UPSC Exam Pattern

Civil Services Examination(CSE) is a dream exam for many people in India. It is conducted once a year by the Union Public Service Commission(UPSC). It is the gateway to selection for Indian Administrative Services(IAS), Indian Foreign Service(IFS), and Indian Police Service(IPS). It is conducted in three phases-

  1. The preliminary examination consists of two objective-type papers viz. General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II also known as Civil Service Aptitude Test(CSAT).
  2. The Mains Examination consisting of nine papers of conventionally (essay) type, in which first two papers are qualifying in nature and only marks of rest seven are counted.
  3. Personal Interview.

Read: UPSC Topper Kanishak Kataria’s Preparation Strategy

UPSC Preliminary Exam Pattern

It is a screening test and is conducted to shortlist candidates for the Main Examination. Marks secured in this exam are not  taken into account while preparing the final merit. UPSC exam pattern for prelims is different from mains.

It consists of two papers of objective type carrying a maximum of 400 marks.

  • There are 2 compulsory papers of 200 marks each. General Studies Paper I has 100 questions and General Studies Paper II has 80 questions.
  • Questions are objective(MCQ) type
  • Time for each exam is 2hrs

Note: 20 minutes per hour extra time for blind candidates and candidates with Locomotor Disability and Cerebral Palsy(min 40% impairment)

  • There is negative marking of 1/3 rd. of the marks assigned to a question
  • The paper would be bilingual(Hindi and English)

Download: IAS Prelims Question Papers (2014 – 2019)

UPSC Preliminary Exam Syllabus

General Studies Paper I Syllabus

It has a total 100 questions broadly covering following topics:

  • Current events of National and International importance.
  • Indian History and Indian National Movement.
  • Indian Geography and World Geography: Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and World.
  • Economic and Social Development: Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Sustainable Development, Social sector initiatives etc.
  • Indian Polity and Governance: Constitution, Political System, Public Policy, Panchayati Raj, Rights issues etc.
  • General issues on Environment, Ecology, Bio-diversity, climate change,etc.
  • General Science.

General Studies Paper II (CSAT)Syllabus

It consists of 80 questions from the following topics

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Logical Reasoning and analytical ability.
  • Decision Making and problem solving.
  • General Mental Ability.
  • Basic mathematics of class X level

Read: UPSC Prelims 2019 Question Paper Analysis with Detailed Explanation

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern


Talking about the UPSC Exam Pattern for Mains, it consists of written test and  interview(personality test). It consists of two categories of papers of 3 hrs time duration.

  1. Qualifying Papers-
    • Paper-A: It is of 300 marks. In it the candidate is required to select ONE OF THE INDIAN LANGUAGES included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution.
    • English: It is of 300 marks.

     2. Papers to be counted for MERIT-

  • Paper-I: ESSAY- It is of 250 marks.
  • Paper-II: GENERAL STUDIES-I(Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)-It is of 250 marks.
  • Paper-III: GENERAL STUDIES-II(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)- It is of 250 marks.
  • Paper-IV: General Studies-III(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)-It is of 250 marks.
  • Paper-V: General Studies-IV(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)- It is of 250 marks.
  • Paper-VI: Optional Subject- Paper 1- It is of 250 marks.
  • Paper-VII: Optional Subject- Paper 2- It is of 250 marks.

So the total of Written Test is 1750 marks.  Marks for Personality Test is 275 marks. So, the Grand total is 2025 marks.

Important Points To Keep In Mind

  • The exam on Indian languages and English(Paper A and Paper B) will be of only qualifying nature and the marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking and calculating final merit.
  • The papers on Essay, General Studies and Optional subject of only those candidates will be taken into consideration who attained atleast 25% marks in Indian Language paper and 25% marks in English.
  • Marks obtained by the candidates for the Paper I-VII will only be counted for merit ranking. These will play an important role regarding the selection of an individual in Civil Services.
  • All the Candidates will have the option to answer all the question papers/ mains exam, (except the Qualifying Language Papers, Paper-A and Paper-B) in English or in any one of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • You should have clear understanding of UPSC Exam Pattern for both Prelims and Mains before you start your preparation.

Download: NCERT Books

Syllabus of UPSC Main Examination Papers

1.Qualifying Papers on Indian Languages and English

English Language: Precise writing, Comprehension of given passages, Usage and vocabulary and short essays.

Indian Languages: Precise writing, Comprehension of given passages, Usage and vocabulary, short essays and translation.

2.Paper I:

Essay: Multiple topics, clear, effective and exact expression.

There will be two essays usually on contemporary topics and you have to write them between 1000-1200 words.

3.Paper II:

General Studies I: History and Geography of the world, Indian Heritage and Culture, Society.

Recent happening in the areas of heritage, Social Movements or Culture are frequently asked.

4.Paper III:

General Studies II:  Governance, Social Justice Constitution, Polity, and International relations.

Events related to Centre-State conflicts, Indian Diplomacy, Amendments, etc are asked.

5.Paper IV:

General Studies III: Technology, Bio-diversity, Environment, Economic Development, Security and Disaster Management. It covers questions related to recent happening in the above given areas.

6.Paper V:

General Studies IV: Ethics, Aptitude and Integrity

This paper aims to test a candidates attitude to topics/issues related to Integrity, probity in public life and his approach to solve problems to various conflicts faced by him while dealing with the society.

7.Paper VI and VII:

Optional Subject Papers I & II: A candidate may opt for any one Optional Subject from lists of subjects mentioned by UPSC.

Read: UPSC 2020 Calendar, Exam Dates, Schedule.

If you have any doubts regarding UPSC Exam Pattern, ask us at the comment section.


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