UPSC IAS Exam Pattern 2021 refers to the stages, pattern, marking scheme and duration given of all the compulsory and additional selection papers that together are known as the UPSC Civil Service Examinations. The examination widely divided into three stages:

  • Prelims
  • Mains
  • Personality Test/ Interview

Many candidates this year appeared for the UPSC Prelims 2020 and are actively preparing for their UPSC Mains, but there are also many new aspirants ready to take their place to start their journey too.

The first step to start preparing for the exam is to conduct a research about the exam to find out in detail about the exam, the kind of questions asked, the kind of answers expected and most importantly, if you are ready to commit and devote yourself for the cause.

Basic Overview of the Exam

Name of the exam Civil Services Exam- IAS
Conducting authority Union Public Service Commission
Mode of Exam Offline
Number of Stages Prelims exam

Mains exam


Number of papers Prelims: 2

Mains: 9

Prelims marking scheme Paper 1: +2 marks

Paper 2: +2.5 marks

Negative marking: One-third of marks allotted to each question

Duration Prelims: 2 hours (Each paper)
Mains: 3 hours (Each paper)
Type of questions Prelims: Objective type
Mains: Subjective type
Post 1000 (Tentative)

Also Read: Important Facts About UPSC Exam

Exam Pattern For UPSC Prelims

Exam Mode Offline
Number of Papers 2- General Studies and Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT)
Number of Questions Paper 1- 100; Paper 2- 80
Question Paper Type Multiple Choice Questions
IAS Prelims Total Marks 400
Nature of Exam Qualifying
Exam Duration 2 hours each, +20 minutes for blind students
Exam Language English and Hindi

Also Read: All You Need to Know About UPSC Prelims Preparation 

Facts About Prelims

  • The Prelims stage consists of 2 papers- General Ability Test (GAT) and the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT).
  • All MCQ based objective type questions are asked.
  • Questions are set in both languages, Hindi and English.
  • Questions testing English Language Comprehension skills are set in English only.
  • Candidates have to score a minimum of 33% in the Prelims to qualify for IAS Mains.
  • Each question in the GAT Paper weighs 2 marks while each question in the CSAT Paper weighs 2.5 marks.
  • A penalty of ⅓ marks is deducted for every wrong answer in the form of negative marking.
  • 2 answers marked for the same question is considered a wrong answer even if one of the answers is correct.
  • No answer marked is not considered as an attempt and hence no penalty is deducted.

Exam Pattern For UPSC Mains

There are two kinds of papers for Mains- Qualifying and Merit. It is compulsory to appear for both. Rank is decided on the basis of Merit. There are 7 papers under Merit:

Paper Title of the Paper Marks Allotted 
Paper 1 Essay writing 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
  Sub Total in the written Test 1750 Marks
  Personal Interview 275 Marks
Grand Total ( for merit calculation) 2025 Marks

Facts About Mains

  • UPSC Mains is an offline exam conducted on pen and paper.
  • Each paper carried 250 marks
  • Each paper is 3 hours long with handicapped students getting an extra 30 minutes.
  • The exam consists of a total of 9 papers.
  • All questions are subjective and descriptive.
  • The students are judged on the basis of opinion, content, understanding the problems/ situation, offering feasible solutions/strategies, presentation, language, intellect and knowledge on the given topic.
  • Questions are set in both Hindi and English.
  • Total marks is 1750.
  • The Mains papers are divided into two- Qualifying and Merit.

Qualifying UPSC Mains Papers

Candidates will have to score a minimum percentage in the qualifying exam.

  • Paper A: (Any one of the Indian Languages of the candidates’ choice to be selected from the ones included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution – 300 Marks)
  • Paper B: English – 300 Marks

Merit UPSC Mains Papers

  • Candidates are tested on the basis of their intellect, personal discretion, and interpersonal skills.
  • Essay type questions are used to understand the scope of the candidate’s knowledge and understanding of concepts.
  • Tests the strength of the candidates’ Indian Language.
  • An optional subject is selected from the list provided for which the candidate is to appear.

Also Read: How to Choose The Best Optional Subject For Mains?


Mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, the balance of judgment, variety, and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity are important qualities that UPSC searches for in the candidates.

Training yourself in not only knowledge but also mentally and personality-wise is important as it will help you be ready to solve all problems in a diplomatic and effortless manner. Knowing the exam pattern well enough is the first step to achieving your dreams to be a competent civil servant.

Content Protection by
UPSC Exam Pattern 2021: Stage and Paper-wise Marks Distribution in UPSC IAS Exams
Article Name
UPSC Exam Pattern 2021: Stage and Paper-wise Marks Distribution in UPSC IAS Exams
Getting ready to give your UPSC exams next year? Read on to know about all the nitty gritty of the different stages and the paper patterns to be able to prepare accordingly.
Publisher Name
UPSC Pathshala
Publisher Logo