If as a UPSC aspirant, are you confused about how many papers are there in the UPSC preliminary (prelims) examination? This article will give you an overview of the UPSC exam paper, syllabus and assist you with UPSC exam prelims preparation.

Overview of UPSC Prelims Examination

UPSC prelims is the qualifying exam conducted to shortlist students who will make it to the UPSC mains examination. The UPSC syllabus is very vast and requires rigorous preparation by the student.

UPSC prelims have two compulsory papers consisting of 200 marks. The aspiring UPSC candidates need to clear both the papers to qualify for the UPSC mains. The UPSC prelims examination consists of two parts–The General Studies (GS) Paper 1 and The General Studies Paper 2. The GS Paper 1 includes 100 questions and is considered for merit, while GS paper 2 requires the candidate to score at least 33% marks to qualify for the mains examination.

The Syllabus for the UPSC Prelims GS Paper 1

#1. Current affairs – National and Global

#2. History of India and Indian National Movement

#3. India and World Geography

#4. Indian Polity and Governance

#5. Economics and Social Governance

#6. General Issue on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity, and Climate Change

#7. General Science

The GS Paper 2 of UPSC Prelims Syllabus

#1. Comprehension

#2. Decision Making and Problem-solving

#3. Data Interpretation

#4. General Mental Ability

#5. Logical Reasoning

#6. Interpersonal Skill

#7. Basic Numeracy

Also Read:  Top 7 Ultimate Revision Tips for IAS Exams: Get the Ball in Your Court in the Next UPSC

Some Useful Pointers about UPSC Prelims Examination

Questions in the Prelims Examination

The prelims examination is an entry-level examination. Hence, all the questions in the UPSC prelims are objective-based. In this multiple-choice format, the students need to select an appropriate answer to the question asked from the available choices of the given answer options. The prelims examination paper is set in bilingual mode, Hindi and English, to benefit the UPSC candidates. The right strategy and a proper study plan can help a student clear the UPSC prelims exam with flying colours.

Examination Pattern

The UPSC prelims examination is conducted within one day. There are two sessions for the prelims UPSC examination. For GS Paper 1, about 100 questions consisting of 2 marks each needs to be answered within 2 hours. GS paper 2 consists of 80 questions, each carrying 2.5 marks to be completed within 2 hours. There is a negative marking for each wrong answer. One-third of marks are deducted for each incorrect answer from the total marks obtained. However, there is no penalty if the candidate has left blank (not answered) any question.

Guide for Prelims UPSC Examination

Build and Strengthen Your Foundation

As an aspiring UPSC candidate, you need to be well aware that having basic knowledge about different subjects is a must. Therefore you must start building and strengthening your core knowledge on various subjects by reading the NCERT books and preparing from the previous year’s question paper. The earlier you begin your UPSC preparation, the less daunting the syllabus will appear. It is the best way to guarantee success in the UPSC prelims 2021.

Proper Revision

UPSC examination is not an easy nut to crack, and hence a rigorous exam preparation is a must. However, you must allow ample time for proper revision of the different subjects to ensure proper retention of the information. The holistic revision of all the subjects, just before the UPSC prelims examination, can help you to excel and qualify for the UPSC mains.

Brush-up Current Affairs

Current affairs constitute a vast portion of the UPSC syllabus, and therefore being updated with current affairs of national and international news is vital for successfully cracking the UPSC exam. The candidate should be well-versed with the policy-related decisions of the nation to be able to answer questions in the UPSC prelims examination.

Appear for Mock Test

A mock test can help you gain insight into the type of questions asked during the UPSC prelims examination. Appearing for the mock test at regular intervals will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses in different subject areas and help you prepare methodically. Mock tests are conducted online by various coaching institutes that will help in time management too.

Consolidate Your Study Material

Sufficient and concise notes are necessary for UPSC preparation. There is vast information and books available in online and offline modes, and it is easy to get lost in it. Having the right notes and study material will ensure that you cover your syllabus in a time-bound manner without missing relevant and vital topics and subjects for the UPSC prelims.

Also Read: Can You Give State PSC and UPSC in Same Year? 4 Tips to Crack UPSC or State PSC


UPSC is a prestigious examination, and considering its priority in the country, the syllabus is vast. The above-stated information will help you answer all the queries as to how many papers are there in UPSC prelims and how to prepare. The questions asked in the IAS examination are multiple-choice questions (MCQ). For every wrong answer, there are negative marks, and 1/3rd marks will be deducted. Blind candidates are allotted additional 20 minutes for each paper in the exam. It is mandatory to appear for both the prelims examination papers of the UPSC examination.

To become an IAS officer, the candidate has to clear the prelims, but marks of prelims are not included in the final score. Those candidates who clear the mains with cut-off marks qualify for the interview round with UPSC board members.  Therefore, the IAS aspirants must know the subjects before sitting for the exam. The candidates need to brush up on the current affairs daily and revise the paper through a mock test to get better results. The candidate must follow an integrated approach for the preparation of UPSC prelims. NCERT books play a vital role in the preparation of prelims. The candidates are required to focus on revising and not covering the entire syllabus.

How can UPSC Pathshala Help?

UPSC Pathshala helps its students to prepare for prelims, mains and the interview round for the UPSC examination. The institute provides concise and quality materials and notes for prelims and mains. The institute also guides the candidates to develop the overall skills and personality to ace the examination. The UPSC Pathshala conducts mock tests and also assists IAS aspirants with different subjects for the interview round through its interactive video lessons and personalised syllabus. For more details on UPSC prelims 2021, visit the site.

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How many Papers are There in UPSC Prelims? Here’re the Insights to Boost Your UPSC Preparation
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How many Papers are There in UPSC Prelims? Here’re the Insights to Boost Your UPSC Preparation
Planning to prepare for UPSC prelims? Here is information on the number of papers to clear, details of the examination, and tips for UPSC preparation. Read to know more.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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