UPSC Civil Services Exam
Pattern of UPSC

UPSC Exam Pattern

Regarded amongst the toughest exams in the world; UPSC. Here’s a deep insight on the exam pattern of UPSC to crack it with clean path in mind.

February 21, 2022

By Tanu Kapoor

Career Expert & Blogger


Exam Stages & Pattern of UPSC

The Civil Services exam is carried through a three-stage process namely, Prelims, Mains and Interview. While the prelims section tests the basic understanding of topics from an array of subjects like Science, Economics, Social Studies, etc., and aptitudes like verbal ability and comprehension, the Mains UPSC syllabus is much more advanced and comprehensive. The following sections shed more light on the complete exam pattern and the topics covered under each paper.






General Studies-I

Qualifying [Not Counted towards Final Ranking]Candidates have to qualify for the cut-off as declared by the commission


2 hours

General Studies-II (CSAT)

Qualifying [Not Counted towards Final Ranking, i.e, only 33% marks required]


2 hours





3 hours


General Studies I


3 hours


General Studies II


3 hours


General Studies III


3 hours

Paper V

General Studies IV


3 hours

Paper VI

Optional Subject Paper I


3 hours

Paper VII

Optional Subject Paper II


3 hours

Paper VIII

Paper A-Indian Language* [Qualifying Paper]


3 hours

Paper IX

Paper B-English Language [Qualifying Paper]


3 hours


Personality Test




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UPSC Syllabus Prelims

Comprising of two papers on general studies, the preliminary section of the Civil Services Exam acts as a screening test of candidates for eventual selection. Ranging from questions on current affairs, Indian and World Polity, Governance, History, and Basic Sciences to questions testing mental ability, communication and problem-solving skills, the UPSC Syllabus for prelims is vast and only a handful of candidates go through the next stage. Tabulated below are the topic covered under this level:

UPSC Syllabus for General Studies Paper (Prelims Paper I)

  • General Science
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, etc
  • General Issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change
  • Current Events of National and International Importance
  • History of India and Indian National Development
  • India and World Geography
  • Economic and Social Development

UPSC Syllabus for CSAT Paper (Prelims Paper-II)

  • General Mental Ability
  • Logical Reasoning
  • Decision Making and Problem Solving
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Basic Numeracy
  • Data Interpretation

UPSC Syllabus Mains

Coming to the Mains section of the UPSC syllabus, it consists of 9 papers out of which the English Paper and Indian Language Paper are qualifying but securing at least 33% on both is necessary. Further, candidates need to select an optional subject on which two papers of 300 marks each shall be conducted.





General Studies I

Indian Heritage & Culture, Modern Indian History, Indian Society & Issues, Indian Flora & Fauna, Indian Industries World History & Geography, Disasters, etc

General Studies II

Indian Constitution, Union & States, Indian Political System- Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, Representation of People’s Act, Constitutional Bodies, Govt Policies & Welfare Schemes, Issues, International Issues and Relations, Transnational Institutions, etc

General Studies III

Indian Economy & its Issues-planning, development, mobilization of resources, growth and employment, land Reforms in India, Indian Infrastructure, Investment Models, Technological developments, Security Issues, Biodiversity, Environment, Disaster Management, etc.

General Studies IV

Ethics and HR, Emotional intelligence, Moral and Political Attitude, Contribution of leading Thinkers and Philosophers of the World, Public Service Values, Probity in Governance, Case Studies

Optional Subject Paper I & II

Any One Subject from History; Geography; Economics; Sociology; Public Administration; Philosophy; Psychology; Political Science; Agriculture; Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science; Anthropology; Botany; Chemistry; Civil Engineering; Commerce; Electrical Engineering; Geology; Law; Mathematics, Management; Mechanical Engineering; Medical Science; Physics; Statistics; Zoology or Literature {English, Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Punjabi Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani, Oriya, Nepali, Santhali, Manipuri, Marathi, Maithilli}


Paper A-Indian Language* [Qualifying Paper]

