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IAS Exam Pattern| UPSC Exam Pattern | UPSC/IAS Prelims cum Mains Exam Pattern | IFS/IPS Exam Pattern and Syllabus


Every year the UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination (CSE) to various key Civil Services of the Government of India, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), etc. A candidate planning to prepare for CSE must get himself acquainted with the examination plan/pattern and its syllabus which would help him in getting an edge over others and in planning his preparation in a manner best suitable for him. Following are the complete details


Plan/Pattern of Civil Services Examination:

The Civil Services Examination comprises three successive stages:

  • Civil Services Preliminary Examination-Objective Type, for the selection of candidates for Main Examination.

  • Civil Services Main Examination-Written, for the selection of candidates for Interview.

  • Interview or Personality Test for the selection of candidates for the various Services and posts

Table of Contents

  1. Overview of IAS

  2. IAS Exam pattern of Prelims
    • Marking Scheme of Prelims
    • Negative Marking

  3. IAS Exam Pattern for Mains
    • Qualifying Paper
    • Marking Scheme of Mains

  4. IAS Exam Pattern for Personality Test

  5. Prelims Syllabus

  6. Mains Syllabus

  7. IAS Preparation Books

  8. Editor's Note

  9. FAQ Regarding IAS Exam Pattern

Grand Total (For Merit List)
2025 Marks
Personality Test
275 marks
Total Marks
1750 Marks
Paper - 7: Optional - 2
Selected Optional paper 2
3 hrs
250 marks
Paper - 6: Optional - 1
Selected optional paper 1
3 hrs
250 marks
Paper - 5: GS -4
Ethics, Integrity and aptitude
3 hrs
250 marks
Paper - 4: GS - 3
Economic development, technology, environment and ecology, Security and disaster management
3 hrs
250 marks
Paper - 3: GS - 2
Constitution and governance, polity, social justice and IR.
3 hrs
250 marks
Paper - 2: GS - 1
Indian art and culture, history and geography of the world, society
3 hrs
250 marks
Paper - 1: Essay
There is no defined syllabus of essay
3 hrs
250 marks
Paper B: English
Essay, comprehension, précis writing, usage and vocabulary
3 hrs
300 marks
Paper A: Indian language (one of the Indian language selected from the 22 languages mentioned in 8th schedule of the constitution)
Essay, comprehension, Precis writing, usage and vocabulary, etc.
3 hrs
300 marks

Introduction to Civil Services:

Civil Servants for the East India Company used to be nominated by the Directors of the Company and thereafter trained at Haileybury College in London and then sent to India. Following Lord Macaulay’s Report of the Select Committee of British Parliament, the concept of a merit based modern Civil Service in India was introduced in 1854. The Report recommended that patronage based system of East India Company should be replaced by a permanent Civil Service based on a merit based system with entry through competitive examinations. For this purpose, a Civil Service Commission was setup in 1854 in London and competitive examinations were started in 1855. Initially, the examinations for Indian Civil Service were conducted only in London. Maximum age was 23 years and minimum age was 18 years. The syllabus was designed such that European Classics had a predominant share of marks. All this made it difficult for Indian candidates. Nevertheless, in 1864, the first Indian, Shri Satyendranath Tagore brother of Shri Rabindaranath Tagore succeeded. Three years later 4 other Indians succeeded. Throughout the next 50 years, Indians petitioned for simultaneous examinations to be held in India without success because the British Government did not want many Indians to succeed and enter the ICS. It was only after the First World War and the Montagu Chelmsford reforms that this was agreed to.

Federal Public Services Commission:

From 1922 onwards the Indian Civil Service Examination began to be held in India also, first in Allahabad and later in Delhi with the setting up of the Federal Public Service Commission. The Examination in London continued to be conducted by the Civil Service Commission. Similarly, prior to independence superior police officers belonged to the Indian (Imperial) Police appointed by the Secretary of State by competitive examination. The first open competition for the service was held in England in June, 1893, and 10 top candidates were appointed as Probationary Assistant Superintendents of Police. Entry into Imperial Police was thrown open to Indians only after 1920 and the following year examinations for the service were conducted both in England and India. Indianisation of the police service continued to be very slow despite pronouncement and recommendations of the Islington Commission and the Lee Commission. Till 1931, Indians were appointed against 20% of the total posts of Superintendents of Police. However, because of non availability of the suitable European candidates, more Indians were appointed to the Indian Police from the year 1939 onwards.

