The UPSC every year conducts a nationwide competitive examination known as the Indian Administrative Service Examinations. This exam has acquired the interest of budding minds of the nation for a very long time because of its elevating and brain testing nature and diverse advantages.

These examinations are divided into two levels, prelims and mains. Students need to clear the UPSC Prelims to appear for IAS Mains Examination. The patterns and the weightage is given to certain topics in both phases are different. Students after graduating are often confused about how to begin their IAS preparation. If you want to know more about how to start UPSC preparation from zero levels, continue reading this blog.

UPSC Prelims Patterns and Syllabus

Before you start your preparation for the IAS examination, you must get a good look at the syllabus and the pattern of the examination. The Prelims Examinations are designed to assess a candidate’s understanding of general knowledge and current affairs, in a short duration of time. The paper is compulsory, and the candidate must clear the examination to appear in the mains examination.

The UPSC prelims examination consists of two papers, General Studies Paper 1, and General Studies Paper-II (also known as CSAT), each carrying 200 marks.

The UPSC syllabus for the Preliminary Exams comprises current affairs and events, History of both India and the Indian national movements, Geography of India and the World, Indian Policymaking and Governance, the Indian Political System, and Current issues on environment and climate change.

The subjects included in the UPSC prelims are:

  • Political Science
  • History
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • General Science
  • Sociology
  • Environmental Science

These are the compulsory subjects for the UPSC prelims examination and reading all the NCERT books for these subjects are recommended while preparing for the prelim’s examination.

Also Read: How to Balance Optional and General Studies to Clear UPSC?

UPSC Mains Pattern and Syllabus

The UPSC mains paper aims to evaluate the candidate’s expertise in the subjects they have specialized in. The paper tests the candidate’s knowledge and how well they understand the concepts.

The IAS mains exam consists of 9 papers, out of which 7 are compulsory and 2 are chosen out of the optional subjects. Out of the 7 compulsory subjects, 2 papers are language papers (Paper A and B). For paper A, the candidate must choose from one of the Indian languages, and paper B will include questions from English.

The questions for the UPSC mains examination will be completely subjective. The marks obtained in the language examinations would not be counted while formulating the merit list of the IAS examination, as they are qualifying exams. Each paper has a maximum mark of 250 while the maximum marks for language papers are 300 each.

The Subjects in the UPSC Mains Exams

  • Essay writing – 250 marks
  • General Studies 1 (Indian Heritage, culture, and History) – 250 marks
  • General Studies 2 (Governance, Social Justice, International Relations and Constitution) – 250 marks
  • General Studies 3 (Technology, Environment and Economic Development) – 250 marks
  • General Studies 4 (Integrity, Aptitude and Ethics) – 250 marks
  • Indian languages paper A and B – 300 marks for each paper
  • Optional subject paper 1 and 2 – 250 marks for each paper

UPSC Optional Subjects

Apart from the compulsory subjects, the candidate needs to choose one optional subject while attempting the IAS mains examination. The candidate needs to attempt two papers in the optional subject, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

The candidate can choose an Optional subject out of any of the given categories:

  • Social Science
  • Engineering
  • Medical
  • Science
  • Commerce and Management
  • Languages

Also Read: Who Takes Interview in UPSC? The Anatomy of UPSC Interviews

Is Reading all the NCERT Books Necessary?

If you are starting your UPSC preparation from the zero levels, then it is recommended that you start by reading all the NCERT books. NCERT books cover all the basic topics asked in the IAS prelims examination. A thorough reading of all the NCERT books should be enough to prepare you for the prelims.

Should I Join a Coaching Centre?

IAS examinations like all other competitive examinations are attempted by a lot of students, and there is no doubt that the examinations are going to be tough. The mains exam aims to test your expertise in particular subjects so your preparation needs to be good.

It is not as if students who have not joined a coaching centre have not cleared the IAS examination, but the probability is quite less. You need to be completely focussed, make a proper time-table and give mock tests regularly. A coaching centre provides you with a proper timetable, faculties who are expert in those particular subjects and will prepare a syllabus according to your specific requirements.

The coaching centres are focused, and follow the latest requirements as prescribed by the UPSC and can place aspirants on the right path to clear the examinations. Students will also get the advantage of peer learning, analysis and mock tests.


It depends on student to student. If you want to follow a more focussed approach then you should join a coaching centre, but if you are confident about your abilities then you can prepare yourselves. Reading NCERT books is a compulsion but it is not enough as they just provide you with just basic information and you need to be prepared thoroughly to clear the UPSC exams. You can also check out different courses offered by UPSC Pathshala.

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Should I Join an IAS Coaching after Graduation or First Read All the NCERT Books?
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Should I Join an IAS Coaching after Graduation or First Read All the NCERT Books?
Students are often confused about how to prepare for IAS examinations, should they join a coaching centre or read all the NCERT books. Continue reading this blog to know more.
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UPSC Pathshala
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