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IAS Syllabus for Prelims and Mains, Pattern and Books

Updated On - February 16th 2019

IAS Exam is conducted in 3 successive stages- Prelims, Mains and Interview test. The Prelims stage is an objective test of 200 marks wheres Mains is subjective one. Both the stages are qualifying in nature and successful candidates will be called for Interview round. Download IAS Practice Papers now

Latest: UPSC has released the official dates for IAS 2019, Bachelor degree holders can apply online before March 18. Apply Now

The competitive examination comprises two successive stages, having different syllabi viz:

  • Stage 1: IAS Preliminary Exam – 2 papers of 200 marks each
  • Stage 2: IAS Mains Exam – Written exam (7 papers) and an Interview. Check IAS Exam Pattern

The Indian Administrative Service officially called as Civil Services Examination (CSE) is the premier administrative civil service of the Government of India. Hierarchy-wise, IAS is the highest administrative post among the 24 services like IPS, IFS (Foreign), IAAS, IRS, IDAS, CAPF-AF to name a few.

IAS Syllabus for Prelims

  • The preliminary exam is the first stage a candidate must clear to qualify for the mains exam.
  • It is meant to serve as a screening test only; marks scored in IAS Prelims will not be counted for the final merit list.
  • Preliminary Stage of IAS has two papers viz. General Ability test (GAT) (Paper-1) and the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT) (Paper-2).

IAS Syllabus for Paper I

  • Paper I of IAS Prelims includes different topics which hold a weightage of 200 marks.
  • All questions will be objective in nature.
  • Candidates must solve the paper in 2 hours.
  • Marks obtained in Paper 1 will be counted for the merit rank.
IAS Syllabus for Paper 1
Current events of national and international importanceHistory of India and Indian National Movement
Indian Polity and Governance Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, and Rights IssuesEconomic and Social Development‐Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives and General issues on Environmental ecology

General Science

Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World

Biodiversity and Climate Change ‐ that do not require subject specialization and General Science(-)
UPSC IAS Sample Papers, IAS Practice Papers

IAS Syllabus for Paper 2

  • All questions will be objective in nature.
  • The total weightage of questions in Paper II is 200 marks.
  • The total duration of the Paper II is 2 hours.
  • Marks obtained in Paper 2 will not be counted for the merit rank in Prelims but will be considered as a qualifying Paper.
  • Candidates need 33% marks to clear IAS Mains.
IAS Syllabus for Paper 2


Logical reasoning and analytical ability
Decision-making and problem-solvingGeneral 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)

Check IAS/ CSE Preparation Tips

Civil Services (Preliminary) Exam Pattern

No. of PapersTwo (2) compulsory papers
Type of QuestionsObjective (MCQs)
Total Marks200 marks each (400 marks)
Duration of Exam2 hrs. each (20 mins extra for a candidate with Locomotor Disability & Cerebral Palsy)
Negative MarkingYes, one-third (0.33) as a penalty
Medium of ExamBilingual (Hindi and English)

Section-wise Questions Distribution

Paper 1General Ability Test (GAT)200
Paper 2English Language and Aptitude200
Total marks400

Sample Questions for IAS Prelims

sample questions for ias prelims

IAS 2018 Prelims Paper Analysis (Last year)

IAS Prelims comprises two papers- General Studies (Paper I) and Civil Service Aptitude Test (Paper II). These are conducted in two shifts- morning and evening shift. Given below is the brief information of previous year IAS Prelims Exam Analysis:

  • As per the overall IAS Prelims Exam Analysis, the exam was moderately difficult.
  • It had questions from History, Polity, Geography and Agriculture, Science and Technology, Ecology and Environment, Economics, Arts and Culture, Social Welfare and GK. The dominating sections were Current Affairs, Ecology and Environment, Economics and History.
  • Given below is the topic wise weightage of IAS Prelims Paper I:
IAS Prelims Exam Analysis
  • CSAT (Civil Service Aptitude Test) was of moderate difficulty. There were questions from Basic Mathematics, Analytical Reasoning, Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension and Logical Consistency.
  • Analytical Reasoning, Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension dominated this paper. This paper was comparatively easier last year and is expected to be easier this year as well.
  • Here is the topic wise weightage of CSAT paper in IAS Prelims:
IAS Prelims Exam Analysis

