A Detailed Guide Elaborating UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern

Written by thousands every year, the UPSC exams are one of the toughest exams in India. One of the tips shared by toppers of UPSC exams has been to have a comprehensive understanding of the exam pattern to gauge how to develop an effective study routine around it. If you are planning to write the UPSC exam, read to the end of the article as we share the civil service exam pattern in detail and provide some quick tips in the process. 

About UPSC exams

The exams are conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to recruit candidates for the posts of IAS, IFS, IPS and for other allied services. The UPSC exams can be divided into three stages, prelims, main and the interview round. Each round has been designed to assess the capabilities of the candidates. Upon successful completion of the rounds, the selected candidates would be allowed to join the civil services of the nation. Each round is an elimination round and qualification in each round is required to move on to the next round. 

About UPSC prelims exams

UPSC CSE prelims have two papers, General Studies and CSAT, General Studies Paper-II. The CSAT is qualifying in nature, however, marks obtained in the General Studies paper play an important role in qualifying for the mains round. 

Scores obtained in general studies papers are considered as the cut-off. As for the marking, ⅓ rd marking is deducted for wrong answers. No points are awarded in cases of a question of not being answered. 

Both the papers are objective types with general studies consisting of 100 questions and CSAT paper consisting of 80 questions. Marks allotted for both of the papers are 200 and the time allotted is 2 hours. 

Every candidate has to attend both papers to qualify for the main exams. Marks obtained in the prelims would not be added to the final score and merely acts as a screening process. The Prelims question paper is bilingual i.e., it will have questions written in both English and Hindi.

About UPSC main exams

UPSC Main exams have two types of papers, qualifying and merit-based. Paper A and Paper B are language papers and are qualifying in nature. Marks obtained in these papers will not be added to the final marks of the candidates. 

The remaining seven papers will be evaluated merit-based. The rank of the candidate is evaluated out of 1750 marks. The papers include one essay, four general studies and two optional papers. Each of the papers has a time limit of three hours. 

They are descriptive in nature and the language papers have total marks of 300 and the merit-based papers have total marks of 250. It is mandatory to obtain at least 25% in each paper for final selection. Candidates have to write in the answer sheets provided in the examination hall and no extra answer scripts will be provided.

General Studies papers contain the following subjects 

  1. General Studies I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society
  2. General Studies II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International relations
  3. General Studies III: Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management
  4. General Studies IV: Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude

You also have the provision to choose two optional subjects depending upon your expertise in the subjects and your preference.

About UPSC interview round

After passing the prelims and mains round, the final stage is the interview round. The interview round consists of 275 marks which tally to total marks of 2025. 

During the interview round, the qualities assessed in the candidate are critical thinking, mental prowess, analytical skills, crisis management skills, risk assessment skills, intellectual and moral integrity and leadership virtues. The interview round is not a cross-examination round but a natural and directed conversion that helps the evaluators to assess the personality of the candidate. 

The final marks obtained in the main exams and in the interview round help in determining the rank of the candidate. They are allotted to different ranks thereafter.