What Subjects are to be Studied for the UPSC exam?

The Civil Services Exam conducted by UPSC is infamous for the vast nature of it’s syllabus. The first and foremost step when preparing for the exam is that the aspirants should get acquainted with the syllabus and the exam pattern. Even though the syllabus is vast and has a lengthy list of subjects, the aspirants need not write a PhD thesis in each topic/subject. Following the right approach to the syllabus will make the journey of preparation easier for the aspirant .


The UPSC Syllabus contains a range of subjects such as History, Polity, Science, Security Issues, and so on. The aspirants can check the detailed syllabus of Prelims and Mains from the linked article.


The candidates should not lose confidence when looking at the lengthy list of subjects, rather they should plan how these subjects can be covered. Also, questions are asked from every subject, and giving less importance to any particular subject is not a good strategy to follow.

List of Subjects to be Studied for the UPSC Exam

Here is a list of subjects in the syllabus of the UPSC exam. The candidates can refer to this and get a basic understanding of the range of subjects to be covered for the exam.

The list of subjects to be studied for UPSC Prelims are as follows:

  • History (Ancient, Medieval and Modern)
  • Art & Culture
  • Indian and World Geography (Physical, Social, Economic)
  • Economics
  • Science and Technology
  • Indian Polity and Governance
  • Environment and Ecology

Apart from these subjects, current affairs of national and international importance also have to be covered by the aspirants. In recent years, there is an increasing focus on current affairs and the number of related questions asked every year in the exam every year is on the rise. These are the subjects in the General Studies Paper I of the Prelims exam. The aspirant has to compulsorily prepare for these subjects to crack the exam. The candidates can kick start their preparations by reading the NCERT books of all these subjects.

The General Studies Paper-II or CSAT paper has subjects such as:

  • English Language (Reading Comprehension, Communication and Interpersonal skills)
  • Logical Reasoning and Mental Ability
  • Numerical Ability (Basic Numeracy of Class X level)
  • Decision-making and Problem-solving

The Mains paper is a bit different from Prelims. This level tests a deeper understanding apart from just testing memory and information. The list of subjects in the UPSC Mains level include:

  • English Language
  • Indian Language
  • Indian Heritage and Culture
  • History (Modern and World)
  • Geography
  • Indian Society
  • Indian Polity
  • Governance
  • International Relations
  • Social Justice
  • Science and Technology
  • Environment
  • Economics
  • Security Issues
  • Disaster Management
  • Ethics, Integrity or Aptitude

Apart from these, the aspirants also have to choose one optional subject from a list of 25 subjects or any language literature paper. The optional paper preparation needs to be done extensively when compared to other general studies papers. Other than NCERTs and basic books, the aspirants have to read a range of reference books to prepare for the optional subject. The optional subject is generally chosen by the candidate based on his/her interest in the subject. The optional subject has two papers – Paper I and Paper II.

Current affairs are important for both Prelims and Mains level, and they can be covered from various sources like the Hindu Newspaper, magazines like Yojana, Kurukshetra, Economic and Political Weekly. In addition to these, the candidates have to prepare themselves with important government documents like the Economic Survey and Annual Budget. The latest information about the ministries and significant facts about our country and government can be obtained from the India Year Book. The candidates can also visit the sites of government ministries for important announcements and press releases.

In the Interview stage, there is no prescribed syllabus mentioned by the UPSC in their notification. The candidate will be interviewed by a board of members to test his/her personality. The aspiring candidates can prepare for questions on current affairs, some facts about their hometown, general knowledge, etc.,

The aspirants can check UPSC Exam for all details regarding dates, eligibility and others. Before starting the preparation for any exam, aspirants have to understand the demands and expectations of the exam. This helps in better planning of the strategy, most useful to crack the exam.

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