UPSC IAS Prelims Syllabus 2020 - Important Topics for GS Paper 1 and CSAT

UPSC IAS Prelims Syllabus 2020 - IAS Prelims exam syllabus is provided by UPSC in its official notification. UPSC Prelims exam syllabus for GS Paper 1 and GS Paper 2 (CSAT) are important in the IAS Prelims exam preparation.

UPSC has provided the broad IAS syllabus for the Prelims exam. To help aspirants, we have provided the detailed UPSC IAS syllabus for prelims exam preparation.

In this article, you will find the IAS prelims exam syllabus and exam pattern details. 

UPSC IAS Prelims Syllabus 2020

IAS Prelims Paper

IAS Prelims Syllabus Topics

GS Paper 1

  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and the Indian National Movement.
  • India and World Geography- Physical, Social and Economic
  • Indian Polity and Governance- Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues etc.
  • Economic and Social Development- Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives etc.
  • General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change - that do not require subject specialization
  • General Science

GS Paper 2 - CSAT

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication & language
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision making and problem-solving
  • 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)
  • English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level)

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UPSC IAS Prelims Exam Pattern

IAS Prelims Papers

Exam Duration

No of Questions

Total Marks

GS Paper 1

2 Hours



GS Paper 2 - CSAT

2 Hours



Note: The exam pattern for UPSC was changed in 2015. Now, General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT paper) has become qualifying in nature i.e., candidates need to score 66.7 marks out of 200 marks. Cut off marks for IAS Prelims exam is derived based on candidates performance in GS Paper 1 alone.

Read more: UPSC Exam Pattern

UPSC IAS Prelims Syllabus 2020 - Subject wise topics list

In UPSC civil services official notification, UPSC provides the broad subject topics as the syllabus for IAS prelims exam. The Subject topics mentioned in the syllabus are History, Geography, Polity, Economy, Science and Technology, Environment and Current affairs. 

Here in this section, we have provided the detailed syllabus for each subject that is needed to be covered for IAS prelims exam preparation.

Ancient History of India - IAS Prelims Syllabus topics

The History subject can be broadly classified into Ancient, Medival and Modern History based on the time period. Candidates preparing for IAS prelims exam should aware of the topics need to be covered in Ancient India.

The syllabus topics for Ancient India subject is provided below for IAS Prelims preparation:

Stone Age

The Age of the Mauryas

Stone -Copper Phase

Significance of the Maurya Rule

The Harappan Civilization

The Age of the Satayahanas

Advent of the Aryans and the Age of the Rig Veda

The Dawn of History in the Deep South

The Later Vedic Phase: Transition to State and Social Formation

The Rise and Growth of the Gupta Empire

Jainism and Buddhism

Harsha and his Times

Territorial States and the first Magadhan Empire

India's Cultural Contacts with the Asian Countries

Iranian and Macedonian Invasions

Transformation of the Ancient Phase

State and Varna Society in the Age of the Buddha

Legacy in Science and Civilization

Medieval History of India - IAS Prelims Syllabus topics

In the History subject Medival History topics are considered as least important for IAS prelims exam, but in civil services exam 2019, 4-5 questions came from Medieval syllabus. So candidates can’t take Medieval history topics lightly.

The syllabus topics for Medieval History subject is provided below for IAS Prelims preparation:

West and Central Asia Between the 10th and 12th Centuries, and Turkish Advance towards India

Politics, State, Society and the Economy in South India under Vijayanagar and Bahmanid Rule

Establishment and Territorial Consolidation of the Delhi Sultanat (1206-1236)

Establishment of Portuguese Control in the Indian Seas and its Economic and Political Impact

Struggle for the Establishment of a Centralized Monarchy (1236-1290)

Rise of Regional Kingdoms in North India and a System of Balance of Power

The Mongol Threat to India during the 64 13th-14th Centuries

Central Asian Politics and the Advance of Babur towards India

Internal Restructuring of the Delhi Sultanat, and its Territorial Expansion (1290-1320)

Struggle for Empire in North India - Afghans, Rajputs and Mughals

Problems of a Centralised All-India-State— Ghiyasuddin and Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1320-1351)

Mughal Empire (1526-1767)

Reassertion of a State-Based on Benevolence—Disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate

Climax and Crisis of the Mughal Empire the Marathas and the Deccan

Modern History of India - IAS Prelims Syllabus topics

Modern History topics are important for IAS prelims exam, every year 10-12 questions are asked from Indian National Movement and Freedom struggle. So candidates preparing for IAS exam should be given more stress to Modern History topics from History Subject.

The syllabus topics for Modern History subject is provided below for IAS Prelims preparation:

The Decline of the Mughal Empire

The Revolt of 1857

Indian States and Society in the 18th Century

Administrative Changes after 1858

The Beginnings of European Settlements

Economic Impact of the British Rule

The British Conquest of India

Growth of new India- the Nationalist Movement 1858-1905

Structure of the Government and the Economic Policies of the British Empire in India, 1757-1857

Nationalist Movement 1905-1918

Social and Cultural Awakening in the first half of the 19th Century

Struggle for Swaraj (1918-1947)

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UPSC IAS Prelims Syllabus - India and World Geography

In UPSC civil services official notification, UPSC has just mentioned ‘India and World Geography’ in the prelims syllabus section for Geography. Candidates preparing for the first time wouldn’t know what are topics they should read for IAS prelims exam. 

