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Paper - I

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.

2. 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.

3. 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, semi-conductors.  

4. 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.

5. Liquid State: 

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

6. 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. 

7. 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. 

8. 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. 

9. 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. 

10. Photochemistry 

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

11. 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.

12. 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. 

13. Coordination Chemistry 

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

14. Main Group Chemistry

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

15. General Chemistry of ‘f’ Block Element: 

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

Paper - II

1. Delocalised Covalent Bonding 

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


  • 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. 
  • Reactive intermediates: Generation, geometry, stability and reactions of carboniumions and carbanions, free radicals, carbenes, benzynes and nitrenes. 
  • Substitution reactions : SN1, SN2, and SN i, mechanisms ; neighbouring group participation; electrophilic and nucleophilic reactions of aromatic compounds including heterocyclic compounds—pyrrole, furan, thiophene and indole.
  • Elimination reactions : E1, E2 and E1cb mechanisms; orientation in E2 reactions—Saytzeff and Hoffmann; pyrolytic syn elimination—acetate pyrolysis, Chugaev and Cope eliminations. 
  • Addition reactions: Electrophilic addition to C=C and C?C; nucleophilic addition to C=O, C?N, conjugated olefins and carbonyls. 
  • Reactions and Rearrangements: (a) Pinacol-pinacolone, Hoffmann, Beckmann, Baeyer-Villiger, Favorskii, Fries, Claisen, Cope, Stevens and Wagner—Meerwein rearrangements.
  • 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.

3. 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.


  • Preparation and Properties of Polymers: Organic polymers polyethylene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, teflon, nylon, terylene, synthetic and natural rubber. 
  • Biopolymer: Structure of proteins, DNA and RNA.

5. Synthetic Uses of Reagents

  • OsO4, HlO4, CrO3, Pb(OAc)4, SeO2, NBS, B2H6, Na-Liquid NH3, LiAIH4,  NaBH4, n-BuLi, MCPBA.

6. Photochemistry 

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

7. Spectroscopy

  • Principle and applications in structure elucidation
  • Rotational: Diatomic molecules; isotopic substitution and rotational constants. 
  • VibrationalDiatomic molecules, linear triatomic molecules, specific frequencies of functional groups in polyatomic molecules. 
  • ElectronicSinglet and triplet states. n??? and ???? transitions; application to conjugated double bonds and conjugated carbonyls Woodward-Fieser rules; Charge transfer spectra. 
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (1HNMR): Basic principle; chemical shift and spin-spin interaction and coupling constants. 
  • Mass Spectrometry: Parent peak, base peak, metastable peak, McLafferty rearrangement.
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FAQs on UPSC Optional Subject Syllabus: Chemistry

1. What is the syllabus for the optional subject Chemistry in the UPSC exam?
Ans. The syllabus for the optional subject Chemistry in the UPSC exam includes topics such as atomic structure, chemical bonding, chemical equilibrium, thermodynamics, electrochemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, analytical chemistry, and environmental chemistry.
2. How many papers are there in the UPSC exam for the optional subject Chemistry?
Ans. There are two papers in the UPSC exam for the optional subject Chemistry. Paper-I covers physical chemistry, while Paper-II focuses on inorganic and organic chemistry.
3. What are some frequently asked questions in the UPSC exam for the optional subject Chemistry?
Ans. Some frequently asked questions in the UPSC exam for the optional subject Chemistry may include questions on the application of chemical principles in daily life, the role of chemistry in environmental issues, the importance of chemical analysis in industries, and the significance of organic compounds in medicine and agriculture.
4. How can I prepare for the optional subject Chemistry in the UPSC exam?
Ans. To prepare for the optional subject Chemistry in the UPSC exam, it is recommended to thoroughly understand the concepts and principles of chemistry. Focus on practicing numerical problems and solving previous years' question papers. Additionally, referring to standard textbooks and joining coaching classes or online courses can also be beneficial.
5. Is it necessary to have a background in chemistry to choose it as an optional subject in the UPSC exam?
Ans. While it is not mandatory to have a background in chemistry, it is advisable to have a basic understanding of the subject before choosing it as an optional subject in the UPSC exam. This will help in comprehending the concepts and theories better and facilitate effective preparation for the exam.
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