UPSC Mains Exam Pattern: Is UPSC Mains MCQ Pattern?

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern

The civil service mains is administered by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for those applicants who qualify Prelims of this prestigious test. The assessment is structured to assess the academic expertise as well as the comprehensibility of the applicants. Through this study, the Commission aims to understand the analytical aptitude and the coherent thinking of the candidates. UPSC Civil Services Mains 2020 is expected to take place on 08 January 2021. So understanding the UPSC mains exam pattern is a must. Just like prelims, is UPSC mains MCQ pattern? Let’s discuss it.

Unlike the Prelims, the mains is a subjective test meaning you would have to write detailed answers which also means that you need to focus on how you structure and format your answer writing. You will be judged on how coherent and flowy your response is to make sure you practice daily writing responses each day.

What is the Exam Pattern of UPSC Mains? Is it MCQ Based?

The UPSC mains exam for Civil Services consists of 9 papers which are carried out over 5-7 days. Only those candidates who have qualified Prelims can sit for UPSC Mains Test. A separate ticket for the hall shall be given to eligible applicants. Since the prelim exam is of a qualifying type, the marks obtained in UPSC CSE Mains are of the utmost importance for the selection of the final rank.

Since there are 9 papers, it is crucial to understand the subjects asked in the papers and the marks they each hold.

Exam Pattern for Papers A and B

  • Paper A:Applicants need to choose one of the Indian languages found in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. It will be worth 300 marks and you will be given 3 hours. It is of qualifying nature
  • Paper B: It is based on the English subject up to 10th standard. There will be questions on comprehension of passages, precis writing, usage of vocabulary. Again, worth 300 marks and you will have 3 hours to finish it. It is again of qualifying nature.

Exam Pattern for Paper 1 and 2

  • Paper 1- The essay paper plays a key role. This paper has a total of 250 marks. Earlier, the candidates were supposed to write only 1 essay in 3 hours until 2013, but now after the modification in the syllabus, the challenge is to write two essays in 3 hours on different subjects. So now you would have to write two essays each with a word count of 1000-1200. There are two parts, Section A and Section B, each of which has four essay themes.

Out of these, candidates may choose a subject from each segment to write an essay. Candidates may choose the subject of their choice from a choice of four themes. The UPSC essay paper is for a total of 250 marks with a single essay for 125 marks.

Also Read: Answer Writing for Preparation Tips UPSC: Daily Answer Writing Practice for UPSC Mains 2021

  • Paper 2-  GS Paper 1 is named “Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the Environment and Society”. Comprised of 250 points, the UPSC General Studies Paper 1 is one of the seven papers ranked by nature. This implies that the marks obtained in this paper is applied to the overall marks that decide the final rank of the candidate.

UPSC Main Pattern Paper 3, 4, and 5

  • Paper 3- UPSC Mains Paper 3 is labelled as Governance, Law, Politics, Social Justice, and International Affairs.  It is a subjective paper of 250 marks which is considered to be merit. It will have 20 compulsory questions that need to be answered. It addresses politics, governance, social justice, and foreign affairs. The duration will be 3 hours.

Also Read: Polity questions for UPSC: Practice previous years UPSC Polity Questions for Mains and Prelims

  • Paper 4- It is named as  Technology, Economic Growth, Biodiversity, Climate, Protection and Disaster Management. There are 20 questions printed in both English and Hindi, which can only be answered in the language specified during the application. The paper is worth 250 marks. The word limit for questions of 10 marks is 150 and for 15 marks it is 250.
  • Paper 5: Named as “Ethics, Honesty & Aptitude,” UPSC  Paper 4 includes a variety of components, including Ethics & Human Interface, Behavior, aptitude, Civil Service Core Principles, Code of Ethics. There will be 12 questions and the questions will be either based on direct concepts or case studies. The marks and duration are the same.

UPSC Mains Paper Pattern for Optional Subjects

Paper 6 and 7 are optional subjects which play a major role in being a score-differentiator for UPSC candidates. Each of the optional subjects is worth 250 marks. For the competition of the final merit, the marks obtained in the optional subject papers will be considered.


The fundamental difference between CSE Prelims and Mains is that while the prelims concentrate on the identification of knowledge and need an exhaustive study covering a wide range of subjects, Mains needs the ability to properly remember, interpret and express one’s own ideas that can only be achieved through an extensive study of the subject.

It is best to remain concentrated and to cover in detail the subjects that you have selected for Mains, and to do so you need to align your skills with the subject at hand. Using the right approach and having a good understanding of the mains exam pattern for UPSC will not only help control time but will also help you stay on the right track.

Also Read: UPSC 2019 Toppers Optional Subject: Optional Subjects of UPSC Topper 2019 to 2015

Content Protection by
UPSC Mains Exam Pattern: Is UPSC Mains MCQ Pattern?
Article Name
UPSC Mains Exam Pattern: Is UPSC Mains MCQ Pattern?
How many papers are in UPSC mains? Are they MCQ type? How much is given for each paper? Are they all conducted in one day? Find out the mains exam structure
Publisher Name
UPSC Pathshala
Publisher Logo