UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus: Download IAS Physics Syllabus PDF

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

Mohd Salman
Sep 28, 2023, 18:34 IST
UPSC Physics Syllabus PDF
UPSC Physics Syllabus PDF

UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus: Physics is one of the popular optional subjects in the UPSC CSE Mains exam. The topics prescribed in the UPSC Physics optional syllabus in the mains exam are graduate level, meaning aspirants with a physics degree will find this optional subject most scoring. As per the past 5 years' statistics, approximately 150-200 candidates opt for Physics as their optional subject for UPSC Mains, and the success rate is around 8-10%.


Physics for the UPSC exam needs a high proficiency level. Hence, aspirants must commence their preparation at the earliest. Along with the study resources, they should also examine the UPSC Physics optional syllabus to identify the important and unimportant topics for the exam. Going by the previous UPSC exam analysis, it is reported that the difficulty level of the UPSC Physics subject was moderate in nature.


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

UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus PDF

The UPSC Physics optional syllabus question paper is conducted for a total of 500 marks, and the optional subject consists of two papers, each carrying 250 marks. Aspirants must be well-versed with the UPSC Physics Syllabus PDF for Papers 1 and 2 to learn basic concepts and core topics. Download the topic-wise UPSC Physics Syllabus PDF for papers 1 and 2 tabulated below.

UPSC IAS Physics Syllabus 2023

Download PDF

UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus For IAS Mains

The UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus 2023 PDF comprises two papers, i.e., Paper I and Paper II. Physics for UPSC is a well-known choice, and the syllabus is less vast than other optional subjects. Check the detailed UPSC Physics syllabus for Paper 1 and Paper 2 shared below.

UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus for Paper I

The UPSC Physics Paper I syllabus covers topics like Mechanics, Waves and Optics, Electricity and Magnetism,  Electromagnetic Waves and Blackbody Radiation, and  Thermal and Statistical Physics. Check the topic-wise UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus for Paper I below.

  1. (a) Mechanics of Particles: Laws of motion; conservation of energy and momentum, applications to rotating frames, centripetal and Coriolis accelerations; Motion under a central force; Conservation of angular momentum, Kepler’s laws; Fields and potentials; Gravitational field and potential due to spherical bodies, Gauss and Poisson equations, gravitational self-energy; Two-body problem; Reduced mass; Rutherford scattering; Centre of mass and laboratory reference frames.

(b) Mechanics of Rigid Bodies: System of particles; Centre of mass, angular momentum, equations of motion; Conservation theorems for energy, momentum and angular momentum; Elastic and inelastic collisions; Rigid Body; Degrees of freedom, Euler’s theorem, angular velocity, angular momentum, moments of inertia, theorems of parallel and perpendicular axes, equation of motion for rotation; Molecular rotations (as rigid bodies); Di and triatomic molecules; Precessional motion; top, gyroscope.

(c) Mechanics of Continuous Media: Elasticity, Hooke’s law and elastic constants of isotropic solids and their inter-relation; Streamline (Laminar) flow, viscosity, Poiseuille’s equation, Bernoulli’s equation, Stokes’ law and applications.

(d) Special Relativity: Michelson-Morely experiment and its implications; Lorentz transformations length contraction, time dilation, the addition of relativistic velocities, aberration and Doppler effect, mass-energy relation, simple applications to a decay process. Four-dimensional momentum vector; Covariance of equations of physics.


  1. Waves and Optics

(a) Waves: Simple harmonic motion, damped oscillation, forced oscillation and resonance; Beats; Stationary waves in a string; Pulses and wave packets; Phase and group velocities; Reflection and refraction from Huygens’ principle.

(b) Geometrical Optics: Laws of reflection and refraction from Fermat’s principle; Matrix method in paraxial optic-thin lens formula, nodal planes, system of two thin lenses, chromatic and spherical aberrations.

(c) Interference: Interference of light -Young’s experiment, Newton’s rings, interference by thin films, Michelson interferometer; Multiple beam interference and Fabry Perot interferometer.

