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UPSC Exam Pattern 2021 for IAS, IPS, Civil Services Exam

IAS Exam Pattern| UPSC Exam Pattern | UPSC/IAS Prelims cum Mains Exam Pattern | IFS/IPS Exam Pattern and Syllabus

Every year the UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination (CSE) to various key Civil Services of the Government of India, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), etc. A candidate planning to prepare for CSE must get himself acquainted with the examination plan/pattern and its syllabus which would help him in getting an edge over others and in planning his preparation in a manner best suitable for him. Following are the complete details:

UPSC Exam Pattern, IAS Exam Pattern, IPS Exam Pattern, Civil Services Exam Pattern

Plan/Pattern of Civil Services Examination:

The Civil Services Examination comprises three successive stages:

  • Civil Services Preliminary Examination-Objective Type, for the selection of candidates for Main Examination.
  • Civil Services Main Examination-Written, for the selection of candidates for Interview.
  • Interview or Personality Test for the selection of candidates for the various Services and posts.

Table of Contents:-

    1. Overview of IAS Exam Pattern
    2. IAS Exam pattern of Prelims
      • Marking Scheme of Prelims
      • Negative Marking
    3. IAS Exam Pattern for Mains
      • Qualifying Paper
      • Marking Scheme of Mains
    4. IAS Exam Pattern for Personality Test
    5. Prelims Syllabus
    6. Mains Syllabus
    7. IAS Preparation Books
    8. Editor's Note
    9. FAQ Regarding IAS Exam Pattern

Overview of IAS Exam Pattern

Name of the exam Civil Services Exam- IAS
Conducting authority Union Public Service Commission
Mode of exam Offline
Number of Stages Prelims
Mains Exam
Number of papers Prelims: 2
Mains :9
Prelims marking scheme Paper 1: +2 marks per question
Paper 2: +2.5 marks per question
Negative marking: One-third of marks allotted to each question
Duration Prelims: 2 hours (Each paper)
Mains: 3hours (Each paper)
Type of Questions Prelims: Objective type
Mains: Subjective type
Post 1000 approximate (Tentative)

IAS Exam pattern of Prelims

  • Prelims examination consists of 2 compulsory papers - General Studies paper and (CSAT) Civil service aptitude test. Moreover, it will test the analytical skills of the candidate.
  • All the questions in the prelims exam are objective in nature. So, the candidate has to choose any one option out of 4 answers given for each question.
  • Questions are in both Hindi and English language. However, comprehension questions in the English language in the CSAT paper are without Hindi translations.
  • Also, prelims exam is qualifying in nature. The cut off of paper I is decided by UPSC every year. The CSAT paper requires the candidates to score at least 33% i.e. 66 marks to qualify and to be able to sit for the Mains exam.
  • Moreover, the number of candidates that sit for the main exams is much higher than the vacancies.

IAS Prelims Exam Pattern

Exam Mode Offline
Number of Papers 2- General Studies and Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT)
Number of Questions Paper 1- 100; Paper 2- 80
Question Paper Type Multiple Choice Questions
IAS Prelims Total Marks 400
Nature of Exam Qualifying
Exam Duration 2 hours each, +20 minutes for blind students
Exam Language English and Hindi

Marking Scheme of Prelims

The IAS Exam pattern is very important to understand to pass the prelims exam. Here is the marking scheme of prelims:

  • Every question in paper I is of 2 marks. So, the question paper is a total of 200 marks.
  • Every question in the Civil Service Aptitude Test carries 2.5 marks. So, the question paper is a total of 200 marks.
  • Also, for every wrong answer by the student, 0.33 marks will be deducted i.E. 0.66 will be deducted from paper I and 0.83 marks will be deducted from paper II. But, there is no negative marking from Q74 - Q80 because these are decision-making questions.
  • If the candidate gives more than 1 answer, then it will be considered as wrong even if one of them is right.
  • Candidates must cross the cut-off marks in Paper I and a minimum of 33% score in Paper II to sit for the main exam.

Negative Marking

The IAS Exam pattern is very different from other exams. Also, the candidates can easily get negative marking in the UPSC Exam. In other words, 3 incorrect answers will lead to around 1 mark deduction. In short, the candidate will get a 1/3 mark deducted for incorrect answers. Also, there is no negative marking for blank answers. Read everything about UPSC on its official website.

Paper Type No. of questions Marks Duration Negative Marks
General Studies I Objective 100 2*100 = 200 2 hours Yes, 0.66
General Studies II(CSAT) Objective 80 2.5*80 = 200 2 hours Yes, 0.83
IAS Exam Syllabus, UPSC Exam Syllabus

IAS Exam Pattern for Mains

  • IAS mains is an offline exam. There are a total of 9 papers in the Mains exam.
  • Every paper is of 3 hours and extra 30 minutes extra is given to blind students.
  • Paper A and Paper B are of 300 marks each and the remaining papers are of 250 marks each.
  • The main exam is divided into 2 parts qualifying and merit exam. And it is compulsory to sit in for all the exams to go into the interview stage.
  • Moreover, questions will be subjective. And you can write in either Hindi or English language
  • So, the candidate will be tested on the basis of knowledge and understanding of the subject. You have to answer touching the basic and relevant aspects. You will also be marked upon whether you are able to provide valuable and constructive way forwards.

Qualifying Paper

  1. Paper A - Either of the Indian languages can be selected from the 8th schedule of the constitution. Also, it carries 300 marks.
  2. Paper B - The 2nd exam is an English paper. And it also carries 300 marks.