IAS Syllabus for Mains

  • This paper assesses a candidate’s academic expertise in his specialized subject.
  • It also tests his ability to present knowledge in a clear and coherent manner and his overall intellectual traits and understanding of concepts.
  • Interview will be conducted to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a Board of competent and unbiased observers. The test is intended to judge the mental caliber of candidate.  
  • Number of candidates to be admitted to IAS Main Examination will be about twelve to thirteen times the total approximate number of vacancies to be filled in the year through this examination.
  • The number of candidates to be summoned for interview will be about twice of the number of vacancies to be filled.
Main Examination – The written exam will consist of the following papers:
Qualifying PapersPaper A (Indian Language) – Check Languages 
Paper B (English)
Paper to be counted for MeritPaper I – Paper VII
InterviewPersonality Test

IAS Syllabus for Mains (Reference Links)

Detailed Syllabus of IAS papers included in the scheme of IAS Mains are given as follows:

IAS Mains History SyllabusIAS Mains Medical Science Syllabus
IAS Mains Geography SyllabusIAS Mains Philosophy Syllabus
IAS Mains Electrical Engineering SyllabusIAS Mains Law Syllabus
IAS Mains Economics SyllabusIAS Mains Mathematics Syllabus
IAS Mains Geology Syllabus-

Paper I

  • It consists of questions to test the writing skills of the candidate. Thus, it is purely subjective with no objective type questions.
  • The language for the paper is English thus candidates have no option of answering in any other language.
  • Total marks awarded to this paper are 250.
EssayCandidates have to write an essay on a specific topic. It must be kept close to the subject of the essay to arrange the ideas in an orderly fashion and to write concisely. Credit is given for effective and exact expression

Paper II

  • The candidates have to answer objective type questions based on Indian Heritage along with the History and Geography of the World in Paper II.
  • The total weightage of the Paper II is 250 marks. 
General Studies I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and SocietyIndian culture, aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times, Modern Indian history and major personalities
The Freedom Struggle, important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country, Post‐independence consolidation and reorganization within the country
History of the world, industrial revolution, world wars, re-drawl of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies, capitalism, socialism, Salient features of Indian Society and Diversity of India
Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, Effects of globalization on Indian society, Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism, world’s physical geography,
Natural resources, factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries, Important Geophysical phenomena, earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone, 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

  • Paper III is also objective type which comprises questions on Constitution, Social Justice and International relations of India.
  • The questions hold a total weightage of 250 marks. 
General Studies II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relationsIndian Constitution historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure, Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels
Separation of powers, redressed mechanisms and institutions, Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries, Parliament and State Legislatures, structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers and privileges
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, Representation of People’s Act.
Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection of 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 India and its neighborhood relations. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India, Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries, Indian diaspora. Important International institutions, agencies and fora their structure, mandate.
Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi‐ judicial bodies. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors, Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors and charities.
Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi‐ judicial bodies. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors, Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities

Paper IV

  • Paper IV is named General Studies III and contains multiple choice questions.
  • The questions are based on Technology, Bio-Diversity and Disaster Management with a weightage of 250 marks. 
General Studies III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it. Government Budgeting.
Major crops cropping patterns, 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.
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 liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
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 technology. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, biotechnology 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 terrorism. Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Paper V

  • Candidates are asked questions based on Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude
  • Questions are objective in nature and hold a weightage of 250 marks. 
General Studies IV: Ethics, Integrity, and AptitudeIssues relating to integrity, probity in public life. 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; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values. Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; 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. Emotional intelligence‐ concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.
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.
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 Study

