IAS Syllabus for Prelims and Main, Pattern and Books

Lokesh Gupta Lokesh Gupta
Content Curator

IAS Exam is conducted in 3 successive stages- Prelims, Main and Interview test. The prelims stage is an objective test of 400 marks whereas Main is subjective paper of 1750 marks followed by personality test of 275 marks. IAS Prelims is qualifying in nature while performance in main and interview round determine the merit of successful candidates. Check IAS Exam Pattern

Both prelims and main exam have different syllabi viz:

  • Stage 1: IAS Preliminary Exam – 2 papers of 200 marks each
  • Stage 2: IAS Main Exam – Written exam (9 papers)  
  • Stage 3: Interview Round – 275 marks

The Indian Administrative Service exam 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.

Download IAS Practice Papers now

IAS Prelims Syllabus 2019

  • UPSC civil services preliminary exam is the first stage of IAS selection process, candidates must clear prelims to qualify for the main 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(-)

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 2Civil Services Aptitude Test200
Total2 Papers400

Sample Questions for IAS Prelims

sample questions for ias prelims

IAS Prelims Paper Analysis 2019

IAS Prelims comprises of 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, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Ecology, 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 Main Syllabus 2019

  • This paper assesses candidates’ academic expertise in their specialized subject.
  • It also tests their 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 number of vacancies to be filled in the year through this examination.
  • The number of candidates to be invited 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 Main (Reference Links)

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

IAS Main History SyllabusIAS Main Medical Science Syllabus
IAS Main Geography SyllabusIAS Main Philosophy Syllabus
IAS Main Electrical Engineering SyllabusIAS Main Law Syllabus
IAS Main Economics SyllabusIAS Main Mathematics Syllabus
IAS Main 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 the 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 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 carries 250 marks.
  • The questions are based on Technology, Bio-Diversity and Disaster Management. 
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
  • The questions 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 Main.
  • Candidates have to attempt both the Papers separately.
  • Each Paper holds a weightage of 250 marks. 
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 Main 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 calibre, 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 Main stage. This will form the basis of the final merit list.

Read about How to prepare for IAS interview?

Civil Services (Main) 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 Main Exam Pattern 2019

  • IAS Main has 9 papers out of which 7 Papers are compulsory and 2 are optional papers that candidates have to choose. 
  • Out of the 7 papers, 2 are language papers (A and 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 subjective in nature.
  • Each paper is of 250 marks while language papers are of 300 marks each. 
  • The marks obtained in the language papers are not counted in the formation of IAS Merit List as they are qualifying  in nature.
  • The total time duration of IAS Main exam is 3 hours.
  • Blind candidates will be given 20 minutes extra for each paper.

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

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/ Literature 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 Main Paper Analysis 2018

    IAS Mains is a written and descriptive exam. Given below is the overall IAS Main 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 years’ sample papers gave an edge to the candidates. 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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    Do i only need to consider the books provided in your list for both UPSC /MAINS or i need to outsource as well

    27 Nov, 2019 00:20
    Shobhna Chaturvedi

    Hi Neha, the books suggested are just based on opinion of students. You must outsource in order to explore the possibilities of the types of questions and easier methods to solve them.

    27 Nov, 2019 16:54
    Mantosh Kumar

    I.A.S. How to fill the exam form and what qualification is required for it, how much marks should be sufficient in Matriculation, Intermediate and Graduation.

    30 Oct, 2019 22:34
    Shobhna Chaturvedi

    Hi Mantosh, any student who has done graduation will be considered eligible for this exam. However, you may check other Eligibility Criteria in detail for this exam from here.

    31 Oct, 2019 15:10
    Renu Yadav

    Hello sir, my query is that when I was in 10th math subject was not there but science and English was there , so can I give the IAS Exam Please help me out of this question I have great desire to become an IAS Officer

    23 Oct, 2019 00:20
    Shobhna Chaturvedi

    Hi Renu, yes, you are eligible to apply for this exam as there is no subject specification for subjects in class 10th. However, you can check other Eligibility Criteria for the exam from here.

    23 Oct, 2019 12:00

    i need all information about gpsc

    01 Oct, 2019 00:20
    Preethi Sagar

    i am civil engineer can i take my optional subject as other rather than civil engineering

    30 Jul, 2019 20:15
    Akhil Pasanth

    Hi Preethi, Yes you can take an optional subject rather than civil engineering.

    31 Jul, 2019 10:36
    Akshara S B

    I am having doubts regarding upsc exam

    17 Jul, 2019 00:20
    Akhil Pasanth

    Hi Akshara, Please let me know what kind of doubts you are facing?

    17 Jul, 2019 11:09

    I am 12th pass student from science subject. I do not know about UPSC EXAM prepration. so, please give me advise about UPSC EXAM prepration. And also give me advise which books are better for this exam. And also give me advise which place is better for coathing in INDIA

    10 Jul, 2019 00:20
    mannu singh

    Hi Suman, Please check this link: UPSC exam preparation. As per your convenience, you can choose the coaching center.

    11 Jul, 2019 16:42
    Shweta saun

    Hello sir I'm a B-tech 1st year but I can't understand about IAS exam syllabus ---------- so plz sir suggest me

    01 May, 2019 11:56
    Shobhna Chaturvedi

    Hi Shweta, students who have graduated or are in final year of their graduation are eligible to apply for this exam. Syllabus of the exam is mentioned above in the article, you may take reference from there.

    01 May, 2019 12:13
    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

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