas
- Basic idea about 5thSchedule 6th Schedule
- Recent issues related to Administration of Special Areas
- Special provision for Jammu and Kashmir-Article 370
- Difference between constitutional provisions related to Jammu and Kashmir
- Emergency Provisions
- National emergency- Article 352
- President’s rule or State emergency- Article 356
- Financial emergency- Article 360
- 44th amendment act
- Effects and implications of emergency
- Role of President in emergency time
- The State of FR, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha
- Revoking emergency
- State- centre and interstate relations
- The basic idea about Articles 262 and 263
- Composition and functions of Interstate council and Zonal council
- Inter-State trade and Commerce
- Recent disputes between states, controversies etc
- New policies or schemes which impact interstate relations
- Panchayati Raj and municipalities
- Elections, auditing, powers and authority of panchayats
- 3 tier structure
- 73rd Amendment Act and the 74th Amendment Act
- Relation with FR and DPSP
- Schemes introduced
- Metropolitan planning committee and urban development
- Constitution Bodies
- Election Commission
- Finance Commission
- National Commission for SCs and ST’s,
- Composition, Powers and functions, Removal of the Constitutional bodies
- Non-Constitutional Bodies
- The basic idea about Composition, Functions, Working of the Non-Constitutional bodies such as National Human Rights Commission, Central Information Commission, Central Vigilance Commission, Central Bureau of Investigation, State Human Rights Commission, State Information Commission, etc.
- The basic idea about Article 323A and tribunals under Article 323B
- Recent controversial issues related to tribunals
- Different tribunals and importance
- Special Provisions for SCs, STs, Backward Classes, Minorities and Anglo-Indians
- Privileges and right issued to SC’s, ST’s, Backward Classes, Minorities and Anglo-Indians
- Issues related to vulnerable sections like women, child, SC’s, ST’s, Backward Classes, Minorities and Anglo-Indians
- Current affairs
- Recent issues related to above-mentioned categories
- Important schemes, programs, missions, laws, and policies launched by the government.
- Recent Government Bills and Governance- Actions
Important links related to UPSC Prelims Syllabus for Polity:
UPSC Prelims Syllabus – Indian Economy
The UPSC Syllabus for Prelims mentions the broad topic Economic and Social Development, which includes Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc. While Indian Economy portion is common to the syllabus of UPSC Prelims and Mains, Economics is also an Optional Subject in the UPSC Mains.
For UPSC Prelims, the focus should be on current affairs related to the Indian Economy and basic concepts.
Economic and Social Development
- Economic growth and development – basic concept and definition of Economy and economics, uses and transfer of resources, distributive effects, macro and microeconomic policy, micro-macro balance, distributive impact of economic policies, development versus growth, determinant of growth and development, concepts such as HPI/MPI, HDI, PQLI, GEM, GDI/GII, TAI, Green index, sustainable development, India’s ranking in the various indices.
- Poverty – definitions, causes, distribution-deprivation, income versus calories, measurement of poverty, the status of poverty, eradication programmes, poverty and resource policy, tribal rights and issues, livelihood mission.
- Inclusion – definition, relevance, types, financial inclusion, recent initiatives.
- Demographics – census data, populations by gender, by state, by age group, socio-economic status, caste, religion, literacy levels, etc. Trends in human development – interstate comparison, etc.
- Fiscal policy – definition, component, receipts, revenue and capital account, tax revenue, expenditure, budget.
Important links related to UPSC Prelims syllabus for Indian Economy
UPSC Prelims Syllabus – General Science
In UPSC civil services prelims syllabus, candidates should not spend a lot of time preparing General Science from theory books as most questions come from topics/issues in the news. However, some focus areas as a comprehensive reference are given below.
You can also get some tips for general science preparation for IAS here.
- Universe – Big Bang, Redshift, Blueshift
- Star Formation – Stellar Evolution, Life Cycle of A Star
- Solar System Formation – Nebular Theory of Laplace
- Solar System – Planets, Inner Planets, Outer Planets
- Sun – Internal Structure, Atmosphere
- Nuclear Fission, Nuclear Reactor Types
- India’s Three-Stage Nuclear Power Programme
- Cell Organelles – Plant Cell vs Animal Cell
- Carbohydrates – Monosaccharides, Polysaccharides
- Proteins – Amino Acids, Enzymes
- Vitamins and Minerals – Deficiency Diseases
- Fats – Healthy Fats and Unhealthy Fats
- Animal Tissues – Epithelium, Connective Tissues
- Human Digestive System – Digestive Glands
- Respiratory System – NCERT General Science
- Endocrine Glands and Hormones
- Human Neural System – Human Brain
- Muscular and Skeletal System
- Nucleic acids – DNA and RNA, Recombinant DNA
- Mitosis – Cell Cycle, Cell Division, Meiosis – Mitosis – Meiosis Comparison
- Inheritance – Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance, Chromosomal Theory, Human Genome Project
- Sex Determination – Genetic Disorders
- Diseases Caused by Microorganisms
- Microbes in Human Welfare – Useful Microbes
- Immunity – Human Immune System
- AIDS, Cancer – causes
- Drugs and Alcohol Abuse
- Diseases – Acute, Chronic, Communicable Diseases
- Blood – Blood Groups – Formed Elements
- Circulatory System, Double Circulation
- Excretory System – Kidney, Urine Formation
- Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth
- Biological Classification
- Five Kingdom Classifications of Plants and Animals
- Plant Parts and Their Functions
- Plant Kingdom – Halophytes, Bryophytes
- Plants with Seeds – Gymnosperms and Angiosperms
- Plant Tissue – Simple, Complex Permanent Tissue
- Plant Nutrition – Photosynthesis, Nitrogen Cycle, Fixation
- Sexual and Asexual Reproduction in Plants
- Classification of Animal Kingdom (Animalia)
- Classification of Vertebrata (Phylum Chordata)
- Human Reproductive System
- Biotechnology – Genetic Engineering – Processes and Applications
- Atomic Theory – Structure of an Atom
Furthermore, certain topics from prelims are also a part of the UPSC Syllabus for the mains examination. Candidates must critically analyse the topics and paper pattern comprehensively and then move on with their preparation strategy.
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