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UPSC Prelims Syllabus 2021

UPSC Civil Services Exam 2021 Syllabus (IAS Syllabus 2021)

The Union Public Service Commission conducts the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination every year, which is common for the all candidates applying for Civil Services Examination and Indian Forest Service Examination. This exam acts a primary mechanism for selection of candidates for the Civil Services (Main) Examination. Please download the common upsc syllabus pdf for both the exams.


UPSC Syllabus 2021 pdf [Download]


Civil Services Prelims Exam 2021 (objective) will be conducted on 10th October 2021. Candidates are expected to check the eligibility criteria before going to apply. UPSC eligibility. One of the primary criteria is that candidates must have Bachelors degree in any discipline from a recognized university. Candidates appearing in the final year exams can also apply. The Main Exam (written) 2021 have been not announced.

The UPSC Prelims exam is meant to serve as a screening test only. The marks of Paper 1 are alone considered for making the merit list for this exam. Only those candidates who have qualified the Prelims can write the Mains exam. The marks scored in the Prelim exam is not counted in the final tally of the Mains exam or the Interview.

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The number of candidates who qualify the Prelims Exam is about twelve to thirteen times of the total of the approximate number of vacancies that has to be filled in that year in the various Services and Posts.

It is mandatory for the candidate to appear in both the papers of Prelim exam to be qualified for the evaluation purposes. The candidate will be disqualified in case he or she appears in only one paper of the Prelims exam.

What is the syllabus for Civil Service Preliminary Examination (2021)?

The Civil Services Preliminary exam comprises of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each (General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II). The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type. The marks in prelims will not be counted for final ranking, but just for qualification for the main exam. Its a one day exam with two sessions which in offline mode, where you get to mark your answers on the given space in the question paper.

UPSC Prelims Syllabus

Paper 1 - General Studies:

This includes areas like; Indian National Movement, Indian Polity, Basic Economic Understanding, Geography. While these are static part of the syllabus, the dynamic part includes current affairs, General Knowledge and that does not proper definition, thus making the syllabus quite vast.

Paper II - Aptitude test (CSAT):

Paper II is dynamic in nature and includes mathematics, reasoning, analytical ability, and interpersonal skills. All these areas require spot mental ability.

The Paper II is now of only qualifying nature and its mark is not counted while making the merit list. However, it is mandatory for the candidate to score minimum 33 per cent in this paper to qualify the Prelims exam.

The question papers are set both in Hindi and English. Blind candidates are allowed extra time of twenty minutes for each paper.

How to Prepare for Civil Service Prelims Examination

UPSC Civil Services Exam 2021 Prelims Syllabus Pattern

Paper - I Syllabus

General Studies - This paper marks will be counted for getting to write the Civil Services Mains exam. 200 Marks Two Hours

Paper- II (CSAT) Syllabus

Aptitude test (CSAT) - This paper is of qualifying nature, but candidate must score at least 33% marks in this paper. However, marks of this paper are not counted for writing the Mains examination. 200 Marks Two Hours

Negative Marking:

AS per the UPSC prelims syllabus, there is "Negative Marking" in the Prelims exam. For every wrong answer, 1/3rd of marks allotted for every question will be reduced from the correct tally of score. So candidates need to be extra careful while making wild guesses in the prelim exams.

UPSC Prelims Syllabus

General Studies Prelims syllabus Paper-I:

UPSC Prelims syllabus Paper-II (CSAT):

    Cracking the CSAT Paper-II
  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problemsolving
  • General 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)

Note 1: The questions in both Paper-I (current affairs) and Paper-II (aptitude test) will be of multiple choice, objective type for 200 marks each and the time allotted for each paper is two hours.

Note 2: The CSAT aptitude test or Paper-II will be a qualifying paper only with a minimum of 33% to be secured to qualify for the Mains exam.

Note 3: It is mandatory for the candidate to appear in both the papers of Civil Services (Prelim) examination. The candidate will be disqualified in case he or she appears in only one paper of the (Prelims) exam. So appearing in both the papers is mandatory for the evaluation of the (Prelims) exam.

