What is the syllabus and exam pattern of mains?

Tables Of Content
Language Script
List of optional subjects for Main Examination:
Syllabi of the papers included in the scheme of Civil Services (Main) Examination are given as follows:
Books to refer to
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The Civil Services Examination comprises two successive stages:

  1. Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination (Objective Type) for the selection of candidates for Civil Services (Main) Examination; and
  2. Civil Services (Main) Examination (Written and Interview/Personality Test) for the selection of candidates for the various Services and posts.

Preliminary Examination is meant to serve as a screening test only. Only those candidates who are declared by the Commission to have qualified in the Preliminary Examination in the year will be eligible for admission to the Civil Services (Main) Examination of that year provided they are otherwise eligible for admission to the Civil Services (Main) Examination.

The Civil Services (Main) Examination will consist of a Written Examination and an Interview/Personality Test. The Written Examination will consist of 9 papers of conventional essay type out of which two papers will be of qualifying in nature. Marks obtained for all the compulsory papers (Paper-I to Paper-VII) and Marks obtained in Interview/Personality Test will be counted for ranking.

Candidates who obtain such minimum qualifying marks in the written part of the Civil Services (Main) Examination as may be fixed by the Commission at their discretion, shall be summoned by them for an Interview/Personality Test. The number of candidates to be summoned for Interview/Personality Test will be about twice of the number of vacancies to be filled. The Interview/Personality Test will carry 275 marks (with no minimum qualifying marks).

Candidates will be allotted to the various Services keeping in view their ranks in the examination and the preferences expressed by them for the various Services and posts.


  1. The papers on Indian languages and English (Paper A and paper B) will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking.
  2. Evaluation of the papers, namely, ‘Essay’, ‘General Studies’ and Optional Subject of all the candidates would be done simultaneously along with evaluation of their qualifying papers on ‘Indian Languages’ and ‘English’ but the papers on Éssay’, General Studies and Optional Subject of only such candidates will be taken cognizance who attain 25% marks in ‘Indian Language’ and 25% in English as minimum qualifying standards in these qualifying papers.
  3. The paper A on Indian Language will not, however, be compulsory for candidates hailing
    from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.
  4. The paper A on Indian Language will not, however, be compulsory for Candidates belonging to Persons with Benchmark Disability (only Hearing Impairment sub-category) provided that they have been granted such exemption from 2nd or 3rd language courses by the concerned education Board/University. The candidate needs to provide an undertaking/self-declaration in this regard in order to claim such an exemption to the Commission.
  5. Marks obtained by the candidates for the Paper I-VII only will be counted for merit ranking. However, the Commission will have the discretion to fix qualifying marks in any or all of these papers.
  6. For the Language medium/literature of languages, the scripts to be used by the candidates will be as under

Language Script

  • Assamese Assamese
  • Bengali Bengali
  • Gujarati Gujarati
  • Hindi Devanagari
  • Kannada Kannada
  • Kashmiri Persian
  • Konkani Devanagari
  • Malayalam Malayalam
  • Manipuri Bengali
  • Marathi Devanagari
  • Nepali Devanagari
  • Odia Odia
  • Punjabi Gurumukhi
  • Sanskrit Devanagari
  • Sindhi Devanagari or Arabic
  • Tamil Tamil
  • Telugu Telugu
  • Urdu Persian
  • Bodo Devanagari
  • Dogri Devanagari
  • Maithilli Devanagari
  • Santhali Devanagari or Olchiki

For Santhali language, question paper will be printed in Devanagari script; but candidates will be free to answer either in Devanagari script or in Olchiki.

List of optional subjects for Main Examination:

  1.  Agriculture
  2. Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  3. Anthropology
  4. Botany
  5. Chemistry
  6. Civil Engineering
  7. Commerce and Accountancy
  8. Economics
  9. Electrical Engineering
  10. Geography
  11. Geology
  12. History
  13. Law
  14. Management
  15. Mathematics
  16. Mechanical Engineering
  17. Medical Science
  18. Philosophy
  19. Physics
  20. Political Science and International Relations
  21. Psychology
  22. Public Administration
  23. Sociology
  24. Statistics
  25. Zoology
  26. Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English.


  1.  The question papers for the examination will be of conventional (essay) type.
  2.  Each paper will be of three hours duration.
  3. Candidates will have the option to answer all the question papers, except the Qualifying
    Language Papers, Paper-A and Paper-B, in any one of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India or in English. Notwithstanding this, the Candidate will have the choice to write the Optional Papers in English also if candidates opt to write Paper I-V except the Qualifying Language Papers, Paper-A and Paper-B, in any one of the language included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India.
  4. Candidates exercising the option to answer Papers in any one of the languages included in the Eight Schedule to the Constitution of India mentioned above may, if they so desire, give English version within brackets of only the description of the technical terms, if any, in addition to the version in the language opted by them. Candidates should, however, note that if they misuse the above rule, a deduction will be made on this account from the total marks otherwise accruing to them and in extreme cases; their script(s) will not be valued for being in an unauthorized medium.
  5. Candidates should note that if any irrelevant matter/signages/marks etc. are found written in the answer script(s), which would not be related to any question/answer and/or would be having the potential to disclose the candidate’s identity, the Commission will impose a penalty of deduction of marks from the total marks otherwise accruing to the candidate or will not evaluate the said script(s) on this account.
  6. The question papers (other than the literature of language papers) will be set in Hindi and English only.

The main Examination is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of candidates rather than merely the range of their information and memory.

The nature and standard of questions in the General Studies papers (Paper II to Paper V) will be such that a well-educated person will be able to answer them without any specialized study. The questions will be such as to test a candidate’s general awareness of a variety of subjects, which will have relevance for a career in Civil Services. The questions are likely to test the candidate’s basic understanding of all relevant issues, and ability to analyze, and take a view on conflicting socio-economic goals, objectives and demands. The candidates must give relevant, meaningful and succinct answers.

