UPSC » UPSC – Physics Syllabus

UPSC – Physics Syllabus


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 tri-atomic 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, 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. 

2. 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) Geometrial 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 fibers; 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. 

3. 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, polarisation. 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, Lenz’ 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. 

4. 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.  

5. 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. 


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. 

2. Atomic and Molecular Physics : 

Stern-Gerlach experiment, electron spin, fine structure of hydrozen 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. 

3. Nuclear and Particle Physics : 

Basic nuclear properties-size, binding energy, angular momentum, parity, magnetic moment;  Semi-empirical 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. 

4. Solid State Physics, Devices and Electronics : 

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 semi-conductors; Thermal properties of solids, specific  heat, Debye theory; Magnetism: dia, para and ferromagnetism; Elements of super-conductivity, 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.