UPSC Mains Syllabus 2021 | Download IAS Mains Syllabus PDF

UPSC Mains Syllabus is defined in the official notification released by the Union Public Service Commission. The commission conducts Civil Services Mains for candidates who get shortlisted after the Prelims round. The UPSC Mains exam is designed to test the academic expertise as well as the comprehensive skills of the candidates. Hence, it is descriptive in nature. Through this examination, the commission intends to understand the intellectual acumen and coherent thought-process of the candidates.

Since the UPSC Mains syllabus is extremely vast, it is imperative that aspirants must develop a deep understanding of all the subjects for UPSC. For that, you need to read the UPSC Mains Syllabus extremely carefully. It is important to mind-map the topics included in the UPSC Main syllabus. Further, It is extremely crucial to remain syllabus-focussed while preparing for the exam in order to secure selection. You can achieve both of these by simply downloading the micro topics list of UPSC Mains Syllabus.

UPSC Mains Syllabus | Subject-wise Syllabus For UPSC Mains Exam

Paper A and Paper B: Qualifying Papers On Indian Languages and English

The aim of the paper is to test the candidate's ability to read and understand serious discursive prose and express ideas clearly and correctly, in English and the Indian Language concerned. The pattern of questions would be as follows:-

  • Comprehension of given passages
  • Precis Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary
  • Short Essays in Indian Languages:-
  • Comprehension of given passages
  • Precis Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary
  • Short Essays
  • Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa.

Note 1: The Papers on Indian Languages and English are of Matriculation or equivalent standard, and of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking.

Note 2: The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where the translation is involved).

Also Read | Paper-A: Compulsory Indian Language | Paper-B: English

UPSC Mains Syllabus For PAPER-I Essay

Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to arrange their ideas in an orderly fashion and write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.

Read more | Essay Strategy for UPSC Mains

UPSC Mains Syllabus For PAPER-II General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society

  • Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature & Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
  • The Freedom Struggle - its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  • History of the World will include events from the 18th century, such as the Industrial Revolution, World Wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc., - their forms and effects on the society. Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India. Role of women and women's organizations, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies. Effects of globalization on Indian society - Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
  • Salient features of the world's physical geography.
  • 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); 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.

Career Launcher brings to you an exclusive course on Art and Culture that will surely help you in understanding and retaining the concepts from this particular area.

Read more | How to prepare for GS-I for UPSC Mains

UPSC Mains Syllabus For PAPER-III General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations

  • Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, 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, dispute redressal mechanisms, and institutions.
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries, Parliament and State Legislatures - structure, functioning, the conduct of business, powers & privileges, and issues arising out of these.
  • 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.
  • 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, Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Development processes and the development industry - the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Center and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  • Issues related to development and management of Social Sector/Services in the field of Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Issues related 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 and/or affecting India's interests Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

Read more | How to prepare GS-II for UPSC Mains

UPSC Mains Syllabus For PAPER-IV General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, 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 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, zero-budget farming;
  • 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 Achievement of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  • 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 terrorism Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

Read more| How to prepare for GS-III for UPSC Mains

UPSC Mains Syllabus For 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. 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 the 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 Studies on the above issues.

Read more | How to prepare for GS IV for UPSC Mains

UPSC Mains Syllabus For Paper-VI and Paper VII: Optional Subject

  • Optional Subject - Paper I(250 Marks) & Paper-II (250 marks)
  • Any ONE subject from the following subjects may be chosen by the candidate for Paper VI and Paper VII: Agriculture, 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 Zoology.
  • Apart from these, candidates can also choose literature of any ONE of these 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.

Check out the UPSC Mains syllabus for optional subjects in linked pages:


Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science




Civil Engineering

Commerce and Accountancy


Eletrical Engineering







Mechanical Engineering

Medical Science



Political Science and International Relations


Public Administration




Read more | How to choose optional subjects for UPSC

Exam Pattern of UPSC CSE Mains

The UPSC Mains Exam for Civil Services consists of 9 papers including various General Studies subjects for UPSC. The Mains Exam is conducted across 5-7 days. Only those candidates who have qualified Prelims are allowed to sit for UPSC Mains Examination. A separate hall ticket is issued to the qualified candidates. Since the prelims exam is qualifying in nature, it is not calculated in final merit. Hence, the marks obtained in UPSC CSE Mains are extremely crucial for the determination of the final rank.

The UPSC CSE Mains is of descriptive nature and candidates are required to write the answers in the answer sheets provided by the UPSC.




Total marks

Paper A

Compulsory Indian language

3 hours


Paper B


3 hours


Paper I


3 hours



General Studies I

3 hours


Paper III

General Studies II

3 hours


Paper IV

General Studies III

3 hours


Paper V

General Studies IV

3 hours


Paper VI

Optional I

3 hours


Paper VII

Optional II

3 hours


Check detailed UPSC Mains exam pattern for understanding the pattern of the UPSC exam and also to understand the subjects for UPSC and the weightage it carries in the overall scheme of papers. 

