UPSC Prelims 2020 - Notes, Books, Strategy & IAS Prelims Syllabus For Civil Services (Preliminary) Exam

UPSC declared Civil Services Prelims Result 2020 on 23rd October. IAS Prelims was successfully conducted on 4th October 2020. 

Daily Comprehensive News Analysis
For details on IAS Exam, refer to the linked article.

Aspirants can find more information about UPSC Prelims 2020 from the links given below:

Candidates can check UPSC Calendar 2021 in the linked article to know UPSC Prelims 2021 exam date.

UPSC Prelims 2020 – Exam Pattern

The UPSC Prelims comprises of two objective type papers (General Studies I and General Studies II or CSAT) for a total of 400 marks. Both papers are usually held on the same day in two sessions via offline mode (pen-paper).

The Prelims Admit Card would be released on the official website of UPSC 2-3 weeks before the date of the exam.

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern General Studies I General Studies II or CSAT
Number of questions 100 80
Negative Marking Yes (1/3rd of the maximum marks for the question)

-0.66 marks for every incorrect answer

Yes (1/3rd of the maximum marks for the question)

-0.83 marks for every incorrect answer

Duration of exam 2 hours 2 hours
UPSC Prelims 2020 Date of exam October 4, 2020 October 4, 2020
Language of exam English/Hindi English/Hindi
Maximum marks 200 200
Cut Off marks Counted for Merit. Cutoff varies every year. 33% qualifying criteria (66 marks)

The UPSC Prelims cut off 2018 and 2019 were 98 marks respectively for General Category aspirants in GS 1.

Candidates can download the UPSC IAS Prelims 2019 and IAS Prelims 2020 Question Papers for practice from the links below:

UPSC Prelims 2020: GS Paper 1 (Series A): Download here

UPSC Prelims 2020: CSAT Paper II (Series D): Download here

UPSC Prelims 2019: GS Paper 1 (Series C): Download here

UPSC Prelims 2019: CSAT paper II (Series A): Download here

The UPSC Prelims Answer Keys of 2015-2019 CSE examinations can be found at the linked article.

UPSC Prelims 202o – Syllabus

The detailed UPSC Prelims syllabus for 2020 Exam is given below:

General Studies Paper-1 Syllabus:

  • 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, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change- that do not require subject specialization.
  • General Science.

General Studies Paper-2 (CSAT) Syllabus:

  • 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).
  • English language comprehension skills – Class X level.

You can find the in-depth syllabus for UPSC Prelims here.

90 Day Preparation Strategy for UPSC Prelims

UPSC Prelims date for 2021 exam is 29th June 2021. The following strategies will help candidates to score well in the exam.

  • Current Affairs are an important part of UPSC Prelims. Ideally, aspirants should prepare Current Affairs from now to have the updated information on relevant incidents on a regular basis.
  • Important sources for current affairs preparation for IAS exam 2020 are:
    1. Yojana Magazine
    2. Newspapers (The Hindu/The Indian Express)
    3. Press Information Bureau (PIB)
    4. Economic and Political Weekly (EPW)
  • Candidates should prepare for UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains simultaneously as there is syllabus overlap. Check the complete IAS syllabus 2020.
  • For CSAT or General Studies Paper-II in UPSC Prelims, go through the previous years’ question papers to gauge your level. As such, there is not much preparation needed for CSAT, however, only you can take that call. For complete information on CSAT including books, strategy and trend analysis, refer to the link.



  • Focus Areas for different subjects in UPSC Prelims
    1. Indian Independence movement:
      • Main congress sessions with the year, president and important resolutions
      • Significant viceroys and their period with important decisions
      • The Government of India Acts 1909, 1919, 1935 and charter acts
    2. Ancient history:
      • Hindu philosophy, Buddhism and Jainism
      • Mauryan and Gupta Period
      • Art, architecture and scientific development during that period
    3. Medieval history:
      • Important kings such as Sher Shah, Akbar, etc. and
      • Delhi Sultanate
    4. Polity:
      • Here, importance should be given on current events, such as any changes in the constitution, new acts or amendments, and schemes
      • Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties, Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)
      • Committee system, parliament, and parliamentary proceedings
      • Judiciary
      • Constitutional bodies
    5. S&T:
      • For basic science concepts, refer to NCERT books selectively as in-depth knowledge is not needed
      • Focus on current affairs part
    6. Environment and Ecology
      • Important declarations, conventions
      • IUCN’s Red List
      • Biosphere Reserves, Tiger Reserves etc.
      • International bodies
    7. Geography:
      • Solar system
      • Latitudes and longitudes
      • Layers of the atmosphere
      • Global atmospheric wind, cyclones
      • Pressure belts
      • Revolution, rotation and seasons
      • Monsoons
      • Types of rainfall
      • Koeppen classification
      • Jet streams, ocean currents
      • El Nino, La Nina
      • India’s physical geography (NCERT)
      • Rivers, hills, soil (India)
      • Mineral resources (India), Geological history of India
      • Basics of agriculture (NCERT)
      • Maps
    8. Economy:
      • Importance should be given on current events like new bills and important committees
      • focus on basic and fundamental concepts like:
        • Growth and development, poverty, unemployment, inflation
        • State of the national and global economy
        • Major committees and bills
        • Latest budget and economic survey

