UPSC Physics Syllabus for Main Examination

Written by Dr. SS

UPSC Physics Syllabus of both papers for IAS Mains optional subject is divided in eight parts.

Physics Paper-I

Physics Paper-II

Mechanics of Particles

Quantum Mechanics

Waves and Optics

Atomic and Molecular Physics

Electricity and Magnetism

Nuclear and Particle Physics

Thermal and Statistical Physics

Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics

Physics Syllabus for UPSC Mains PAPER – I


  1. Mechanics of Particles:

Mechanical conservation laws, newton’s laws of motion, concepts of rotation and rigid bodies and non-inertial frames. Pseudo forces like coriolis and centrifugal, Angular momentum and its conservation, Central forces and fields, Kepler Laws, Gravitational Potential and fields, Gauss and Poisson equations, body’s gravitational self-energy, concept of reduced mass, laboratory frame of reference for centre of mass.

Advanced topics of rotation, precession and top’s example, torques and momenta in three dimensional free and bound motion, Kinetic theory of gases, degree of freedom, rotation of molecules, internal energy.

Mechanical concepts of Continuous materials, Elasticity, applicability of Hooke’s law and coefficient of elasticity of isotropic solids and relations among them

The Special theory of Relativity,  Implications and experiments of Michelson-Morley, The Lorentz transformations-Lorents contraction, time dilation, velocities and transformation, aberration, Doppler effect, Center of Mass (Relativistic), simple applications to a decay process; Covariance of equations of physics, Four dimensional momentum vector.

  1. Waves and Optics:

Waves: periodic motion or oscillation motion, damped oscillation, forced oscillation and resonance; Stationary waves in a string; Beats; Phase and group velocities; Pulses and wave packets; Huygens’ principle.

Waves phenomena-reflection, interference, absorption, refraction, diffraction, polarization, dispersion.

Geometrical Optics: Principle of least time i.e. Fermat’s principle ; Nodal planes, Matrix method in paraxial optics and three basic operators (matrices) for reflection, refraction and translation, thin lens formula, system of two thin lenses, Spherical and chromatic aberrations.

Interference: Phenomenon of Newton’s rings, Ydse; Interference of light-Young’s experiment, interference by thin films, Michelson interferometer and measurement of the wavelength; Fabry-Perot interferometer or etalons and Multiple beam interference.

Diffraction: Fraunhofer diffraction-single slit and double slit, diffraction grating,  resolving power, Diffraction by a circular aperture and the Airy pattern; Fresnel diffraction or near-field diffraction: zone plates, half-period zones and circular aperture.

Modern Optics -Polarization: Measurement and Production of linearly polarized and circularly polarized light; quarter wave plate; Optical activity; Double refraction, Principles of fibre optics, attenuation; Pulse dispersion in  step index and parabolic index, fibres; Material dispersion, single mode fibres; Ruby and Helium-neon lasers; Lasers-Einstein A and B coefficients; Characteristics of laser light-spatial coherence and temporal coherence; Focusing of laser beams; Applications of Holography, Three-level laser scheme.

  1. Electricity and Magnetism:

Magnetostatics and Electrostatics: Application and Concept of Poisson and Laplace equations in electrostatics, Energy of a system of charges, multipole expansion; Method of image charges; Potential energy and field of a dipole, force and torque for an external field; Dielectrics, polarization; Boundary-value problems and solutions-conducting and dielectric spheres in a uniform electric field; Magnetic shell, uniformly magnetized sphere; Ferromagnetic materials, energy loss, hysteresis.

Current Electricity: Biot-Savart law, Kirchhoff’s laws, Ampere’s law, Lenz’ law; Faraday’s law, Self-and mutual-inductances; Mean and r m s values in AC circuits; AC and DC circuits with R, L and C components; Parallel and Series resonances; Quality factor; Principle of transformer.

Electromagnetic Waves and Blackbody Radiation: Maxwell’s equations and Displacement current; Wave equations in vacuum, Vector and scalar potentials; Poynting theorem; Electromagnetic field tensor, covariance of Maxwell’s equations; Wave equations in isotropic dielectrics, reflection and refraction at the boundary of two dielectrics; Total internal reflection; Fresnel’s relations; Normal and anomalous dispersion; Rayleigh scattering; Planck’s radiation law and Blackbody radiation, Stefan – Boltzmann law, Rayleigh-Jeans’ law and Wien’s displacement law.

4.Thermal and Statistical Physics:

Thermodynamics: Laws of thermodynamics, irreversible and reversible processes, Isothermal, entropy, adiabatic, isochoric, isobaric processes and entropy changes; Diesel and Otto engines, Gibbs’ phase rule and chemical potential; critical constants; van der Waals equation of a real gas, Maxwell-Boltzman distribution of molecular velocities, equipartition and virial theorems; transport phenomena,  Dulong-Petit, Debye’s and Einstein’s theories of specific heat of solids; Maxwell relations and applications; Clapeyron- Clausius equation, Joule-Kelvin effect and liquefaction of gases, Adiabatic demagnetisation.

Statistical Physics: Micro and macro states, Maxwell-Boltzmann, statistical distributions, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac distributions, specific heat of gases and blackbody radiation; Negative temperatures.

Will update Physics Paper 2 syllabus very soon.

For more you can visit given links

UPSC Mains Syllabus

UPSC Prelims Syllabus

Stay tuned with us to get pdf of complete Physics Syllabus of UPSC Mains optional exam.

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Dr. SS

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