UPSC » UPSC CSE Notifications » UPSC Exam Pattern – Check Prelims and Mains Exam Pattern

UPSC Exam Pattern – Check Prelims and Mains Exam Pattern

Download UPSC Exam Pattern and Syllabus PDF Download

Table of content

  1. UPSC Exam Pattern for Prelims
  2. UPSC Exam Pattern for Mains
  3. UPSC Mains Subjects
  4. UPSC Optional Subjects
  5. UPSC CSE Pattern for Interview
  6. Negative Marking in UPSC
  7. UPSC Books

UPSC IAS Exam Pattern 2023 – Overview

Exam Name Civil Services Exam (UPSC CSE)
Exam Conducting Authority Union Public Service Commission
Examination Mode Offline (UPSC Paper Pattern for Prelims- MCQ-based) (UPSC Paper Pattern for Mains – Descriptive) (Personality Test – Interview in front of board members)
Stages of UPSC exam
  • Prelims exam
  • Mains exam
  • Interview
Number of Papers in Exam Prelims: 2 Mains: 9
Marking Scheme for UPSC Prelims Exam Paper 1: +2 marks Paper 2: +2.5 marks Negative marking: One-third of marks allotted to each question
Exam Time-Duration Prelims: 2 hours (Each paper) total 4 hours
Mains: 3 hours (Each paper) total 27 hours conducted across various days
Question Paper Type Prelims: Objective type
Mains: Subjective type

UPSC Exam Pattern for Prelims 2023

Prelims paper name (Objective Type) Questions Total Marks Duration of the test
General Awareness (Paper I) 100 200 (Each question has equal weightage) 2 hours
CSAT (Aptitude Test) 80 200 2 hoursUPSC Prelims Syllabus

Also see:

Important Points for UPSC CSE Preliminary Exam Pattern

  • It consists of multiple-choice questions (MCQs)
  • The prelims exam comprises Paper 1 and Paper 2
Paper One consists of the following topics- Paper two comprises questions related to-
Current Affairs Logical reasoning
Economics Comprehension
History Basic numeracy
Science and Technology Data interpretation

UPSC Exam Pattern for Mains

Paper A – One of the Indian languages to be selected by the candidate 300
Paper B – English 300

Papers to be counted for Merit List

Paper I Essay 250
Paper II General Studies I – Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society 250
Paper III General Studies II – Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations 250
Paper IV General Studies III – Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management 250
Paper V General Studies IV – (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude 250
Paper VI Optional Subject – Paper 1 250
Paper VII Optional Subject – Paper 2 250
Personality Test 275
Total Marks 2025 
Download UPSC Exam Pattern and Syllabus PDF Download
Also check:
  • The UPSC Mains exam consists of the qualifying papers such as English and Indian Language
  • The candidates need to score at least 25% marks on each paper
  • The total duration of all papers is 3 hours
  • Essays, General Studies and Optional Papers are counted for merit
  • Indian language paper is not mandatory for the candidates from Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram

UPSC exam pattern & syllabus explained by expert educator

UPSC Mains Subjects

Check here the complete list of the UPSC Mains Subjects for English language and Indian Languages-

The aim of this exam is to test the ability of the candidates to understand the ask and express their ideas clearly.

The UPSC pattern of the question and topics for English Language is as follows –

  • Comprehension of given passages
  • Precise Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary
  • Short Essays

Indian Language –

  • Precise Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary
  • Short Essays
  • Comprehension of given passages
  • Translation from English to Indian Language and vice versa

IAS Mains Essay – Paper-I

The candidates can write essays on different topics. They are supposed to write the essay in a way to arrange ideas in an orderly manner and write it concisely.

IAS Mains General Studies-I Subjects –

Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society

Indian Heritage:

  • Literature and Architecture
  • Art Forms
  • Modern Indian History
  • Personalities and Issues
  • Freedom struggle at various stages
  • Important Contributions and Contributors
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.

