UPSC Civil Service

Exam Pattern

UPSC Civil Services Examination exam pattern

 Examination Pattern

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the Civil Services Examination every year for recruitment to various prestigious positions in the Government of India. This WRITE UP aims to give the reader an overview of the UPSC exam pattern and syllabus for CIVIL SERVICE EXAM - 2021.

The UPSC Civil Services Examination, commonly known as the IAS exam due to the aura and popularity of the Indian Administrative Service as a career option. It is considered to be among the toughest examination in India. It has earned this moniker partly due to the intense competition and partly due to the VAST UPSC CIVIL SERVICE SYLLABUS. Apart from that, the exam pattern for UPSC CSE is quite complicated, and a typical examination cycle lasts for almost a year from the preliminary exam until the final results are declared.

UPSC Exam Pattern


The UPSC examination is officially divided into The three stages,

  • Preliminary
  • Main Examination (candidates who clear the Prelims are eligible for Mains for that particular year)
  • The interview stage (candidates who clear the Main reach the interview stage for that particular year)

IAS Exam Pattern for UPSC PRELIMS

The UPSC exam pattern for the Preliminary stage consists of

  • Two papers ( COMPRISES OF MCQ based questions),
  • Both conducted on same day.
  • Both the papers comprise of objective type questions with multiple choice of answers.
  • The prelims examination is a qualifying stage to filter candidates for the mains exam. The marks secured at this stage are not counted towards the final merit list.The details of UPSC Prelims Exam are given below:


Marks: 200

Duration:  2 hours

Sl. No


Subject-wise Division Detailed Syllabus
1 History

History of India and Indian Freedom Struggle

Ancient History of India

Medieval History of India

Modern History 1857 to 1947

Indian National Movement

2 Geography

Geography of India and

Concept of Physical Geography

Physical Geography

Human Geography

Economic Geography

World Geography

3 Polity

Indian Polity and Governance issues

Union Executives

State Executives

Federalism in India

Judicial System

Panchayati Raj

4 Economy

Indian Economy and Social Development

Basic Principles of Indian Economy

Social Schemes of Government

Social Development through Economic Empowerment

Sustainable Development


5 Environment and Ecology

Principles of Environment and Ecology

General Principles

Climate Change and

Climate Summits and Conferences

6 General Science

Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Technology

General Principles

Latest Science and Technological Development

7 Current Events

It covers all the events of National and International Importance

Current Affairs

Current Affairs with all Dimensions

UPSC IAS Syllabus Prelims Exam 2021: General Studies Paper II (CSAT) [Qualifying]

Marks: 200 marks

Duration: 2 hours

1. Reading Comprehension

2. Interpersonal skills including communication skills;

3. Logical reasoning and analytical ability

4. Decision making and problem-solving ability

5. General mental ability

6. Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. - Class X level)

7. English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level).

8. Questions relating to English Language Comprehension skills of Class X level (last item in the Syllabus of Paper-II) will be tested through passages from English language only without providing Hindi translation thereof in the question paper.

Exam pattern for IAS Mains

The UPSC exam pattern for the Mains stage consists of 9 papers conducted over a week. Only those candidates who secure at least the declared cut off in General Studies I and 33% in General Studies II in Prelims will be eligible to appear for the Mains Examination in that particular year. Cut off at times depends on the number of vacancies in a particular year, as 12-13 times aspirants sit for the mains exam as compared to the declared vacancies. As per the exam pattern of UPSC Mains, all of the papers consist of descriptive answer type questions with assigned word limit. The details of UPSC Mains Exam are given below:

Paper Subject Duration Total marks
Paper A Compulsory Indian language 3 hours 300
Paper B English 3 hours 300
Paper I Essay 3 hours 250
Paper II General Studies I 3 hours 250
Paper III General Studies II 3 hours 250
Paper IV General Studies III 3 hours 250
Paper V General Studies IV 3 hours 250
Paper VI Optional I 3 hours 250
Paper VII Optional II 3 hours 250
  • All of the mains papers except for the language papers A and B are of a merit ranking nature.
  • Paper A and B are of qualifying nature and candidates must score at least 25% in each for the marks from their Paper I – Paper VII to be given weightage.
  • Paper A is not compulsory for candidates from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim as well as candidates with hearing impairment, provided they can prove that they have been exempted from such 2nd or 3rd language courses by their concerned board or university. The Indian Language paper covers any of the languages included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution.

The subjects which are covered by the General Studies Papers in Mains Exam are:

General Studies I General Studies II General Studies III General Studies IV
Indian Heritage and Culture Governance Technology Ethics
History and Geography of the World Constitution Economic Development Integrity
Society Polity Bio-diversity Aptitude
Social Justice Environment
International relations Security and Disaster Management
Sl. No. Name of Paper Syllabus
1 Essay Paper Any Topic/Topics (Current issues) 250
2 GS Paper I Indian Heritage and
Culture, Indian History, World History, World Geography, Indian Society, Important Geo-physical phenomena
3 GS Paper II Governance, Indian Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and
International relations, Welfare Schemes, Statutory, regulatory and quasi-judicial bodies, Role of civil services in a democracy, India’s relation with neighbour countries, International institutions,
4 GS Paper III Technology,
Economic Development, Bio diversity,
Indian Economy and its various sectorsGovernment BudgetingLand ReformsInclusive GrowthSecurity and Disaster Management
5 GS Paper IV Ethics and Human Interface



Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Public/Civil service value

Probity in Governance

Case study on above topics

6 Indian Language Paper (i) Comprehension of given passages
(ii) Précis Writing
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary
(iv) Short Essays
(v) Translation from English to the Indian
language and vice-versa
7 English Comprehension of given passages
Précis Writing
Usage and Vocabulary
Short Essays
8 Optional Paper I As opted by Candidate 250
9 Optional Paper II As opted by Candidate 250

The Optional subjects for Paper VI and VII of the mains examination have to be any one of the subjects from the following list:

Agriculture Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science Anthropology Botany Chemistry
Civil Engineering Commerce and Accountancy Economics Electrical Engineering Geography
Geology History Law Management Mathematics
Mechanical Engineering Medical Science Philosophy Physics Political Science and International Relations
Psychology Public Administration Sociology Statistics Zoology
The literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English.


  • All the papers except the Language papers A and B can be answered in English or any of the languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • The optional papers can be answered in English even if none of the other papers has been answered by the candidate in English




exam pattern upsc civil service

Stage 3: UPSC Interview

This is the final stage of the IAS Exam before the final results are declared. Officially it is called the Interview/Personality Test and counted as a part of the Mains Examination for merit ranking purposes. From a preparation standpoint, it is considered the third stage as preparation strategies for the written and interview stages are different. As per the IAS exam pattern, this consists of an interview by the UPSC board to assess the candidates’ suitability for a civil services career and associated responsibilities. The board consists of competent and unbiased observers who have a record of the candidates’ career. The board would judge the candidates mental and social traits by asking questions of general interest. Some of the qualities that the board looks for are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, a balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity.

The maximum marks allotted for the interview stage is 275, thus bringing the total marks for the merit list consideration to 2025.

The whole exam pattern of the UPSC IAS examination is comprehensive, and the competition is intense. One should start preparing in-depth as the examination process lasts for almost a year and not making the cut means starting from scratch the following year.


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