UPSC Exam Pattern

Table of Content: -

1. What is the UPSC exam pattern?

2. UPSC Preliminary Examination

a. UPSC Prelims Pattern

b. UPSC Prelims Syllabus

3. UPSC Mains Examination

  1. UPSC Mains Pattern
  2. UPSC Mains Syllabus
  1. UPSC Personality Test
  2. FAQs

What is the UPSC exam pattern?

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is one of the most competitive and prestigious exams. UPSC is a regulating body responsible for conducting civil services examinations. UPSC also conducts a number of competitive exams to fill-in various civil service vacancies for the government of India.

The UPSC conducts the Civil Services Examination (CSE), popularly known as IAS (Indian Administrative Service) exam, in three phases namely-

  1. UPSC Prelims
  2. UPSC Mains and
  3. Personality Test..

UPSC Preliminary Examination

  • Among the three stages of the UPSC exam, the first stage is the Preliminary Exam.
  • It comprises two papers of 200 marks each containing objective-type multiple-choice questions.
  • Paper-2 (CSAT) in the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination is a qualifying paper with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%.
  • The time allotted to attempt each exam is 2 hours which needs to be mandatorily attempted by the candidates.
  • The candidates need to score qualifying marks to clear the cut-off.
  • This stage is qualifying in nature as the marks of Prelims Paper1 and Paper 2 are not counted in the final merit list.
  • There is a Negative Marking for the wrong answer given by the candidates, 1/3 rd marks will be deducted for every wrong answer.
  • The question papers will be set in both Hindi and English

UPSC Prelims Pattern

Name of the Paper

No of Questions

Topics Included (Brief)

Marks Allotted

Time Allotted

Paper I:

General Studies 



Questions from subjects like History, Polity, Geography, Science, Economy, Current Affairs are asked.


2 hours


(CSAT) (Objective-Type)


Questions from topics like Maths, Logical Reasoning, reading comprehension are asked.


2 hours


UPSC Prelims Syllabus

General Studies Paper 1

General Studies Paper 2

1. Current events of national and international importance.

2. History of India and Indian National Movement.

3. Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.

4. Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

5. Economic and Social Development-Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.

6. General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change - that do not require subject specialization.

7. General Science

1. Comprehension

2. Interpersonal skills including communication skills.

3. Logical reasoning and analytical ability.

4. Decision making and problem solving.

5. General mental ability.

6. Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. — Class X level).



UPSC Mains Examination

  • Candidates who qualify Preliminary exam are called for the Main exam.
  • The UPSC mains exam is conducted in 2 parts: - qualifying papers and merit exams.
  • There are a total of 9 papers in the Mains exam. Every paper is of 3 hours and extra 30 minutes extra is given to blind students.
  • Paper A and Paper B are 300 marks each and the remaining papers are 250 marks each.
  • The questions in Mains are of the subjective type and can be written in either Hindi or English language.

UPSC Mains Pattern





Total marks

Time Allotted

Paper A

Compulsory Indian language

3 hours


3 hours

Paper B


3 hours


3 hours

Paper I


3 hours


3 hours


General Studies I

3 hours


3 hours

Paper III

General Studies II

3 hours


3 hours

Paper IV

General Studies III

3 hours


3 hours

Paper V

General Studies IV

3 hours


3 hours

Paper VI

Optional I

3 hours


3 hours

Paper VII

Optional II

3 hours


3 hours

Sub Total

Written Test





Personality Test





Grand Total




UPSC Mains Syllabus

General Studies Paper – I

1. Indian Culture – Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

2. Modern Indian History

a. Significant events, issues, personalities during the middle of the eighteenth century (1750s) until the present.

b. Different stages and important contributors and contributions from various parts of the country in ‘The Freedom Struggle’.

c. Post-independence consolidation and reorganisation within the country.

3. History of the world

a. Events, forms and effect on society since the 18th century (world wars, industrial revolution, colonisation, redrawal of national boundaries, decolonisation, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc.)

4. Society

a. Indian society and diversity – Salient aspects.

b. Role of women and women’s organisations, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanisation, their problems and remedies.

c. Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.

d. Effects of globalisation on Indian society.

5. Geography

a. Distribution of key natural resources across the world including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent; factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world including India.

b. Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.

c. Geographical features and their location, changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and polar ice caps) and, in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

d. Salient features of world’s physical geography.

