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The Union Public Service Commission, commonly known as UPSC, is one of the most prestigious and important recruitment bodies in India. It is responsible for conducting various competitive examinations for the recruitment of officers in different services of the Indian government, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), and other central civil services.

The UPSC examination process involves multiple stages, including a preliminary examination, a main examination, and an interview. The commission also conducts several other exams for recruitment in different government departments and services. The selection process is rigorous and designed to identify the best candidates for these prestigious positions.

Stage 1: UPSC CSE Prelims Exam Pattern

The UPSC exam pattern for the Preliminary stage consists of two papers, conducted in one day. Both papers comprise objective-type questions with multiple-choice answers. The prelims examination is a qualifying stage to filter candidates for the mains exam. The marks secured at this stage are not counted towards the final merit list, though candidates have to prepare well for this exam as cut-offs are unpredictable and depend on the average score every year. The details of UPSC prelims pattern are given below:

Civils Exam Pattern – Prelims
PaperTypeNo. of questionsUPSC Total MarksDurationNegative marks
General Studies IObjective1002002 hoursYES
General Studies II (CSAT)Objective802002 hoursYES
Total UPSC marks for Prelims400 (where GS Paper II is qualifying in nature with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%)

Stage 2: UPSC CSE Mains Exam Pattern

Main Examination: The Main Examination is the second stage of the CSE and comprises a written exam and a personality test. It is usually conducted in September or October. The written exam consists of nine papers – two qualifying papers (English and Indian Language), four General Studies papers, and two optional subject papers (chosen by the candidate).

UPSC CSE Exam Pattern – Mains




 Total marks

Paper A

Compulsory Indian language

3 hours


Paper B


3 hours


Paper I


3 hours


Paper II

General Studies I

3 hours


Paper III

General Studies II

3 hours


Paper IV

General Studies III

3 hours


Paper V 

General Studies IV

3 hours


Paper VI

Optional I

3 hours


Paper VII

Optional II

3 hours


A Comprehensive Overview of the Subjects Covered by the General Studies Papers in UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam:

  1. Paper I – Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society
  2. Paper II – Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International Relations
  3. Paper III – Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management
  4. Paper IV – Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude

The Optional subjects for Paper VI and VII of the mains examination have to be any one of the subjects from the following list:

AgricultureAnimal Husbandry and Veterinary ScienceAnthropologyBotanyChemistry
Civil EngineeringCommerce and AccountancyEconomicsElectrical EngineeringGeography
Mechanical EngineeringMedical SciencePhilosophyPhysicsPolitical Science and International Relations
PsychologyPublic AdministrationSociologyStatisticsZoology

STAGE 3 – The Personality Test (Interview)

The UPSC allows candidates to choose a language as an optional subject for papers VI and VII in the Mains exam. Candidates can choose any one of the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. The languages include Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and English.

The Interview is conducted to assess the candidate’s overall personality, communication skills, and suitability for a career in civil services. The Interview panel comprises experienced members who are well-versed in various subjects and have extensive knowledge of the working of the civil services.

The duration of the Interview is around 30-40 minutes, and candidates are evaluated on the basis of their confidence, knowledge, personality, and communication skills.

The Interview is a critical component of the selection process, and candidates must prepare well for it. Some tips for preparing for the UPSC CSE Interview are:

  1. Keep yourself updated with current affairs and events
  2. Practice mock interviews to build confidence and improve communication skills
  3. Read and understand the various issues and challenges faced by the country and the civil services
  4. Be honest and truthful in your answers and avoid giving vague or incorrect information
  5. Dress appropriately and maintain a positive attitude throughout the interview.

The final selection is made based on the candidate’s performance in the Mains Exam and the Interview.

Total marks allotted for Interview – 275


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