UPSC Physics Syllabus 2023

The syllabus of Physics for the UPSC exam is pretty vast. Those with a background in Science stream are advised to select this subject as their optional paper as it will be easier for them to prepare as compared to the others. In the syllabus, the candidates preparing for the civil services can find all the important topics from the exam point of view. This article presents the complete details related to the UPSC Physics syllabus 2023. Aspirants are suggested to go thoroughly through the syllabus and then start preparation for their exam.

Physics Syllabus for UPSC Civil Services

There will be two different papers of Physics in the Civil Services exam called as paper I and paper II. Candidates must gain familiarity with both their syllabi and then prepare for their exam accordingly. Below given are the syllabi for both these papers in detail consisting of five and four major topics respectively.

Paper I Syllabus

  1. Mechanics
  • Mechanics of Particles: Laws of motion, Kepler’s laws, Fields and potentials, Gravitational field and potential due to spherical bodies, conservation of energy and momentum, applications to rotating frames, centripetal and Coriolis accelerations, Motion under a central force, Conservation of angular momentum, Gauss and Poisson equations, gravitational self-energy, Two-body problem, Reduced mass, Rutherford scattering, Centre of mass and laboratory reference frames
  • Mechanics of Rigid Bodies: 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), System of particles, Centre of mass, angular momentum, equations of motion, Conservation theorems for energy, momentum and angular momentum, Di and tri-atomic molecules, Precessional motion, top, gyroscope
  • Mechanics of Continuous Media: Streamline (Laminar) flow, viscosity, Poiseuille’s equation, Bernoulli’s equation, Stokes’ law and applications, Elasticity, Hooke’s law and elastic constants of isotropic solids and their inter-relation
  • Special Relativity: Lorentz transformations length contraction, time dilation, addition of relativistic velocities, aberration and Doppler effect, Michelson-Morely experiment and its implications, mass-energy relation, simple applications to a decay process, Four dimensional momentum vector, Covariance of equations of physics
  1. Waves and Optics:
  • Waves: Stationary waves in a string, Pulses and wave packets, Simple harmonic motion, damped oscillation, forced oscillation and resonance, Beats, 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 optic-thin lens formula, nodal planes, system of two thin lenses, chromatic and spherical aberrations
  • Interference: Michelson interferometer, Multiple beam interference and Fabry Perot interferometer, Interference of light- Young’s experiment, Newton’s rings, interference by thin films
  • Diffraction: Diffraction by a circular aperture and the Airy pattern, Fresnel diffraction: half-period zones and zone plates, circular aperture, Fraunhofer diffraction- single slit and double slit, diffraction grating, resolving power
  • Polarization and Modern Optics: Double refraction, Production and detection of linearly and circularly polarized light, Characteristics of laser light-spatial and temporal coherence, Focusing of laser beams, Three-level scheme for laser operation, Holography and simple applications, quarter wave plate, Optical activity, Principles of fibre optics, attenuation, Pulse dispersion in step index and parabolic index fibres, Material dispersion, single mode fibers, Lasers-Einstein A and B coefficients, Ruby and He-Ne lasers
  1. Electricity and Magnetism:
  • Electrostatics and Magnetostatics: Energy of a system of charges, multi-pole expansion of scalar potential, Magnetic shell, Laplace and Poisson equations in electrostatics and their applications, uniformly magnetized sphere, Ferromagnetic materials, hysteresis, energy loss, 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
  • Current Electricity: Faraday’s law, Lenz’ law, Kirchhoff’s laws and their applications, Biot-Savart law, Ampere’s law, Self and mutual inductances, Series and parallel resonance, Quality factor, Principle of transformer, Mean and RMS values in AC circuits, DC and AC circuits with R, L and C components
  1. Electromagnetic Waves and Blackbody Radiation:

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

  1. Thermal and Statistical Physics:
  • Thermodynamics: Gibbs’ phase rule and chemical potential, Van der Waals equation of state of a real gas, critical constants, Otto and Diesel engines, Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution of molecular velocities, transport phenomena, equipartition and virial theorems, Laws of thermodynamics, reversible and irreversible processes, entropy, Isothermal, adiabatic, isobaric, isochoric processes and entropy changes, 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
  • Statistical Physics: Applications to specific heat of gases and blackbody radiation, Concept of negative temperatures, Macro and micro states, statistical distributions, Maxwell-Boltzmann, Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac Distributions

Paper II Syllabus

  1. Quantum Mechanics:

Particle in a three dimensional box, density of states, free electron theory of metals, Angular momentum, Wave-particle duality, Schrödinger equation and expectation values, Uncertainty principle, Solutions of the one-dimensional Schrödinger 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, Hydrogen atom, Spin half particles, properties of Pauli spin matrices,

  1. Atomic and Molecular Physics:

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

  1. Nuclear and Particle Physics:

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, Basic nuclear properties-size, binding energy, angular momentum, parity, magnetic moment, Semi-empirical mass formula and applications, Mass parabolas, Quark structure of hadrons: Field quanta of electroweak and strong interactions, Elementary ideas about unification of forces, Physics of neutrinos, Ground state of a deuteron, magnetic moment and non-central forces, Meson theory of nuclear forces, Salient features of nuclear forces, Nuclear fission and fusion, energy production in stars, Nuclear reactors, Classification of elementary particles and their interactions, Conservation laws

  1. Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics:

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


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