Imperial Forest Services:

Regarding Forest Service, British India Government started the Imperial Forest Department in 1864 and to organize the affairs of the Imperial Forest Department, Imperial Forest Service was constituted in 1867. From 1867 to 1885, the officers appointed to Imperial Forest Service were trained in France and Germany. Till 1905, they were trained at Coopers Hill, London. In 1920, it was decided that further recruitment to the Imperial Forest Service would be made by direct recruitment in England and India and by promotion from the provincial service in India. After independence, the Indian Forest Service was created in 1966 under All India Service Act 1951.

Aitchinson Commission:

Regarding Central Civil Services, the Civil Services in British India were classified as covenanted and uncovenanted services on the basis of the nature of work, pay-scales and appointing authority. In 1887, the Aitchinson Commission recommended the reorganization of the services on a new pattern and divided the services into three groups-Imperial, Provincial and Subordinate. The recruiting and controlling authority of Imperial services was the ‘Secretary of State’. Initially, mostly British candidates were recruited for these services. The appointing and controlling authority for Provincial services was the respective provincial government, which framed rules for these services with the approval of the Government of India. With the passing of the Indian Act 1919, the Imperial Services headed by the Secretary of State for India, were split into two-All India Services and Central Services. The central services were concerned with matters under the direct control of the Central Government. Apart from the Central Secretariat, the more important of these services were the Railway Services, the Indian Posts and Telegraph Service, and the Imperial Customs Service. To some of these, the Secretary of State used to make appointments, but in the great majority of cases their members were appointed and controlled by the Government of India. The origin of the Public Service Commission in India is found in the First Dispatch of the Government of India on the Indian Constitutional Reforms on the 5th March, 1919 which referred to the need for setting up some permanent office charged with the regulation of service matters.

Lee Commission & Setup of Public Service Commission:

This concept of a body intended to be charged primarily with the regulation of service matters, found a somewhat more practical shape in the Government of India Act, 1919. Section 96(C) of the Act provided for the establishment in India of a Public Service Commission which should “discharge, in regard to recruitment and control of the Public Services in India, such functions as may be assigned thereto by rules made by the Secretary of State in Council”. After passing of the Government of India Act, 1919, in spite of a prolonged correspondence among various levels on the functions and machinery of the body to be set up, no decision was taken on setting up of the body. The subject was then referred to the Royal Commission on the Superior Civil Services in India (also known as Lee Commission). The Lee Commission, in their report in the year 1924, recommended that the statutory Public Service Commission contemplated by the Government of India Act, 1919 should be established without delay. Subsequent to the provisions of Section 96(C) of the Government of India Act, 1919 and the strong recommendations made by the Lee Commission in 1924 for the early establishment of a Public Service Commission, it was on October 1, 1926 that the Public Service Commission was set up in India for the first time. It consisted of four Members in addition to the Chairman. Sir Ross Barker, a member of the Home Civil Service of the United Kingdom was the first Chairman of the Commission. The functions of the Public Service Commission were not laid down in the Government of India Act, 1919, but were regulated by the Public Service Commission (Functions) Rules, 1926 framed under sub-section (2) of Section 96(C) of the Government of India Act, 1919. Further, the Government of India Act, 1935 envisaged a Public Service Commission for the Federation and a Provincial Public Service Commission for each Province or group of Provinces. Therefore, in terms of the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935 and with its coming into effect on 1st April, 1937, the Public Service Commission became the Federal Public Service Commission. With the inauguration of the Constitution of India in January 26, 1950, the Federal Public Service Commission came to be known as the Union Public Service Commission, and the Chairman and Members of the Federal Public Service Commission became Chairman and Members of the Union Public Service Commission by virtue of Clause (1) of Article 378 of the Constitution.

Overview of the Exam Pattern:

Name of the exam                >   Civil Services Exam- IAS

Conductiong authority          >    Union Public Service Commission

Mode of exam                      >    Offline

Number of Stages                 >    Prelims
                                           >    Mains Exam
                                           >    Interview

Number of papers                 >    Prelims: 2
                                           >    Mains : 9

Prelims marking scheme        >    Paper 1: +2 marks per question
                                           >    Paper 2: +2.5 marks per question
Negative marking                >   One-third of marks allotted to each question

Duration                              >   Prelims : 2 hours (Each paper)
                                           >   Mains : 3hours (Each paper)

Type of Questions                 >   Prelims: Objective type
                                           >   Mains: Subjective type

Post                                      >  700 - 1000 approximate (Tentative)

IAS Exam pattern of Prelims

  • Firstly, this stage consists of 2 compulsory papers - General Studies paper and (CSAT) Civil service aptitude test. Moreover, it will test the analytical skills of the candidate.

