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UPSC Exam Pattern for Students 2021

The Exams for Civil Services is conducted by the honourable body UPSC, Union Public Service Commission, for recruitment to the prestigious Central Civil Services and All India Services every year. Because of the high popularity of IAS (India Administrative Services) amongst the final selected candidates as a career option, it is commonly known as the IAS Exam for which we are providing UPSC Exam Pattern. A standard exam cycle lasts almost an entire year from the prelims exam till the final results are announced.

Considering the most challenging exam in the country, a clear understanding of the UPSC exam pattern is essential for the IAS exam preparation. Candidates can forge the right path for their practice if they understand the complicated UPSC CSE exam pattern and the vast UPSC syllabus they need to cover.

This blog is designed to provide the aspirants with a clear idea of the UPSC exam pattern and syllabus.

UPSC Exam Pattern 2021

Officially, the UPSC exam pattern is conducted in two stages: Preliminary and Mains. However, in actuality, it is a three-stage exam: Preliminary, Mains, and Personality Test.

As per the UPSC CSE exam pattern, many candidates are filtered in the IAS Prelims and those who clear it become eligible for the IAS Mains. Candidates are tested based on their in-depth knowledge in the IAS Mains exam, and again the candidates who clear this stage reach the final stage, i.e., the Interview stage. So it’s essential to do your best. You can also join IAS Coaching.

UPSC CSE exam pattern 2021 for all the stages is mentioned below:

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern

IAS Preliminary Exam 2021 is scheduled for 27th June 2021. The UPSC exam pattern for Prelims consists of two papers of 200 marks, each conducted on the same day. Both papers of two hours duration each are mandatory for candidates and consist of objective-type multiple-choice questions.

The marks scored at the Prelims stage are not counted towards the final merit list; it is only a qualifying stage to screen candidates for the mains exam based on a cut-off of average score.

Both the Papers – I and II of Prelims have questions set in English and Hindi languages, and Paper-II marks are not calculated towards the cut-off because it is only qualifying to require only 33% marks.

Details of the UPSC CSE Prelims are mentioned below:


Paper Questions Total Marks Type of Questions Duration Negative Marking
General Studies-I 100 200 Marks Objective Multiple-Choice 2 hours Yes
General Studies-II (CSAT) 80 200 Marks Objective Multiple-Choice 2 hours Yes

Negative Marking

According to the UPSC exam pattern, there is a negative marking in IAS Prelims of one-third (⅓) marks deducted for every wrong answer from the assigned marks of the questions. That is, three wrong answers will eat up marks of one right answer. Also, each question carries 2.5 marks in GS Paper-II (qualifying), and the negative marking is according to the same proportion.

But no negative marking is done for the questions left blank. Thus, the candidates need to be extra careful while marking the answers in the OMR sheet.

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern

As per UPSC Exam Pattern, candidates who secure 33% in GS Paper-II and clear the cut-off for GS Paper-I in Prelims are allowed in the Mains Examination.

The UPSC Main Exam consists of 9 papers – 2 qualifying papers, seven merit ranking papers, and a personality test (more details on it in the next section). According to UPSC Mains Exam Pattern, all papers comprise descriptive-answer-type questions, and each paper is 3 hours.

Qualifying Papers (Paper A and B)

Marks of Paper A and B are not counted towards the preparation of the rank list, and the candidates are required to score 25% marks on each paper for Papers I to VII to be given weightage for merit.

  • Paper A is of any Indian Language included in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution and is not mandatory for candidates from the states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Mizoram, as well as candidates with Benchmark Disability (only Hearing impairment).
  • Paper B is in English Language.

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Details of UPSC Mains Exam Pattern is given below:

Paper Subject Total Marks
Paper A Any Indian Language in 8th Schedule 300
Paper B English 300
Paper – 1 Essay 250
Paper – 2 General Studies – I 250
Paper – 3 General Studies – II 250
Paper – 4 General Studies – III 250
Paper – 5 General Studies – IV 250
Paper – 6 Optional Subject Paper – I 250
Paper – 7 Optional Subject Paper – II 250
  Sub-Total (Written Papers) 1750
  Personality Test (Interview) 275
  Grand Total 2025


The General Studies Papers I to IV include the following subjects:

GS Paper – I  II – GS Paper GS Paper – III IV – GS Paper
Indian Heritage and Culture Governance Technology Ethics
History and Geography of the World Constitution Economic Development Integrity
Society Polity Bio-diversity Aptitude
  Social Justice Environment  
  International relations Security and Disaster Management  

Optional Subjects List

Students have to choose any of the following for Paper VI and VII. Two Papers, Optional Subject Paper – I and Optional Subject Paper – II, are held on the chosen subject.

Agriculture Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science Anthropology Botany
Chemistry Civil Engineering Commerce and Accountancy Economics
Electrical Engineering Geography Geology History
Law Management Mathematics Mechanical Engineering
Medical Science Philosophy Physics Political Science and International Relations
Psychology Public Administration Sociology Statistics


Zoology The literature of any one language: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and English.


Hence, except for Paper A and B, the Mains Question papers are set in only English and Hindi languages. Nevertheless, the candidates can answer either English or any language mentioned in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution except the language papers.

UPSC Personality Test (Interview)

The final stage – the interview stage is allotted 275 maximum marks and has no set pattern. Officially, it is counted as part of Main Examinations, but it is the third stage from a preparation perspective. The interview is held in Delhi at the UPSC office premises.

According to the UPSC exam pattern, the interview differs for each candidate. The Interviewing board (competent and unbiased observers) assesses the candidate’s suitability and ability to take on responsibility for a civil services career based on various personality traits.

Therefore, the candidates are judged based on their mental and social traits and various other skills as mentioned below:

  • Critical powers of assimilation
  • Mental alertness
  • A balance of judgment
  • Clear and logical exposition
  • Intellectual and moral integrity
  • Variety and depth of interest
  • The ability for social cohesion and leadership


The competition is quite serious and intense for UPSC exams. This makes understanding the UPSC exam pattern and UPSC Syllabus significant from a preparation point of view. Also, make sure that you join the Best IAS Coaching.

It is important to start planning in-depth as the entire examination process goes on for nearly 12 months, and not making the cut means beginning from scratch the next year.

Read more about UPSI Exam Preparation Tips 2021: 

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