UPSC Exam Pattern - UPSC CSE Paper Pattern for Prelims, Mains, Interview

by Vajiram & Ravi

UPSC Exam Pattern: There are three phases of the UPSC Civil Services Exam - Prelims, Mains, and Interview. There are lakhs of aspirants who appear for the Prelims exam every year, but only a few thousand are able to make it to Mains. If you have started preparing for the upcoming CSE exam, it is crucial for you to check the latest UPSC exam pattern to understand the subjects and papers covered in each stage, the number of questions asked, duration, total marks, etc.

What is UPSC Exam Pattern?

The UPSC exam pattern comprises multiple stages, culminating in the selection of candidates for various civil services roles. This pattern includes the Prelims exam, Mains Exam, and Interview. Each phase evaluates different skills, knowledge domains, and aptitudes, ensuring that candidates possess a well-rounded profile for effective public service.

The two stages of the UPSC CSE Exam Pattern, as mentioned in the official notification, are:

  1. Stage I - Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination
  2. Stage II - Civil Services (Mains) Examination

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern

The UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern consists of two papers: General Studies Paper 1 and Civil Services Aptitude Test or GS Paper 2. The GS paper 1 assesses a candidate's grasp of diverse subjects, including History, Geography, Polity, etc., while the CSAT evaluates the logical reasoning and analytical skills of the candidate. The Prelims serve as a filtering mechanism, allowing a limited number of candidates to progress to the Mains Examination.

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern

UPSC Exam Pattern for Mains

The UPSC Mains paper pattern is the core evaluation phase, comprising a mix of compulsory and optional papers. It includes language papers, essay writing, general studies papers, and optional subject papers. This stage delves deep into a candidate's understanding of subjects, their ability to articulate ideas, and their analytical prowess.

The written examination consists of 9 papers out of which 2 papers are qualifying in nature. The marks obtained in the remaining 7 papers and the interview test together are considered for making the final merit.

Paper NameTime DurationTotal MarksNature of Paper
Paper A – Compulsory Indian Language Paper3 hours300Qualifying in nature
Paper B – English Language Paper3 hours300
Paper I – Essay3 hours250Considered for Merit
Paper II – General Studies I3 hours250
Paper III – General Studies II3 hours250
Paper IV – General Studies III3 hours250
Paper V – General Studies IV3 hours250
Paper VI – Optional Paper I3 hours250
Paper VII – Optional Paper II3 hours250
Interview/ Personality Test-275-
Grand Total-2025-

UPSC Exam Pattern - Interview Round

The final stage, the UPSC Interview or Personality Test, is where aspirants' personalities are evaluated. A panel of experts assesses qualities such as mental alertness, clear and logical exposition, critical powers of assimilation, balance of judgement, ability for social cohesion and leadership, and intellectual and moral integrity. The number of candidates selected for the Interview will be around twice the number of vacancies to be filled. This stage aims to determine the candidate's suitability for the dynamic and diverse responsibilities of civil services. The interview process typically follows a structured pattern:

  • Duration: The interview usually lasts for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Panel: The interview is conducted by a panel of experts, including experienced bureaucrats, academicians, and subject-matter specialists.
  • Venue: The interviews are usually conducted at the UPSC office in New Delhi.

Negative Marking in UPSC Prelims and Mains

Negative Marking is a significant aspect of the UPSC Prelims exam, which cannot be ignored. It is important to note by the aspirants that there is no negative marking in the UPSC Mains exam as it is a subjective paper, and the assessment is based on the quality of your descriptive answers.

Negative Marking in UPSC Prelims

In the UPSC Prelims exam pattern, there are two papers - GS paper 1 and CSAT. Each paper consists of objective-type questions. The negative marking pattern for both papers is as follows:

  • For each incorrect answer, there is a penalty of 1/3rd of the assigned marks to that question.
  • If a candidate provides multiple answers to a single question, even if one of the given answers is correct, it will still be considered an incorrect response. In such cases, the same penalty as mentioned above will apply to that particular question.
  • Unattempted questions do not have any penalty.

FAQs on UPSC Exam Pattern

How many papers are there in UPSC Exam?

As per the UPSC exam pattern, there are two papers in the Prelims exam, namely GS Paper 1 and CSAT, and 9 papers in the Mains exam, which are - 1 Compulsory Indian Language, English, Essay paper, GS 1, GS 2, GS 3, GS 4, Optional Papers 1 and 2.

What are the 9 Papers in UPSC Mains Exam Pattern?

The nine papers in the UPSC Mains exam pattern are as follows:

  • Paper-A: Any Indian Language (Qualifying)
  • Paper-B: English (Qualifying)
  • Paper-I: Essay
  • Paper-II: General Studies I
  • Paper-III: General Studies II
  • Paper-IV: General Studies III
  • Paper-V: General Studies IV
  • Paper-VI: Optional Subject Paper 1
  • Paper-VII: Optional Subject Paper 2

Is there any negative marking in UPSC?

Yes, there is a negative marking of one-third of the marks assigned to a particular question in the UPSC Prelims exam. There is no negative marking in the Mains exam.

What is UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern?

The UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern consists of two papers: General Studies Paper 1 and CSAT. Both are MCQ-based papers having four options with each question, out of which the candidate has to mark one correct answer. The UPSC Prelims Exam is designed to test a candidate's general awareness, knowledge of current events, analytical ability, and aptitude.

What are the total marks of the UPSC Mains Exam?

The UPSC Mains consists of a total of 1750 marks, in which papers A and B consist of 300 marks each, and the remaining 7 papers consist of 250 marks each.