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All About UPSC Exam Pattern

eliteiasacademying July 26, 2021

Also known as the IAS exam, the Union Public Service Commission conducts a civil service examination every year to recruit deserving candidates into administrative posts of the nation. However easy it may sound, the UPSC exam is undoubtedly challenging, provided you are prepared well. To earn a prestigious position under the Government of India, you need to know the exam pattern. In this article, we will talk about the UPSC exam pattern in detail. 

What is the pattern of the UPSC exam?

For cracking the UPSC exam, it is essential to have a detailed understanding of the patterns of the UPSC exam. This will give you a clear idea about how much you need to allot for each subject or paper so that you can align your preparations accordingly. 

The UPSC civil service exam is conducted in three phases. They are: 

Phase 1: UPSC Prelims 

Phase 2: UPSC Mains 

Phase 3: UPSC Interview or Personality Test

To qualify and make it to the administrative position under the Government of India, UPSC aspirants have to pass through all three phases. Each phase is like an elimination round. Let us discuss each phase in detail. 

Phase 1: UPSC Prelims 

The UPSC Prelims consist of two papers – the General Studies I paper and the CSAT or the General Studies II paper. The nature of the CSAT paper is qualitative, while the General Studies paper is the deciding factor in which if you can score good marks, you can make it to the UPSC Mains.

This means the marks you obtain in the General Studies paper act like the cut-off percentage of the prelims. Each wrong answer will be marked negatively, meaning marks will be deducted for wrong answers.

For each wrong answer, 1/3rd marks will be deducted as a penalty. Hence, it is better not to attend to questions that you are not sure of. Leaving our questions will not lead to the deduction of marks. In the UPSC exam, all candidates are advised to take calculated risks only. 

In the first paper of the General Studies, hundred questions carry two marks each, therefore summing up to 200 marks. The score in the General Studies paper I will be considered for cut-off. In the second paper of General Studies, eighty questions are carrying 200 marks.

Here, the candidates have to get 33% to qualify for the Mains. The score obtained in the Prelims will not be added to the final score, and it is simply for screening purposes. The question paper will be available both in Hindi and English for a better understanding of the candidates. 

Phase 2: UPSC Mains 

In the UPSC Mains, a candidate has to write nine papers. The Mains is conducted for 5 – 7 days. Only those who have qualified the Prelims can apply for the Mains. Unlike in the UPSC Prelims, where questions are objective, in the UPSC Mains, the candidates have to write explanatory answers in all nine papers. 

According to the UPSC paper pattern, a compulsory Indian language paper is better known as Paper A, consisting of 300 marks. Paper B is the English paper followed by Paper I (essay), Paper II (General Studies I), Paper III (General Studies II), Paper IV (General Studies III), Paper V (General Studies IV), Paper VI (Optional I) and Paper VII (Optional II).

Both Paper A and B consist of 300 marks, while the remaining papers carry 250 marks. The candidates have to complete each paper within 3 hours. In addition, candidates have to secure a qualifying mark (25%). However, Paper A is not compulsory for Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Sikkim. 

The subjects consisting in the UPSC Mains are divided into the following: 

General Studies I – Indian heritage and culture, society and history and geography of the world 

General Studies II – Governance, constitution, polity, social justice, and international relations 

General Studies III – Technology, economic development, biodiversity, environment, and security and disaster management 

General Studies IV – ethics, integrity, and aptitude 

Papers VI and VII are the optional papers containing the following subjects: 

  1. Agriculture 
  2. Civil engineering 
  3. Geology 
  4. Psychology 
  5. Mechanical engineering 
  6. Animal husbandry and veterinary science 
  7. Law 
  8. History 
  9. Medical science 
  10. Philosophy 
  11. Commerce and accountancy 
  12. Public administrative 
  13. Anthropology 
  14. Economics 
  15. Philosophy 
  16. Sociology 
  17. Botany 
  18. Chemistry 
  19. Electrical engineering 
  20. Physics 
  21. Management 
  22. Electrical engineering 
  23. Statistics 
  24. Zoology 
  25. Mathematics
  26. Geography 
  27. Political science and international relationships 

Phase 3: UPSC Interview or Personality Test 

The UPSC interview is the final stage in the UPSC civil service exam. It consists of 275 marks. To crack the UPSC interview, a candidate has to know to think critically, have intellectual and moral integrity and possess crisis management skills. 


Therefore, the UPSC exam pattern is a long process and may appear tedious sometimes. However, if you work hard and following the correct studying strategy, none can stop you from cracking the exam. 

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