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

(e) Polarisation and Modern Optics: Production and detection of linearly and circularly polarized light; Double refraction, quarter wave plate; Optical activity; Principles of fibre optics, attenuation; Pulse dispersion in step index and parabolic index fibres; Material dispersion, single mode fibres; Lasers-Einstein A and B coefficients. Ruby and He-Ne lasers. Characteristics of laser light-spatial and temporal coherence; Focusing of laser beams. Three-level scheme for laser operation; Holography and simple applications.


  1. Electricity and Magnetism

(a) Electrostatics and Magnetostatics: Laplace and Poisson equations in electrostatics and their applications; Energy of a system of charges, multipole expansion of scalar potential; Method of images and its applications. Potential and field due to a dipole, force and torque on a dipole in an external field; Dielectrics, polarization. Solutions to boundary value problems-conducting and dielectric spheres in a uniform electric field; Magnetic shell, uniformly magnetised sphere; Ferromagnetic materials, hysteresis, energy loss.

(b) Current Electricity: Kirchhoff's laws and their applications. Biot-Savart law, Ampere’s law, Faraday’s law, and Lenz’s law. Self and mutual- -inductances; Mean and rms values in AC circuits; DC and AC circuits with R, L and C components; Series and parallel resonance; Quality factor; Principle of transformer.


  1. Electromagnetic Waves and Blackbody Radiation

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


  1. Thermal and Statistical Physics

(a) Thermodynamics

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

(b) Statistical Physics :

Macro and micro states, statistical distributions, Maxwell-Boltzmann, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac Distributions, applications to specific heat of gases and blackbody radiation; Concept of negative temperatures.

UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus for Paper II

The UPSC Physics Paper II Syllabus focuses on topics like Quantum Mechanics, Atomic and Molecular Physics,  Nuclear and Particle Physics, Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics, etc. Check the topic-wise UPSC Physics Optional  Syllabus PDF for Paper II below.

  1. Quantum Mechanics

Wave-particle duality; Schroedinger equation and expectation values; Uncertainty principle; Solutions of the one-dimensional Schroedinger equation for free particle (Gaussian wave-packet), particle in a box, particle in a finite well, linear harmonic oscillator; Reflection and transmission by a step potential and by a rectangular barrier; Particle in a three-dimensional box, density of states, free electron theory of metals; Angular momentum; Hydrogen atom; Spin half particles, properties of Pauli spin matrices.  


  1. Atomic and Molecular Physics

Stern-Gerlach experiment, electron spin, the fine structure of hydrogen atom; L-S coupling, J-J coupling; Spectroscopic notation of atomic states; Zeeman effect; Franck-Condon principle and applications; Elementary theory of rotational, vibrational and electronic spectra of diatomic molecules; Raman effect and molecular structure; Laser Raman spectroscopy; Importance of neutral hydrogen atom, molecular hydrogen and molecular hydrogen ion in astronomy. Fluorescence and Phosphorescence; Elementary theory and applications of NMR and EPR; Elementary ideas about Lamb shift and its significance.


  1. Nuclear and Particle Physics :

Basic nuclear properties, binding energy, angular momentum, parity, magnetic moment; Semiempirical mass formula and applications. Mass parabolas; Ground state of a deuteron, magnetic moment and non-central forces; Meson theory of nuclear forces; Salient features of nuclear forces; Shell model of the nucleus - success and limitations; Violation of parity in beta decay; Gamma decay and internal conversion; Elementary ideas about Mossbauer spectroscopy; Q-value of nuclear reactions; Nuclear fission and fusion, energy production in stars. Nuclear reactors. Classification of elementary particles and their interactions; Conservation laws; Quark structure of hadrons: Field quanta of electroweak and strong interactions; Elementary ideas about unification of forces; Physics of neutrinos.


