IAS Exam Pattern

This page details the pattern of the UPSC Civil Services Exam. UPSC exam pattern

The Civil Services or IAS Exam is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) every year in three stages:

  1. The first stage is the Preliminary stage
  2. The second stage is the Mains stage
  3. The third stage is the Interview stage

Also ReadIAS Exam Syllabus

UPSC Prelims Pattern

PaperNo. of QuestionsMarks
General Studies-I100200
General Studies-II (CSAT)80200


  1. The prelims stage consists of 2 papers of 200 marks each which are only qualifying in scope and marks are not counted for the purpose for determination of overall merit; that is, marks are not added to the marks scored in the Mains and Interview stages.
  2. Also, for the purpose of determining the cut-off for the Prelims, only the marks of Paper 1 (General Studies-I) are counted which is scoring in scope. While Paper 2 (General Studies-II) of prelims is only qualifying in scope with minimum qualifying marks of 33% or 66 marks out of 200.
  3. The questions are of multiple-choice type.
  4. There is a negative penalty of 1/3rd marks for every incorrect answer except in Decision Making questions of GS Paper 1.
  5. There is a time limit of 2 hours for each paper.

Also ReadIAS Exam Age Eligibility Criteria

IAS Mains Pattern

Once a candidate clears the Preliminary stage, he or she is invited to fill the Detailed Application Form (DAF) of the UPSC Civil Services Mains exam online. In the Mains stage, there are certain compulsory subjects which are common to all candidates and certain optional subjects that can be selected as per candidate’s preference.

  1. The Mains and Interview stage consist of 2025 marks.
  2. The candidate has to select one optional subject, consisting of 2 papers, apart from 4 compulsory General Studies (GS) papers.
  3. The Paper-III consists of 2 sections: Essay and English Comprehension u0026amp; English Precis which is also compulsory.
  4. Marks scored in the qualifying papers are not counted in the overall merit. A candidate has to only obtain the minimum marks in the qualifying papers. However, if a candidate fails to clear the qualifying papers, his or her other papers will not be evaluated by UPSC.

Qualifying Papers:

Paper I (Marks 300)

One of the Indian Languages to be selected by the candidates from the Languages included in the eighth schedule of the constitution

Paper II (Marks 300)


Papers to be counted for merit:

Qualifying Paper-AOne of the Indian Languages from the languages included in the eighth schedule300
Qualifying Paper-BEnglish Comprehension and English Précis 300
Paper-IIIEssay 250
Paper-IVGeneral Studies Paper-I250
(Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)
Paper-VGeneral Studies Paper-II250
(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
Paper-VIGeneral Studies Paper-III250
(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
Paper-VIIGeneral Studies Paper-IV250
(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
Paper-VIIIOptional Subject-Paper I250
Paper-IXOptional Subject-Paper II250
Personality Test (Interview) 275
Grand Total2025


  • The rule of thumb is that 13 times the total number of vacancies in a year qualify the Prelims and get an opportunity to appear for the Mains exam. About 2.5 to 3 times the total number of vacancies then qualify for the 3rd stage which is the Interview stage.
  • Suppose there are 800 vacancies in a year. Then going by the above informal rule, approximately 800 x 13 = 10400 candidates will qualify the Prelims and appear for the Mains exam. Out of these, approximately 800 x 3 = 2400 candidates will get a call for the Interview (personality test) from UPSC. And finally, 800 candidates will get shortlisted from the 2400 candidates who have been interviewed by UPSC.

Also ReadIAS Preparation Guide – How to Prepare for IAS Effectively


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