General Studies Paper – II

1. Indian Constitution

a. historical underpinnings,

b. evolution, features

c. amendments, significant provisions

d. basic structure doctrine

e. Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries

2. Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

3. Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions

4. Structure, organisation and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

5. Parliament and State Legislatures

a. structure, functioning

b. conduct of business

c. powers & privileges and issues arising out of these

6. Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

7. Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

8. Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

9. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

10. Government policies and interventions aimed at development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

11. Development processes and the development industry – the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, institutional and other stakeholders.

12. Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and the States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

13. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

14. Issues relating to poverty and hunger

15. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

16. Role of civil services in a democracy

17. International Relations

a. India and its neighbourhood – International relations

b. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting the Indian interests

c. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

d. Important International institutions, agencies, their structure and mandates

General Studies Paper – III

1. Economy

a. Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth, development and employment.

b. Government Budgeting.

c. Inclusive growth and associated issues/challenges

d. Effects of liberalisation on the economy (post 1991 changes), changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

e. Infrastructure – Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

f. Investment models (PPP etc)

2. Agriculture

a. Major cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers

b. Economics of animal rearing.

c. Food processing and related industries in India – scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.

d. Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions

e. Land reforms in India.

3. Science and Technology

a. Recent developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

b. Achievements of Indians in science & technology.

c. Indigenisation of technology and developing new technology.

d. General awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nanotechnology, bio-technology

e. Issues relating to intellectual property rights

4. Environment

a. Conservation,

b. Environmental pollution and degradation

c. Environmental impact assessment

5. Disaster Management (Laws, Acts etc.)

6. Security

a. Challenges to internal security (external state and non-state actors)

b. Linkages between development and spread of extremism

c. Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges,

d. Basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention

e. Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organised crime with terrorism

f. Various Security forces and agencies and their mandates

General Studies Paper – IV

1. Ethics and Human Interface

a. Essence of Ethics, Determinants and Consequences of Ethics in Human Interaction

b. Dimensions of Ethics

c. Ethics in private and public relationships

d. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators

e. Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating moral and ethical values

2. Attitude

a. Content, structure and function of attitude

b. Influence of attitude in thought and behaviour

c. Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour

d. Moral and Political attitudes

e. Social influence and persuasion

3. Aptitude

a. Aptitude and foundational values of Civil Service

b. Integrity

c. Impartiality and non-partisanship

d. Objectivity

e. Dedication to public service

f. Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society

4. Emotional Intelligence

a. Concepts of emotional intelligence

b. Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance

5. Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers

a. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality

6. Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration

a. Status and associated problems

b. Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions

c. Laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance

d. Accountability and ethical governance

e. Strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance

f. Ethical Issues in international relations and funding

g. Corporate governance

7. Probity in Governance

a. Concept of public service

b. The philosophical basis of governance and probity

c. Information sharing and transparency in government

d. Right to Information

e. Codes of ethics

f. Codes of Conduct

g. Citizen’s Charters

h. Work culture

i. Quality of service delivery

j. Utilization of public funds

k. Challenges of corruption


Optional Subject list: -


Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science




Civil Engineering

Commerce and Accountancy


Electrical Engineering




Law Management


Mechanical Engineering

Medical Science



Political Science and International Relations


Public Administration





UPSC Personality Test

  • The UPSC Personality Test is the most significant stage which checks the last determination of an aspirants.
  • The third of the UPSC preparation is the Personality test which carries 275 marks.

Ø On the basis of marks secured in the Main exam, the candidates will be called for Interview.

Ø The personality test is conducted by UPSC Interview board for 275 marks.

Ø The UPSC Interview board comprises of specialists of different fields having a wide encounter of around 20-25 years in the specialized segment.

  • The board checks if the individual in question is good for the Civil Services profession based on their skills and abilities.

Ø At this stage, the overall personality of the aspirant is examined. The candidate can prepare for this stage by taking mock interviews.

  • The IAS interview is a test of mental readiness, clear and legitimate composition, character, equilibrium of judgment and profundity of interest, capacity of social attachment and initiative, and scholarly and moral honesty.
  • This stage tests an applicant's psychological and social qualities. The candidates are examined for qualities such as mental sharpness, focus, clear and sensible work, an equilibrium interest, capacity for social initiative and moral honesty.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is UPSC?

Answer: - Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is body which every year conducts several exams to recruit personnel for Central Services.

2. What should I do to become an IAS/IFS/IPS officer?

Answer: - For selecting IAS/IFS/IPS officers, UPSC every year conducts Civil Service Examination. Any aspirant for IAS/IFS/IPS needs to pass this exam for getting selected.

