UPSC CSE: Exam Syllabus, Pattern, Books & Preparation Tips

September 9, 2022

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

The UPSC syllabus is released alongside the official notification for the UPSC CSE 2022 examination. The syllabus is divided into 2 parts – Prelims and Mains. Candidates need to be well-versed with the syllabus before they start their preparation. The syllabus for UPSC is vast in volume and often difficult to cover, so one can plan a detailed strategy for their preparation through the syllabus.

The syllabus is the same as past year’s and saw no change. Candidates can go download the syllabus directly from UPSC’s website in either English or Hindi. UPSC exam is one of the foremost sought-after exams and provides high-end salaries and distinguished posts. Thus, to crack these exams it is necessary to have clear knowledge and strategy.

UPSC CSE 2022 – Syllabus

Prelims Examination

The Prelims Examination is the screening stage of the Civil Service Examination by the Union Public Service Commission. It is the first stage of the selection process, and the candidate must clear Prelims to qualify for the Mains examination. Prelims are divided between 2 papers – General Studies and CSAT. The syllabus is as follows:

General Studies Paper- I

  1. Current events of national and international importance.
  2. History of India and Indian National Movement.
  3. Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
  4. Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  5. Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  6. General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity, and Climate Change.
  7. General Science.

General Studies Paper-II (CSAT)

  1. Comprehension.
  2. Interpersonal skills including communication skills.
  3. Logical reasoning and analytical ability.
  4. Decision-making and problem-solving.
  5. General mental ability.
  6. Basic numeracy (Class X level) and Data interpretation.

Mains Examination

The Mains examination is a set of 9 papers and has a vast syllabus. All the 9 papers are descriptive in nature and 7 out of them will be considered for the merit list while the candidate would be required to qualify for the remaining 2 subjects.  Only candidates who have qualified in the Prelims examination are eligible to appear for the Mains examination. The syllabus is as follows:

PaperExam Marks
Paper – 1Essay(Can be written in the medium or language of the applicant’s choice)250
Paper-2General Studies-I(Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)250
Paper-3General Studies-II(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International relations)250
Paper-4General Studies-III(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-variety, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)250
Paper-5General Studies-IV(Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)250
Paper-6Optional Subject – Paper-I250
Paper-7Optional Subject – Paper-II(A Candidate can likewise take up writing as a discretionary subject and the applicant need not be an alumnus in that language’s literature.)250

Personality Test/ Interview

The interview stage is conducted to mark the candidate’s personal capability for upholding the responsibility of being a public service officer. Interviews allow the board to gain insight into the mental fitness of the candidate. This amalgamates the academic style approach of Prelims and Mains with a test of social attributes and interest, to produce a well-rounded officer. There is no clear syllabus for the Interview stage, but candidates are advised to be sharp and alert during the interview. Traits such as critical thinking, clear and logical presentation, mental alertness, the balance of judgment, depth of interest, and leadership skills will be taken into consideration by the board during this assessment.

Know More – UPSC CSE Important Date & Notifications

UPSC CSE 2022 – Exam Pattern

Prelims Examination

PaperGeneral Studies Paper-I (General Studies)
General Studies Paper-II (CSAT)
Total number of QuestionsGS Paper 1 – 100 questions CSAT – 80 questions
Maximum MarksGS Paper-I – 200 Marks CSAT – 200 Marks
Negative Marking⅓ marks will be deducted for each incorrect answer.
Duration of the examTwo hours GS Paper 1 – 2 Hours (9:30 AM -11:30 AM) CSAT – 2 Hours (2:30 PM – 4:30 PM)

Mains Examination

Title of Paper Marks AllottedDuration of the Paper
Paper A – Essay writing300 Marks3 hours
Paper B300 Marks3 hours
General Studies–I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)250 Marks3 hours
General Studies –II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International relations)250 Marks3 hours
General Studies –III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio‐diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)250 Marks3 hours
General Studies –IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)250 Marks3 hours
Optional Subject – Paper 1250 Marks3 hours
Optional Subject – Paper 2250 Marks3 hours

