Difference Between Prelims and Mains

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 16, 2022, 11:11

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts Civil Services Exam (IAS Exam) annually to select candidates for various Government posts.

The UPSC CSE exam is conducted in 2 stages: Preliminary and Mains. In this blog, we will look into the details of the two exams and the Difference Between Prelims and Mains.

What is a Prelims Examination?

Candidates are required to clear the cutoff marks score of the Prelims to qualify for the Mains examination. Thus, Prelims must be taken with utmost seriousness.

As per UPSC, only those candidates declared by the Commission to have qualified in the Prelims in the year will be eligible to appear at the Mains exam of that year, provided they are otherwise eligible for admission to the Mains.

The minimum educational qualification required by the candidate appearing for Prelims must be:

  • a degree from a university incorporated by an Act of the Central Legislature in India
  • a degree from any University incorporated by an Act of the State Legislature in India
  • any other established educational institution by an Act of Parliament or a degree from any institute declared to be deemed as a University under Section-3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956

Outline of the Prelims Exam

Name of the PaperMarks AllottedTime Allotted
Paper I: General Studies-I (Objective-type)2002 hours
Paper-II: General Studies-II (Objective-Type)2002 hours

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What are Mains Examination?

Candidates who qualify in the Prelims can attend the Civil Services Mains. The Mains Exam is conducted across 5-7 days. It tests the academic knowledge and comprehensive skills of the candidates and is descriptive in nature. The intention is to understand the candidates' intellectual ability and coherent thought-process.

Outline of the Mains Exam

The Mains consists of 9 papers including various General Studies subjects for UPSC.

Name of the Paper

Marks Allotted

Time Allotted

Paper A: Compulsory Indian Language

300

3 hours

Paper B: English

300

3 hours

Paper I: Essay

250

3 hours

Paper-II: General Studies I

250

3 hours

Paper III: General Studies II

250

3 hours

Paper IV: General Studies III

250

3 hours

Paper V: General Studies IV

250

3 hours

Paper VI: Optional I

250

3 hours

Paper VII: Optional II

250

3 hours

Since the Mains syllabus is extremely vast, it is important that candidates develop a deep understanding of all the subjects for UPSC. They should ideally start their preparation strategically to complete the lengthy syllabus.

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Difference Between Prelims and Mains Examination

Mentioned below are some of the key Differences Between Prelims and Mains -

 

Prelims

Mains

Duration of examination2 hours or 120 minutes for each paper3 hours for each paper
Total number of questionsPaper I- 100 questions, Paper II- 80 questions 
Total marks4001750
Types of questionsObjective Type Multiple Choice QuestionsDescriptive
Marking schemePaper I- 200 marks Paper-II- 200 marks250 marks each for Paper I- Paper VII and 275 marks for Interview
Selection criteriaMarks scored in IAS Prelims are only considered to select candidates for the main exam and not for the final merit listThose who clear the main examination shall be called for the interview session. This is also considered for merit calculation

It is important to understand the Difference Between Prelims and Mains so that the candidate is well-prepared for them.

The final merit is prepared based on marks obtained in the main examination and Interview. The merit list contains the names of the candidates who cleared the main and Interview round and have produced all the required documents.

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FAQs on the Difference Between Prelims and Mains

Q1. What is the Difference Between Prelims and Mains with regard to the number of selected candidates?

The Difference Between Prelims and Mains with regard to the number of selected candidates is that, currently, out of 15,000 candidates who qualify for the prelims, only 2700 candidates approximately qualify the mains to go to the final round, which is the Interview.

Q2. What is the Difference Between Prelims and Mains with regard to the number of papers as per the UPSC syllabus?

The Difference Between Prelims and Mains with regard to the number of papers is that the Prelims stage has two papers – General Studies Paper 1 and General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT), while the UPSC CSE Mains stage has nine papers – out of which seven papers are counted for final ranking.

Q3. What is the Difference Between Prelims and Mains with regard to the type of skills required by candidates?

The Difference Between Prelims and Mains with regard to the type of questions and skills is that Mains requires a lot of analytical thinking and writing skills, while prelims are only bound to be on an MCQ type of questions and require multi-logical thinking.

Q4. What is the Difference Between Prelims and Mains with regard to the subjects covered?

The Difference Between Prelims and Mains with regard to the subjects is that Prelims cover Indian and World Geography, Indian History, Economics, Environment, Indian Polity, Science and Technology, and Current Affairs. Meanwhile, in Mains, the papers include a broader range of topics that cover an even wider syllabus.