3. What is the structure of UPSC Civil Services Exam?

Answer: - The UPSC civil services examination is conducted in three phases: - Prelims, Mains and interview.

  1. Can anyone apply online for a particular examination?

Answer: - Yes, an applicant who fulfils the eligibility criteria prescribed in the notification (i.e. the detailed information available on website ( ) of that particular examination can apply.

5. Is there any age limit for appearing in UPSC Civil Services Examination?

Answer: - Any candidate from General category more than 21 and less than 32 years of age is eligible to appear for the above-mentioned exam. The upper age limit is relaxed up to a maximum of five years for candidates belonging to SCs or STs Categories and up to a maximum of three years for candidates of OBC category among others.

  1. What are the subsets of IAS?

Answer: - IPS, IRS, IFS fall under the aegis of the IAS exam and the cutoff to get recruited in the services mentioned above is decided after the conduction of the exam. A good understanding of the target is what will streamline the preparation and to keep the focused better.

  • IPS Indian Police Service
  • IRS Indian Revenue Service
  • IFS Indian Foreign Service
  1. What is the Time required for entire UPSC exam preparation?

Answer: - Experts believe that aggressive preparation for 10 to 12 months is a must. Four out of every 10 Indians (21-32 years) aspire to become an IAS officer and competition is so intense that only 5 percent of that massive number gets through.

  1. Can UPSC be cracked in 1 year?

Answer: - Yes, one year is sufficient to crack IAS exam with appropriate planning. The IAS exam which is also known as the civil services exam is a government exam conducted annually by the UPSC.

9. Is there any limit on number of attempts that I can take for UPSC exams?

Answer: - As per revised rules, a candidate belonging to General category can take upto 6 attempts; those belonging to OBC can take up to 9 attempts. There is no limit on number of attempts available for candidates belonging to SC and ST communities. For more details visit the UPSC website:

  1. Why IAS? /PI quotient

Answer: - Before stepping into the preparation of one of the most competitive exams in the nation, an aspirant must get his/her PI (personal interview) quotient scoped-out . During personality test, a candidate's candidature would be measured against his/her performance. Once he/she gets the PI quotient evaluated, the candidate would have a clearer mindset throughout the preparation.

  1. In which of the examinations conducted by the UPSC, candidates can write answers in any of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution?

Answer: - Presently only in Civil Services (Mains) Examinations conducted by the UPSC, the candidates can write answers in any of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. 

  1. Which is the highest post in UPSC?

Answer: - The highest post in UPSC is Cabinet Secretary. The Cabinet Secretary is the IAS top post and senior civil officer of the India's government

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Janjua

    One of the most challenging and renowned tests is the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

  2. Manavendra Prithviraj

    Preliminary, Mains, and Interview are the three phases of the UPSC examination.

  3. Sumitra Rebani

    I didn’t like how candidates in the General category could take up to 6 tries while those in the OBC category could take up to 9.

  4. Padmapati Lalitesh

    Cabinet Secretary is the highest rank in UPSC.

  5. Balvindra Pallavan

    I’ll provide some suggestions. A candidate must first determine their PI quotient before embarking on one of the nation’s most demanding tests.

  6. Trilokesh Venkatadri

    Prepare your thoughts. Be aware that this test will need a significant amount of time and effort from you.

  7. Shirish Seshu

    According to the publication, the preliminary examination consists of two 200-mark exams with objective-type multiple-choice questions on each.

  8. Suchitra

    The subjective questions in the Mains might be written in Hindi or English.

  9. Akalmash Snehasis

    The UPSC Personality Test is the last level, and it is the most important since it assesses an aspirant’s final decision.

  10. Udayan Somu

    Cabinet Secretary is the highest rank in UPSC.

  11. Nidhi rajpoot

    Thank you for this amazing article. Sir please tell me if I can select my mother tongue for the personality test?

  12. neha roy

    Thanks to the EliteIAS team for this wonderful article. My question is will all the exams in UPSC be descriptive?

  13. Narendra Kaurav

    Great piece of information, sir can you please provide more information regarding Paper A in the Mains exam?

  14. Naman vishwa

    Thanks for this detailed article, sir please tell me can I take psychology as an optional subject?

  15. Hemant

    Wonder information regarding UPSC exam pattern, please clarify my query, can I clear UPSC exam in 3 attempts?

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