UPSC Exam Pattern 2023 for IAS Prelims, Mains & Interview

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : January 9th, 2023

UPSC Exam Pattern is released by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to test the academic expertise of a candidate and also their ability to present the answers in a coherent manner. That is why the aspirants must comprehensively understand the UPSC exam pattern for both Prelims and Mains. A complete understanding of the IAS exam pattern would help the candidates manage their time and make their preparation more efficient. Additionally, it will be easier to align their preparation with the exam needs. The UPSC exam pattern will enable the candidates in deciphering a clear picture of the number of questions and negative marking.

The UPSC exam is conducted in three phases- Prelims Exam, Mains Exam, and Personality Test. Below mentioned is the detailed UPSC exam pattern for all the stages, along with complete information on negative marking in UPSC. The complete knowledge of the UPSC exam pattern can take the candidates toward the right direction for the exam.

Table of Content

UPSC Exam Pattern 

The selection process for UPSC Exam divides the IAS Exam Pattern into three stages. Candidates must clear each stage to move on to the next one. The UPSC Prelims exam 2022 was scheduled for 5th June 2022, the candidates who crack the exam will be shortlisted for the Mains exam. Aspirants who qualify for the Mains exam will be called for the Personality test round. 

UPSC Paper Pattern Highlights

As the cycle of the IAS Exam is year long, it is important to have a fair understanding of the complete UPSC Exam pattern for prelims, mains, and interview. The candidates can get the complete details of the UPSC pattern as listed here.

UPSC Exam Stages

Number of Papers

Total Marks

Nature of the Exam

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern 

2 Papers - GS Paper 1 & CSAT


Objective Type

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern

9 Papers


Descriptive Test

IAS Interview



Personality Test

UPSC Total Marks

Mains Marks+Interview Marks=2025 Marks

 UPSC Exam Pattern PDF

Candidates must take a strategic approach to prepare according to the exam pattern of UPSC to limit the negative marking in the prelims exam and answer maximum questions in the UPSC Mains Exam. The candidates need to present a well-prepared UPSC preparation strategy in order to gain complete details.

Download☛ UPSC Exam Pattern PDF

The UPSC Exam Pattern in Hindi and English remains the same in terms of the number of questions, total marks, and negative marking. The illustration of the exam pattern has been elaborated here.

UPSC Exam Pattern

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern

The UPSC Exam Pattern for Prelims includes two papers, namely General Studies-1 and General Studies-2 (also known as CSAT). Both the papers of the prelims exam are held in one day. 

  • UPSC Prelims GS Paper 2 / CSAT Paper is a qualifying paper. 
  • Candidates must score at least 33% in the CSAT exam to qualify. Understand the UPSC CSAT Syllabus to ensure you clear the paper on the first attempt. 

Candidates must remember that the UPSC Prelims exam is conducted to filter the candidates for the Mains exam, and marks secured in this exam won’t be counted in the final merit list. The UPSC cutoff marks for Prelims is calculated only based on paper 1. 

Along with the UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern, aspirants must also check UPSC Prelims Syllabus

  • Per the Prelims Exam Pattern, candidates will be given 2 hours of time for each paper.
  • GS-1 will have a total of 100 questions, and GS-2 carries 80 questions. The total marks for each paper will be 200 as per the UPSC Prelims marking scheme. 

UPSC Paper Pattern for Prelims

On of the most important part of the prelims paper pattern is UPSC negative marking. As prelims is a qualifying exam, there is a negative marking of 1/3 marks for every incorrect answer.

UPSC Exam Pattern for Prelims


Nature of Paper

No. of questions

UPSC Total Marks


General Studies 1


Merit Ranking



2 hours

General Studies 2- CSAT





2 hours

UPSC Prelims Total Marks 


Negative Marking in UPSC

As per the UPSC Exam Pattern for Prelims, each question of General Studies-1 carries 2 marks, and each question carries 2.5 marks for the CSAT paper.

  • There will be a negative marking in UPSC of 1//3 of the mark allotted to that question.
  • This means for IAS Prelims Paper 1, there will be a negative marking of 0.66,
  • For CSAT, the UPSC negative marking will be 0.83. 


Number of Questions

UPSC Prelims Total Marks

UPSC Prelims Marking Scheme- Negative Marks

General Studies-1




General Studies-2 (CSAT)




UPSC Mains Exam Pattern

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern is different from the prelims pattern as it is a detailed paper. UPSC Mains 2022 was conducted on 16th September 2022. Those who crack the Prelims exam are eligible to appear for the UPSC Mains exam. Download the UPSC Mains Syllabus to better understand the topics asked in the exam. 

As per the UPSC Exam Pattern for Mains, candidates must give two types of papers- Qualifying and Merit Papers. 

