In the last five years, there have been many major and minor changes in the UPSC exam paper pattern and syllabus. So, in all those changes, only the CSE Mains exam has been affected. Hence, there has been no change in the number of attempts. Also, age limit and exam pattern for the preliminary exam.

Putting up this article on the UPSC exam paper pattern in the most simplified way possible for avoiding any further doubts.

UPSC Exam Paper Pattern 2021

The UPSC civil services exam comprises three parts.

#Preliminary examination

#Main Examination


Let’s see the exam pattern of each of the sections differently. 

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern 2021 (400 Marks)

The UPSC prelims pattern consists of two objective type papers of two hours each.

Paper I – is a paper on General Studies – 200 marks

Paper-II – is a paper on civil service aptitude test- 200 marks

#Know one thing here, the preliminary exam is a qualifying exam. The marks obtained in the preliminary examination by the candidates will not be counted.

#The question will be set in both Hindi and English language papers. However, multiple-choice questions related to English Language Comprehension skills would be provided only in English.

Also Read: UPSC CSE 2022 Syllabus: Let’s Get the Update Information for UPSC Preparation

UPSC Mains Pattern 2021 (2075 Marks)

Here, the total marks of the Main exam and interview sum up to produce the final result.

The main examination will have 2 qualifying papers and 7 papers to be counted for merit. So, All the 9 papers will have essay-type questions. Let us look at these papers and their patterns.

IAS Mains Exam Pattern

Paper A and B are qualifying papers and the other 7 papers are ranking papers.

Paper A

One of the Indian Languages to be selected by the candidate. ( the languages included in the 8th schedule of the constitution.)

300 Marks 

Paper B


300 Marks 


250 Marks

Paper 1


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

For the optional paper, UPSC has a list of about twenty-six subjects. So, any subject has to be selected by the candidate.

Written exam total – 1750 Marks

Interview total – 275 Marks

Subtotal- 2025 Marks

Marks obtained in Paper 1 to Paper 7 of service aptitude test will be counted for merit ranking.

The question paper for each of the seven papers will be of the conventional (essay) type. Also, it will have three hours allotted.

Also Read: UPSC Mains 2022 Syllabus: Let’s Move a Step Ahead of the Basic UPSC Preparation

Interview Test- 275 Marks

#Here, the interview or personality round is also included as a part of the “Main Examination” and is worth 275 marks.

#So, Candidates will be allotted keeping in view their ranks in the UPSC IAS exam. Also, the preferences expressed by them for the various services and posts.

Syllabus for Prelims 2021

The IAS prelims exam is the most significant portion of the selection process because it is at this phase that the majority of aspirants are eliminated. Let’s take a look at the topics listed in the official syllabus.

GS Paper 1

#Current events of national and international importance

#Indian National Movement and History of India 

#Indian and World Geography-Economic, Physical, Social Geography of India and the World

#Indian Polity and Panchayati Raj, Governance-Constitution, Rights Issues, Political System, Public Policy, etc

#Demographics, Social and Economic Development-Sustainable Development, Social Sector Initiatives, Poverty, Inclusion, etc

#General issues on biodiversity, climate change and environmental ecology – that do not need a subject profession. 

#General Science. 

GS Paper 2

The general studies paper-II, also known as the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT), is only for qualifying purposes, and the marks earned in this paper are not taken into account when calculating the prelims result. The following are the topics mentioned in the official syllabus:


Interpersonal skills including communication skills

Analytical ability and logical reasoning 

Problem-solving and Decision making

General mental ability

Data interpretation (tables, charts, graphs, data sufficiency, etc. — Class X level), Basic numeracy (orders of magnitude, numbers and their relations, etc.)(Class X level)

Also Read: UPSC Prelims Expected Cutoff 2021: Analysis of Past Five Years Cutoff

Essay Syllabus for Mains 2021

The UPSC notification makes no remark of the IAS essay paper syllabus. The official notification only gives a broad overview. However, the expectations of the candidates are stated in the notification “They will be expected to stay focused on the essay’s topic, organise their thoughts in a logical manner, and write concisely. The effective and precise expression will be rewarded.” 

