The Civil Services Examination for getting into the IAS is held in two stages – the Preliminary Examination and the Main Examination. The syllabus for the Preliminary Examination is explained below:


The Preliminary Examination consists of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each – General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II. Together they will carry a maximum of 400 marks.

The General Studies Paper II is also called the “Civil Services Aptitude Test” (CSAT), or the ‘Aptitude Test’ for short.

The marks scored by a candidate in Paper II are not counted for determining the merit of a candidate. Paper II is only a ‘qualifying paper’.

This means that the candidates have to ‘qualify’ or ‘pass’ this paper. The qualifying marks or pass marks for this paper have been fixed at 33% by the UPSC. However, if a candidate fails to ‘qualify’ or secure the minimum marks prescribed by the UPSC for passing this paper, then the performance of the candidate in the General Studies Paper I will not be taken into consideration and the candidate will be declared to have failed to clear the Preliminary Examination.

The above explanation would have made it clear to the candidates that it is only the marks secured in the General Studies Paper I that will determine whether a candidate has cleared the Preliminary Examination or not; of course, with the caveat that the candidate must have successfully qualified Paper II or the Aptitude Test.


The questions that will be asked in the General Studies Paper I and the General Studies Paper II will be of the Objective Type. Each question will have multiple choices for the answer. The candidates will be required to choose the most appropriate response to the question, as their choice for the answer.


Negative marking is done for incorrect answers. If a candidate gives 1 incorrect answer, then 1/3 or 0.33 marks out of the marks assigned to that question will be deducted as penalty.

If a candidate gives more than one answer, it will be treated as a wrong answer, even if one of the given answers happens to be correct and the penalty that has been mentioned in the para above will be imposed.

If a question is left blank, i.e. no answer is given by the candidate, then no penalty will be imposed for that question.


The Question Papers will be set in both Hindi and English.

Blind candidates and Physically Handicapped candidates whose writing ability is adversely affected to the extent of 40% will be allowed extra time of 20 minutes per hour for each paper.

Candidates must remember that it is compulsory to appear in both the papers of the Preliminary Examination – the General Studies Paper I and the General Studies Paper II. Any candidate who does not appear in both the papers will be disqualified.


Marks – 200                     Duration – Two Hours 

The Paper will have 100 Questions. Each Question will carry 2 marks.

The questions that will be asked in this paper will be from the following topics:

TOPIC 1: CURREnt events of national and international importance

This will include the important national and international events that are or have been hogging the headlines. These could pertain to subjects as diverse as Security, scientific advances, computers, Artificial Intelligence, environmental issues, sports etc.

TOPIC 2: HISTORy of India and Indian National Movement

This will include Indian History from the pre-historic period onwards. There will be special emphasis on India’s Freedom Movement and the contributions made by people and leaders from different parts of the country in the fight to make India free.

TOPIC 3: INDIan and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic. Geography of India and the World

This will include the Geography of India and the Geography of the World. It will encompass the aspects of Physical Geography, Social Geography and Economic Geography of India and the World.

TOPIC 4: INDIAn Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

This will include the Indian Constitution and the Political System that flows out of it and how our country is governed through this constitutional arrangement. It will encompass subjects like the Indian Constitution, the Indian Political System, the Panchayati Raj or democracy at the grass roots, Public Policy on various aspects of governance, the Rights of various categories of the population etc.

TOPIC 5: ECONOMIC and Social Development – Sustainable  Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.

This will include the Economic and Social Development of the country. It will encompass subjects like Sustainable Development, Poverty and its removal, Inclusion of all sections of the population in the country’s quest for Development, Demographics or the special features of the Indian Population regarding its age profile, its skill levels etc. and their implications, the initiatives taken by the Governments, over time, in developing the Social Sectors like education, health and medical care, water supply and sanitation, poverty alleviation, housing conditions etc.

TOPIC 6: GENERal issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change that do not require subject specialization

This will include the issues connected with Environmental Ecology which deals with the interaction between organisms, including human beings, and their natural environment, with each other as well as with the abiotic components of their environment such as sunlight, climate, geology etc. and how India is placed in this context.

It will also include Bio-Diversity and Climate Change. This means the impact of Climate Change on the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular geographical area like India.

The environment and issues connected to it, which have a direct bearing on the present and the future of the world, with special reference to their impact on India, will also get covered under it.

TOPIC 7: GENERal Science

This will include, apart from the topics covered under conventional general science, contemporary Technology areas as well as emerging areas. It will also look at newer things like Robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) including Open AI Ecosystems, Electronic Funds Transfer, the capacity of the distributed electronic ledger or the Blockchain (which was behind the online currency Bitcoin) to fundamentally change the way markets and governments work, Nuclear Energy, Sources of Renewable Energy including the new Perovskite Solar Cells, Mobile Phones and the advances being witnessed in them, Personal Computers including Laptops, Electronic Note Books etc., the next generation Batteries, Space Flights, Autonomous Vehicles, Digital Media, 2D Materials, Organ Transplants,  Genetic Engineering including miniature models of human organs or what is known as Organs-on-chips, the Internet including the internet of things and nano-sensors and the internet of nano-things etc.


Marks – 200                      Duration: Two Hours

The paper will have 80 Questions. Each question will carry 2.5 marks.

The questions will be asked from the following topics:

TOPIC 1: COMprehension

This means the ability to understand something. The questions will test how easily and quickly a candidate is able to comprehend or understand things. A certain level of mental ability is a pre-requisite for this.

TOPIC 2: INTErpersonal skills including communication skills

Interpersonal skills are the ability to communicate or interact with other people.

Communication skills are the ability to convey or share ideas and feelings effectively.

Thus interpersonal skills including communication skills are the processes by which a person can convey, in clear terms, what is required to be done, and, if the need arises, the person can persuade his/her colleagues to do the thing in a particular manner.

The questions will test the degree to which a candidate is endowed with these abilities.

TOPIC 3: LOGIcal reasoning and analytical ability

Logical reasoning is the process of using a rational, systematic series of steps based on sound mathematical procedures and given statements, removed from emotion, to arrive at a conclusion.

Analytical ability is the ability to collect and analyse information and make decisions.

Together, they mean the ability to apply logical reasoning or thinking to break complex problems into their component parts. This facilitates intelligent decision-making. The candidate’s ability in this regard will be tested through the questions.

TOPIC 4: DECIsion making and problem solving

Decision making is the action of making important decisions.

Problem solving is the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues.

The two are complimentary to each other.

Thus, problem solving involves the process of analyzing an issue in great depth. Decision making, on the other hand, is more of a judgement based on the analysis of an issue.

The questions will test the level to which these faculties are present in a candidate.

TOPIC 5: GENEral mental ability

Mental ability is the power to learn or retain or understand something. The questions will test the level to which this faculty is present in the candidate.

Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. (Class X level).

Basic Numeracy is the ability to apply simple numerical concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Orders of magnitude are the exponential change in the value of a quantity or unit.

Data interpretation is the process of making sense of numerical data, or data provided in charts, graphs, tables etc. which has been analysed and presented.

The candidates are required to possess these abilities of Basic Numeracy and Data Interpretation equivalent to those required to be present in a student who has completed class X. The questions that will be asked will test whether the candidate possesses these abilities, which should be present in a student who has studied these subjects up to Class X.

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