UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus For IAS Mains: PDF Download

UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus: Download the UPSC CSE Chemistry Syllabus PDF, and check the topic-wise Chemistry Syllabus for Papers 1 and 2 along with the best books.
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UPSC Chemistry Syllabus PDF Download

UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus: Chemistry is one of the 48 optional subjects in the UPSC Mains exam. Candidates with a Chemistry background at graduation level or who have worked as chemical engineers, chemists, doctors, and other medical professionals would have an edge as they will be able to understand the basic concepts and core topics with a clear perspective. As per the past 5 years' statistics, approximately 100-150 candidates choose Chemistry as their optional subject for UPSC Mains, and the success rate ranges between 9-10%. 

Many candidates pick UPSC Chemistry as their optional subject owing to the availability of endless books and resources. Apart from the books, they should also be familiar with the official UPSC Chemistry optional syllabus and prioritize the higher-weightage topics first during the preparation. As per the past UPSC exam analysis, it is found that the questions previously asked in the UPSC Chemistry subject were moderate in nature.


In this article, we have compiled the UPSC Chemistry Syllabus PDF for Mains, along with question weightage, preparation tips, and best books.

UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus PDF

The total marks for the UPSC Chemistry optional syllabus question paper is 500 marks, and the optional subject is divided into two papers, each with 250 marks. Aspirants must be familiar with the UPSC Chemistry Syllabus PDF for Papers 1 and 2 to clear the basic concepts of all the topics in a clear and defined manner. Download the topic-wise UPSC Chemistry Syllabus PDF for papers 1 and 2 tabulated below.

UPSC IAS Chemistry Syllabus

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UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus For IAS Mains

The UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus PDF comprises two papers, i.e., Paper 1 and Paper 2. Chemistry for UPSC is a popular optional choice, and the syllabus is helpful for aspirants with prior knowledge of Chemistry at the graduation level. Check the detailed UPSC Chemistry syllabus for Paper 1 and Paper 2 tabulated below.

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UPSC Chemistry Syllabus for Paper I

The UPSC Chemistry Paper I syllabus covers topics like Atomic Structure, Chemical bonding, Solid state, Phase equilibria and solutions, The gaseous state and Transport Phenomenon, Thermodynamics, Liquid State, etc. Check the topic-wise UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus for Paper I below.

  1. Atomic Structure

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

  1. Chemical bonding

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

  1. Solid state

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

  1. The gaseous state and Transport Phenomenon

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

  1. Liquid State

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

  1. Thermodynamics

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

  1. Phase equilibria and solutions

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

  1. Electrochemistry

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

  1. Chemical kinetics

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

  1. Photochemistry

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

  1. Surface phenomena and catalysis

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

  1. Bio-inorganic chemistry

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

  1. Coordination chemistry

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

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

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

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

  1. Main Group Chemistry

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

  1. General Chemistry of ‘f’ Block Element

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

UPSC Chemistry Syllabus for Paper II

The UPSC Chemistry Paper II Syllabus focuses on topics like Delocalised covalent bonding, Reaction mechanisms, Pericyclic reactions, Preparation and Properties of Polymers, Synthetic Uses of Reagents, Photochemistry, Spectroscopy, etc. Check the topic-wise UPSC Chemistry Optional  Syllabus PDF for Paper II below.

  1. Delocalised covalent bonding 

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

  1. (i) Reaction mechanisms: General methods (both kinetic and non-kinetic) of study of mechanisms or organic reactions : isotopies, mathod cross-over experiment, intermediate trapping, stereochemistry; energy of activation; thermodynamic control and kinetic control of reactions.

(ii) Reactive intermediates : Generation, geometry, stability and reactions of carboniumions and carbanions, free radicals, carbenes, benzynes and nitrenes.

(iii) Substitution reactions :—SN 1, SN 2, and SN i, mechanisms ; neighbouring group participation; electrophilic and nucleophilic reactions of aromatic compounds including heterocyclic compounds—pyrrole, furan, thiophene and indole.

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

(v) Addition reactions :—Electrophilic addition to C=C and CC; nucleophilic addition to C=O, CN, conjugated olefins and carbonyls.

(vi) Reactions and Rearrangements:—(a) Pinacol-pinacolone, Hoffmann, Beckmann, BaeyerVilliger, Favorskii, Fries, Claisen, Cope, Stevens and Wagner—Meerwein rearrangements. (b) Aldol condensation, Claisen condensation, Dieckmann, Perkin, Knoevenagel, Witting, Clemmensen, Wolff-Kishner, Cannizzaro, and von Richter reactions; Stobbe, benzoin and acyloin condensations; Fischer indole synthesis, Skraup synthesis, Bischler-Napieralski, Sandmeyer, Reimer-Tiemann and Reformatsky reactions.

  1. Pericyclic reactions:—Classification and examples; Woodward-Hoffmann rules—electrocyclic reactions, cycloaddition reactions [2+2 and 4+2] and sigmatropic shifts [1, 3; 3, 3 and 1, 5], FMO approach.
  2. (i) Preparation and Properties of Polymers: Organic polymers polyethylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, Teflon, nylon, terylene, synthetic and natural rubber.

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

  1. Synthetic Uses of Reagents: OsO4, HlO4, CrO3, Pb(OAc)4, SeO2, NBS, B2H6, Na-Liquid NH3, LiAIH4, NaBH4, n-BuLi, MCPBA.
  2. Photochemistry:—Photochemical reactions of simple organic compounds, excited and ground states, singlet and triplet states, Norrish-Type I and Type II reactions.
  3. Spectroscopy: Principle and applications in structure elucidation :

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

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

(iii) Electronic—Singlet and triplet states and transitions; application to conjugated double bonds and conjugated carbonyls Woodward-Fieser rules; Charge transfer spectra.

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

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

How to Prepare for UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus?

Chemistry is one of the popular optional subjects in the UPSC mains exam among candidates with a prior educational background in chemistry. Aspirants should analyze the UPSC Chemistry syllabus and prioritize the topics accordingly in the exam. Check the best tips and tricks to excel in the UPSC Chemistry optional subject given below.

Booklist for UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus

Many UPSC Chemistry books and resources are available in the market and bookstores to prepare this optional subject. However, candidates must ensure they pick the right resources to cover all the aspects of the UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus. The list of finest books for the UPSC Chemistry Optional subjects is shared below.

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What are the best books to cover the UPSC Chemistry Syllabus for Mains?

Some of the best books to cover the UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus are A Guide to Mechanism in Organic Chemistry by Peter Sykes, Advance Physical Chemistry by Gurdeep Raj, Advanced Inorganic Chemistry by J.D. Lee, etc.

What is the UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus for Paper 2?

The UPSC Chemistry Paper II Syllabus focuses on topics like Delocalised covalent bonding, Reaction mechanisms, Pericyclic reactions, Preparation and Properties of Polymers, Synthetic Uses of Reagents, Photochemistry, Spectroscopy, etc.

What is the UPSC Chemistry Optional Syllabus for Paper 1?

The UPSC Chemistry Paper I syllabus covers topics like Atomic Structure, Chemical bonding, Solid state, Phase equilibria and solutions, The gaseous state and Transport Phenomenon, Thermodynamics, Liquid State, etc.

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