Detailed Syllabus for UPSC CSE Prelims - General Studies Paper I:

History of India and Indian National Movement

Note - The syllabus of UPSC Prelims GS 1 mentions that the paper will have questions on “History of India and Indian National Movement”. This is a broad classification and to prepare History as per UPSC Prelims syllabus, candidates need to prepare following topics:

Ancient History of India
  • Prehistoric cultures in India
  • Indus Valley Civilization. Origins- the different phases- society, economy, and culture- Contacts with other cultures- factors lead to the decline.
  • Geographical distribution and characteristics of pastoral and farming society.
  • Vedic society-Vedic texts- change from Rigvedic to later Vedic phases.
  • Vedic society Religion- Upanishad thought-Political and social organisation, the evolution of the Varna system and monarchy.
  • Formation of the State and urbanisation, from the Mahajanapadas to the Nandas.
  • Buddhism and Jainism- Factors for the spread of Buddhism.
  • The Mauryan Empire- Chandragupta and Megasthenes.
  • Ashoka and his inscriptions, his dhamma, culture, administration, and art
  • Society of Post-Mauryan India, BC 200- AD 300- Evolution of Jatis.
  • The Satavahanas and formation of the state in the Peninsula.
  • Sangam texts and society.
  • Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Parthians, Kushans, Kanishka-Contacts with the outer world.
  • Different Religion- Bhagavatism, Shaivism, Mahayana Buddhism and Hinayana, Jainism and Culture and art.
  • The Guptas and their descendants.
  • Literature Science, Arts, Economy, and society -Modification in the political organisation of empire.
Medieval Indian History
  • Early Medieval India. Major dynasties; Political and Agrarian organisation. Status of women, Extent of social mobility. The Arabs in Sind and the Ghaznavids.
  • Cultural trends, 750-1200, Religious circumstances: the significance of temples and monastic institutions; Sankaracharya; Islam; Sufism. Art and architecture. Literature and Science.
  • 13th and 14th Centuries: Ghorian invasions reasons and consequences. Delhi Sultanate under the Slave Rulers. Aladdin Khalji: invasion; administrative, agrarian and economic measures. Muhammad Tughlug’s innovations. Firuz Tughluq and the decline of the Delhi Sultanate. Development of urbanisation and commerce. Spiritual movements in Hinduism and Islam. Literature. Architecture, Technological changes
  • The 15th and early 16th Century: Key Provincial dynasties; Vijayanagara Empire. The Lodhis, First stage of the Mughal Empire: The Sur Empire and administration. Monotheistic movements: Kabir; Guru Nanak and Sikhism; Bhakti. The spread of regional literature. Art and Culture.
  • The Mughal Empire, Akbar: invasion, administrative measures, Policy of Sulh-I-Kul. Jagir and Mansab systems; Jahangir, Shahjahan, and Aurangzeb: extension of Mughal empire in the Deccan; religious policies. Shivaji. Persian and regional literature. Religious idea: Abul Fazl; Maharashtra dharma. Architecture. Painting. Economy: state of affairs of peasants and artisans, escalation in trade; trade with Europe. Social stratification and position of women.
  • The decline of the Mughal Empire, Reason behind the decline. Maratha power under the Peshwas. The Afghans. Regional states. Most important components of composite culture. Sawai Jai Singh, astronomer. The rise of the Urdu language.
Modern India -Indian National Movement
  • British extension: The Carnatic Wars, invasion of Bengal. Mysore and its confrontation to British expansion: The three Anglo-Maratha Wars. Regulating and Pitt’s India Acts. Early composition of the British raj.
  • Economic Impact of the British Raj: land revenue settlements like Zamindari, Ryotwari, Mahalwari; Deindustrialisation; Railways and commercialisation of agriculture; increase of landless labour.
  • Cultural encounter and social changes: the inception of western education and modern thoughts. Indian Renaissance, religious and social reform movements; Social reforms events before 1857. Development of Indian middle class; the vernacular press and its effects: the rise of modern literature in Indian languages.
  • Confrontation to British rule: Early uprisings; The 1857 Revolt-reasons, character, course and result.
  • Indian Freedom struggle the first stage: Growth of national consciousness; creation of Associations; Establishment of the Indian National Congress and its Moderate stage; Swadeshi Movement; Economic Nationalism; The development of Extremism and the split in Congress; The policy of Divide and Rule; Congress-League Pact of 1916.
  • Gandhian thoughts and techniques of mass mobilisation- Civil Disobedience, the Khilafat movement, Non-Cooperation Movement, and Quit India Movement; another strand in the National Movement-Revolutionaries, Subhash Chandra Bose, and the Indian National Army.
  • Separatist movements in Indian politics- the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League; Partition and Independence; The post -1945 developments.
  • India independence to 1964. A parliamentary, democratic, secular. Jawaharlal Nehru’s vision, Foreign policy of Non-alignment, Planning and state-controlled industrialization. Agrarian modification.
  • The art, culture and architecture in the ancient and medieval times are quite crucial from the IAS exam perspective, although it isn’t explicitly mentioned in the syllabus for UPSC Prelims.

