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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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