UPSC Exam Pattern for Prelims and Mains Examination

IAS Prelims Exam Pattern

IAS Prelims is the first stage of the Civil Services Examination. More than 11 lakhs candidates applies for UPSC Prelims every year.

It is important to know the syllabus for IAS Prelims as it is the screening test that qualifies candidates for the next stage, i.e. Mains. All UPSC Exam aspirants must familiarise themselves with the exam pattern and IAS Exam syllabus first, and then move on with the preparation.

Aspirants preparing for UPSC must start preparing for the Civil Services exam in February of previous year. One year of preparation is a must thing if aspirants want to score well in UPSC exam. This timeline of almost a year is crucial if you want to have a planned and smooth preparation phase where you can strengthen your concepts and clarify all doubts related to topics.

Exam Pattern & Syllabus for UPSC Prelims 
Two Compulsory PapersGeneral Studies Paper-I
General Studies Paper-II (CSAT)
Number of Questions asked in GS Paper-I100
Number of Questions asked in CSAT80
Total Number of Marks400

  • GS Paper-I – 200 Marks
  • CSAT – 200 Marks
Negative Marking ⅓ of the total marks allotted to the question will be deducted for every wrong answer
Time AllottedTwo hours each

  • GS Paper-I – 2 Hours (9:30 AM -11:30 AM)
  • CSAT – 2 Hours (2:30 PM – 4:30 PM)

The two papers of the IAS prelims are discussed in detail below:

  1. General Studies
    • The General Studies test is the first paper of the preliminary examination.
    • This test is intended to test the general awareness of a candidate in a wide range of subjects that include: Indian Polity, Geography, History, Indian Economy, Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology, International Relations and associated UPSC current affairs.
  1. Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) (Generally conducted between 2:30 PM and 04:30 PM)
    • This UPSC Prelims syllabus for CSAT intends to assess the aptitude of the candidate in solving ‘Reasoning and Analytical’ questions, apart from ‘Reading Comprehension’ and the occasionally asked ‘Decision Making’ questions.
    • The ‘Decision Making’ based questions are generally exempt from negative marks.

To be noted:

  • The preliminary examination is only meant for screening a candidate for the subsequent stages of the exam.
  • The marks obtained in the Prelims will not be added up while arriving at the final rank list.

The subjects included in the prelims are common for all. However, there is an option to opt for a few subjects in the mains phase of the examination. Get the detailed list of IAS Subjects included in the syllabus for UPSC prelims and mains at the linked article.

IAS Mains Exam Pattern

Paper-IEssay (can be written in the medium of the candidate’s choice)250
Paper-IIGeneral Studies – I (Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)250
Paper-IIIGeneral Studies – II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice & International Relations)250
Paper-IVGeneral Studies – III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management)250
Paper-VGeneral Studies – IV (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude)250
Paper-VIOptional Subject – Paper I250
Paper-VIIOptional Subject – Paper II250

Must-Know Facts about UPSC Mains

  • The Mains examination constitutes the 2nd phase of the Civil Services Examination. Only after successfully qualifying in the prelims exam would the candidates be allowed to write the IAS Mains.
  • The Mains exam tests the candidate’s academic talent in depth and his/her ability to present his/her understanding according to the requirements of the question in a time-bound manner.
  • The UPSC Mains exam consists of 9 papers, out of which two are qualifying papers of 300 marks each.
  • The two qualifying papers are:
    • Any Indian Language Paper
    • English Language Paper
  • The papers on Essay, General Studies and Optional Subject of only such candidates who attain 25% marks in both the language papers as a minimum qualifying standard in these qualifying papers, will be taken cognizance of, for evaluation.
  • In case a candidate does not qualify in these language papers, then the marks obtained by such candidates will not be considered or counted.

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