  • There will be a total of 9 papers from which two papers will be qualifying in nature, four for General Studies, and two for the optional subjects. 
  • Candidates get the freedom to choose an optional subject for the Mains exam.
  • Additionally, all the papers will be descriptive.

Check out the complete UPSC Paper Pattern for Mains below in the table.

UPSC Mains Paper Pattern



Nature of Paper


IAS Total marks

Paper A

Compulsory Indian language

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

3 hours


Paper B


3 hours


Paper I


Marks will be counted to determine the Final Merit list.

3 hours


Paper II

General Studies I

3 hours


Paper III

General Studies II

3 hours


Paper IV

General Studies III

3 hours


Paper V

General Studies IV

3 hours


Paper VI

Optional I

3 hours


Paper VII

Optional II

3 hours


UPSC Mains Total Marks= 1750

Paper A is not compulsory for candidates from Meghalaya, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur, and Nagaland and for those with hearing impairment. However, these candidates must prove they have been exempted from 2nd or 3rd language courses by their university or board. The UPSC Mains Exam Pattern covers 4 GS Papers; each paper's details are mentioned below. 

  • General Studies 1- (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)
  • General Studies 2-(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International relations)
  • General Studies 3- Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
  • General Studies 4- (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)

UPSC Marking Scheme for Mains

As per the UPSC exam pattern for mains, papers A and B are qualifying, and all the remaining papers are counted for merit. Candidates must score at least 25% in each paper to be considered for the final merit list. Paper-A and Paper-B carry 300 marks each. And other seven papers carry a total of 250 marks each. 

UPSC Exam Pattern for Optional Subjects

As mentioned earlier, the UPSC Mains pattern includes two optional papers. Each paper carries 250 marks as per the UPSC Marking Scheme. Candidates can choose any subject they want from the list of UPSC Optional Subjects. Here is the list of all the UPSC optional subjects. Also, Check How to Choose Optional for UPSC

UPSC Paper Pattern- Optional Subjects

Mechanical Engineering

Medical Science



Political Science and International Relations

Civil Engineering

Commerce and Accountancy


Electrical Engineering



Public Administration





Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science









The literature of any one of the following languages: Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Maithili, Assamese, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Urdu, and English.

UPSC Exam Pattern for Interview

A personality test or IAS Interview is the final round of the UPSC exam before the final merit list is declared. Those who manage to clear UPSC Mains will get e-summon letters for this final round. As per UPSC exam pattern, this round consists of interviews with UPSC board members to judge the candidates for Civil Services careers and associated responsibilities. Here, the interview panel observes the candidate’s mental and social traits by asking general interest IAS interview questions. Here the members evaluate the logical exposition, balance of judgment, alertness, depth, variety of interest, leadership, ability of social cohesion, and moral integrity.

  • UPSC Paper Pattern released by the commission states that the total marks for the interview round will be 275.
  • After the declaration of the UPSC Result of the interview round, the final merit list will be prepared based on marks obtained by the candidate in the UPSC Mains and Interview.

Changes in UPSC Exam Pattern 

UPSC Exam Pattern has seen few changes over the years. Below we have mentioned the year and changes made in the UPSC exam pattern in that particular year.

  • In 2011, the UPSC introduced the CSAT paper in the Civil Services Exam, which was the first change in the UPSC Exam Pattern. CSAT was introduced to check the analytical and decision-making ability of the candidates. The GS-1 and CSAT paper marks were considered for the merit list of the Prelims exam.
  • In 2012, UPSC decided to make the IAS syllabus generic and introduced a new exam pattern. In this pattern, Paper-I and Paper-II optional papers had two sessions, two general studies papers, and one essay paper was included as well. Candidates had to choose two subjects from the optional list.
  • In 2013, the UPSC Syllabus or mains went through major changes. This year UPSC added another General Studies paper called ethics and made one optional subject with two papers.
  • In 2014, the Civil Services exam pattern had a few changes. The essay paper of the Mains exam had two topics from each section, but it was changed to 1. Additionally, the number of attempts and age limit for the General category candidates also increased. The number of attempts increased from 4 to 6, and the upper age limit increased from 30 to 32.
  • In 2015, UPSC made the CSAT paper qualifying in nature, and the marks scored in GS-1 were considered for the merit list. Candidates needed at least 33% to crack the CSAT paper. 

