Exam Pattern Of UPSC IAS Civil Services Examination

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 article aims to give the reader an overview of the UPSC exam pattern and syllabus for CSE 2020.

The UPSC Civil Services Examination, commonly known as the IAS exam due to the high visibility and popularity of the Indian Administrative Service as a career option, is considered to be the toughest examination in India. It has earned this moniker partly due to the intense competition and partly due to the vast UPSC 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 till the final results are declared.

UPSC Exam Pattern and Syllabus PDF:-

UPSC Exam Pattern 2020

The pattern of UPSC examination is officially divided into two stages called Preliminary and Main Examination while in practice, it is a three-stage exam.

As per the IAS exam pattern, candidates who clear the Prelims are eligible for Mains and candidates who clear the Main reach the interview stage.

The three stages of the IAS exam are Prelims, Mains and Personality Test.

IAS exam pattern for UPSC Prelims

The Prelims Exam date is 31 May 2020. Visit the link to get free study material and preparation strategy for UPSC Prelims 2020.

The UPSC exam pattern for the Preliminary stage consists of two papers, conducted on one day. Both the papers comprise 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, though candidates have to prepare well for this exam as cut-offs are unpredictable and depend on the average score every year. The details of UPSC Prelims Exam are given below:

Paper                                          Type                  No. of questions            Marks           Duration       Negative marks

General Studies I                      Objective                 100                              200              2 hour                               yes

General Studies II (CSAT)         Objective                  80                              200               2 hour                               yes

IAS exam pattern for UPSC Mains

The UPSC exam pattern for the Mains stage consists of 9 papers conducted over a period of 5-7 days. 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 allowed to appear for the Mains Examination. As per the exam pattern of UPSC Mains, all of the papers consist of descriptive answer type questions.

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 & Geography of the World          Constitution                         Economic Development                                   Integrity

  Society                                                         Polity                                    Bio-diversity                                                      Aptitude

                                                                       Social Justice                           Environment                                                                  

                                                                       International relations           Security and Disaster Management                             

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            Geography                         Mathematics                Sociology                                               Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

Zoology                    History                                Statistics                   Public Administration                          Political Science and International Relations

Botany                   Medical Science                    Economics                 Law                                                             Electrical Engineering 

Chemistry              Physics                                  Psychology                Commerce and Accountancy                     Mechanical Engineering 

Geology                 Anthropology                       Philosophy                Management                                                Civil Engineering


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.

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 next year.

Aspirants should check the UPSC notification 2020 for details regarding the upcoming exam.

You can find more information here:

UPSC Books List PDF :-




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