IAS Mains

All about IAS Mains


IAS Mains is all about testing your overall intellect and understanding of concepts.


If you are here after clearing your IAS Prelims, give a Pat on your Back. You have made it halfway through. Yaayy!

If you are here to understand what IAS Mains is all about, tighten your seat belts. We will move from one point to the other.

Let’s straightaway dive into the IAS Mains syllabus.

S.No. IAS Exam Paper Name of Paper Nature Duration Marks
1 Paper – A Compulsory Indian Language Qualifying 3 hours 300
2 Paper – B English Merit Ranking 3 hours 300
3 Paper – I Essay Merit Ranking 3 hours 250
4 Paper-II General Studies I Merit Ranking 3 hours 250
5 Paper – III General Studies II Merit Ranking 3 hours 250
6 Paper – IV General Studies III Merit Ranking 3 hours 250
7 Paper – V General Studies IV Merit Ranking 3 hours 250
8 Paper – VI Optional Paper I Merit Ranking 3 hours 250
9 Paper – VII Optional Paper-II Merit Ranking 3 hours 250
Total 1750
Interview or Personality Test 275

This table is basically the entire picture of what the IAS Mains is all about. We will now break down each and every part of the table in detail.

Here we go!

Paper A – Compulsory Indian language

Total: 300 marks
  • Comprehension of given passages

  • Precise Writing

  • Usage and Vocabulary

  • Short Essay

  • Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa

Paper B – English

Total: 300 marks

The aim of the paper is to test the candidates’ ability to read and understand serious discursive prose and to express their ideas clearly and correctly, in the English and Indian languages concerned.

  • Comprehension of given passages

  • Precise Writing

  • Usage and Vocabulary

  • Short Essay

Paper I: Essay Writing

Total: 250 marks

Paper 1 consists of questions to test the writing skills of the candidate. Thus, this paper 1 is purely subjective with no objective type questions.

The language for the paper is English thus candidates have no option of answering in any other language.


  • Candidates have to write an essay on a specific topic

  • It must be kept close to the subject of the essay to arrange the ideas in an orderly fashion and to write concisely

  • The credit of getting good marks will be given for effective and exact expression

IAS MainsPaper-II: General Studies-I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)

Total: 250 marks

Indian Culture

  • Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times

Modern Indian history

  • 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 topics and World history

  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country

  • The history of the world will include events from the 18th century such as the industrial revolution, world wars, redrawing of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc.- their forms and effect on the society

Indian Society, Diversity of India

Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India

Role of Women

  • Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems, and their remedies.

  • Communalism, regionalism & secularism

  • Effects of globalization on Indian society

  • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

  • World Geography/ Important Geophysical phenomena

  • Salient features of the 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, cyclones, 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.


Paper 3: General Studies II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations

Total: 250 marks

Indian Constitution

  • Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure

Functions and responsibilities of various aspects related to India

  • 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

Indian constitutional scheme

  • 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

  • Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, the 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

Representation of People’s Act

  • 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

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Welfare schemes/NGO role

  • 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

Social Sector/Services issues

  • Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

  • 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 fore, their structure, mandate.

Paper 4: General Studies III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

Total: 250 marks

  • Development, Biodiversity, 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

  • Indigenization of technology and developing new technology

  • Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, 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, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cybersecurity; 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.

Paper-5 General Studies IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)

Total: 250 marks

In this paper of IAS Mains 2020, candidates will get 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 utilize 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; the role of family, society, and educational institutions in inculcating values

  • Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; 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 the 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, Citizens.

  • Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.

  • Case studies for the above topics.

IAS MainsPaper 6 and 7:

Total: 250 + 250= 500 marks

  • Paper 6 and Paper 7 are optional subjects for Paper I and Paper II of UPSC Mains Syllabus

  • Candidates have to attempt both the Papers separately

List of optional subjects:

Agriculture Management
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science Mathematics
Anthropology Mechanical Engineering
Botany Medical Science
Chemistry Philosophy
Civil Engineering Physics
Commerce and Accountancy Political Science and International Relations
Economics Psychology
Electrical Engineering Public Administration
Geography Sociology
Geology Statistics
History Zoology
List of literature to choose from:
Assamese Gujarati Konkani Marathi Sanskrit Telugu
Bengali Hindi Maithili Nepali Santhali Urdu
Bodo Kannada Malayalam Oriya Sindhi English
Dogri Kashmiri Manipuri Punjabi Tamil

As for the schedule of the IAS Mains, it lasts for 5 days, the fifth day is for the optional subjects. The morning paper is from 9 AM – 12 PM and the afternoon paper from 2 PM to 5 PM.


What after the UPSC Mains/ IAS Mains exam?

Interview/Personality Test

Total: 275 marks

An IAS candidate can give preference to the language in which they may like to be interviewed. UPSC will make arrangements for the translators.

Get in touch with us if you require any kind of query regarding IAS Exams. 😊

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