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Physics is a popular subject among students, one of the 48 optional subjects listed by UPSC for the IAS Exam. Physics for UPSC is a highly specialized subject, ideal for candidates who have studied physics at the graduate level. The Physics syllabus for the UPSC mains examination covers topics such as Thermodynamics, Magnetism, Relativity, Electricity, Quantum Theory, Electromagnetic Waves, Diffraction, and more.
Considered one of the top 10 most challenging subjects in the UPSC exam, many students choose Physics because the syllabus is known to be scoring. The UPSC Physics syllabus includes two papers, Optional Paper I and Paper II, as part of the Mains stage of the IAS Exam, which consists of a total of 9 papers. Below, we discuss the detailed Physics optional syllabus for the Mains exam.
UPSC Physics Syllabus 2024
Aspect  Details 
Total Papers  2 Papers 
Marks per Paper  250 Marks (each paper) 
Total Marks  500 Marks 
Impact on Overall Score 
A strong performance in Physics can significantly boost the overall score in the UPSC Mains exam

UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus 2024 for Mains
Opting for Physics as an optional subject in the UPSC Mains exam is most suitable for candidates who possess exceptional proficiency and a genuine passion for the subject. The IAS Physics Optional Subject in UPSC Mains consists of two papers, namely Paper I and Paper II. Candidates can check out the following Paper I and Paper II.
UPSC Physics Syllabus 2024 for Optional Paper I
Candidates can check out the Topicwise UPSC Physics Syllabus for Mains Optional paper I.
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 selfenergy; Twobody problem; Reduced mass; Rutherford scattering; Centre of mass a 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; Processional motion; top, gyroscope.
(c) Mechanics of Continuous Media: Elasticity, Hooke’s law and elastic constants of isotropic solids and their interrelation; Streamline (Laminar) flow, viscosity, Poiseuille’s equation, Bernoulli’s equation, Stokes’ law and applications.
(d) Special Relativity: MichelsonMorley experiment and its implications; Lorentz transformationslength contraction, time dilation, the addition of relativistic velocities, aberration and Doppler effect, massenergy relation, simple applications to a decay process; Fourdimensional momentum vector; Covariance of equations of physics.
Also Read: UPSC Mains Syllabus
2. Waves and Optics:
 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.
 Geometrical Optics: Laws of reflection and refraction from Fermat’s principle; Matrix method in paraxial opticsthin lens formula, nodal planes, a system of two thin lenses, chromatic and spherical aberrations.
 Interference: Interference of lightYoung’s experiment, Newton’s rings, interference by thin films, Michelson interferometer; Multiple beam interference and FabryPerot interferometer.
 Diffraction: Fraunhofer diffractionsingle slit, double slit, diffraction grating, resolving power; Diffraction by a circular aperture and the Airy pattern; Fresnel diffraction: halfperiod zones and zone plates, circular aperture.
 Polarization 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; LasersEinstein A and B coefficients; Ruby and HeNe lasers; Characteristics of laser lightspatial and temporal coherence; Focusing of laser beams; Threelevel scheme for laser operation; Holography and simple applications.
3. Electricity and Magnetism:
 Electrostatics and Magnetostatics: Laplace and Poisson equations in electrostatics and their applications; Energy of a system of charges, multiple 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 boundaryvalue problemsconducting and dielectric spheres in a uniform electric field; Magnetic shell, uniformly magnetized sphere; Ferromagnetic materials, hysteresis, energy loss.
 Current Electricity: Kirchhoff’s laws and their applications; BiotSavart law, Ampere’s law, Faraday’s law, Lenz’s law; Selfand mutualinductances; Mean and r m s values in AC circuits; DC and AC circuits with R, L and C components; Series and parallel resonances; Quality factor; Principle of transformer.
4. Electromagnetic Waves and Blackbody Radiation:
Displacement current and Maxwell’s equations; Wave equations in vacuum, Pointing 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; Black body radiation and Planck’s radiation law, Stefan – Boltzmann law, Wien’s displacement law and RayleighJeans’ law.
5. Thermal and Statistical Physics:
 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; Vander Waals equation of state of a real gas, critical constants; MaxwellBoltzman distribution of molecular velocities, transport phenomena, equipartition and virial theorems; DulongPet it, Einstein, and Debye’s theories of specific heat of solids; Maxwell relations and applications; Clausius Clapeyron equation; Adiabatic demagnetisation, JouleKelvin effect and liquefaction of gases.
 Statistical Physics: Macro and micro states, statistical distributions, MaxwellBoltzmann, BoseEinstein and FermiDirac distributions, applications to the specific heat of gases and black body radiation; Concept of negative temperatures.
UPSC Physics Syllabus 2024 for Optional Paper II
Candidates can check out the Topicwise UPSC Physics Syllabus for Mains Optional paper II. The Physics Optional Paper II includes Quantum Mechanics, Atomic and Molecular Physics, Nuclear and Particle Physics, Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics.
1. Quantum Mechanics: Waveparticle duality; Schroedinger equation and expectation values; Uncertainty principle; Solutions of the onedimensional Schroedinger equation for a free particle (Gaussian wavepacket), 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 threedimensional box, density of states, free electron theory of metals; Angular momentum; Hydrogen atom; Spin half particles, properties of Pauli spin matrices.
2. Atomic and Molecular Physics:
SternGerlach experiment, electron spin, fine structure of hydrogen atom; LS coupling, JJ coupling; Spectroscopic notation of atomic states; Zeeman effect; Frank 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.
3. Nuclear and Particle Physics:
Basic nuclear properties, binding energy, angular momentum, parity, magnetic moment; Semiempirical mass formula and applications, mass parabolas; Ground state of deuteron, magnetic moment and noncentral forces; Meson theory of nuclear forces; Salient features of nuclear forces; Shell model of the nucleus – successes and limitations; Violation of parity in beta decay; Gamma decay and internal conversion; Elementary ideas about Mossbauer spectroscopy; Qvalue 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.
4. Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics:
The crystalline and amorphous structure of matter; Different crystal systems, space groups; Methods of determination of crystal structure; Xray diffraction, scanning and transmission electron microcopies; Band theory of solids – conductors, insulators and semiconductors; Thermal properties of solids, specific heat, Debye theory; Magnetism: para and ferromagnetism; Elements of superconductivity, Meissner effect, Josephson junctions and applications; Elementary ideas about hightemperature superconductivity.
Intrinsic and extrinsic semiconductors; pnp and npn transistors; Amplifiers and oscillators; Opamps; FET, JFET and MOSFET; Digital electronicsBoolean identities, De Morgan’s laws, logic gates and truth tables; Simple logic circuits; Thermostats, solar cells; Fundamentals of microprocessors and digital computers.
UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus 2024 PDF
Candidates who are appearing in the UPSC Physics mains Exam can download the UPSC Physics Syllabus PDF Here. Click on the link below to Download the UPSC Physics Syllabus 2024.
Download PDF: UPSC Physics Optional Syllabus 2024 PDF
UPSC Physics Syllabus Preparation Tips
Candidates can enhance their preparation by utilizing various resources such as books and newspapers. Online platforms and web portals also offer valuable materials. Additionally, solving previous years question Papers can help build a strong understanding of the topics.
 Analyze Previous Years’ Papers
 Read NCERT Books
 Create a Study Plan
 Current Affairs
 Focus on Key Concepts
 Practice Answer Writing
Note that consistency, discipline, and a thorough understanding of concepts are key to success in the UPSC Mains Physics examination. Good luck with your preparation.
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