UPSC CSE Syllabus

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UPSC Civil Services Exam Syllabus

UPSC CSE Syllabus can be divided into Prelims and Mains syllabus for ease of preparation. However, candidates may note that there is a large level of overlap between Paper I of the Preliminary Exam and GS papers of Mains Examination. Hence, preparation must be done on the whole to maximise the benefit of learning for both exam stages.

A] UPSC CSE Preliminary Exam Syllabus

In the annual CSE Notification, UPSC defines the broad areas to be covered under each paper. The list provided by UPSC while not exhaustive, gives candidates a good idea of the general content to be prepared and the areas questions may appear from. It is important to note that even though these concepts may seem static in nature, textbook learning must be backed up by examples from current affairs and contemporary events to present a holistic view. Hence, in addition to the syllabus given below, daily tracking of news and current happenings in India and the World must also be covered comprehensively.

Paper 1 – General Awareness

The objective paper is aimed at testing candidates knowledge about General Studies and current affairs. The questions will be picked from various topics like history, geography, science, polity and economy and events/news of national or international significance. Some of the important topics include:

  • Current events of national/international importance.
  • History of India (Ancient to Modern) and Indian National Movement for Freedom.
  • Indian and World Geography – Physical, Demographic or Social and Economic Geography of India and the World.
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Polity Structure, Panchayati Raj, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Social Inclusion, Schemes for upliftment etc.
  • General issues on Environment, Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change and items in the news.
  • General Science

Paper 2 – English & General Aptitude

In the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) candidates have to score a minimum of 33 % marks to qualify. The aptitude test will focus on questions using quant, verbal ability and reasoning. The mains topics of importance are as below:

  • Problem-Solving through puzzle
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Numerical Ability
  • Data Interpretation
  • Antonyms/Synonyms

B] UPSC CSE Mains Exam Syllabus

Paper 1 – Essay Writing

This paper will consist of 2 sections, each having 4 options out of which candidate must select 1 topic in each section. Section A mostly contains topics about economy, education, employment and society. Section B consists topics based on ethics, philosophy, attitude and perspective. Hence, one essay will usually be more factual while the other must portray the perspective of the candidate on a thinking matter.

Paper 2 – General Studies I

  • Indian culture including the salient features of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture ranging through ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian history from the mid-18th century until the post-independence significant events, personalities and issues.
  • The Indian Struggle for Freedom and its various stages. Noteworthy leaders and contributions from all over the country.
  • Indian states consolidation and reorganisation post-independence.
  • World History from 18th century (eg: industrial revolution, world wars, colonisation)
  • Contemporary freedom movements, decolonization, political philosophers and their ideas like communism, capitalism, socialism and their effects on evolutions of countries.
  • Salient features of Indian Society and Indian Diversity 
  • Role of women in prominent social and developmental issues
  • Globalization and its impact on Indian Society/Economy
  • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
  • World’s physical geography – main features
  • Natural resource distribution across the globe (including South Asia and the Indian subcontinent);
  • Location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries and the factors affecting it
  • Important Geophysical occurrences such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.,
  • Geographical landforms and their location. Important flora and fauna categorisations.

Paper 3 – General Studies II

This paper will contain questions on Indian Polity and Governance post-Independence. The topics include:

  • Indian Constitution- historical background, evolution, salient features, notable amendments 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.
  • Separation of powers between various organs of the government and dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  • Comparison of the Indian political and constitutional structure with that of other countries
  • Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
  • Structure and functions 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.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
  • Policies and schemes of the government and interventions for development in various sectors
  • Social development and the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations.
  • Central and State welfare schemes
  • Mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for social upliftment (poverty alleviation, caste discrimination eradication) and inclusion (employment, education) etc.
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations
  • Citizens charters, transparency/accountability in governance.
  • Civil Services and its role in a democracy.
  • India and its neighbourhood-relations including strategic/cooperative groupings with SAARC, BIMSTEC, Quad etc.
  • Bilateral, regional and multi-lateral groups and agreements
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
  • Indian Diaspora
  • Important International institutions, agencies and associations – their objectives and initiatives.

Paper 4 – General Studies III

This paper will contain questions about Modern India and recent Key developments. The topics include

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and
    downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  • Land reforms in India.
  • Effects of liberalisation on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial
  • Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
  • Investment models.
  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new
  • 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 and disaster management.
  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
  • Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  • 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 organized crime with
  • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Paper 5 – General Studies IV

This paper will contain questions about Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. The topics include

  • Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships.
  • Human Values – teachings of and learnings from the lives of great leaders, philosophers, reformers and administrators
  • Role of family, society and teachers 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.
  • Concepts in Emotional intelligence and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
  • Important streams of thought in moral philosophy from great Indian and foreign thinkers.
  • 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 issues a mentioned above.

Paper 6 & 7 – Candidates can select their desired subject from the list subjects given below:

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Anthropology
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Commerce and Accountancy
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Indian History
  • Law
  • Management
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Science
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Psychology
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Zoology
  • Candidates can also select one of the regional languages as an optional subject.