  • Secondly, all questions are objective. So, the candidate has to choose any one option out of 4 answers given for each question.

  • On the other hand, questions are in both Hindi and English language. However, comprehension questions in the English language in the CSAT paper are without Hindi translations.

  • Also, prelims is a qualifying paper. The cut off of paper I is decided by UPSC every year. The CSAT paper requires the candidates to score at least 33% i.e. 66 marks to qualify and to be able to sit for the Mains exam.

  • Moreover, the number of candidates that sit for the main exams is much higher than the vacancies.

IAS Prelims Exam Pattern

Exam Mode              >   Offline

Number of Papers         >   2- General Studies and Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT)

Number of Questions    >    Paper 1- 100; Paper 2- 80

Question Paper Type     >   Multiple Choice Questions

Prelims Total Marks      >   400

                                   >   Nature of Exam Qualifying

Exam Duration             >   2 hours each, +20 minutes for blind students

Exam Language           >   English and Hindi

Marking Scheme of Prelims

The IAS Exam pattern is very important to understand to pass the prelims exam. Here is the marking scheme of prelims:

  • Firstly, every question in paper I is of 2 marks. So, the question paper is a total of 200 marks.

  • Secondly, every question in the Civil Service Aptitude Test carries 2.5 marks. So, the question paper is a total of 200 marks.

  • Also, for every wrong answer by the student, 0.33 marks will be deducted i.E. 0.66 will be deducted from paper I and 0.83 marks will be deducted from paper II. But, there is no negative marking from Q74 - Q80 because these are decision-making questions.

  • Moreover, if the candidate gives more than 1 answer, then it will be considered as wrong even if one of them is right.

  • However, if there is no penalty then no negative marking will be done.

  • In other words, candidates must cross the cut-off marks in Paper I and a minimum of 33% score in Paper II to sit for the main exam.


Negative Marking

The IAS Exam pattern is very different from other exams. Also, the candidates can easily get negative marking in the UPSC Exam. In other words, 3 incorrect answers will lead to around 1 mark deduction. In short, the candidate will get a 1/3 mark deducted for incorrect answers. Also, there is no negative marking for blank answers. Read everything about UPSC on its official website.

Mains Exam Pattern

  • Firstly, IAS mains is an offline exam. There are a total of 9 papers in the Mains exam.

  • Secondly, every paper is of 3 hours and extra 30 minutes extra is given to blind students.

  • Thirdly, Paper A and Paper B are of 300 marks each and the remaining papers are of 250 marks each.

  • On the other hand, the main exam is divided into 2 parts qualifying and merit exam. And it is compulsory to sit in for all the exams to go into the stage.

  • Moreover, questions will be subjective. And you can write in either Hindi or English language

  • So, the candidate will be tested on the basis of knowledge and understanding of the subject. You have to answer touching the basic and relevant aspects. You will also be marked upon whether you are able to provide valuable and constructive way forwards.


Qualifying Paper

  1. Paper A - Either of the Indian languages can be selected from the 8th schedule of the constitution. Also, it carries 300 marks.

  2. Paper B - The 2nd exam is an English paper. And it also carries 300 marks.

Qualifying Exams - The students have to score minimum marks in the qualifying exam to crack the exam. Moreover, the question paper is set to test the student's ability to analyze. The exam tests the student's grasp of the Indian languages. In other words, the questions test the student's understanding of the concept and subject. However, there would be 2 optional exams that the student will have to choose. Also, below is the list of mandatory exams and marks for more information

Marking Scheme of Mains

  • Firstly, 1750 is the total marks for the main examination.

  • Secondly, students will be marked on the basis of opinion, content flow, problem understanding, solution, presentation, and language.

  • Also, the candidate has to appear in two papers of the optional papers that they choose. The syllabus for both papers is different.

You can choose any one of the Optional subjects from 26 subjects provided by the UPSC. You can download the syllabus from the official website of UPSC for free.


IAS Exam pattern for Personality Test

  • The students who qualified Mains will go further towards the Personality test.

  • Also, this will include testing of the candidate's psychology.

  • On the other hand, the objective of the interview is to judge the suitability of the candidate for the Civil Service Position. Also, the candidate is asked questions on general interest.

  • However, the test reflects the mental caliber of the candidate.