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

Indian and World Geography
  • The basic idea about India - Location, latitude, longitude, time zone, - Neighbouring countries- States and its position and the states on International boundaries-– Important straits
  • Physical features of India - The Himalayas - Geological Formation - Physiographic divisions - Climate, Vegetation, Soil and Biodiversity - Major passes - Significance Recent issues
  • The Great North Indian plains- Geological Formation - Physiographic divisions - Climate, Vegetation, Soil and Biodiversity, Significance
  • Peninsular Plateau - Geological formation, Deccan plateau, Central Highlands, Western and Eastern Ghats - Indian Desert- Coastal plains and Islands- Socio-economic issues related
  • River systems – Characteristics, comparison and significance- Himalayan rivers - Peninsular rivers - River basins- Hydro-Power projects, Power plants and Major Dams- Regional development and planning- West flowing and east-flowing rivers- Interlinking of rivers-
  • Climate in India – Monsoon- Driving mechanism- Effects of La-Nino and El-Nino- Recent theories-
  • Season of India
  • Cyclones-
  • Mineral and industries- Distribution of minerals- Industrial policies- Location factors- Issues and challenges of the industries- Industrial clusters
  • Agriculture and Allied-characteristics and Problems- Land utilization- Types of agriculture practices- Soils and Crops- Trends agriculture (Green revolution )- Irrigation- Major irrigation projects- - Land reforms - Government policies and schemes- Animal husbandry (livestock resources)
  • Natural vegetation and fauna- Characteristics, importance, comparison and significance, Classification of natural vegetation, Rainfall distribution- Wildlife sanctuaries- National Forest Policy - Biosphere reserve- National parks- Environmental issues- Red-listed species (in recent news)
  • Economic infrastructure, Transportation, Road(National Highways)- Rail- Air- Water(Major inland waterways) and its Significance, Power and energy sector, Sources of conventional and non-conventional energy, Energy conservation and crisis, Recent developments
  • Human Geography- Demographics, Recent census- 2011

World Geography & Physical Geography
World Geography & Physical Geography
  • Universe - Theories related to Solar System- Theories related to the formation of the universe- Recent updates on the same
  • The basic idea about Earth- The motion of the Earth – Rotation and Revolution - Latitudes and Longitudes- The inclination of the Earth’s Axis – effect on seasons- Solar Eclipse, Lunar Eclipse and Tides and their significance
  • Geomorphology- Earth’s movement (exo-genetic and endo-genetic) Earthquakes, volcanic activity- The basic idea about Continental Drift Theory, Plate Tectonics - Theory, Sea Floor Spreading –
  • Interior of the earth- Lithosphere- Interaction of lithosphere with other spheres- Boundaries and composition-
  • Mass Movements of landforms, erosion and deposits- Basic information about geographical landforms and their significance- Rock system and Classification of Rocks,
  • Climatology, Structure and composition of the atmosphere, Factors controlling the temperature distribution, Insolation and terrestrial radiation- Heat budget, Global warming and ozone layer, Humidity and condensation, Clouds ,Classification of clouds, Precipitation, Precipitation mechanism, Different types and forms of precipitation, Pressure belts- Atmospheric circulation- Winds, Planetary Winds, Seasonal and Local Winds, Cyclones Tropical and Temperate cyclone, Formation of cyclone, characteristics and impact- Jet streams, Various atmospheric phenomenon
  • The hydrosphere, Bottom relief of ocean, Salinity and temp variation, Ocean Currents, Ocean deposit, Ocean resources, Recent issues and development with ref to oceanography- Eg: UNCLOS,
  • Biosphere, Major Biomes, Flora and fauna- International organization for biodiversity, Conservation of Biodiversity- Recent issues
  • Economic geography - Map work - Places in News
Note– Part of Geography portion and Environmental Ecology overlap in the syllabus of UPSC Prelims.


