UPSC exam stages and format

Earlier you were given information about the eligibility criteria, fee and general exam pattern for the civil service exam in India. In this article you will get specific details of the syllabus for the preliminary and main exam.

There are 3 stages to the civil services exam:
Stage 1: Preliminary Exam
The aim of the preliminary exam is to select candidates for the main exam.

Duration: 2 hours

Marks: 200 for each paper, Paper I and Paper II

Paper I syllabus
  • Indian History and History of the Indian National Movement
  • Indian and World Geography, covering physical, social and economic aspects
  • Indian Policy & Governance, including the constitution, political system, rights issues, Panchayat Raj, etc
  • Economic & Social Development issues, such as demographics, poverty, social sector initiatives, etc
  • Environmental ecology, climate changes, biodiversity issues
  • General Science
  • National and international current events

Paper II syllabus
  • Comprehension skills as per Std X level – passages from English language will be given with no Hindi translation provided
  • Logical reasoning & analytical ability
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • General mental ability
  • Numbers & their relations, as per basic numeracy of Std.X level math
  • Charts, graphs, tables incorporating data interpretation, as per Std. X level

Stage 2: Main Exam
Unlike the preliminary exam which is an MCQ format, the main exam is in a subjective type format. The aim is to assess the candidate’s intellectual traits.

There are 9 papers for the Main exam:
Paper I: Indian languages
You can select any one of the 18 Indian languages from the languages which are part of the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. You answer in the language you have selected, which thus gives an assessment of your grasp of that language.

Marks: 300 marks

Level: as per matriculation or equivalent level

Paper II - English
All answers for this paper should be written in English only.

Marks: 300 marks

Level: as per matriculation or equivalent level

Paper III – Essay
Marks: 200

Paper IV: General Studies
Marks: 300 marks
  • Current national issues and topics of social relevance
  • The Constitution of India and Indian Polity
  • History of modern India and Indian Culture
  • Physical, economic and social geography of India

Paper V: General Studies
Marks: 300
  • Developments in science, technology, space and information technology (IT)
  • India’s economic interaction with the world
  • India and the world
  • International affairs and institutions
  • Statistical analysis, graphs and diagrams

Papers VI, VII, VIII and IX: Optional subjects
You can choose a language as one option paper and another optional from the list of 25 optional subjects available. These are:
  • Anthropology
  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science
  • Botany
  • Zoology                                     
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Medical Science
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Commerce & Accountancy
  • Economics
  • Management
  • Statistics
  • Geography
  • Indian History
  • Political Science & International Relations
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology
  • Law
  • Philosophy
  • Mathematics
  • Geology
  • Psychology

Note: You need not take the subject which you have studied at the undergraduate / post graduate level. You also don’t need to take the same optional subject for the main exam as the one which you took for the preliminary exam.

Combinations which are not allowed are:
  • Commerce & Accountancy and Management
  • Statistics and Mathematics
  • Sociology and Anthropology
  • Political Science & International Relations and Public Administration
  • Management and Public Administration
  • Agriculture and Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science
  • Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science and Medical Science

The total marks for the written main exam is thus 2000 marks.

Stage 3: Interview Test
Marks: 300 marks
Some of the aspects and qualities which are assessed during the interview:
  • Clarity in speaking and explaining one’s views
  • Alertness
  • Depth of interests
  • Leadership skills
  • Intellectual skills
On achieving success in the UPSC exam, there are plenty of career opportunities. Refer: What to do after UPSC


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