World History:

  • 18th-century industrial revolution
  • World wars
  • Redrawal of national boundaries
  • Decolonization
  • Political philosophies
  • Colonization

Indian Society

  • Diversity of India
  • Role of women & women
  • Population & association
  • Effects of globalization on Indian society
  • Social empowerment
  • Regionalism and Secularism


  • Distribution of key natural resources across the world
  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes
  • Tsunami
  • Volcanic activity
  • Cyclones

IAS Mains General Studies-II Subjects –

Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations

Indian Constitution:

  • Evolution, Features, Significant provisions and basic structure
  • Historical underpinnings
  • Issues and Challenges to the federal structure
  • Devolution of powers and finances up to local levels

Indian Polity:

  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme
  • Separation of powers between various organs dispute
  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

Social Justices:

  • Development processes and the development industry
  • Role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population
  • Institutional and other stakeholders
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services
  • Education, Human Resources. Issues relating to poverty and hunger

Indian Governance:

  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
  • E-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential;
  • Citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  • Role of civil services in a democracy

International Relations:

  • India and its neighbourhood- relations. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, and Indian diaspora.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, and mandate.

IAS Mains General Studies-III Subjects –

(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

Indian Economy:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. I
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • Major crop-cropping patterns in various parts of the country
  • Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices
  • Public Distribution System-
  • Food processing and related industries in India
  • Land reforms in India.
  • Effects of liberalization on the economy
  • Changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.


  • Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.
  • Investment models.

Science and Technology:

  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
  • Achievements of Indians in science & technology
  • indigenization of technology and development of new technology.
  • Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Environment & Bio-diversity:

  • Conservation
  • Environmental pollution and degradation
  • Environmental impact assessment.
  • Disaster Management: Disaster and disaster management.


  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
  • Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks
  • The role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges
  • Basics of cyber security
  • Money-laundering and its prevention.
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas
  • Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

IAS Mains General Studies-IV Subjects –

Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude Ethics and Human Interface:

  • Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions
  • Dimensions of ethics
  • Ethics – in private and public relationships.
  • Human Values


  • Content, structure, function;
  • Its influence and relation with thought and behaviour;
  • Moral and political attitudes
  • Social influence and persuasion.


  • Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service
  • Integrity
  • impartiality and non-partisanship
  • Objectivity
  • Dedication to public service
  • Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections.

Emotional Intelligence:

  • Emotional intelligence concepts, and their utilities and application
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world.

Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration:

  • Status and problems
  • Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions
  • Laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance;
  • Accountability and ethical governance
  • Strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance
  • Ethical issues in international relations and funding
  • Corporate governance.

Probity in Governance:

  • Concept of public service;
  • Philosophical basis of governance and probity
  • Information sharing and transparency in government
  • Right to Information
  • Codes of Ethics
  • Codes of Conduct
  • Citizen’s Charters
  • Work culture and Quality of service delivery
  • Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.
  • Case Studies on the above issues.

UPSC Exam Tips

10 Tips to Develop a Great Focus/Concentration

How to Prepare GS for UPSC CSE

Best Tips to Make Time by Waking Up Early in the Morning

Last-Minute Tips to Crack UPSC CSE Prelims

Build Your English Vocabulary

Note-Making Strategy & Tips for UPSC CSE Preparation

Hacks and Tricks for UPSC Prelims

Time Management Tips for UPSC Aspirants

How to do Answer Writing for UPSC CSE/Answer Writing Tips

Tips To Remember Dates In History

How to excel at UPSC Civil Service Exam

UPSC Preparation Tips for Working Professionals

How to Prepare for UPSC without Coaching?

What are the Smart Tips for Self Studying UPSC

UPSC Optional Subjects

Get here the list of the optional subjects in UPSC

Animal Husbandry and Veterinary SciencePhysics
AnthropologyPolitical Science & International Relations
ChemistryPublic Administration
Civil EngineeringSociology
Commerce & AccountancyStatistics
Electrical EngineeringMathematics
GeographyMechanical Engineering
GeologyMedical Science
Download UPSC Exam Pattern and Optional Subjects SyllabusDownload

List of literature optional subjects in UPSC

The candidates can opt for the given literature subject as their optional for the UPSC Mains exam. There will be 2 papers of 250 marks each.


