UPSC Exam Language List – Tips to Clear Compulsory UPSC Language Paper

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Compulsory Indian Language Paper is one of the nine papers of the UPSC Mains exam. Since it is a qualifying paper, the grade received there will not be considered for deciding the final rank. To pass the Compulsory Indian Language Paper, you must obtain a score of 25%, or 75 or more points, out of 300. The 22 official languages listed under the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution must be chosen by the candidates.

It is vital to note that candidates from the North-Eastern states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Sikkim are not required to take the Compulsory Language Paper. Let’s discuss about the UPSC exam language list in detail through this article. The article covers all the aspects, such as the list of Indian languages, paper patterns, preparation tips, and more.

UPSC Language Papers

According to the UPSC 2023 notification, the minimum passing score for both examinations is 25% or 75 marks for each. Given how easy the syllabus is, scoring this minimum cut-off is not particularly challenging. In the UPSC Mains, there are two compulsory language papers:

  • Indian language/ Paper A – Compulsory for all candidates except those hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Manipur, Mizoram, and Meghalaya.
  • English language/ Paper B – Compulsory for all candidates.

Compulsory Indian Language Paper: Paper A of UPSC Mains

The second stage of the UPSC Exam consists of nine subjective papers. The first paper, known as “Paper A,” is the required UPSC language paper and is one of the nine exams in the Mains exam. Paper A is simply a qualifying paper; the marks earned there do not factor into the IAS Exam‘s merit ranking.

To qualify, candidates must receive at least 25% of the possible points on this exam. This means that the minimum required score is 75 out of a possible 300.

  • It is important to note that one needs to qualify for the compulsory Indian Language Paper. Otherwise, the marks obtained in the GS Papers and Optional Subjects won’t be disclosed.
  • According to the UPSC Syllabus, Paper A or the Language Paper tests the candidate’s abilities and skills of reading, writing and comprehension.

UPSC Exam Language List

The Indian languages listed in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution are listed below. You must achieve a minimum of 75 out of the 300 maximum scores on the exam to succeed.

UPSC Exam Language Script
Assamese Assamese
Bengali Bengali
Gujarati Gujarati
Hindi Devanagari
Kannada Kannada
Kashmiri Persian
Konkani Devanagari
Malayalam Malayalam
Manipuri Bengali
Marathi Devanagari
Nepali Devanagari
Odia Odia
Punjabi Gurmukhi
Sanskrit Devanagari
Sindhi Devanagari or Arabic
Tamil Tamil
Telugu Telugu
Urdu Persian
Bodo Devanagari
Dogri Devanagari
Maithili Devanagari
Santhali Devanagari or Olchiki *

*For the Santhali language, the question paper is in the Devanagari script; but candidates are free to answer either in the Devanagari script or Olchiki.

Exemption from Optional Language Exam: Conditions

In the northeastern states, candidates from Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland are excluded from taking the required Compulsory Indian language exam. When submitting their Detailed Application Form (DAF) for the UPSC Mains, qualified applicants must provide a scanned copy of a document proving that they are citizens of one of these states to be eligible for this exemption.

The same authorities who give certificates proving OBC, SC, or ST status – District Magistrate, Sub-divisional Officer, or any other officer authorized by the government to issue such certificates must issue this certificate for the district where the candidates’ parents reside. Candidates whose parents have passed away should contact the appropriate district office where they currently reside.

UPSC Language Paper: Exam Pattern

Let us now take a look at the UPSC exam pattern of the Indian Language Paper or Paper A. The table below illustrates the marking scheme as well.

Sections of the Language Paper in UPSC Marks Allotted
Essay 100
Reading Comprehension 60
Precis Writing 60
Translation (to and from a specific language to English) 40
Questions on Grammar of the Compulsory Indian Language 40

Preparation Tips for Compulsory Indian Language Paper

The Compulsory Language Paper is almost similar to the English Language or Paper B of the UPSC Mains, except for the translation and vocabulary-based section. We have mentioned some sure-shot tips to ace the Indian Language Paper on the first attempt.

  • Choose an Indian Language that you are proficient in. It may be the language you spoke and learned as a child or your mother tongue.
  • You should skim through the school textbooks for the selected language up to Class X to review the grammar section.
  • Read the newspaper in your preferred language to learn how to write essays and summaries.
  • To improve your English and verbal skills, solve a few questions from the last year’s UPSC Question Papers.
  • Aim to read the question completely before beginning the paper. Do not hurry.
  • Ensure your writing is clear and understandable and that you always stay within the word count restrictions.
  • Practice translating from and to the language of your choice in English. Newspaper reading helps a lot during this process.

Strategy to Clear Language Paper in UPSC: Paper A

Given below are some of the best strategies to tackle the UPSC Language Paper, no matter which language you choose.

  • Practice to Succeed: This is not a recommendation to study less for the language exam but to remember that this is merely a qualifying exam. Therefore, while preparing for the compulsory language paper, you shouldn’t sacrifice your preparation for your UPSC Prelims.
  • Choose a Language That is Comfortable: The exam’s questions are of matriculation-level difficulty or an equivalent. Select the Indian language you feel most at ease with, preferably one you have studied in school. CBSE-level books up to Class X standard are sufficient, per the UPSC Syllabus, for this paper’s preparation.
  • Read Newspapers: Add reading a local newspaper in the language of your choice to your regular newspaper regimen. This will improve your readiness for the optional language exam and aid your linguistic comprehension. For writing practice, you may also write a brief essay right after finishing the assignment.
  • Stay Away from Literal Translations: You will need to translate from your chosen language to English and vice versa in the translation area. Avoid literal translations as you do this. By that, we mean literal translations, which might distort the meaning of a passage or an essay and cost you valuable points.
  • Learn to Write: Given that English is now the only language taught in schools, it’s likely that if you choose your home tongue, you won’t be very familiar with it. Practice writing in your chosen language every day to stay in touch.
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