Choosing the correct book is important since the syllabus is so vast. Hence, candidates can prepare themselves for the exams from the books given below:

Name of BookAuthor
India: A Comprehensive GeographyD.R Khuller
History – India’s Struggle for IndependenceBipan Chandra
Indian Art, and CultureNitin Singhania
Indian PolityM Laxmikanth
Indian Economy Ramesh Singh
Economic Development & Policies in IndiaJain & Ohri 
Brief History of Recent IndiaRajiv Ahir

Know More – UPSC CSE Admit Card and Interview call letter

UPSC CSE 2022 – Exam Preparation Tips

  1. Make sure to read the complete syllabus. Familiarizing yourself with the syllabus will help you make a study plan and will give you an idea about the subject topics.
  2. Choose your preparation material such as books and other online resources wisely. A good book that covers the entire syllabus will greatly help in succeeding in UPSC CSE 2022.
  3. Practice as much as possible. Utilize past years’ question papers, mock tests, and sample exercises to perfect your concepts. This will give you an idea about the exam structure and will make you more confident.
  4. Visual learning aids such as flow charts and tables are great methods of studying a greater volume of data in a short span of time. Utilize them to save time during your preparation.
  5. Prepare notes during the preparation stage. Making notes will help in retaining the concept and will also help in speedily revising before the exam.
  6. Time management is a key focus area to crack any exam. Candidates should formulate time strategies depending on their strong and weak areas.
  7. Make a timetable and practice sticking to it. It will ensure that you are consistently covering all your topics.
  8. Have a positive mindset throughout the preparatory stage and during the exam.

Check Out Other Exams – 

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IRS Exam Dates, Fees, Eligibility & Notification

CSAT Exam Dates, Fees, Eligibility & Notification


Q.1 How many subjects are there in UPSC CSE?

Ans. UPSC has released the syllabus on its official website in both English and Hindi languages and candidates can download the syllabus from there. The Prelims examination is the first stage of UPSC CSE and consists of 2 papers (GS and CSAT), both having objective-type questions. Marks scored in the General Studies paper are considered for Prelims cut-off and determine who moves on to the Mains Examination. The Mains examination consists of 9 papers in total and is descriptive in nature.

Q.2 What are the core subjects in UPSC CSE?

Ans. The core subjects to focus on for UPSC CSE are Indian History which includes Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Pre Independence history, World History, Geography, Budget policies, Economics, and Governance Science. Technology, Physics, Chemistry, Biology International Relations, and International Affairs are key subjects to focus on.

Q.3 Is UPSC CSE easy to crack?

Ans. UPSC CSE is revered to be one of the toughest exams to crack in India. Each year, lakhs of candidates appear for the Prelims examination out of which only 25% clear it and move forward to give the Mains exam. Out of this, approximately 15% move to the interview stage out of which only 50% qualify to become Civil Servants. This brings the success rate of UPSC down to less than 1%. While this is a scary figure, the right preparation can get you through it.

Q.4 What are the 5 compulsory subjects in UPSC?

Ans. The Mains examination has 7 papers in total out of which 5 subjects are compulsory and there is one optional subject for which 2 papers need to be given. First is the Essay portion, which can be written in the medium or language of the applicant’s choice. General Studies-I(Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society), General Studies-II(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations), General Studies-III(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-variety, Environment, Security and Disaster Management) and General Studies-IV(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude) are the other compulsory subjects.

Q.5 What are the highest marks in UPSC?

Ans. Paper A and B, both of which are qualifying papers are 300 marks each and the rest 7 papers are 250 marks each. In total, the mains are of 1750 marks. The interview stage is of another 275 marks bringing the total marks to 2025 marks.

Q.6 Is math’s compulsory for UPSC?

Ans. No, math’s is not a compulsory subject for the UPSC CSE examination and is an optional subject. A candidate who has an interest in the subject or who has a strong base can opt for it, but candidates are open to choosing any optional subject they desire.