New IAS Mains Pattern from 2013 Notified

After a long delay of more than 30 days, UPSC has finally notified the Civil Services Preliminary Examination 2013 and along with it introduced far reaching changes in the IAS Mains pattern. There are approximately 1000 vacancies in the 2013 civil services exam. The Prelims pattern and syllabus is the same as before. So let’s discuss the important changes in Civil Services Mains pattern and how it will impact your IAS exam preparation.

New IAS Mains Pattern

The mains exam now consists of 2075 marks as against 2300 marks previously. The distribution is as follows:

Section-1 Essay
Section-2 English Comprehension and English Precis

Of Matriculation/Xth standard level
General Studies-I
250Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society
General Studies-II
250Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations
General Studies-III
250Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management
General Studies-IV
250Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude
Optional Subject-Paper 1
250Choose one subject from more than 30 subjects including literature
Optional Subject-Paper 2
Sub Total (Written Test)1800
Personality Test275Oral
Grand Total2075

As you can see from the above table, marks in the Main exam have been scaled down to 2075 as against 2300 marks in the old pattern. But let’s list the major highlights of the new IAS Mains pattern below:

New PatternOld Pattern   
Only one optional subjectTwo optional subjects
GS now 1000 marksPreviously 600 marks
Optional paper only of 500 marksOptional papers of 1200 marks
English precis and comprehension addedNot present
To choose literature subject, have to graduate in the subjectNo such requirement
Interview of 275 marks300 marks
Ethics and Decision Making addedNot present
World History and Geography part of syllabusOnly Indian History and Geography
UPSC reserves right to specify qualifying marks for individual papersNo qualifying marks
All papers are scoringTwo qualifying but non-scoring compulsory papers
New IAS Mains Pattern


The major change is the increased importance of General Studies in the new pattern. Previously, veteran candidates used to primarily focus on the optional papers and ignored the GS paper relying heavily on the optionals to boost their score. Now there is no alternative but to prepare the GS papers seriously. After all, GS has 55 percent weightage of total 1800 marks in the written papers.

Since two optional subjects have been replaced by only one, it implies more even competition among candidates as scaling, which many aspirants complained of, will be limited to only one subject and that too of 500 marks as against 1200 marks in the old pattern. So expect the competition to become tougher as the advantage of some optional papers has been done away with.

Decision making and ethics that were introduced in the Prelims two years back find their way in the new Mains syllabus as well. This implies UPSC wants to test, not just the theoretical knowledge of candidates, but also their aptitude for civil services, their integrity and honesty, and decision making capabilities.

Role of coaching institutes is bound to reduce drastically. Since GS marks will be the deciding point now, it will become ever tougher to guess the Mains papers and you can expect big surprises in the four GS papers. Previously, questions in the optional papers used to be repeated very often and anyone who went through the last 5 years papers could easily guess the questions that would be asked in the exam. Not any more. Guessing will not work now, only wide coverage of the syllabus will.

Another feature continued from Prelims is the addition of English comprehension together with precis, which means Hindi and other language candidates will need to work on improving their English language skills.

Interview (personality test) marks have also been reduced to 275 from 300 earlier. Some people feel interview marks should be scaled down even further as there does not seem to be much logic to the marks awarded to different candidates in Interview. Besides the entire interview process is quite opaque. Still this is an improvement.

Another change is the elimination of qualifying but non-scoring papers which is welcome as it was unnecessary burden to prepare for these papers given their insignificance in the final tally.

Also to choose a literature subject as optional, you need to graduate in that subject and it should be your main subject during graduation. This will obviously boost candidates with humanities background as they will face lesser competition from candidates with no background in that subject.

Pali optional has been done away with and not for the first time. But this is rather surprising and disappointing since ‘foreign’ languages like Nepali are present while a prominent classical language like Pali has been excluded. One can expect noises in Parliament over this issue.

Overall, this is a very progressive Mains pattern introduced by UPSC and is bound to favour candidates with original thinking and unique answers rather than ‘rote masters’ who reproduce coaching class answers quite accurately. Also, candidates can now focus on GS and just one optional subject rather than two previously. This will bring focus to their preparation and also be less burdensome. If I had to rate these changes to the IAS Mains pattern I will give it 8 points out of 10. What is your reaction to the changes introduced in the Mains pattern and are you satisfied with the changes?

You can download the 2013 Civil Services Notification here.

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  1. Your analysis is right to a great extent. Had upsc made it compulsory of taking your graduation subject for optional I would have rated 10 out of 10.

    1. what about those engineering graduates who doesnt have their subjects in the list of optionals prescribed by the UPSC

  2. Sir, I have read the new pattern with deep analysis , and just have come to know that ” Political Science & International Relation ” as optional will definetly help in almost avery aspect of all General Studies paper…. so i have decided to choose it.

    Please suggest me some good Coaching institutes for ”Political Science & IR ” in Delhi ….

    Medium : HINDI

    thank you.

  3. Completely agree with your views.I will give it a 9/10 rating.With this new pattern the exam will get a fuzzy perception but will help the well-prepared & knowledgeable students. Though, it is also giving the perception of having one particular subject in all the GS papers like pub ad, geography, sociology e.t.c.

  4. sir. Which is best choice as optional which is helpful in gs papers also. as per new pattern .I have geog. And eco in my graduation or i should choose pol. Science plz reply than

  5. we can say that 72% syllabus is common 4 all i.e 1300 out of 1800 and optional role is only 28% with scaling. If v add interview also then v can say that 76% (1575 out of 2075) is common 4 all…

  6. Thanks a lot. You gave a clear picture about the changes.

    You mentioned “Role of coaching institutes is bound to reduce drastically.”