Qualifying Exams - The students have to score minimum marks in the qualifying exam to crack the exam. Moreover, the question paper is set to test the student's ability to analyze. The exam tests the student's grasp of the Indian languages. In other words, the questions test the student's understanding of the concept and subject. However, there would be 2 optional exams that the student will have to choose. Also, below is the list of mandatory exams and marks for more information:

Paper Title of the Paper Marks Allotted
Paper 1 Essay writing 250 Marks
Paper 2 General Studies–I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society) 250 Marks
Paper 3 General Studies –II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations) 250 Marks
Paper 4 General Studies –III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio‐diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management) 250 Marks
Paper 5 General Studies –IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude) 250 Marks
Paper 6 Optional Subject – Paper 1 250 Marks
Paper 7 Optional Subject – Paper 2 250 Marks
- Sub Total in the written Test 1750 Marks
- Personal Interview 275 Marks
- Grand Total ( for merit calculation) 2025 Marks

Prelims Syllabus

Paper 1(General Studies) - This will test the student's knowledge and passion for learning about the country. Also, the questions are from various aspects like history, geography, economy and much more.

  • Events of National and International Importance
  • Geography impact in the country
  • Constitutional and governance structure
  • Issues faced by the country currently
  • Social and Economic Development
  • Research and development
  • Scientific development
Paper 2(English and General Aptitude) - Knowing high-level English is not compulsory in the field of Public Service but students have to score at least 33% to crack the exam. So, candidates have to practice mock tests in English to be able to score the minimum marks. However, the aptitude of the student determines the ability to solve complex problems, time management, and much more. Also, the important fields to practice for the IAS exam are as follows:
  • Logical Reasoning
  • The capacity of problem-solving
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Numerical Ability
  • Analytical Skills
  • Comprehension
  • Synonyms/antonyms

Mains Syllabus

Paper A(Any Indian Language) - This paper is to test the candidate's knowledge of the language.
Paper B (English) - This paper tests your ability to understand the English language.
Paper 3(Essay Writing) - Students write essays on the topic of their choice.
Paper 4(General Studies 1) - It will have questions related to ancient India like history, geography, heritage and much more.

  • Ancient and Modern - History of India.
  • Significant changes in Architecture, Literature, etc.
  • Significance of Geography.
  • Diversity
  • Globalization

Paper 5(General Studies 2) - This part will have questions regarding the reform in Indian governance after Independence. Further, the topics are:
  • India's Constitution
  • Analysis of the world's constitution
  • Legislature and Parliament
  • Main issues faced by the nation and solutions
  • Welfare schemes by the government
  • Structures and department in government

Paper 6(General Studies 3) - This paper has questions regarding Modern India and key developments. Also, the included topics are:
  • Indian Economy
  • Farming
  • Science
  • Research and Development
  • IT
  • Environmental Studies
  • Achievement in different fields
  • Security challenges
  • Industrial growth
  • Infrastructure Development

Paper 7(General Studies 4) - This will have questions about Integrity, Ethics and aptitude. Moreover, the included topics are:
  • Public Administration ethics
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Behavior Analysis
  • Functional Values

Paper 8 and 9 - This will cover the optional subjects chosen by the candidates. Students can choose from the following subjects:
  • Agriculture
  • Animal husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Anthropology
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Commerce and Accountancy
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineer
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • History of India
  • Law
  • Management
  • Maths
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Medical Science
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political science and International relations
  • Psychology
  • Public administration
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Zoology
  • Literature of any available 23 subjects

IAS Preparation Books

We have provided you with a list of the best books to refer for IAS preparation. You can start preparing for your exam starting with these basic books from the comfort of your home:

History Ancient India RS Sharma
History Modern India Satish Chandra Mittal
History History of Modern India Bipan Chandra
Polity The Constitution of India PM Bakshi
Ethics Ethics, Aptitude and Integrity for Civil Services Mail Examination Subba Rao and P.N. Roy Chaudary
Economy Indian Economy Mishra and Puri
Environment Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure Rajgopalan
Science and Technology Science and Technology in India TMH
English High School English Grammar and Composition Wren and Martin
General Studies IAS Mains Exam General Studies (IAS Mains Exam General Studies) Ashish Bharti (IPS)
Geography 1. NCERT VI to XII
2. Certificate Physical Geography: G C Leong
3. World Atlas
RS Sharma

Editor's Note

We have covered everything that you need to know about IAS Exam Pattern. Use this to make your own unique strategy to prepare for the exam. You need to understand that clearing the IAS exam is not a simple task as lakhs of aspirants sit for this exam but only a few are selected. However, with the right guidance, proper planning, consistency and hard work you can clear this exam. Therefore, you need to understand the IAS exam pattern deeply. The IAS exam pattern will clear your doubts and you will have a clear picture. To sum up, prepare yourself wisely.

FAQ Regarding IAS Exam Pattern

1. Why it is important to understand the IAS exam pattern?
The candidate should understand the IAS exam pattern properly because it will help to understand what to study and what to omit. The syllabus should be divided on the basis of strengths and weaknesses.

2. What is the IAS exam pattern of Prelims?
It has 2 papers General awareness and CSAT. Moreover, the candidate should score 33% in the second paper to crack the exam.

3. Is maths a good option to choose as an optional subject?
Yes, it is a very scoring subject in UPSC exams. However, if you are weak in maths but you have the interest to learn it, enroll in good coaching.

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