Here in this section, we have provided the detailed syllabus for both World Geography and Indian Geography topics that are needed to be covered for IAS prelims exam preparation.

World Geography - IAS Prelims Syllabus topics

World Geography and Physical Geography are the fundamental topics for Geography subject. From this section, 6-9 questions are asked every year in IAS prelims exam. So candidates should be aware of what are the topics need to be read from World Geography subject.

The syllabus topics for World Geography subject is provided below for IAS Prelims preparation:

Universe - Theories, Formation and recent developments

Climatology - atmosphere, temperature distribution, Clouds, precipitation, Pressure Belts, Winds, Cyclones, Jet Streams, Ozone layer

Basic idea about Earth - motion of the Earth, Inclination of earth axis and seasons, Eclipses, Tides and its effects 

The hydrosphere - Ocean relief, Salinity, Ocean currents, Ocean deposits and resources 

Geomorphology - Exogenic and Endogenic movements, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Theories - Continental Drift theory, Plate tectonics, seafloor spread theory

Biosphere - Major Biomes, Flora and fauna, Conservation of Biodiversity

Interior of the earth - Lithosphere and its composition

Economic geography

Mass Movements of landforms, erosion and deposits

Map Reading

Rock system and Classification of Rocks

Places in News

Indian Geography - IAS Prelims Syllabus topics

Indian Geography forms the core of Geography subject in UPSC civil services preparation. From Indian Geography, 8-10 questions are asked every year in IAS prelims exam. So candidates should be aware of what are the topics need to be read from Indian Geography subject.

The syllabus topics for India Geography subject is provided below for IAS Prelims preparation:

Basics of Indian Geography - latitude, longitude, boundaries, etc

Soils in India

Physical features of India - Himalaya, Plateau, plains, desert and Islands

Agriculture and Allied-characteristics and Problems

Indian River systems – Characteristics, comparison and significance

Natural vegetation and fauna - Classification, Biodiversity, National Parks, Biosphere reserves, etc 

The climate in India - Monsoon, El-Nino, La-Nino, seasons, Cyclones

Rainfall distribution in India

Mineral and industries in India

Economic infrastructure - Transportation, Energy resources.

Agriculture and Problems faced in India

Human Geography - Demographics, Census data

Indian Polity and Governance - IAS Prelims Syllabus topics

Indian Polity is the most popular and scoring subject in UPSC civil services prelims exam. From Indian Polity syllabus, 15-22 questions are asked every year in IAS prelims exam. Polity is high scoring subject if candidates have good command over the Indian Constitution also read the Laximikanth Indian Polity textbook thoroughly. 

The syllabus topics for Indian Polity subject is provided below for IAS Prelims preparation:

Preamble - Features, Amendment and Committees

State Government - Governor, CM, Council of Ministers, State Legislature and Union Territories

Constitution of India - Historical Background, Drafting committee and the making of the Constitution

Administration of Special Areas - Schedule 5 and 6

Union and its Territory - State reorganization, Federal nature

Emergency Provisions

Citizenship - PIO, NRI, OCI and Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Citizenship Amendment Act and Recent Developments

Centre-State Relations and Interstate relations

Fundamental Rights (FR) - Important Amendments, Writs and recent developments related to FRs

Panchayati Raj and municipalities

Fundamental Duties (FD) - Significance and Criticism

Constitution Bodies

Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) - Features, Classification and Popular SC Judgements and Important Amendments related to DPSP

Non-Constitution Bodies

Union Government - President, Vice President, PM, Council of Ministers, Parliament, Attorney General


Judiciary - Supreme Court, High court, appointment and removal procedures

Special Provisions to SC, ST, Minorities, Backward Class, Anglo-Indians

Indian Economy - IAS Prelims Syllabus topics

Indian Economy subject demands more conceptual understanding and grip over economic fundamentals. From Indian Economy syllabus, 10-15 questions are asked every year in IAS prelims exam. 

The syllabus topics for Indian Polity subject is provided below for IAS Prelims preparation:

Economics Basics - Different Types of Economy, Sectors in Economy, GDP, GNP, Subsidies and National Income

Indian Financial Market

Economic Growth and Economic Development

Banking in India

Evolution of Indian Economy 

Insurance in India

Economic Planning and Planning in Indian Economy (FYPs, NDC, NITI Aayog)

Security Market in India

Economic Reforms - LPG era

External Sectors in India

Inflation and its impacts

International Economic Organisations

Agriculture and Food Management in India

Tax Structure in India

Industries and Infrastructure in India

Public Finance in India 

Service Sector

Human Development in India

Science and Technology - IAS Prelims Syllabus topics

Science and Technology subject is more current affairs and event-based subjects. If candidates read newspapers regularly, then scoring in Science and Technology will be easy. From Science and Technology syllabus, 7-12 questions are asked every year in IAS prelims exam. 