Indian Polity and Governance- As per the UPSC Prelims Syllabus, Polity portion comprises Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc. Polity has a lot of static and dynamic elements, and it has an overlap with the syllabus of UPSC Prelims and Mains.

Indian Polity and Governance
  • Preamble, Features of preamble, 42nd Amendment, Swaran Singh committee,
  • Schedules, The basic idea about 12 schedules
  • Constitution of India, The basic idea about All articles, Historical Background, Drafting committee and the making of the Constitution, Influence of other constitutions, Its salient features
  • Union and its Territory- The basic idea about Article 1-4, State reorganisation and different Commissions, Federal nature, Recent issues
  • Citizenship- The basic idea about Article 5-11, PIO, NRI, OCI and Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Privileges available for Indian citizens and foreigners, Citizenship Amendment Act of 2016, New policies, schemes and recent changes in voting.
  • Fundamental Rights (FR), The basic idea about Article 12-35, A thorough understanding of Articles 14- 30 and Art. 32, Rights and privileges available to citizens of India only and both to citizens and foreigners, 44th amendment act- Different types of Writs, Enforcement and Exceptional cases with regard to FR’s, RTE and recent issues related to FR
  • Fundamental Duties(FD). Article 51A, Difference between FR and FD, Significance and Criticism, Enforcement of FD’s, Recent issues about FD
  • Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)- The basic idea about Article and Article 36-51 and Article 368- Sources and key features of DPSP- Classification of DPSP- Comparison/ conflicts between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles- Keshavananda Bharathi, Minerva Mills, Golaknath Case, Maneka Gandhi case.- Important Amendments- 42nd Amendment, 44th Amendment, and 97th amendment
  • Union - The basic idea about Article 52-73- Qualification and Election- Function and Powers- (Executive, Legislative, Financial, Judicial, Diplomatic, Military and Emergency Powers)n Resignation and impeachment
  • Role and responsibilities and relationship with Prime minister, Council of Minister, Cabinet ministers.- Prime minister and council of ministers- Basic idea about Article 74-75- Powers and Functions - Council of ministers- Resignation and Removal- Attorney general
  • Parliament- The basic idea about article related- Role and functions of the Parliament- Sessions, Motions, Parliamentary procedure – Summoning, Prorogation, Joint Sitting- Parliamentary proceedings like Question Hour, Zero Hour, and Adjournment Motion, etc. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha - Special powers of Rajya Sabha Anti-defection law and 10th schedule- Parliamentary Privileges- Bill and lawmaking procedure- Budget, funds and it’s summary- Parliamentary Committees
  • Judiciary- The basic idea about article related to the judiciary. Powers of Supreme court and high court- Qualification and appointment- Removal procedure- Recent controversy, verdicts, and constitutional provisions.
  • State Government- State Executive- Governor- appointment, removal and special powers.- Executive, Legislative, Financial, Judicial powers and discretionary of the governor- 7th constitutional amendment- Chief minister and council of ministers- Power of chief minister- State Legislature-
  • State legislature compared to the Parliament with regard to composition, powers, and functions. Bicameral legislatures- Creation and abolition of the Legislative councils
  • Administration of Union Territories (UT) - Special provision for Delhi- Administration and jurisdiction in UT’s –
  • Administration of Special Areas- Basic idea about 5thSchedule 6th Schedule- Recent issues related to Administration of Special Areas- Difference between constitutional provisions related to Jammu and Kashmir
  • Emergency Provisions- National emergency- Article 352- President’s rule or State emergency- Article 356- Financial emergency- Article 360- 44th amendment act- Effects and implications of emergency- Role of President in emergency time- The State of FR, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha Revoking emergency
  • State- centre and interstate relations- The basic idea about Articles 262 and 263- Composition and functions of Interstate council and Zonal council- Inter-State trade and Commerce- Recent disputes between states, controversies etc- New policies or schemes which impact interstate relations
  • Panchayati Raj and municipalities - Elections, auditing, powers and authority of panchayats - 3 tier structure- 73rd Amendment Act and the 74th Amendment Act- Relation with FR and DPSP - Schemes introduced- Metropolitan planning committee and urban development
  • Reservation
  • Constitution Bodies - Election Commission- UPSC- SPSC- JPSC- Finance Commission National Commission for SCs and ST’s, - Composition, Powers and functions, Removal of the Constitutional bodies
  • Non-Constitutional Bodies- The basic idea about Composition, Functions, Working of the Non-Constitutional bodies such as National Human Rights Commission, Central Information Commission, Central Vigilance Commission, Central Bureau of Investigation, State Human Rights Commission, State Information Commission, etc.
  • Tribunals- The basic idea about Article 323A and tribunals under Article 323B- Recent controversial issues related to tribunals- Different tribunals and importance
  • Special Provisions for SCs, STs, Backward Classes, Minorities and Anglo-Indians-Privileges and right issued to SC’s, ST’s, Backward Classes, Minorities and Anglo-Indians-Issues related to vulnerable sections like women, child, SC’s, ST’s, Backward Classes, Minorities and Anglo-Indians
  • Current affairs - Recent issues related to above-mentioned categories- Important schemes, programs, missions, laws, and policies launched by the government.- Recent Government Bills and Governance- Actions