  • Moreover, this is the assessment of intellectual qualities, social traits, and interest in current affairs. So, a candidate must make sure that they read the newspaper daily till the Interview day.

  • Also, the qualities that they look for are alertness, logical thinking, balance of judgment, interest, the ability of leadership, and moral integrity.

  • Most importantly, the test is conducted in a candidate's preferred choice.

  • Further, the interview is for 275 marks.

  • To sum up, the candidate will be ranked by a grand total and will be called for the final interview.

The total marks that will be counted for ranking is 2025. (1750 + 275 = 2025 marks).

Prelims Syllabus

Paper 1(General Studies) - This will test the student's knowledge and passion for learning about the country. Also, the questions are from various aspects like history, geography, economy and much more.

  • Events of National and International Importance

  • Geography impact in the country

  • Constitutional and governance structure

  • Issues faced by the country currently

  • Social and Economic Development

  • Research and development

  • Scientific development

Paper 2(English and General Aptitude) - Knowing high-level English is not compulsory in the field of Public Service but students have to score at least 33% to crack the exam. So, candidates have to practice mock tests in English to be able to score the minimum marks. However, the aptitude of the student determines the ability to solve complex problems, time management, and much more. Also, the important fields to practice for the IAS exam are as follows:

  • Logical Reasoning

  • The capacity of problem-solving

  • Interpersonal Skills

  • Numerical Ability

  • Analytical Skills

  • Comprehension

  • Synonyms/antonyms

Mains Syllabus

Paper A(Any Indian Language) - This paper is to test the candidate's knowledge of the language.
Paper B (English) - This paper tests your ability to understand the English language.
Paper 3(Essay Writing) - Students write essays on the topic of their choice.
Paper 4(General Studies 1) - It will have questions related to ancient India like history, geography, heritage and much more.

  • Ancient and Modern - History of India.

  • Significant changes in Architecture, Literature, etc.

  • Significance of Geography.

  • Diversity

  • Globalization

Paper 5(General Studies 2) - This part will have questions regarding the reform in Indian governance after Independence. Further, the topics are:

  • India's Constitution

  • Analysis of the world's constitution

  • Legislature and Parliament

  • Main issues faced by the nation and solutions

  • Welfare schemes by the government

  • Structures and department in government

Paper 6(General Studies 3) - This paper has questions regarding Modern India and key developments. Also, the included topics are:

  • Indian Economy

  • Farming

  • Science

  • Research and Development

  • IT

  • Environmental Studies

  • Achievement in different fields

  • Security challenges

  • Industrial growth

  • Infrastructure Development

Paper 7(General Studies 4) - This will have the questions about Integrity, Ethics and aptitude. Moreover, the included topics are:

  • Public Administration ethics

  • Emotional Intelligence

  • Behavior Analysis

  • Functional Values

Paper 8 and 9 - This will have the questions about Integrity, Ethics and aptitude. Moreover, the included topics are:

  • Agriculture

  • Animal husbandry and Veterinary Science

  • Anthropology

  • Botany

  • Chemistry

  • Civil Engineering

  • Commerce and Accountancy

  • Economics

  • Electrical Engineer

  • Geography

  • Geology

  • History of India

  • Law

  • Management

  • Maths

  • Mechanical Engineer

  • Medical Science

  • Philosophy

  • Physics

  • Political science and International relations

  • Psychology

  • Public administration

  • Sociology

  • Statistics

  • Zoology

  • Literature of any available 23 subjects


IAS Preparation Books

Firstly, we present to you the best books for IAS preparation. Secondly, take your time to prepare for the exam at home.

Editor's Note

We have covered everything that you need to know about IAS Exam Pattern. However, take your time to prepare for the UPSC exam. Further, not everyone can qualify for this exam. Also, only 1% of people qualify out of lakhs of applicants. Therefore, you need to understand the IAS exam pattern deeply. The IAS exam pattern will clear your doubts and you will have a clear picture. To sum up, prepare yourself wisely.


FAQ Regarding IAS Exam Pattern

1. Why it is important to understand IAS exam pattern?
The candidate should understand the IAS exam pattern properly because it will help to understand what to study and what to omit. The syllabus should be divided on the basis of strengths and weaknesses.

2. What is the IAS exam pattern of Prelims?
It has 2 papers General awareness and CSAT. Moreover, the candidate should score 33% in the second paper to crack the exam.

3. Is maths a good option to choose as an optional subject?
Yes, it is a very scoring subject in UPSC exams. However, if you are weak in maths but you have the interest to learn it, enroll in good coaching.

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