UPSC Civil Services Exam Pattern

UPSC Civil Services Exam is a nationwide competitive examination in India conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment to various Civil Services of the Government of India, including IAS, IPS, IFS, and IRS among others. The UPSC civil services exam is considered the toughest exams in India (on a lighter note also known as ('MOTHER OF ALL EXAMINATIONS’). A lot of factors go into making it a demanding and difficult exam for aspirants. Of course, the competition is high with lakhs of candidates competing for just about a thousand vacancies. And, the prestigious and powerful nature of a career in civil services also elevates the exam to its venerated position. But most importantly, it is the UPSC exam pattern and syllabus that make this exam seemingly impregnable.

The pattern of Civil services examination has been designed to test the academic expertise of a candidate and that candidate's ability to present himself / herself in a systematic and coherent manner. The examination pattern intends to assess the overall intellectual traits and understanding level of the candidates. The UPSC Civil Services Exam is conducted in two stages namely, Prelims and Mains, which are then followed by an interview. In general, the pattern can be divided in to three stages as follows-

STAGE 1 Prelims:
Among aspirants, this stage is popularly known as ‘Prelims’. It is a screening test for the selection of candidates for the Main Examination. The Preliminary examination consists of two compulsory papers with questions of objective or MCQ type. The pattern of prelims stage examination is as follows:

Important Points to Note: (prelims)

  1. Both the question papers will be of the objective type (multiple choice questions).
  2. There is a ‘Negative Marking’ in the IAS Prelims examination for every incorrect answer for both papers. The negative marking for incorrect answers will be 1/3rd (0.66) of the allotted marks to that question.
  3. The General Studies Paper- II (CSAT) is of ‘qualifying nature’ with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33% of 200 i.e. 66.67 Marks. What it means is that only when a candidate scores above 66.67 marks in Paper-II, he/she is in the race to qualify for the Main examination.
  4. It is mandatory for the candidates to appear in both the papers of civil services prelims examination for the evaluation.
  5. This stage is meant to serve as a screening test only; the marks obtained in the Preliminary Examination by the candidates who are declared qualified for admission to the Main Examination will not be counted for determining their final order of merit.
  6. The number of candidates to be admitted to the Main Examination will be about twelve to thirteen times the total approximate number of vacancies to be filled in that year.

STAGE 2: Main Examination
Once you clear the UPSC Prelims exam, you will be eligible to appear for the IAS mains exam. Here, there are 9 descriptive papers. There are 7 papers whose marks are counted for the final ranking. Two papers namely, English and the Indian (Regional) language papers are of qualifying nature only.

S.No    Paper Name of the Paper nature of the Paper Duration of the Exam Marks
   1. Paper - A Compulsory Indian Language Qualifying in Nature
3 Hours 300 Marks
   2. Paper - B Compulsory English 3 Hours 250 Marks
   3. Paper - I Essay Marks  are counted to determine the final

3 Hours 250 Marks
   4. Paper - II General Studies - I 3 Hours 250 Marks
   5. Paper - III General Studies - II 3 Hours 250 Marks
   6. Paper - IV Genral     Studies - III 3 Hours 250 Marks
   7. Paper - V Genral     Studies - IV 3 Hours 250 Marks
   8. Paper - VI Optional    Paper - I 3 Hours 250 Marks
   9. Paper - VII Optional    Paper - II 3 Hours 250 Marks
Total 1750 Marks
Personality Test / Interview 275 Marks
GRAND TOTAL 2025 Marks

STAGE III: Personality Test/Interview Round
Candidates who clear the Civil Services Main Exam with the set cutoff marks will qualify for the final stage of the exam i.e., the Personality Test or Interview round.

  1. The candidate will be interviewed by a Board who will have before them a record of his career. He will be asked questions on matters of general interest. The object of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a Board of competent and unbiased observers.
  2. The interview round is of 275 marks. The final merit list (ranks) is based on the marks of Paper I-VII and personality test combined i.e. out of 2025 Marks.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. Candidate must be a citizen of India. 
  2. Candidate must be a citizen of Nepal or a subject of Bhutan Candidate must be a Tibetan Refugee who came to India before 1st January 1962 to be settled permanently in India.
  3. Candidate must be person of Indian Origin who has migrated from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, Zaire, or Zambia with an intention of permanently settling in India 

Educational Qualification: Candidate applying for civil service exams is required to fulfill the following criteria: 

  1. Candidate must hold a Bachelor's Degree from any of the recognised universities.
  2. Candidates who have appeared for the qualifying examination and are awaiting results or those who are yet to appear for the qualifying examination are also eligible for the Preliminary Examination. Such candidates have to produce proof of passing the said examination along with the application for the Main Examination. 
  3. Candidates with professional and technical qualifications recognised by the Government or its equivalent are also eligible to apply 
  4. Candidates who have passed the final year of MBBS or any Medical Examination but are yet to complete the internship can also appear for the Main Examination. However, they must submit a certificate from the concerned University that they have passed the final professional medical examination.

Age and Attempts:

Age Criteria for IAS Exam 2017 - 2018

Category Upper Age Limit No. of Attempts Allowed
General 32 Years 06 Attempts
Other backwards Castes (OBC) 32 Years with relaxation of 03 years = 35 years 09 Attempts
Scheduled caste/Scheduled Tribe 32 Years with relaxation of 05 years = 37 years

Till the Upper Age Limit

Physically disabled candidates (Blind, Deaf - Mute, Orthopedic) 32 Years with relaxation of 10 years = 42 years

For the General and    OBC Candidates = 09 attempts For SC/ST Candidates = Unlimited till age limit

Jammu & Kashmir Domicile General  37 years, OBC = 40 Years, SC/ST = 42 Years, PH = 50 Years Upto the Upper Age Limit
Disabled servicemen disabled from duty General = 37 years OBC = 38 Years SC/ST = 40 Years Up to the Upper Age Limit