Is the UPSC exam tough? The answer is yes! The UPSC exam is a tough exam. It involves three rounds of testing; the prelims round, the mains round, and the personal interview round.

How tough is UPSC? UPSC is considered to be the toughest exam in India. Why?

It has a very low pass percentage. Overall around 1% of people can only go on to clear all three rounds of IAS examination.

What Makes it so Tough

The reasons for toughness are many like the syllabus, the exam pattern, the details required, and preparation time.

First, let’s talk about the exam pattern. The exam is divided into three parts. The prelims round, The mains round, and the personal interview round.

The Prelims Round

The prelims round consists of two papers. General studies 1 and General studies 2. General studies 1 has a hundred questions of 2 marks each, which have to be answered within 2 hours.

The General studies 2 papers consist of 80 questions worth 2.5 marks each this is the CSAT exam which requires higher-order thinking and outside the box. This is made to test your mental ability and decision making skills. So the total value of General studies 1 and General studies 2 paper is of 200 marks each.

Both these exams are conducted on the same day, with a little gap between the exams. The exams contain negative marking.

For every one wrong answer, 1/3rd of the marks allotted to that question are reduced. Any question unattempted is not graded and if multiple answers are given it is treated as a wrong answer and is deducted from your total score.

These papers have a cut-off. If the candidate can clear the cut-off, he or she will be eligible to write the mains section of this exam.

Also Read: Check-out the Best Timetable to Ace the Upcoming UPSC IAS Exam

The Mains Round

The mains round consists of 9 papers. YES! NINE papers. This is where only the best of the best get through. The nine papers are as the following below:

  • Part A
  • Part B
  • Paper 1
  • Paper 2
  • Paper 3
  • Paper 4
  • Paper 5
  • Paper 6
  • Paper 7
  • Papers 1 to 7 are of 300 marks each and are ranked on merit wise.
  • Part A and B are of 250 marks each and are of qualifying nature.
  • All nine papers are of 3 hours and Part A is a compulsory Indian language and Part B is English.

If a candidate gets a certain amount of marks he or she will be further called in for an interview round which is of 275 marks. This brings the grand total of marks to 2025 and your ranking is based on the total marks.

The languages for the Part A exam are given in a list that is in accordance with the Indian constitution’s article 8.

If you get a certain qualifying score in the nine papers then you will go through for the personal interview round.

Personal Interview Round

This round is the final round in the examination and is considered to be tougher than the written exams. This is a personality test of 275 marks and will be face to face with a board of members at the UPSC Bhavan in New Delhi. You are required to have knowledge of your subjects especially current affairs and you will have to be sharp in both thinking and speaking skills. You are going to be evaluated to see if you deserve to have a career in civil services or not.


IAS syllabus is the most challenging part. Since you have to study for 9 papers it requires a lot of time and patience.  The syllabus for the mains round and prelims round is almost the same but you have only two papers in the prelims round.

The first two exams are language-based and English and any Indian language. The remaining papers of the mains exam are:

  1.     Essay based on the writer’s choice
  2.     General studies 1 (Indian heritage & culture, history & geography of the world & society)
  3.     General studies-2 (governance, constitution, polity, social justice & international relations)
  4.     General studies-3 (technology, economic development, biodiversity, security & disaster management)
  5.     General studies-4 (ethics, integrity, and aptitude)
  6.     Optional subject 1
  7.     Optional subject 2

The writers are given an option to choose from 48 different subject lists for their optional subjects.

To prepare for these exams, NCERT books are your best option as they cover the basic areas of your topics and questions are generally formed from NCERT material.

Also Read: IAS Preparation Tips For Beginners

Tips for First Time UPSC IAS Attempts

  • Start preparing in advance, it is important to start early
  • Don’t just work but work hard and smart. At the end of the day, only efforts work not excuses
  • Start studying the general studies portion first as you will be able to cover for the prelims round too
  • Make sure to focus on the prelim’s exam equally. Give yourself at least 3 months for the prelim examination
  • After the prelims make sure you focus on answering the mains questions and keep solving papers
  • Keep up with current affairs, since it is very for an IAS aspirant
  •  Choose your optional subject after putting a lot of thought into it. Look for the pros and cons of the subjects you cannot decide.
  • Use NCERT textbooks of grades 6 to 12. They play a key role in most exams
  • Solving previous years’ papers. This helps you understand how questions are framed and how you can answer with maximum efficiency.
  • Take mock tests. One month before your exams, it is advised to take at least 1 to 2 tests every week. This will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.


Yes, IAS preparation is tough but that should not stop you from appearing for it. Do not be afraid to start since many toppers have felt the same fear but hard work has helped them achieve their goal. Understand why it is the toughest exam in India and get started today with some tips and tricks.

Also Read : CSAT Syllabus for UPSC 2020: Check-out the Exam Pattern and Marking Scheme

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Is UPSC Exam Tough? How Tough is Decoding UPSC?
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Is UPSC Exam Tough? How Tough is Decoding UPSC?
Ever wondered how tough is UPSC? Or is IAS tough? Then this article is what you exactly need. You will be able to answer these questions on your own with the help of this article.
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