Economic and Social Development- Prelims mentions the broad topic Economic and Social Development, which includes Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc. While Indian Economy portion is common to the syllabus of UPSC Prelims and Mains for Prelims, the focus should be on current affairs related to the Indian Economy and basic concepts.

Economic growth and development – basic concept and definition of Economy and economics, uses and transfer of resources, distributive effects, macro and microeconomic policy, micro-macro balance, 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.

Economic and Social Development
  • Poverty – 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.
  • Inclusion – definition, relevance, types, financial inclusion, recent initiatives.
  • Demographics – 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.

General Science- In UPSC civil services prelims syllabus, candidates should not spend a lot of time preparing General Science from theory books as most questions come from topics/issues in the news. However, some focus areas as a comprehensive reference are given below.

General Science
  • Universe – Big Bang, Redshift, Blueshift 2- Star Formation – Stellar Evolution, Life Cycle of A Star Solar System Formation – Nebular Theory of Laplace Solar System – Planets, Inner Planets, Outer Planets Sun – Internal Structure, Atmosphere
  • Nuclear Fission, Nuclear Reactor Types, India’s Three-Stage Nuclear Power Programme
  • Cell Organelles – Plant Cell vs Animal Cell Carbohydrates – Monosaccharides, Polysaccharides Proteins – Amino Acids, Enzymes, Vitamins and Minerals – Deficiency Diseases, Fats – Healthy Fats and Unhealthy Fats, Animal Tissues – Epithelium, Connective Tissues
  • Human Digestive System – Digestive Glands, Respiratory System – NCERT General Science Endocrine Glands and Hormones, Human Neural System – Human Brain, Muscular and Skeletal System, Nucleic acids – DNA and RNA, Recombinant DNA
  • Mitosis – Cell Cycle, Cell Division, Meiosis – Mitosis – Meiosis Comparison- Inheritance Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance, Chromosomal Theory, Human Genome Project - Sex Determination – Genetic Disorders- Diseases Caused by Microorganisms
  • Microbes in Human Welfare – Useful Microbes- Immunity – Human Immune System AIDS, Cancer – causes- Drugs and Alcohol Abuse
  • Diseases – Acute, Chronic, Communicable Diseases- Blood – Blood Groups – Formed Elements
  • Circulatory System, Double Circulation- Excretory System – Kidney, Urine Formation
  • Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth
  • Biological Classification- Five Kingdom Classifications of Plants and Animals Plant Parts and Their Functions- Plant Kingdom – Halophytes, Bryophytes- Plants with Seeds – Gymnosperms and Angiosperms- Plant Tissue – Simple, Complex Permanent Tissue Plant Nutrition – Photosynthesis, Nitrogen Cycle, Fixation- Sexual and Asexual Reproduction in Plants
  • Classification of Animal Kingdom (Animalia)- Classification of Vertebrata (Phylum Chordata) Human Reproductive System- Biotechnology – Genetic Engineering – Processes and Applications Atomic Theory – Structure of an Atom

A set of sample questions as per upsc syllabus for both Papers has been given below for reference for prospective candidates.

UPSC Exam Mains Syllabus for Civil Services Examination

More on Civil Services Examinations