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UPSC IAS Preliminary Exam Pattern & Syllabus

The first stage of the exam i.e., the Civil Services Preliminary Exam is only a screening test and is conducted to shortlist candidates for the Main Examination. Marks secured in Preliminary Exam are not taken into account while preparing the final merit. A candidate must appear in both the Papers of the IAS Prelim Exam for evaluation.

The Preliminary Exam consists of two papers of objective type carrying a maximum of 400 marks.

No. of Papers2 compulsory papers
Type of QuestionsObjective (MCQ) type
Total Maximum Marks400 (200 each paper)
Duration of Exam2 hrs. each (20 minutes per hour extra time for blind candidates & candidate with Locomotor Disability & Cerebral Palsy [minimum 40% impairment])
Negative Marking1/3rd of the marks assigned to a question
Medium of ExamBilingual (Hindi & English)

1. General Studies Paper-I Syllabus

It has 100 questions broadly covering the following topics carrying a maximum of 200 marks to be solved in 2 hours.

  • Current events of National & International importance.
  • History of India & Indian National Movement.
  • Indian & World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India & the World.
  • Indian Polity & Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic & Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental ecology, Biodiversity & climate change – that do not require subject specialization.
  • General Science.

2. CSAT Paper-II Syllabus

It comprises 80 questions from the following topics carrying a maximum of 200 marks to be solved in 2 hours. CSAT Paper-II of the IAS Exam is a qualifying paper with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%.

  • Comprehension.
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills.
  • Logical reasoning & analytical ability.
  • Decision-making & problem-solving.
  • General mental ability.
  • Basic numeracy (numbers & their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. – Class X level)

UPSC IAS Main Exam Pattern & Syllabus

Civil Services Main Examination consists of written examination and interview (personality test). Civil Services Main Examination consists of the following papers divided into 2 categories – qualifying & papers to be counted for merit.

Qualifying Papers Marks
Paper-AOne of the Indian Language to be selected by the candidate from the Languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution300
Paper-BEnglish300
Papers to be Counted for Merit
Paper-IEssay250
Paper-IIGeneral Studies-I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)250
Paper-IIIGeneral Studies-II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)250
Paper-IVGeneral Studies-III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)250
Paper-VGeneral Studies-IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)250
Paper-VIOptional Subject – Paper 1250
Paper-VIIOptional Subject – Paper 2250
Sub Total (Written Test) 1750
Personality Test 275
Grand Total 2025

Paper-I: Essay

Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics.

They will be expected to keep close 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.

Paper-II: General Studies-I

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

(i) Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

(ii) Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

(iii) The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.

(iv) Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.

(v) History of the world will include events from the 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc.— their forms and effect on society.

(vi) Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.

(vii) Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems, and their remedies.

(viii) Effects of globalization on Indian society.

(ix) Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

(x) Salient features of the world’s physical geography.

(xi) 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).

(xii) Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclones, 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.

Paper-III: General Studies-II

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

(i) Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure.

(ii) 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.

(iii) Separation of powers between various organs disputes redressal mechanisms and institutions.

(iv) Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.

(v) Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, the conduct of business, powers & privileges, and issues arising out of these.

(vi) 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.

(vii) Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

(viii) Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions, and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

(ix) Statutory, regulatory, and various quasi-judicial bodies.

(x) Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

(xi) Development processes and the development industry —the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.

(xii) 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.

(xiii) Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

(xiv) Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

(xv) Important aspects of governance, transparency, and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

(xvi) Role of civil services in a democracy.

(xvii) India and its neighborhood- relations.

(xviii) Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

(xix) Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

(xx) Important International institutions, agencies, and fora – their structure, mandate.

Paper-IV: General Studies-III

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

(i) Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, resources, growth, development, and employment.

(ii) Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

(iii) Government Budgeting.

(iv) 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.

(v) 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.

(vi) Food processing and related industries in India- scope’ and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.

(vii) Land reforms in India.

(viii) Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy, and their effects on industrial growth.

(ix) Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

(x) Investment models.

(xi) Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

(xii) Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

(xiii) Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology, and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

(xiv) Conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

(xv) Disaster and disaster management.

(xvi) Linkages between development and spread of extremism.

(xvii) Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

(xviii) 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.

(xix) Security challenges and their management in border areas – linkages of organized crime with terrorism.

(xx) Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Paper-V: General Studies-IV

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 utilize the case study approach to determine these aspects.

The following broad areas will be covered:

(i) 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.

(ii) Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.

(iii) 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.

(iv) Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.

(v) Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world.

(vi) 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.

(vii) 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.

(viii) Case Studies on the above issues.

Paper – VI & VII

Optional Subject Papers I & II.

A candidate may opt for any one Optional Subject from the following:

(i) Agriculture

(ii) Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

(iii) Anthropology

(iv) Botany

(v) Chemistry

(vi) Civil Engineering

(vii) Commerce and Accountancy

(viii) Economics

(ix) Electrical Engineering

(x) Geography

(xi) Geology

(xii) History

(xiii) Law

(xiv) Management

(xv) Mathematics

(xvi) Mechanical Engineering

(xvii) Medical Science

(xviii) Philosophy

(xix) Physics

(xx) Political Science and International Relations

(xxi) Psychology

(xxii) Public Administration

(xxiii) Sociology

(xxiv) Statistics

(xxv) Zoology

(xxvi) The literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English.

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