UPSC Exam Pattern in Hindi

हिंदी में यूपीएससी परीक्षा पैटर्न अंग्रेजी में यूपीएससी परीक्षा पैटर्न के समान है। परीक्षा को तीन चरणों में बांटा गया है - प्रारंभिक, मुख्य और साक्षात्कार।

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern in Hindi

UPSC Exam Pattern in Hindi

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern in Hindi

UPSC Exam Pattern in Hindi

UPSC Exam Pattern for IPS

UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination (CSE) to recruit candidates for 24 civil services, including the Indian Police Service IPS. The UPSC exam pattern is the same for all posts of the civil services exam. There will be three stages, Prelims, Mains, and Interviews. After the announcement of CSE results, those who have applied for IPS will become IPS officers depending on their rank. 

UPSC Exam Pattern vs UPSC EPFO Exam Pattern

Above, we have mentioned the UPSC Exam Pattern for Civil Services Exam (CSE), which is different from the UPSC EPFO exam pattern. UPSC is responsible for so many exams, and the exam pattern for each exam is not the same. The UPSC EPFO exam pattern involves two stages, the first stage includes carrying objective-type questions, and the second round is the interview. Those who clear the first round will be eligible for the Interview round. The first round carries 300 marks, and the interview round carries 100 marks.


write a comment

FAQs on UPSC Exam Pattern

  • The UPSC exam is conducted in three stages- Prelims, Mains and Interview. The UPSC Exam Pattern for prelims includes two papers with objective-type questions where paper 2 is qualifying in nature. The UPSC mains paper pattern includes 9 papers. Download the UPSC Exam Pattern PDF for detailed information.

  • Recently there has not been any change in the UPSC exam pattern. The last change was in 2015 when the UPSC made the General Studies-II or CSAT paper qualifying in nature. Candidates are required to score at least 33% to clear this paper. Those who fail in CSAT won’t qualify for the Mains round. The candidates must practice UPSC mock test to be able to get complete details of the exam pattern.

  • As per the UPSC prelims exam pattern, two papers will be in the prelims exam- General Studies-1 and General Studies-2. Each paper carries 200 marks, and the time duration will be 2 hours. The merit list will be prepared based on marks secured in the GS-1, whereas the GS-2 paper will be qualifying in nature, and candidates require at least 33% to qualify for it.

    CheckBooks for UPSC Mains GS Paper 1,2,3,4

  • Candidates must keep a printout of the UPSC exam pattern PDF while preparing for the exam. Keeping a record of exam patterns would help the candidates prepare accordingly and divide their time per the exam demands. We have provided a direct link to download the UPSC exam pattern PDF above in this post.

  • According to the UPSC exam pattern for the Mains exam, there will be a total of 9 papers in the Mains round. Of these 9 papers, two will be qualifying in nature, and the other seven papers will be considered to prepare the merit list. From these seven papers, there will be two papers for the optional subject. Candidates need to secure at least 25% in these papers to be considered for the merit list per the UPSC marking scheme. The time duration for each paper will be 3 hours. 

  • Other than the literature language papers, there are only two mediums for the UPSC exam- English and Hindi. English is the most popular language among UPSC aspirants; however, many aspirants also choose Hindi. Download UPSC Syllabus in Hindi.

  • The UPSC Mains round, which is the second stage of the UPSC Exam has nine papers. These nine papers are Compulsory Indian Language, English, Essay, General Studies-1, General Studies-2, General Studies-3, General Studies-4, Optional Paper-1, and Optional Paper-2. Candidates can choose any subject they want from the list of 48 optional subjects.

  • Those candidates who clear the UPSC Mains appear for the interview round. The total marks for the interview round will be 275 and the UPSC total marks would be 2025.

  • As per the UPSC paper pattern, the total marks of the IAS exam would be 2025, from which the Mains exam carries 1750, and the interview round has 275 marks. Candidates must remember that the prelims stage is only the screening test to find eligible candidates for the Mains exam, and marks scored in the Prelims exam won’t be considered for the final result.

  • According to the UPSC exam pattern,0.33% of marks will be deducted for each wrong answer in the Prelims exam, which is 0.66 marks. That is why candidates are advised to attempt the Prelims exam carefully and not take any risks.

  • The IAS Mains exam consists of the UPSC Mains exam, as per the UPSC Marking scheme; the paper-A and Paper-B, which are the compulsory language paper, carry 300 marks each, and these are qualifying in nature. The other seven papers have 250 marks, and the total marks allotted to IAS Mains is 1750.

  • As per the UPSC exam pattern, there are two compulsory language papers, 4 general studies papers, and 2 optional papers in the UPSC Mains exam. In the prelims round, there is one general studies paper and one CSAT paper.

  • There is one qualifying paper in the UPSC Prelims exam, i.e. CSAT or General Studies-II. The minimum qualifying mark in the CSAT exam is 33%, and those who can’t score at least 33% won’t be able to clear the UPSC Prelims stage. In the UPSC Mains exam, two qualifying papers require at least 25% of adobe to be eligible for selection.

Follow us for latest updates