Paper VI and VII

  • Paper VI and Paper VII are optional subjects for Paper I and Paper II of UPSC Mains.
  • Candidates have to attempt both the Papers separately.
  • Each Paper holds a weightage of 250 marks respectively. 
TitleTopicsTotal Marks
Optional Subject- Paper 1 and 2Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science, Anthropology, Botany, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Commerce and Accountancy, Economics, Electrical Engineering, Geography, Geology, History, Law, Management, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Medical Science, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science and International Relations, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology, Statistics and Zoology250+250 (500)
Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English

IAS Interview/ Personality Test

  • All candidates who successfully clear IAS Prelims and Mains will be called for the interview round. Check IAS Cutoff
  • This stage is of total 275 marks.
  • Candidates will be asked some general interest questions.
  • Candidates can also choose one language in which they wish to be interviewed.
  • This interview will test a candidate’s mental caliber, mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgment, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity. and his personal suitability.
  • Candidates must secure at least 55% in this round.
  • A candidate securing 60% and above will most likely get a service of his choice.
  • Marks obtained by a candidate in IAS Interview will be added in the Mains stage. This will form the basis of the final merit list.

Read about How to prepare for IAS interview?

Civil Services (Mains) Exam Facts

No. of PapersTwo (2) – written test (9 papers) and an Interview test
Type of QuestionsSubjective
Total MarksWritten Test: 1750 marks | Interview Test: 275 marks (with no qualifying marks)
Duration of Exam3 hrs each
Medium of ExamHindi and English (other than the literature of language papers)
- The written exam will consist of 9 papers of conventional essay type out of which two papers will be of qualifying nature.
- Marks obtained in Interview for Personality Test will be counted for ranking.
- Candidates will be allotted to the various Services keeping in view their ranks in the examination and the preferences expressed by them for the various Services and posts.

IAS Mains Exam Pattern

  • IAS Mains has 7 papers out of which 5 Papers are compulsory and 2 Papers are Optional Language Papers (A & B)
  • For paper A, candidate has to choose one of the Indian Language that is included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. Paper B will have questions from English.
  • Questions will be objective and subjective in nature, depending on the paper.
  • Each paper is of 250 marks. 
  • The marks obtained in the qualifying papers are not counted in the formation of IAS Merit List.
  • The question paper is bilingual in nature.
  • The total time duration of IAS Mains is 3 hours.
  • Blind candidates will be given 20 minutes for each paper.

Here is the brief about all the papers in IAS Mains:

Paper 1Essay writing250
Paper 2General Studies I Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society250
Paper 3General Studies II Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations250
Paper 4General Studies III Technology, Economic Development, Bio‐diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management250
Paper 5General Studies IV Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude250
Paper 6Optional Subject – Paper 1250
Paper 7Optional Subject – Paper 2250
Personal Interview275
Grand Total2025

Sample Questions for IAS Mains

sample questions for ias mains

Language Medium/ Litrature of Languages

SindhiDevanagari or Arabic
SanthaliDevanagari or Olchiki
    Note:  For Santhali language, question paper will be printed in Devanagari script; but candidates will be free to answer either in Devanagari script or in Olchiki.

    IAS Mains Paper Analysis

    IAS Mains is a written and descriptive exam. Given below is the overall IAS Mains Exam Analysis of previous year:

    • Last year, UPSC continued the trend of asking questions related to gender issues. It desires candidates with views about the burning socio-economic themes. Most of the essays were based on current affairs.
    • In GS Paper II, questions from Governance dominated the question paper. The exam was analyzed to be difficult than last 3 years. It is advised to cover topic wise syllabus and balance preparation of current affairs with theoretical knowledge.
    • GS Paper III is generally easier than Paper II. The theme was simple but relevant for the post of an administrator.
    • GS Paper IV, practice of previous year sample papers will aid the preparation and help you score well. Also, this paper gives equal emphasis on analytical and factual themes.