Check out our Mains Explainer page to get detailed articles on current topics.

How To Prepare UPSC Mains Syllabus?

UPSC Mains Preparation effectively starts right in the beginning of your UPSC journey. Since the gap between Prelims and Mains is 2-3 months only, it is important to cover atleast 80% of UPSC Mains Syllabus before the Prelims. The preparation for UPSC Mains is not a stand-alone process. It has to happen in tandem with the Prelims preparation. However, unlike UPSC Prelims, UPSC Mains is a descriptive exam, hence, you also need to include answer-writing practice. Here’re some tips that will definitely help you covering the UPSC Main Syllabus effectively:

#Tip 1: Download UPSC Main Syllabus Micro List To Mind-Map The Syllabus

Since the UPSC Mains Syllabus is extremely extensive, it is important to remain syllabus specific as much as possible. The simplest way to do that is to mind map the syllabus using the micro topics list. So, download the UPSC Mains Syllabus micro list and chalk out your study plan accordingly.

#Tip 2: Understand The Art Of Answer-Writing and Focus On Keywords

It is important to understand the keywords in the questions before writing the answers. Hence learn the art of answer-writing. You can enroll in our Mains answer-writing course to do so. Practice answer-writing and get your answer copies evaluated by top mentors to get personalized feedback. 

#Tip 3: Practice Answer Writing & Get Your Answer Evaluated From Experts

Answer-writing practice is the key element in UPSC Mains preparation. To start with, you can write the Hindu editorials in your own words to improve your answer writing skills. Next, solve the previous year papers. Refer to the toppers’ answer copies to understand how to structure your answers. It is important to get your answer copies evaluated from your seniors or mentors who could provide you valuable feedback on how to improve your answer-writing.

#Tip 4: Revise Extensively

Revise your notes and constantly update them with current affairs. It is always a good idea to link the current happenings in your answers to support your opinions. Check out our Mains Explainer page to get detailed articles on current topics.The content and presentation both play an important role in overall answer-writing. Revision helps in getting a good grasp over the content. Hence, make sure you consistently revise your notes to better your answers.

#Tip 5: Write Mock Test To Manage The Time

Most students get overwhelmed with the number of questions in the UPSC Mains. Hence, it is important to get used to the paper pattern to manage the time effectively. Write sufficient mock tests and analyze your performance to constantly improve your answer-writing skills.

Also Read | Full Preparation Strategy For UPSC Mains Syllabus

Candidates should carefully go through the UPSC Exam syllabus and start their preparation very strategically in order to complete the lengthy UPSC Mains Syllabus 2021 in time. Alternatively, you can rely on the comprehensive and exhaustive course that Career Launcher offers for the preparation of the UPSC Mains Exam 2021.

FAQs Regarding UPSC Mains Syllabus

There are a total of nine papers in the UPSC Mains Exam including two language papers that are qualifying in nature, one essay paper, four General Studies papers, and two optional papers.

Language papers A and B are qualifying papers in the UPSC Mains Exam. The candidates need to score 25% of the total marks in these papers.

The General Studies-I paper covers History, Art and Culture, and Geography. You can check out the detailed syllabus, booklist, and strategy to prepare this paper here.

General Studies-II paper covers Polity, International Relations, and Governance. If prepared well, you can score well in this paper. Check out the booklist, detailed syllabus and strategy for General Studies-II here.

General Studies-III paper covers Economic Development, Environment, Disaster Management, and Science n Technology. Majorly, the questions related to current affairs are asked in this paper. Read more about the booklist, syllabus, and strategy here.

General Studies-IV covers Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. It is one of the highest-scoring papers in the UPSC Mains Syllabus. If prepared well, it can cover up your average performance in other papers. Check the syllabus, strategy, and booklist to prepare for this paper here.

You can trust us as your mentor for your UPSC preparation! We promise to deliver you the best learning aid for this coveted exam. Check out our UPSC courses here.

Essay writing can make or break your cumulative UPSC Mains Score. Hence, read the topper-approved Essay writing tips for UPSC here. It will help you in preparing for this paper.

There are different parameters that you must consider while opting for an optional subject. Your main focus should be your interest in the subject. However, if you have a neutral opinion for more than one subject, read our UPSC optional subject guide to know about the different parameters that must be considered for choosing an optional subject.

No, you can choose any optional subject from the list provided in the UPSC notification.

It is extremely important to score at least 25% marks in the language papers, otherwise, you will not be able to qualify for the UPSC Mains Exam irrespective of your performance in other papers.

Essay Paper, General Studies papers, and optional papers are calculated for the UPSC Mains cutoff. Hence, the UPSC Mains cutoff is declared out of a total of 1750 marks.

Candidates should carefully go through the UPSC Exam syllabus and start their preparation very strategically in order to complete the lengthy UPSC Mains Syllabus 2021 in time. Alternatively, you can rely on the comprehensive UPSC courses that Career Launcher offers for the preparation of the UPSC Mains Exam 2021.