UPSC CSE Pattern for Interview

The candidates who have qualified for the Civil Services Mains examination will be eligible for the final stage of the UPSC selection process which is Personality Test or Interview.

  • UPSC interview process will carry 275 marks
  • The number of candidates will be called for the personal interview will be twice the number of vacancies
  • The panel will ask questions from different areas starting from the career of the students to their general interest
  • The candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their chosen subjects but also the happening events around them
  • There is no specific syllabus for the IAS interview hence, the candidates need to work more on their personality
  • The final UPSC merit list will be prepared on the basis of the marks obtained by them in the Mains and Personality exam

Also read: Mock Interview Videos of UPSC CSE 2021 Toppers

Negative Marking in UPSC

Prelims Marking Scheme

UPSC exam pattern and marking scheme are very different from other exams. Also, the candidates can easily get negative marks in the exams. So, the 3 incorrect answers will lead you to approximately 2 marks of deduction. The candidates will get a 1/3rd mark deducted for incorrect answers.

PaperNo of questionMarksNegative Marks
General Studies I1002000.66
General Studies II (CSAT)802000.83

Mains Marking Scheme

  • IAS Mains exam carries a total of 1750 marks
  • Each subjective paper in the Mains exam carries 300 marks
  • Candidates can choose 2 optional papers in the Mains exam

Important Links:

UPSC Books

Here’s a subject-wise list of the best books you can refer to when preparing for UPSC exams.

SubjectList of Books

1. India’s Struggle for Independence – Bipan Chandra

2. Modern India by Rajiv Ahir (Spectrum Publications)

3. Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania

4. NCERT Class 11 – Introduction to Indian Art

5. History: NCERT Class VI – Our Past

6. History: NCERT Class VII – Our Past -I

7. History: NCERT Class XII – Themes In Indian History – I

6. History: NCERT Class XII – Themes in Indian History – II

7. History: NCERT Class XII – Themes In Indian History – III

8. Ancient Indian History by R.S. Sharma

9. Medieval Indian History by Satish Chandra

10. History of the World by Arjun Dev

11. India Since Independence by Bipan Chandra


1. Certificate Physical Geography by G C Leong

2. Geography NCERTs class XI, XII

3. World Atlas by Orient Black Swan/Oxford

4. Indian Geography by Majid Hussain


1. Indian Polity – by M. Laxmikanth

2. Introduction to the Constitution of India by D. D. Basu


1. Indian Economy – by Ramesh Singh

2. Indian Economy Key Concepts – by Sankarganesh Karuppiah

3. NCERT Economics Class 11

4. NCERT Economics Class 12

Science and Technology1. Science and Technology – by Ravi P. Agrahari
International Relations

1. NCERT XII (Contemporary World Politics)

2. International Relations – by Pavneet Singh

Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude

1. Lexicon for Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude by Niraj Kumar

2. Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude by Awdesh Singh

3. Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude – by G Subba Rao & P N Roy Chowdhury

CSAT1. Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning by R. S. Aggarwal
Indian Society1. Social Problems In India by Ram Ahuja
Internal Security1. Challenges to Internal Security of India by Ashok Kumar and Vipul 

Related Articles:

UPSC BooksUPSC Calendar
UPSC Cut-off AnalysisUPSC Eligibility Criteria
UPSC Exam PatternUPSC Marking Scheme
UPSC ResultsUPSC Syllabus
UPSC ToppersUPSC Study Material

UPSC Exam Pattern - Frequently Asked Questions

Read through the recently asked questions about UPSC exam pattern.

Who will release the IAS 2023 exam pattern?

The Union Public Service Commission will release the IAS 2023 exam pattern.

What will be the maximum marks for mains stage?

There will be 2025 marks for the UPSC Mains examination.

Is there any negative marking scheme in UPSC IAS exam?

Yes, as per the UPSC marking scheme, there will be a deduction of 0.33 marks for each wrong answer.