The syllabus topics for Science and Technology subject is provided below for IAS Prelims preparation:

General Science - Basics of Physics and Biology (Class 10 level)

Nuclear technology and Particle Physics

Biotechnology - Definition, types, GM foods 


Information Technology - Evolution and Generations


Nanotechnology - Definitions, Types and Applications


Space Technology - Orbits, Types of Satellites, Cryogenic engines

Important Indian Scientists and Their Achievements

Telecommunication Technology 

Governmental initiatives in fields of S&T

Defence technology

Overview of UPSC IAS Prelims Exam 2020

  • The Examination comprises of two compulsory Papers of 200 marks each.
  • Both the question papers will be of the Objective Type (multiple choice questions).
  • The General Studies Paper 2 of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination will be a qualifying paper with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%.
  • The question papers will be set both in Hindi and English.
  • Duration of each paper will be two hours.
  • Blind candidates and the candidates with Locomotor Disability and Cerebral Palsy, where dominant (wilting) extremity is affected to the extent of slowing the performance of function (minimum of 40% impairment), will be allowed an extra time of twenty minutes per hour for each paper.

Negative Marking in IAS Prelims Exam 2020

There is negative marking in UPSC Preliminary exam - one-third of marks for each question are deducted for every wrong answer. Candidates should be cautious as committing silly mistakes or attempting the questions which they are not sure of can become a deterrent in qualifying the UPSC Prelims exam.

Points to remember before appearing for UPSC Prelims Exam

  • UPSC Civil Services Prelims exam is common for both Civil Services and Indian Forest Services.
  • For blind candidates, 20 minutes extra time per hour is provided.
  • It is mandatory to appear for both GS 1 & GS 2 papers for the purpose of evaluation.
  • If you have appeared in only one paper, it will be counted as one attempt.

Important Links related to UPSC Prelims Preparation

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs) in IAS prelims

Q. How to prepare for UPSC prelims?

A. In UPSC civil services exam preparation, the preparation should be comprehensive, candidates should prepare prelims and mains in tandem. For Prelims exam, candidates should have good command over conceptual understanding and knowledge on current affairs. Apart from this, they should solve mock tests and previous year question papers for practice.

Q. How to prepare for IAS prelims without coaching?

A. To prepare IAS prelims exam without coaching, candidates should follow the syllabus topics and read from standard textbooks along with NCERT textbooks. Develop a habit of note making for final revision. Follow one national newspaper for current issues. Take regular mock tests to assess your performance progress.

Q. What are the best books for IAS prelims exam?

A. The best books for IAS prelims exam subject wise are listed below:
  • History - Ancient, Medieval and Modern History (Old NCERT books) and Spectrum Modern History
  • Geography - 9th to 12th Class Geography NCERT books, Certificate Physical and Human Geography by GC Leong. 
  • Polity - Indian Polity by Laximikath
  • Economy - Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  • Science - 6th to 12th NCERT Science books and Hindu Newspaper Science and Tech column
  • Environment - Shankar IAS Environment Study material
  • Current Affairs - Hindu Newspaper and Yojana Magazine

Q. How to check UPSC prelims marks 2018?

A. The civil services prelims exam marks will be uploaded by UPSC after 15 days from the day of the final result declaration. Candidate can check the UPSC prelims marks on the official website using the register number/roll number.

Q. What is the UPSC prelims 2020 exam date?

A. UPSC civil services prelims for the year 2020 will be held on May 31, 2020 (Sunday).

Q. How many candidates appeared in UPSC prelims 2017?

A. In the UPSC prelims 2017 exam, nearly 4.5 lakh candidates appeared for the civil services exam conducted by UPSC across the nation.

Q. How to prepare for UPSC prelims in 1 month?

A. In one month, candidates can revise all the topics they have prepared in the last one year for UPSC Prelims exam. If candidates started preparing just one month before the prelims exam, they can prepare by way of solving UPSC prelims mock test question papers and previous year question papers.

Q. How to prepare general studies for IAS prelims?

A. For UPSC prelims general studies preparation, candidates should focus on NCERT for basics and one standard textbook for all subjects. Regular note-making should be done for revision. Practice mock tests and previous years question papers.

Q. What to study for the UPSC prelims exam?

A. For UPSC prelims exam candidates need to prepare GS Subjects - History, Geography, Environment, Polity, Indian Economy, Science and Tech as per the UPSC prelims syllabus. For current affairs follow one national daily newspaper (Suggested newspapers - The Hindu / Indian Express)

Q. How to crack UPSC prelims in the first attempt?

A. To crack the UPSC prelims exam in the first attempt, candidates should work hard with dedication. Cover the syllabus topics provided by UPSC. Good command over basics and strong grip over the recent development & current issues. Finally, regular practice and mock tests.

Q. What is the qualifying marks for IAS prelims?

A. The minimum qualifying marks in IAS prelims for GS paper 2 (CSAT) is 66 marks out of 200. For GS Paper 1, i.e cut off marks will vary every year depending upon the vacancy number and difficulty level of the paper.

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