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 UPSC exam paper pattern in the most simplified way possible for avoiding any further doubts.

The UPSC civil services exam comprises three parts.

  • Preliminary examination
  • Main Examination
  • Interview

The Preliminary Examination Pattern of UPSC (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.

UPSC Mains Pattern ( 2075 Marks)

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

The main examination will have the 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 to the constitution.)

300 Marks

Paper B


300 Marks



Paper I


250 Marks


General Studies I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)

250 Marks

Paper III

General Studies II (Governance, Constitution, Polity. Social Justice and International relations)

250 Marks

Paper IV

General Studies III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity.  Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

250 Marks

Paper V

General Studies IV ( Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)

250 Marks

Paper VI

Optional Subject- Paper 1

250 Marks

Paper VII

Optional Subject- Paper 2

250 Marks


For the optional paper, UPSC has a list of about twenty-six subjects. So, anyone 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: Tips to Prepare for Disaster Management Topic for UPSC Civil Service Mains Exam

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.

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.

Content Protection by
UPSC Exam Paper Pattern: UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam Pattern
Article Name
UPSC Exam Paper Pattern: UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam Pattern
It is very important to get a clear idea of the UPSC exam paper pattern to score well. Here is all the information about IAS prelims and mains exam pattern that will help you crack the civil services exam.
Publisher Name
Publisher Logo

About the Author

Akshay Palande

Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.

View All Articles