UPSC Prelims – Trend Analysis

UPSC has established itself to be predictably unpredictable. So, candidates should only see the trends as a reference and not draw too much inference. In the table given below, we have broken down the UPSC Prelims 2019 and UPSC Prelims 2020 GS 1 papers:

UPSC Prelims 2020 GS Paper 1 Subject-Wise Analysis
Subject Number of questions
History 18
Economy 14
Polity 16
Environment & Ecology 17
Geography 10
Science & Technology 10
Current Affairs 15
Total 100
UPSC Prelims 2019 GS Paper 1 Subject-Wise Analysis
Subject Number of questions
History 17
Economy 14
Polity 15
Environment & Ecology 11
Geography 14
Science & Technology 7
Current Affairs 22
Total 100

For similar analysis and comparison of subject-wise weightage in UPSC Prelims from 2011 to 2019, check the link.

UPSC Prelims – Study Material for IAS preparation

A big part of UPSC preparation is selecting the right study material. Studying from the best Civil services Prelims Books will be both efficient and effective. For both, UPSC Prelims and Mains, NCERTs are a must because of their credibility and easy to understand language.

From the links given below, IAS aspirants can download/view the NCERT books needed for UPSC Prelims preparation.

Check the list of UPSC Books here.

Candidates who clear the UPSC IAS Prelims have to fill the Detailed Application Form (DAF) before they can give the Mains Exam.

For 2020, the UPSC Mains will start from 8th January 2021. Aspirants can check the linked article for more details on UPSC Mains.

UPSC Prelims Related Articles:


  1. Please provide me the detailed syllabus for Political science as optional subject and please also provide the study materials along with strategies for preparation.

    Thanks a lot

  2. please provide me the detailed syllabus of sociology optional subject

    1. Hi,

      You can download the detailed UPSC Sociology Syllabus for Optional from the linked article.

  3. provide me upsc prelims syllabus of 2020

    1. –> Check/download UPSC Prelims 2020 Syllabus from the linked article

  4. plz provide me math optional book list

    1. Hi Rohit
      Please find the Maths Optional book list in the linked article.

  5. suggest me geology optional book list

    1. Hi Lakshya
      Find the list of important books for Geology optional in the linked article.

  6. Sir Plz Privide me the topics and sub topics of History,Economy, and Geography for cse prelims 2020

    1. Hi Prem
      You can check our UPSC Notes PDF page to find the relevant study materials for the examination.

  7. plz provide me PSIR optional book list

    1. Hi Satvir
      You can get the PSIR Optional book list for the IAS Exam in the linked article.

  8. Plz provide me upsc syllabus for pre and mains and syllabus of public administration optional subject

    1. Hi Noher
      You can get Public Administration syllabus and book list below:
      1. Public Administration Optional Syllabus
      2. Public Administration Optional Book List

  9. Patel Varun Singh

    Pls provide me detailed syllabus of commerce and accountancy optional syllabus and strategy
    And important booklist.

  10. Having only 100+ days for IAS prelims 2020,
    is it essential to study reference books or byju’s notes itself is enough Also plz suggest whether TATA McGraw hills guides are good for both GS & CSAT plz reply soon. Thank you

    1. Hi Vishnubalan
      It is important now to revise what you have studied in the past. You can check our NCERT Notes for UPSC for your reference. NCERTs and good reference books will suffice for UPSC Exam.

  11. Please provide me syllabus of political science optional syllabus and stretagy and important booklist

    1. Hi
      Please check the links below:
      1. PSIR Syllabus
      2. PSIR Booklist
      3. PSIR Strategy

  12. provide me syllabus of psychology

  13. Provide me mains syllabus of the odia optional subject and books list

  14. Please provide GS 4 Ethics notes and strategy. Thanks

    1. Hi
      You can check GS 4 Strategy in the linked article.

  15. Pls provide me chemistry optional book list

  16. Can you please provide me Psychology optional book list.

  17. Pls provided public administration optional subject and syllabus, books

  18. sir, I have passed plus two now. I got a seat on the course BSC. Family & Community Science. if I opt for this degree which optional must be good?

    1. There are several factors to consider while choosing the right optional. You may refer to the post – Which subject to choose as UPSC Mains Optional.

  19. Please provide me geography optional book list And strategy

  20. preparing for next year, can u please provide strategy, notes n current affairs n how do prepare

    1. Check UPSC Exam Strategy here.
      Refer to BYJU’S current affairs at the linked article.

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