UPSC frequently includes topics from philosophy, public administration, and international scenarios in its examinations. These essays are used to assess the candidates’ worldviews. ‘How the candidate sees the engrossed problems and how they suggest solutions to the problems’ is tested by UPSC.

Important Topics for UPSC 2021

The important topics that IAS aspirants must prepare for are discussed in detail in the IAS exam. Candidates must learn to comprehend and observe any current event of national or international importance through the lens of the UPSC syllabus and IAS exam relevance. 

Filtering out irrelevant events and happenings that aren’t relevant to the IAS exam should be a top priority. Only by analysing IAS question papers from the prelims and main exams can this skill be developed.

Important Essay Topics for Mains 2021

#Is India prepared to take on the role of the new world leader? 

#It is past time for the world’s institutions to be restructured. 

#India’s political structure is a unique mix of federal and unitary. 

#What is India’s strategy for combating the COVID-19 outbreak? 

#To be sustainable, agriculture must be profitable. 

#India is transitioning from a socialist to a capitalist economy. 

#What we give our children has a societal repercussion? 

#Agriculture subsidies should be reduced by the government. 

#India’s plan to grow to a $5 trillion economy 

#A free woman is a sign of a well-developed society. 

#To become a developed society, food security is essential. 

#How can India take advantage of its demographic dividend?

#COVID-19 has widened the gap between rural and urban areas. 

#The roots of Indian society can be weakened by biassed media.

Important Areas in Essay to Cover

#The changing global order and India’s role in it. 

#India’s foreign policy and bilateral issues in flux. 

#Relationships between India and its neighbours 

#India’s Border Security 

#Women’s Status and Situation in Indian Society 

#Child labour and the limitations imposed by Indian legislation 

#The impact of technological advancement on Indian society’s social fabric 

#Indian Agriculture’s Changing Trends and Economic Reforms 

#India’s Health Infrastructure 

#The rural-urban divide in India and how technology can help bridge the gap 

#What are the differences between childhood, adolescence, and old age? 

#India’s Economic Structure 

#Changing Environmental Phenomenon in Different Parts of the World.

Current Affairs 

#Recovery of Indian Economy

#New Agriculture Laws

#New National Education Policy

#Digital Education Report

#Stages of Vaccine Development

#ASEEM Platform

#Postal Ballot in India

#Net Zero Carbon Emission – Meaning

#5G technology – Beam formation, Mass MIMO

#Working of ICMR

#Drug testing regulation in India

#String of Pearl’s theory and India’s counter

#Sea Lines of Communication in the Indian Ocean

#India’s Counter and (OBOR) One Belt One Road Policy 

#Cyclone Nisarga affected areas

#Fabric required for PPE kit

#What percentage of oxygen is required for the normal functioning of the brain?

#Shifting of Earth’s Geo-Magnetic field and its impact

#Indo-Nepal & Indo-China Border dispute

#Virus and Bacteria borne diseases differences

Some More


#Corona Test Techniques – Viral vs Antibody Test

#Recent NAM and SCO Summit

#Recent Dhaula-Vira Discoveries

#Coronavirus Pandemic

#China – Wuhan

#Facts related to the Citizenship Amendment Act

#The Jammu & Kashmir, Leh and Ladakh formation

#Sir Creek dispute

#Uttarakhand Summer Capital

#Environment Summits 2019-2020

Also Read: UPSC Prelims 2021 Question Paper and Answer Key: How to Prepare for Mains after Prelims?


#Role of RBI in post-COVID-19 recovery

#Recovery of Indian Economy after the pandemic

#FATF Review of Indian Economy Pushed to 2021

#IMF projection and Indian Economy

#Garib Kalyan Rozgar Abhiyaan

#Zoram Food Park, Mizoram

#Google to invest 75000 Crore in India

#National Infrastructure Pipeline

#Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund

#What is Negative Growth?