    Read on to know complete and updated IAS Syllabus for Prelims and Mains and also some useful books to score better marks in IAS.

    IAS Preparation Books

    It is very much important for a candidate who appears for IAS to choose the right kind of books. They cover all important topics that are covered in IAS Syllabus. These books help you understand the pattern of the exam more effectively. Given below is a list of some important IAS Books that are must to refer for a better score.

    Book TitleAuthor/Publication
    History Of Modern India (History)Bipan Chandra
    India’s Struggle For Independence (History)Bipan Chandra
    India’s Ancient Past (History)R.S. Sharma
    History Of Medieval India (History)Satish Chandra
    The Wonder That Was India (Culture)A.L. Bhasham
    Indian Art and Culture (Culture)Nitin Singhania
    Geography of India (Geography)Majid Husain
    Oxford School Atlas (Geography)Oxford
    Certificate Physical and Human Geography (Geography)Goh Cheng Leong
    Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations (Polity)M. Laxmikanth
    Indian Economy (Economy)Ramesh Singh
    Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure (Environment)Rajagopalan
    Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Mains (Environment)Khuller
    CSAT Paper – 2 Manual by TMH or CSAT-IIArihant
    Verbal & Non-Verbal ReasoningR. S. Aggarwal

    *The article might have information for the previous academic years, which will be updated soon subject to the notification issued by the University/College

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    Bansuklang Marbaniang

    I'm from an english medium background,i never took any other languages besides english during my school and college days ,so for paper 6 which is optional How do i give this exam?

    02 Feb, 2019 00:20
    Shobhna Chaturvedi

    Hi Bansuklang, kindly contact the organization to find relevant guidance to your query.

    02 Feb, 2019 10:52

    sir is language and english are diffrent have diffrent paper or or we have option to choose from..

    25 Jan, 2019 00:20
    Sarthak Mahajan

    Hi Kavita, Yes, There are two separate qualifying exams i.e. Paper A (Indian Language) and Paper B (English).

    25 Jan, 2019 11:03

    I'm an BdS intern, can I apply fir this exam now. And do we prepare by online coaching. Is it useful

    04 Jan, 2019 18:01
    Monika Content

    Hi Geetanjali, You may Please contact to this Number:- 011-23098543 / 23385271 / 23381125 / 23098591 for getting the information about your query.

    15 Feb, 2019 12:43
    Vaishali sharma

    I m a final year student..

    29 Dec, 2018 00:20
    Akansha Expert

    Hi Vaishali, You may please let me know how can I assist you?

    29 Dec, 2018 10:30
    Sarang PickerOnline

    You have shared such a good post, thanks for sharing. Its very helpful for me.

    27 Oct, 2018 15:55
    Sanjana yadav

    I am 28 years old ,and graduate from even I am married and having two child but I am not satisfied for all those and want to job in government sectors .then I try my best in civil services .so I ask this time can be done civil exam

    16 Oct, 2018 00:20
    Akansha Expert

    Hi Sanjana, You may please check this link for getting the IAS Civil Exam detail.

    16 Oct, 2018 11:43


    12 Sep, 2018 00:20
    Akansha Expert

    Hi Ankit, please check this link for getting the Exam Pattern for IAS Entrance Exam.

    12 Sep, 2018 15:32
    Kritika Gupta

    Can you suggest some tips to prepare for IAS Exams General Science section?

    17 May, 2017 17:02
    Shubham garg

    Kindly provide some examples for essay writing (Paper 1) in IAS Mains Exam??

    17 May, 2017 11:50
    Vaishali Expert

    Hi Shubham, please find the link and check Mains 2016 Question Paper for Essay

    17 May, 2017 15:37
    Soumya Sehgal

    Is there any set syllabus for IAS interview?

    17 May, 2017 11:34
    Vaishali Expert

    Hi Soumya, Please find the link and check IAS Syllabus

    17 May, 2017 15:12

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