UPSC Chemistry Syllabus | IAS Mains Optional with Latest Notification

IAS Mains optional subject chemistry
Written by Dr. SS

UPSC has a long list of optional subjects out of which you can select any subject of your choice. Here we are giving an outline of Chemistry syllabus of  UPSC Mains.

To appear in UPSC Civil Services Mains exam, you need to have complete awareness about  UPSC Mains Syllabus and exam pattern.  To get complete information, you can check given links.

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UPSC Chemistry Optional syllabus

UPSC Mains Syllabus Chemistry-PAPER – I

Atomic Structure:

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Interpretation of wave function, Schrodinger wave equation (time independent); particle in one-dimensional box, quantum numbers, Shapes of s, p and d orbitals,hydrogen atom wave functions;.

Chemical Bonding:

Ionic bond, characteristics of ionic compounds, Born-Haber cycle ,lattice energy, covalent bond and characteristics, study of  polarities of bonds in molecules and their dipole moments; concept of resonance and resonance energy; Valence bond theory, Molecular orbital theory (LCAO method); bonding in H2+, H2, He2+ to Ne2, NO,HF, CO and CN–; Comparison of valence bond and molecular orbital theories,bond strength and bond length, bond order..

Solid State:

Crystal systems; Designation of crystal faces, lattice structures and unit cell; X-ray diffraction by crystals, Bragg’s law; Close packing, radius ratio rules, calculation of some limiting radius ratio values; Structures of NaCl, CsCl, CaF2 and ZnS; impurity defects, Stoichiometric and non-stoichiometric defects, semiconductors.

The Gaseous State and Transport Phenomenon:

Equation of state of  real gases, intermolecular interactions and critical phenomena and liquefaction of gases, collisions on the wall and effusion; intermolecular collisions, Maxwell’s distribution of speeds, Thermal conductivity and viscosity of ideal gases.

Liquid State:

Kelvin equation; wetting and contact angle, Surface energy and surface tension, interfacial tension and capillary action.


Work, heat and internal energy; first and second law of thermodynamics. entropy as a state function, entropy–reversibility and irreversibility ,entropy changes in various processes, , Free energy functions; Thermodynamic equation of state; Maxwell relations; Temperature, volume and pressure dependence of U, H, A, G, Cp and Cv α and β; J-T effect and inversion temperature; criteria for equilibrium, relation in equilibrium constant and thermodynamic quantities, introductory idea of third law of thermodynamics, Nernst heat theorem.

Phase Equilibria and Solutions:

Clausius-Clapeyron equation; phase equilibria in binary systems, the phase diagram for a pure substance, partially miscible liquids–upper and lower critical solution temperatures; partial molar quantities, their determinations and significance; excess thermodynamic functions and their determination.


Debye-Huckel theory of strong electrolytes,  Limiting Law of Debye-Huckel for transport properties and various equilibrium. Galvanic cells, concentration cells; electrochemical series, measurement of e.m.f. of cells and its applications batteries and fuel cells. Processes at electrodes; double layer at the interface; current density, rate of charge transfer, overpotential; electro-analytical techniques: amperometry, Polarography, ion selective electrodes and their uses.

Chemical Kinetics:

Integral and Differential rate equations for zeroth, first, second and fractional order reactions; Rate equations involving reverse, consecutive, parallel and chain reactions; branching chain and explosions; effect of temperature and pressure on rate constant; Collisions and transition state theories, Study of fast reactions by stop-flow and relaxation methods.


Absorption of light; decay of excited state by different routes; photochemical reactions between halogens and hydrogen and their quantum yields.

Surface Phenomena and Catalysis:

Gases and Absorption and solutions on solid adsorbents, Langmuir and B.E.T. adsorption isotherms; characteristics and mechanism of reaction on heterogeneous catalysts, determination of surface area.

Bio-inorganic Chemistry:

Metal ions in biological systems and their role in ion transport across the membranes (molecular mechanism), oxygen uptake proteins, ferredoxins and cytochromes.

Coordination Compounds:

(i) Bonding theories of metal complexes; Crystal field theory and its modifications; Valence bond theory, applications of theories in the explanation of magnetism and electronic spectra of metal complexes.

(ii) Isomerism in coordination compounds; IUPAC nomenclature of coordination compounds; chelate effect and polynuclear complexes; stereochemistry of complexes with 4 and 6 coordination numbers; trans effect and its theories; thermodynamic and kinetic stability of complexes, kinetics of substitution reactions in square-planer complexes.