#Deflation and Recession

#Indian Economic Structure

#The primary, secondary and tertiary producers

#Agriculture in India

#Banking Structure of India (Recent Bank Mergers)

#RBI Mandate and it’s functioning


#Reverse Repo Rate, REPO rate, Marginal Standing Facility, Bank Rate

Crypto-currency and issues related to it 


#The increasing frequency of Cyclone

#Bihar and Assam Floods

#Flood and the Indian preparations across the state

#The naming convention of cyclones

#Physical Features along Indo-China Border

#Geo-Magnetic Field and its significance

#Cyclone Amphan &  Cyclone Nisarga

#Importance of Himalayas, Formation of Himalaya and structure of Himalayas

#Physical Geography of India

#The drainage system in India

#Monsoon pattern in India

#Rock System in India

#Formation of Rocks

#Recent Census figures



Indian Polity

#Citizenship Act

#Fundamental Rights

#Fundamental Duties

#Articles related to the Supreme Court of India

#Articles related to the Emergency Provisions in India

#Article related to the Union-State relations with social emphasis on Article 256, 356

#National Security Act

#Essential Commodities Act

#Important SC Judgements related to Fundamental Rights and Basic Structure Doctrine

#Panchayati Raj Institutions

#Lokpal Institution

#NITI Aayog functioning

#New Agriculture Laws are essential for long-pending Agricultural reforms

#All India orientation of CBI investigation

#Implications of J & K reorganisation Act, 2019

#Difference between Minister with Independent Charge and Cabinet Minister 

#Prime Minister as the Residuary Legatee


#Article related to the Land Boundaries and their redrawing

#Articles related to the Citizenship of India


#History of Galway Valley

#Dholavira excavation and the related discoveries

#Government of India Act 1935

#All the events occurred in the years 1919 and 1920.

#All the events related to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru

#The Round Table Conferences – I, II and III. (III is most important)

#Poona Pact

#Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy

#Civil Disobedience Movement 

#Cabinet Mission Plan

#Quit India Movement

#The Social movements in Modern India

#The Formation of Indian National Congress, the Democratic Socialist Party and the local parties

#The chronology of events leading to the Indian Independence

#National Leaders related to the National Movement

#Liberal Viceroys of India

Also Read: UPSC Prelims 2022 Syllabus: Detailed Prelims Syllabus to Ace UPSC CSE

UPSC CSE Exam Tips

Read the Requirements

No. To pass this exam, you don’t need to know everything there is to know. That’s the first thought that comes to mind. UPSC has established a syllabus for the three stages of this one-year exam, namely Prelims, Mains, and Interview. 

The first step for all freshmen is to gain a thorough understanding of the UPSC syllabus and exam pattern. Also, be aware of the UPSC CSE exam eligibility requirements.

Get Essential Material

Everyone will agree that passing the IAS exam requires investing in some books. That’s correct. Because the syllabus is so large, the aspirant should develop a reading habit. To begin, in addition to all of the NCERT books, we recommend purchasing some useful books (such as Indian Polity by Laxmikanth).

Tips for UPSC Exam Preparation

#Understand the syllabus. Pick out the important topics from each paper.

#Main a proper study schedule.

#Find out your weak and strong points and focus on them.

#Try to solve as many as possible practice sets.

#Go through previous year papers and observe the question patterns.

#Search for video tutorials. Those will help you to prepare better for the civil services examination.

#Try to get a personal mentor who will be there to solve your doubts and help you in learning different things.

#Make a habit of daily newspaper reading.

Download Apps that will keep you updated with regular current affairs that were relevant to the exam.

#Along with the study, keep a focus on your presentation skills as well. Remember, no matter how hard you work for the written examination, your fate will finally be decided on the basis of your interview.


Hopefully, this generic exam pattern of UPSC will help you get a clear idea about the prelims and mains exam pattern and will enhance your preparation. You can also refer to a proper calendar to chalk out a  plan for studying for yourself.

Also, it is important to select your optional subject wisely. So, Make sure you’ve chosen the correct subject. Till then, Good Luck.

Also Read: UPSC 2022 Application Form: Last Date of Notification & Guide on How to Fill the Form

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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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