How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Mains?

By Ritesh|Updated : September 20th, 2022

After clearing the preliminary examination, the next stage of the Civil Services exam is UPSC Mains which is a descriptive paper containing 9 papers in total, each to be completed within 3 hours of time. Unlike prelims, there is no negative marking in the UPSC Mains exam, so one can attempt all the questions and aim to score more than the cut-off marks. But while preparing for the Mains examination, it is important to check how many questions to attempt in UPSC mains to get more than the qualifying or cut-off marks. By having a clear idea of the number of questions to be attempted in UPSC mains, one can make a preparation strategy accordingly.

Number of Questions to be Attempted in UPSC Mains

In the UPSC mains examination, there are nine papers, out of which papers A and B of Compulsory Indian language and English are qualifying in nature. One needs to score a minimum of 25%, i.e., 75 marks in each of these two papers to qualify. The maximum marks for Paper A and B are 300 marks for each. Additionally, for the rest of the seven papers, one needs to score at least 10% and more than the cut-off marks.

While checking how many questions to attempt in UPSC mains, it is important to know the UPSC exam pattern as well for Mains as shown below:

Paper

Topic/Subject

Nature of Paper

Duration

Maximum Marks

Paper A

Compulsory Indian language

Qualifying in Nature (25% i.e.75 marks required)

3 hours

300

Paper B

English

3 hours

300

Paper I

Essay

Marks will be counted to determine the Final Merit list.

3 hours

250

Paper II

General Studies I

3 hours

250

Paper III

General Studies II

3 hours

250

Paper IV

General Studies III

3 hours

250

Paper V

General Studies IV

3 hours

250

Paper VI

Optional I

3 hours

250

Paper VII

Optional II

3 hours

250

UPSC Mains Total Marks = 1750

The total marks of UPSC Mains are 1750, and the last year, the cut off for the General category is 774. Usually, 20 questions are asked in each paper, so 8-9 minutes can be invested in each question to attempt all the questions.

Tips to Attempt Maximum Questions in UPSC Mains

Some important tips on how many questions to attempt in UPSC Mains and how to attempt maximum questions are listed below:

  • Since it is a descriptive exam, the presentation of answers is necessary. Use diagrams, bullet points, and headers wherever needed. The more you make the answer readable, the greater the chances of achieving good marks.
  • Candidates should try and attempt all the questions in the Mains paper with an average word limit, instead of attempting only 3-4 questions with lengthy answers.
  • Before writing the answer, it is better to make notes quickly in the rough workspace.

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FAQs on How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Mains?

  • Applicants should try attempting all the questions in the UPSC Mains paper as it does not have a negative marking. It is a descriptive exam with 9 papers. Each paper has to be completed within 3 hours of time.

  • The number of questions in the UPSC Mains paper might change over the years. Usually, 20 questions are there in each paper, which must be answered within 3 hours. The total marks for the UPSC Mains exam are 1750.

  • Yes, with a well-planned approach, it is possible to attempt all questions in the UPSC Mains examination. A better approach of solving the paper is attempting all the questions instead of only answering 3-4 questions with lengthy answers.

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