  1. Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics

The crystalline and amorphous structure of matter; Different crystal systems, space groups; Methods of determination of crystal structure; X-ray diffraction, scanning, and transmission electron microscopies; Band theory of solids—conductors, insulators and semiconductors; Thermal properties of solids, specific heat, Debye theory; Magnetism: dia, para and ferromagnetism; Elements of superconductivity, Meissner effect, Josephson junctions and applications; Elementary ideas about high-temperature super-conductivity. Intrinsic and extrinsic semi-conductors- p-n-p and n-p-n transistors; Amplifiers and oscillators. Op-amps; FET, JFET, and MOSFET; Digital electronics-Boolean identities, De Morgan’s laws, Logic gates and truth tables. Simple logic circuits; Thermistors, solar cells; Fundamentals of microprocessors and digital computers

How to Prepare the UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus?

Physics for UPSC mains exam is a trendy subject among candidates who have studied physics in their graduation. This will help them to easily cover the UPSC Physics syllabus as they have prior knowledge of the topics. Here are some tips and tricks to maximize their scores in the UPSC Physics optional subject.

  • Examine the UPSC Physics optional syllabus carefully and understand which topics are essential for the exam.
  • Check the marks weightage of all the chapters and then allocate time appropriately to all the topics in their daily study plan.
  • Practice questions from mock tests and sample papers to revise all the UPSC Physics topics studied.
  • Solve UPSC Physics's previous year's question paper to get an idea of the actual exam requirements and topics asked repeatedly over the last few years.

Booklist for UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus

A wide variety of UPSC Physics books and resources are available for the preparation of this optional subject. However, candidates must pick only those books that would help them cover all the concepts prescribed in the UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus. Check the expert-recommended books to excel in UPSC Physics. Optional subject below.

UPSC Physics Optional Books


Book Names

Paper I

A Textbook of Sound by Khanna & Bedi

Introduction of Electrodynamics by David Griffiths

EM Theory by Chopra&Agarwal/Satya Prakash

Advanced Level Physics by Nelkon & Parker

Electricity & Magnetism by D.C. TAyal, B.S. Agarwal, Griffith

Physics Vol I&II by David Halliday and Resnick

Optics by Brijlal & Subramanyam

Paper II

Atomic & Molecular Spectra by Rajkumar

Concept of Modern Physics by Arthur Beiser

Electronics by Millman & Halkias

Atomic Physics by J. B. Rajan

Mechanics by D.S. Mathur, B.S. Agarwal

Electronics by Allen Mottershead

Fundamental of Magnetism electricity by D.N. Vasudeva

Mechanics by Kleppner & Kolenkow -D.S. Mathur

Also Read Related Articles,


UPSC Essay Paper 2023

UPSC Chemistry Syllabus

UPSC Psychology Previous Year Paper

UPSC Agriculture Previous Year Paper

UPSC Anthropology Books 

UPSC Agriculture Syllabus

UPSC Law Optional Syllabus

UPSC Sociology Previous Year Papers

UPSC Anthropology Syllabus

UPSC Geography Syllabus

UPSC Ethics Syllabus

UPSC Previous Year Question Paper

UPSC History Books

UPSC IAS Syllabus

UPSC IAS Exam Pattern


Get here latest School, CBSE and Government Jobs notification in English and Hindi for Sarkari Naukari and Sarkari Result. Download the Jagran Josh Sarkari Naukri App.


  • What is the UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus for Paper 1?
    The UPSC Physics Paper 1 syllabus covers topics like Mechanics, Waves and Optics, Electricity and Magnetism, Electromagnetic Waves and Blackbody Radiation, and Thermal and Statistical Physics.
  • What is the UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus for Paper 2?
    The UPSC Physics Paper 2 Syllabus focuses on topics like Quantum Mechanics, Atomic and Molecular Physics, Nuclear and Particle Physics, Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics, etc.
  • What are the best books to cover the UPSC Physics Syllabus for Mains?
    Some of the best books to cover the UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus are A Textbook of Sound by Khanna & Bedi, Introduction of Electrodynamics by David Griffiths, Electronics by Millman & Halkias, Atomic Physics by J. B. Rajan, etc.


Related Stories

Trending Categories

Latest Education News

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.