Preliminary & Mains 2023

Phase 1: UPSC Prelims Exam

The Preliminary Examination is composed of two components:

1) General Studies

Paper Subjects Total


                             I           General Studies(GS)           200 2 hours (9:30 AM to 11:30 AM)

2 hours (2:30 PM to

4:30 PM)


2) Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)

    • Broadly, the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination consists of two papers of objective type, each of 200 marks (hence totaling 400 marks) and of two hours duration. To qualify for the Civil Services Mains, a candidate must attempt both the papers.
    • Further, the UPSC General Studies (GS) paper consists of 100 questions, while the CSAT paper consists of 80 questions. Both papers have negative marks for wrong answers marked to the tune of 1/3rd of the total marks assigned to that question.
      • To further illustrate this, each correctly answered GS question will be awarded 2 marks. So, 0.66 marks would be deducted from the total for every question that is wrongly marked.
      • Similarly, in the CSAT paper, since we have 80 questions for 200 marks, correctly answered CSAT question would attract 2.5 marks each, while every wrongly marked question would attract a penalty of 0.833 for each such wrong answer, which will be deducted from the total.
    • Questions that are not attempted will not attract any negative marks.


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

  1. General Studies (Generally conducted between 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM)

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 to 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.
  • 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.

UPSC Prelims Syllabus

Syllabus for GS Paper (Prelims Paper I)

  • Current events of national and international importance ( will cover everything static as well, if it has a bearing on current issues in focus at the moment i.e. since ukraine is in news now so - questions can be asked based on defence, polity & economy)
  • History of India and Indian National Movement.
  • Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World ( can cover areas that were traditionally not included in Geography i.e. modern migration, population composition, new & emerging industrial zones).
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialisation.
  • General Science - school level science applications & modern researches

Syllabus for CSAT Paper (Prelims Paper II)

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)

Phase 2: UPSC Mains Exam (1750 Marks)

  • 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
    • 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.



Structure of the language papers:

The types of questions asked are –

      1. Essay – 100 marks
      2. Reading comprehension – 60 marks
      3. Precis Writing – 60 marks
      4. Translation:
        1. English to compulsory language (e.g. Hindi) – 20 marks
        2. Compulsory language to English – 20 marks
      5. Grammar and basic language usage – 40 marks

The rest of the seven papers can be written in any of the languages mentioned under the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India or in English.

UPSC Mains Syllabus

Paper Subject Marks
Paper – I Essay (can be written in the medium of the candidate’s choice) 250
Paper – II General Studies – I (Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography

of the World & Society)

Paper – III General Studies – II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice &

International Relations)

Paper – IV General Studies – III (Technology, Economic Development,

Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management)

Paper – V General Studies – IV (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude) 250
Paper – VI Optional Subject – Paper I 250
Paper – VII Optional Subject – Paper II 250

















Please check the detailed UPSC Mains General Studies Syllabus here.

The UPSC Mains syllabus gives a list of 48 Optional Subjects which include Literature of different languages. Candidates need to choose any one of the ‘Optional Subjects’ from the list of subjects given below:


Civil Services Exam Syllabus For IAS Mains Optional Subjects:

Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science
Civil Engineering
Commerce & Accountancy
Electrical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Medical Science
Political Science & International Relations
Public Administration
Gujarati (Literature)
Hindi (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Kannada (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Kashmiri (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Konkani (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Maithili (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Malayalam (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Manipuri (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Marathi (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Nepali (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Odia (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Punjabi (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Sanskrit (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Santhali (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Sindhi (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Tamil (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Telugu (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – English (Literature)
IAS Syllabus – Urdu (Literature)


Candidates can check the success rate of optional subjects at the linked article.

Phase 3: IAS Interview/UPSC Personality Test (275 Marks)

  • Candidates who qualify the UPSC Mains Exam will be called for the ‘Personality Test/Interview’. These candidates will be interviewed by a Board appointed by the UPSC.
  • The number of candidates called to the personality test are normally more than three times the number of total vacancies in a particular year.
  • The objective of the interview is to assess in wider terms the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in the civil services by a board of competent and unbiased observers.
  • The interview is more of purposive conversation intended to explore the mental qualities and analytical ability of the candidate.
  • The Interview test will be of 275 marks and the total marks for written examination is 1750. This sums up to a Grand Total of 2025 Marks based on which the final merit list will be prepared.



Top of page