    I do accept the above point, but due to uncertainity & generic syllabus, people will be forced to join some or the other coaching institutes. The net result, the demand for the institutes will increase!! 🙁

    1. TRUE! Also, in my view, with the clearly demarcated sections of constitution, history, and geography, the question trend is expected to again shift to the conventional questions. The recent GS trend showing a general interest of the examiner in asking current affairs questions, do not have a higher chance to appear now, given the clearly defined slabs of these conventional topics!

  7. As per the notification, to choose literature as an optional one should have graduated in the same, as the main subject.
    What are the possibilities of taking a literature optional if one has an M.A in it, but graduation in a science subject?

  8. “Also to choose a literature subject as optional, you need to graduate in that subject and it should be your main subject during graduation”
    I’m a student of engg from IT branch.. Which all optional subject are available for me??

  9. sir
    if i have done man graduation in electronics enggthen tell me whether i can choose public admin for mains or not .

  10. I thought of choosing English Literature and Geography as my optionals but now with only one optional needed I am totally confused as to which one I should go with. Any help, please?

  11. sir, i will be appearing for cse in 2014. suggest me some standard books for ias mains (gs) preparation on the changed pattern and syllabus..plz help..

  12. Sir,
    I am Graduate in English Medium. But I had a Kannada language paper in first 2 years of my graduation as qualifying paper.
    As per new notification, can I write Public Administration optional and all GS papers in Kannada Language.

    Pls clarify,

    thanks & regards,

  13. This new pattern is very nice. now upcoming IAS officers will be more powerful and intelligent. They will change the face of the nation. I liked this pattern very much. I’ll give 9 out of 10.

  14. sir the idea behind the pattern is very good but wt are the options for engineering computer science students what is the optional for them ?

  15. nice changes….but for how many years this pattern is valid?..I am asking this because if we start our preparation keeping this pattern in mind and if they make some more changes next year finally we will be effected right……….

  16. Dear sir! please advice a good coaching institute in New Delhi for General studies(Prelims+Mains) preparation. I am willing to start it in June 2013. please help me sir.

  17. Sir, I graduate as a chemical engineer, can I take chemistry as my optional. And is there a need to prepare an Indian language such as Hindi, for the mains? or will only english be asked in paper 1 of mains?

  18. green wishes,
    i am a chemical engineer. can i take optional subject from my any core subjects.
    thanking you

  19. Sir!
    iam btech third year write now.i want to prepare for civils
    sr please can you make for me the way to prepare and how to read as well as what t read

  20. Sir
    Which optional subject will be best for GS preparation-Political Sc., Public ADm., Geography?
    Pls Reply soon.

  21. sir i did my graduation in mass media course so how can i choose my optional paper pls give me suggestion …pls reply thanks

  22. The changes made by upsc in mains really make the competition much more tougher,,,but with that it will also test the aspirants ability about their quick decision and their responsibility upon their work………….

  23. Sir,I am a science,MBA (HR) graduate.Please help me to choose my graduation subject (can i choose computer science or anything else) and I am interested in psychology or geography papers to choose as optional papers…Please reply me sir..

      1. Sir, as u mentioned there will be only one optional paper, but paper vi and paper vii both are of optional types containing 250 marks each.
        My question is how can i choose one optional paper and attempt two papers i.e. paper vi and paper vii.
        Please make me clear about this doubt sir……..

  24. sir i m a student of non-medium(Bengali) english and to prepare for IAS exam. in which language should i prepare? and there are lack of good books in Bengali also. sir i m student of history. and which subject should i choose as a optional subject. i m a average student but hv a strong determination. therefore i need your assistance very much. if any one want to suggest me they are also well come.

    1. Bengali is fairly popular for civil services. So by all means prepare in bengali and opt for bengali as your language medium in mains

  25. have the students except graduates in english literature are excluded ???? from this new pattern ??? what about us ????graduate in science and computer science ??? hindi ??? statistics ???? physics ???chemistry ??? etc…..please suggest……what should v do ????again graduation wid english ????as per d new notification ???

  26. Sir,New pattern is really progressive one… Sir i hav a query that i m preparing 4 2014 and i m mbbs stdnt…sir does there any harm in choosing psychology as optional as sm1 who gave with psychology as optional 6 times suggested me not to take as psyco as optnl as trend analysis shows low selection rate and fact is i m interested in it… Or i should go for medicl science whch is my gradn subject and also interest cn b devlp in any subject after reading it like pub ad,polity,philosophy,geography as their contrbtn in gs is more…sir pls suggest which wil b best optional 4 me….hoping 4 ur reply…

  27. Im little in final yr n doing chemistry hons.n i studied english subject only in first yr.n i will give all exams in english medium.n i want to choose chem or geography.which subject out of the 2 should i choose as an optional?
    And as i wnt to choose geo or is there no need of choosing the literature of any language as an optional subject?
    Bcoz if we hv to choose it should be a main subject in graduation n im doing from chem.

    1. You have to select just one optional. So decide b/w geog and chem, the one you find more interesting and have sound grasp. You don’t need to select litt optional

  28. Kindly clear the confusion regarding the fact that we have to choose only one optional subject whereas your marks division clearly shows that there are two optional papers.

    1. The marks division shows that there are 2 papers in ONE optional subject. Paper 1 and Paper 2. So where’s the confusion?

  29. Hi I am from Karnataka and i am thinking to take KANNADA literature as the optional subject. But i saw the condition as “To choose literature subject, have to graduate in the subject”.
    I have done my B.Sc(Statistics, Maths & Computer Science) with Kannada and English as languages.
    Could you please tell me whether i am eligible to take KANNADA as optional language??

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