How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Mains? Should You Attempt all to Clear the Mains?

How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Mains

Mains is seen as a substantial part of the preparation of the UPSC. Since it’s a heavy part of your curriculum, you’re going to start gearing up at least one year earlier. It’s best to start preparing for the first year of the Bachelor’s degree. The first step is knowing the syllabus for mains. The second most important step is to know how many questions to attempt in UPSC mains and how much to write to achieve a decent score.

Mains are completely different from the objective analysis of Prelims. Mains is a subjective test. It gives you an opportunity to evaluate rather than mugging up the facts. Accordingly, this key analysis must be studied with the mindset that one needs an in-depth systematic approach with the capacity to analyze problems from different dimensions.

Let’s begin with prelims to get the basics right.

How many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims?

As you know in prelims you get +2 marks for every right answer. 2019 cut off for general was 98 so if you plan to attempt 49 questions out of 100 right then you will reach the cut off score. Obviously that’s the minimum score you have to achieve. You need to aim at least getting forty-nine questions right to be able to clear the prelims if you consider last years cutoff. Considering this, you will have to attempt more the forty-nine questions so that even if you get a few marked wrong, you can still make it to the mains.

In prelims, what the most important key point? It is accuracy. Even if you attempt fewer questions but are accurate then your chances of scoring more than cut off are higher. Should you attempt all the questions in UPSC mains to clear the exam? Instead of attempting most or all the queries with let’s say only 20% of accuracy will throw you off the race. Because let’s do not forget negative marking will pull your score down. So the key is accuracy.

To know more about marking schemes for prelims click here. 

How many Questions to Attempt in Mains

The UPSC mains is worth 1750 points. And last years cut off for general was 774. There are nine papers and each paper is worth 250 points. Logically speaking, you need to score at least 200 marks in each paper to be able to reach the cut-off.

While there may be changes, there are usually 20 questions to answer in each paper-the time available is 180 minutes that is 3 hours. You will take roughly 8-9 minutes to answer each question if all queries bear the same marks. If the mark differs from question to question, fix the time respectively.

What are Some Tips While Attempting Questions?

  • Presentation of your answers is very necessary. Using diagrams whenever needed. Usage of bullet points in questions where appropriate. Using paragraph format with headings and sub-headings for other topics. It is also a good idea to highlight keywords. The better you make your answer readable to the reviewer, the more marks you receive.
  • Applicants should plan their time to write answers to all the questions posed in the paper. If you are faced with time constraints, it is often preferable to write an average answer to all queries rather than a lengthy answer to only 2-3 questions and waste a lot of time and ignoring other parts.
  • If you manage to score an average of 5-6 marks for each of the 20 queries, that will take your score to 100-120-which is great!

What is that One thing to Avoid in UPSC Mains?

UPSC needs that you have a clear understanding of the problem and that the same can be easily understood when it is presented. Thus, one should not fall into feelings, ideas or arguments that are not completely appropriate for the writing of a particular response. Going overboard can lead to misunderstanding.  In addition, this will save you time and effort that can be used to answer other questions effectively.


Whether or not you want to attempt all the questions or skip few depends entirely on the candidates. When making this decision, the applicant must take into consideration the time constraints, the complexity of the test as well as the depth of knowledge of the applicant. Applicants are recommended to go through the directions in the question paper carefully before undertaking the question paper. This is because UPSC can modify the instructions depending upon the question. So be careful and give your best!

Also Read: UPSC Mains Exam Pattern: Is UPSC Mains MCQ Pattern?

Content Protection by
How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Mains? Should You Attempt all to Clear the Mains?
Article Name
How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Mains? Should You Attempt all to Clear the Mains?
How many questions should you aim for to make it to the merit list? Do you need to attempt all questions in UPSC mains? Tips for mains exam. What should you avoid in mains?
Publisher Name
UPSC Pathshala
Publisher Logo