The scope of the syllabus for optional subject papers (Paper VI and Paper VII) for the examination is broadly of the honours degree 1evel i.e. a level higher than the bachelors’ degree and lower than the masters’ degree. In the case of Engineering, Medical Science and law, the level corresponds to the bachelors’ degree.

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Syllabi of the papers included in the scheme of Civil Services (Main) Examination are given as follows:

The aim of the paper is to test the candidates’ ability to read and understand serious discursive prose, and to express ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian language concerned.
The pattern of questions would be broadly as follows:

  1. Comprehension of given passages.
  2. Precis Writing.
  3. Usage and Vocabulary.
  4. Short Essays.

Indian Languages:

  1. comprehension of given passages.
  2. Precis Writing.
  3. Usage and Vocabulary.
  4. Short Essays.
  5. Translation from English to the Indian Language and vice-versa.

Note 1: The papers on Indian Languages and English will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking.

Note 2: The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where translation is involved).

Essay: Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion, and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.

General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.

  • Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present significant events, personalities, issues.
  • The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  • History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.— their forms and effect on the society.
  • Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
  • Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
  • Effects of globalization on Indian society.
  • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
  • Salient features of world’s physical geography.
  • Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).
  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

General Studies-II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

  • Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  • Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.
  • Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Development processes and the development industry —the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  • Role of civil services in a democracy.
  • India and its neighborhood- relations.
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, – different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
  • Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
  • Food processing and related industries in India- scope’ and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  • Land reforms in India.
  • Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
  • Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
  • Investment models.
  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
  • Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  • Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
  • Disaster and disaster management.
  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
  • Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas – linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
  • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

General Studies-IV: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude
This paper will include questions to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects.
The following broad areas will be covered:

  • Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in-human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics – in private and public relationships. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
  • Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.
  • Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections.
  • Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.
  • Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.
  • Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen’s Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.
  • Case Studies on above issues.

Optional Subject Papers I & II: Candidate may choose any optional subject from amongst the List of Optional Subjects given.

Books to refer to

Paper-I: Essay Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.

Paper-II General Studies 1: History, culture, society and geography


  • Ancient History of India: Old NCERT by RS Sharma/ TN class 11th book
  • Medieval History of India: Old NCERT by Satish Chandra/ TN class 11th book
  • Modern History
    • NCERTs
    • Plassey to Partition Book
    • Spectrum
    • India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra (Selective Reading)
  • Indian Art and Culture
    • An Introduction to Indian Art – Class XI NCERT
    • Chapters related to culture in Ancient and Medieval India NCERTs
    • Centre for Cultural Resource and Training (CCRT) material
    • Heritage Crafts: Living Craft Traditions of India -NCERT
    • Nitin Singhania book (optional)


  • XI, XII Standard NCERT on Indian Society
  • Social Problems In India by Ram Ahuja


  • The Story of Civilization, Part 2 by Arjun Dev, NCERT
  • Contemporary World History for class XII (Old NCERT Book)
  • Mastering Modern World History by Norman Lowe


  • Fundamentals of Physical Geography XI NCERT
  • India: Physical Environment XI NCERT
  • Fundamentals of Human Geography XII NCERT
  • India: People and Economy XII NCERT
  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography: GC Leong
  • OXFORD Atlas

Paper III GS paper 2:
Polity, Governance and Social Justice

  • Newspapers: Hindu, Business Line, Financial Times, Indian Express (any two)
  • Monthly current affairs: IAS Gazette
  • IAS GYAN website
  • Down to earth, science reporter


  • NCERTs 9th, 10th (for basic understanding)
  • Acts/Bills, judgements-PRS website
  • Constitution of India at Work (Class XI) NCERT Publication\
  • Indian Polity by Laxmikant
  • Introduction to Indian Constitution – D.D.Basu
  • From Government to Governance by Kuldeep Mathur
  • Ethics in Governance, ARC Report
  • NITI Aayog reports, Government reports
  • Governance in India by M.Karthikeyan


  • Human Development Report & World Development Report
  • Panchayati Raj in India by Kuldeep Mathur

IR: International Relations – by Pavneet Singh

Paper IV GS Paper 3:
Economy, Indian Agriculture, Land reforms, PDS, Food Processing, LPG, Infrastructure, Security, Disaster Management, Environment and Ecology, Science & Tech

  • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  • Microeconomics, Macroeconomics – NCERT Class XI, XII
  • Indian Economic Development – NCERT Class XI
  • Indian Economy by Sanjiv Verma
  • Economics Dictionary published by Collins & Penguin


  • NCERT-Class 6th to 10th
  • NCERT-Biology – 11th (Unit IV & V only – read basic concepts not technical details)
  • NCERT-Biology – 12th (Chapters 4, 5 and rest from 7 to 16)
  • NCERT-Biology – 12th (OLD) – Chapter 9 onwards
  • NCERT-Physics – 11th (Chap 1,5 & 8) and 12th (Chap 15 only)
  • NCERT-Chemistry – 11th (Chap 1 & 14 only) and 12th (Chap 14 & 16 only)


  • Shankar IAS Book
  • Biology 12th NCERT last 4 chapters

SECURITY ISSUES: India’s Security in a Turbulent World by Jasjit Singh, published by National Book Trust of India

  • Newspapers: Hindu, Business Line, Financial Times, Indian Express (any two)
  • Monthly current affairs: IAS Gazette
  • IAS GYAN website
  • Down to earth, science reporter

Paper V GS Paper 4:

  • Ethics in Governance, ARC Report
  • Lexicon by Chronicle Publications
  • The Book on Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude published by Access Publication

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