English, Hindi*, Bengali, Assamese, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Sanskrit*, Sindhi**, Punjabi Bodo*, Dogri*, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani*, Oriya, Nepali*, Santhali***, Manipuri, Marathi*, Maithili*
*Devanagari** Devanagari or Arabic*** Devanagari or Olchiki [Question paper in Devanagari script but candidates can answer in either Devanagari or Olchiki]

Paper B-English Language [Qualifying Paper]

Essay, Reading Comprehension, Precis Writing, and Translation

List of UPSC Syllabus for Optional Subjects

The UPSC Mains syllabus contains a list of 48 elective subjects, including literature in various languages. Candidates must select one of the “optional subjects” from the following list of subjects:

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Economics
  • Law
  • Management
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Psychology
  • Physics
  • Medical Science
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Zoology, etc

Public Administration Optional for UPSC

There are mainly two papers in the Public Administration optional for UPSC with Paper 1 having 12 and Paper 2 having 14 subjects.

Public Administration Paper 1 – Administrative Theory

Public Administration Paper 2 –
Indian Administration


Evolution of Indian Administration

Administrative Thought

Philosophical and Constitutional Framework of Government

Administrative Behaviour

Public Sector Undertakings


Plans and Priorities


Union Government and Administration

Administrative Law

Civil Services

Development Dynamics

Financial Management

Comparative Public Administration

State Government and Administration

Public Policy

District Administration since Independence

Personnel Administration

Administrative Reforms Since Independence

Technique of Administrative Empowerment

Rural Development

Financial Administration

Urban Local Government


Law and Order Administration


Significant Issues in Indian Administration


Main topics

Sub Topics

Economic Growth and Development

The basic concept and definition of economy and economics. Its uses and transfer of resources, distributive effects, macro and microeconomic policy, micro-macro balance, the distributive impact of economic policies, development versus growth, determinant of growth and development, concepts such as HPI/MPI, HDI, PQLI, GEM, GDI/GII, TAI, Green index, sustainable development, India’s ranking in the various indices.


Definitions, causes, distribution-deprivation, income versus calories, measurement of poverty, the status of poverty, eradication programmes, poverty and resource policy, tribal rights and issues, livelihood mission.


Definition, relevance, types, financial inclusion, recent initiatives.


Census Data, populations by gender, by state, by age group, socio-economic status, caste, religion, literacy levels, etc. Trends in human development – interstate comparison, etc.

Fiscal policy

Definition, component, receipts, revenue and capital account, tax revenue, expenditure, budget.

Features of Indian Economy

DIvision of economic activities, poverty, unemployment, HDR, measures to eradicate poverty

Basic Economic Indicators

National income, price index, production, population, foreign trade


Growth, census, consumption pattern (energy)

National income

Concepts, Methods of Calculation


Crops, seasons, agricultural credit agencies, Kisan Credit agencies, land reforms, insurance, green, white, blue, yellow revolutions, irrigation


Industrial policies (1948, 1956, 1991), small scale industries, key industries, industrial sickness, the different committees, disinvestment, PSU policy, industrial finance

Foreign trade

Composition, direction, EXIM policy, WTO, the balance of payments, measures to improve foreign trade

Money and Banking

Money market, credit control (different rates), commercial banks, cooperative banks, NBFCs, committees, SEBI, stock market developments, the insurance industry, new banking sector reforms, money supply measures, inflation, deflation

Planning commission

Five-year plans

Public finance

Finance commission, taxation, deficit financing, public spending and debt

Anthropology Syllabus UPSC

Anthropology is one of the important topics of UPSC and it’s important to know the syllabus for better preparation and building exam strategy. Here are some of the topics covered in the Anthropology syllabus for UPSC:

  1. Meaning, scope, and development of Anthropology.
  2. Relationship with other disciplines: History, Economics, Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, Life Science, Medical Science.
  3. Main branches of Anthropology, their scope, and relevance
  4. Human Evolution and the Emergence of Man
  5. Phylogenetic status, characteristics
  6. Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology. Chronology: Relative and Absolute Dating methods
  7. Characteristics of Primates
  8. The Nature of Society & Culture
  9. The biological basis of life
  10. Marriage, Family & Kinship
  11. Political organization and Social Control
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