UPSC: Civil Services Examination Pattern & Syllabus

An eligible aspirant can attempt the civil services exams six times.

The Civil Services Examination is conducted in 3 stages. The entire process takes almost an year:

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Stage I - Preliminary Examination (usually conducted in May/June, results by August)
Stage II - Main Examination (usually conducted around November, results by February/March)
Stage III - Interview (usually conducted over Marc/April, final results announced a few days before the next preliminary exam)

Civil Services - Preliminary Examination - Exam Pattern

The Preliminary Examination basically serves as a screening test to shortlist candidates for the next stage, the Main examination.

  • The Preliminary Exam consists of two objective type papers (multiple-choice questions) for a total of 400 marks. Each paper has 200 marks each and two hours allotted. However, blind candidates would be provided an extra 20 minutes for each paper.

  • Since this is a qualifying exam, the marks obtained in this test are not counted for determining the final order of merit of a candidate if he qualifies for the main exam as well.

  • There will be negative marking (of one-third marks for that answer) for wrong answers marked by a candidate in the objective type question papers. Only a black ballpoint pen may be used for both writing and marking answers in the OMR sheet (answer sheet). Pens of any other colour, pencils or ink pens are prohibited.

  • The medium of the question paper is both English and Hindi.

Since 2011, the syllabi covered in these papers underwent a major change, with the focus shifting to test a candidate's analytical abilities and comprehension skills rather than the ability to simply memorize. Now the civil services preliminary examination is popularly known as the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT), though officially the papers are still referred to as General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II.

Civil Services - Preliminary Examination - Syllabus

The topics that will be covered in both the papers are listed below.

Paper I - (200 marks) Duration: Two hours

  • Current events of national and international importance
  • History of India and Indian National Movement
  • Indian and World Geography - Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World
  • Indian Polity and Governance - Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change - subject specialization not required.
  • General Science

Paper II - (200 marks) Duration: Two hours - this is a qualifying paper, candidates should score minimum 33% to qualify

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem-solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. - Class X level)

Civil Services - Main Examination - Exam Pattern

A) Written Exam

From 2013 onwards, certain changes have been introduced to the pattern and scheme of the Civil Services Main Examination as well.

The new and changed scheme of the Main Exam aims to evaluate the overall intellectual capability and level of understanding of candidates, rather than just the range of their information and memory.


The main examination will have the 2 qualifying papers and 7 papers to be counted for merit. All the 9 papers will have essay-type questions.

Qualifying papers

Paper A (300 marks) - One of the Indian Language to be selected by the candidate from the languages included in the 8th Schedule to the Constitution

Paper B (300 marks) - English

The papers on Indian Languages and English (Paper A and Paper B) will be of matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking.

However, paper A on Indian Language will not be compulsory for candidates hailing from the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.

Papers to be counted for merit:

Paper - I

 Essay

250 Marks

Paper - II

General Studies – I
(Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World & Society)

250 Marks

Paper - III

General Studies – II
(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

250 Marks

Paper - IV

General Studies – III
(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security & Disaster Management)

250 Marks

Paper - V

General Studies – IV
(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
(Click to view Sample paper)

250 Marks

Paper - VI

Optional Subject – Paper 1

250 Marks

Paper - VII

Optional Subject – Paper 2

250 Marks

Sub Total (Written test)

1750 Marks

Personality Test

275 Marks

Grand Total

2025 Marks

Marks obtained in Paper 1 to Paper 7 will be counted for merit ranking. However UPSC can fix the qualifying marks for any/all of these papers according to its own discretion.

The question paper for each of the seven papers will be of the conventional (essay) type and have three hours allotted. The question paper is set in English and Hindi only (except for the literature of the language paper).

Candidates exercising the option to answer papers in any one of the languages mentioned below may, if they so desire, give English version within brackets of only the description of the technical terms, if any, in addition to the version in the language opted by them.

Candidates should, however, note that if they misuse the above rule, a deduction will be made on this account from the total marks otherwise accruing to them and in extreme cases; their script(s) will not be valued for being in an unauthorized medium.

The list of optional subjects for the main exams are:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  3. Anthropology
  4. Botany
  5. Chemistry
  6. Civil Engineering
  7. Commerce and Accountancy
  8. Economics
  9. Electrical Engineering
  10. Geography
  11. Geology
  12. History
  13. Law
  14. Management
  15. Mathematics
  16. Mechanical Engineering
  17. Medical Science
  18. Philosophy
  19. Physics
  20. Political Science and International Relations
  21. Psychology
  22. Public Administration
  23. Sociology
  24. Statistics
  25. Zoology
  26. Literature of any of the following 23 languages:
Assamese Manipuri
Bengali Marathi
Bodo Nepali
Dogri Oriya
English Punjabi
Gujarati Sanskrit
Hindi Santhali
Kannada Sindhi
Kashmiri Tamil
Konkani Telugu
Maithilli Urdu
Malayalam -

For each language medium/literature of languages, the script to be used by the candidates are:

Language

Script

Assamese

Assamese

Bengali

Bengali

Gujarati

Gujarati

Hindi

Devanagari

Kannada

Kannada

Kashmiri

Persian

Konkani

Devanagari

Malayalam

Malayalam

Manipuri

Bengali

Marathi

Devanagari

Nepali

Devanagari

Oriya

Oriya

Punjabi

Gurumukhi

Sanskrit

Devanagari

Sindhi

Devanagari or Arabic

Tamil

Tamil

Telugu

Telugu

Urdu

Persian

Bodo

Devanagari

Dogri

Devanagari

Maithilli

Devanagari

Santhali

Devanagari or Olchiki

For Santali language, the question paper will be printed in Devanagari script. Candidates will be free to answer either in Devanagari script or in Olchiki.

For the detailed syllabus of each civil services main exam paper, please refer to: http://www.upsc.gov.in/

B) Personality Test/Interview

The interview or personality round is also included as a part of the "Main Examination" and is worth 275 marks, which is added to the grand total.

1. The candidate will be interviewed by a panel that will have before them the candidate's career and academic record. He/she will be quizzed by this board on matters of general interest with the aim to assess suitability for a career in public service. This personality test intends to judge the candidates' mental calibre. Basically, the interview is an assessment of not only intellectual qualities, but also social traits and interest in current affairs. Some of the qualities that will be judged by the interview panel are:

  • mental alertness
  • critical powers of assimilation
  • clear and logical exposition
  • balance of judgement
  • variety and depth of interest
  • ability for social cohesion and leadership
  • intellectual and moral integrity

2. The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination but of a natural, though directed and deliberate, conversation which aims to reveal the mental calibre of the candidate.

3. The interview test is not intended to be a test either of the specialised or general knowledge of the candidate, which has already been tested through their written papers. Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their own state or country as well as in modern currents of thought and in new discoveries which should rouse the curiosity of a well-educated youth.


Marks obtained by candidates in the Main Examination (written part as well as interview) will determine final ranking. Candidates will be allotted to the various Services, keeping in view their ranks in the examination and the preferences expressed by them for the various Services and posts.

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