(iii) EAN rule, Synthesis structure and reactivity of metal carbonyls; carbonyl hydrides, carboxylate anions and metal nitrosyl compounds.

(iv) Complexes with aromatic systems, structure,  synthesis, bonding in metal olefin complexes, cyclopentadienyl complexes and alkyne complexes; coordinative unsaturation, insertion reactions, oxidative addition reactions,  fluxional molecules and their characterization; Compounds with metal- metal atom clusters and metal bonds.

Main Group Chemistry:

Borazines, Boranes, phosphazenes and cyclic phosphazene, silicates and silicones, Interhalogen compounds; noble gas compounds, Sulphur – nitrogen compounds.

General Chemistry of ‘f’ Block Elements:

Lanthanides and actinides; oxidation states, separation, magnetic and spectral properties; lanthanide contraction.

UPSC Mains Syllabus Chemistry for PAPER – II

Delocalised Covalent Bonding:

Aromaticity, anti-aromaticity; azulenes, annulenes, tropolones, fulvenes, sydnones.

(i) Reaction Mechanisms:

General methods (both non-kinetic and kinetic) of the study of mechanism of organic reactions:

isotopic method, intermediate trapping, cross-over experiment, the energy of activation; stereochemistry; kinetic control and thermodynamic control of reactions.

(ii) Reactive Intermediates: Geometry, Generation, stability and reactions of carbonium ions and carbanions, carbenes, free radicals, benzynes and nitrenes.

(iii) Substitution Reactions: SN1 and SN2  along with  SN1 mechanisms; neighbouring group participation;  nucleophilic and electrophilic reactions of aromatic compounds including heterocyclic compounds– furan, pyrrole, thiophene and indole.

(iv) Elimination Reactions: E1, E2 and E1cb mechanisms; orientation in E2 reactions–Saytzeff and Hoffmann;  Chugaev and Cope eliminations, pyrolytic syn elimination.

(v) Addition Reactions: Electrophilic addition to C=C and C=C; conjugated olefins and carbonyls, nucleophilic addition to C=0, C=N.

(vi) Reactions and Rearrangements:

(a) Pinacol-pinacolone, Hoffmann, Beckmann, Favorskii, Fries, Baeyer–Villiger, Claisen, Cope, Stevens and Wagner- Meerwein rearrangements.

(b) Aldol condensation, Claisen condensation, Knoevenagel, Witting, Dieckmann, Perkin, Clemmensen, Wolff-Kishner, Cannizzaro and von Richter reactions; Stobbe, benzoin and acyloin condensations; Skraup synthesis, Fischer indole synthesis, Bischler-Napieralski, Sandmeyer, Reimer-Tiemann and Reformatsky reactions.

Pericyclic Reactions:

Classification and examples; Woodward- Hoffmann rules – electrocyclic reactions, and sigmatropic shifts [1, 3; 3, 3 and 1, 5] ,cycloaddition reactions [2+2 and 4+2] FMO approach.

(i) Preparation and Properties of Polymers: Polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, Organic polymers–polyethylene, terylene, Teflon, nylonsynthetic and natural rubber.

(ii) Biopolymers: Structure of proteins, DNA and RNA.

Synthetic Uses of Reagents:

OsO4, HIO4, CrO3, SeO2, Pb(OAc)4, NBS, B2H6, Na-Liquid NH3, NaBH4, LiAlH4, n-BuLi and MCPBA.


Photochemical reactions of simple organic compounds, singlet and triplet states,  excited and ground states, Norrish-Type I and Type II reactions.


Principle and applications used in structure elucidation:

(i) Rotational: Diatomic molecules; rotational constants and isotopic substitution.

(ii) Vibrational: Linear triatomic molecules, Diatomic molecules, specific frequencies of functional groups in polyatomic molecules.

(iii) Electronic: Singlet and triplet states; N→π* and ππ*→ transitions; application to conjugated double bonds and conjugated carbonyls, Charge transfer spectra, Woodward-Fieser rules;

(iv) Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (1H NMR): Basic principle; chemical shift and spin-spin interaction and coupling constants.

(v) Mass Spectrometry: Parent peak, metastable peak, base peak, McLafferty rearrangement.

Chemistry Syllabus is vast and demands number of revision to have complete command. In UPSC, formula for success with Chemistry subject should be ‘Less is More’. It means don’t go for too many books rather revise more times.

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Dr. SS

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