UPSC Prelims 2024: Exam Date, Syllabus, Paper Pattern, Cut Off

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 9th, 2023

UPSC Prelims is the first stage of the Civil Services exam held annually by the Union Public Service Commission. The UPSC Prelims exam 2023 was held on 28 May 2023 as per the official UPSC calendar. The UPSC Prelims 2024 exam date is 26 May 2024, according to the official calendar released by the Commission. The UPSC Civil Services is one of the toughest exams in India, and every year, lakhs of candidates apply for it, which makes it highly competitive. The UPSC Prelims notification 2024 will be released in February 2024, along with the online application form link.

Candidates who clear the UPSC Prelims exam appear for the Mains examination, followed by the Interview. This post will cover all the details an aspirant should know about UPSC Prelims 2023 & 2024. Candidates can prepare accordingly and strengthen their IAS preparation strategy.

UPSC Prelims 2024

The UPSC Prelims 2024 is scheduled to take place on 26 May 2024. The UPSC Prelims 2023 exam took place on 28 May 2023, and the UPSC Prelims results were released on 12 June 2023. Candidates who cleared the UPSC Prelims took the UPSC Mains 2023 which took place in the month of September 2023.

General Studies 1 and CSAT are the two papers of the UPSC CSE Prelims. While CSAT is a qualifying exam, the selection for the Mains is based on the candidates’ performance in the General Studies paper, implying that the General Studies Paper cut-off will consider the UPSC Prelims score.

UPSC Prelims 2024 Overview

Here is a brief overview of the UPSC Prelims exam 2024 that will help you get a better understanding of the examination:

Parameters Details
Exam Date 26th May 2024
Duration 2 hours each for GS-1 and CSAT
Language English and Hindi both
Mode Pen and Paper; candidates need to fill the OMR Sheet with a black ballpoint pen.
UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern There are two papers, GS Paper 1 and CSAT Paper 2; both are MCQ Type (objective questions). There is negative marking.
Subjects History, Polity, Geography, Economy, Science & Technology, Environment, and Current Affairs. Aptitude for CSAT.
Total Marks 200 marks (CSAT is qualifying with just 33% marks required to qualify).
Documents Required Admit Card, Valid ID Proof, Passport Size Photograph
Qualifying Marks UPSC Cut Off for Paper 1.

For CSAT, it is 33% of the total marks.

Weightage One needs to qualify for the UPSC Prelims to sit for the UPSC Mains Exam. Marks of the Prelims are not added to the calculation of the final merit list.
Information required to login Application Number and Date of Birth
Official Website and Helpline Number

011-23098543 / 23385271 / 23381125 / 23098591

UPSC Prelims Exam Date 2024

Candidates preparing for UPSC Prelims 2024 must know the exam dates so they won’t miss any upcoming events and deadlines. All the candidates are required to apply for Prelims before the last date. Candidates can check out the important dates for UPSC Prelims 2024 below.

UPSC Prelims 2024 Events Dates
Notification Date 14 February 2024
Application Start Date 2024 14 February 2024
Last Date to apply 05 March 2024
Admit Card Release Date To be released
UPSC Prelims 2024 Exam Date 26 May 2024
Result Date To be released

The candidates who clear the UPSC Prelims will appear for the Mains exam from 20 September 2024 onwards. The UPSC Prelims exam pattern consists of two papers – GS paper 1 and CSAT paper 2. The exam is held in two shifts with a 3-hour break in between. Candidates who successfully fill out the UPSC Online Application can appear for the IAS Prelims Exam. The UPSC Prelims 2023 was held on 28 May 2023 and the results were announced on 12 June 2023. Candidates who cleared the UPSC Prelims 2023 appeared for the UPSC Mains 2023 exam which was held from September 15 to September 24, 2023.

UPSC Prelims Notification 2024

The commission will release the UPSC Prelims 2024 notification on 14 February 2024. Candidates who wish to appear for the upcoming exam must download the UPSC Notification to ensure a complete understanding of the exam. As per the update, the application process for all aspirants begins on 14 February, and the last date to apply online is 05 March 2024.

UPSC Prelims Exam Time

The commission conducts the UPSC Prelims across the country in various exam centres on the same day. There are two papers in the Prelims, so the exam is held in two shifts. The duration is two hours for each paper, with a gap of 3 hours between them.

Paper Time
UPSC Prelims Paper 1 – GS 09:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M.
UPSC Prelims Paper 2 – CSAT 02:30 P.M. to 04:30 P.M.

UPSC Prelims Application Form

The commission releases the UPSC Prelims form along with the official notification. Candidates must check the UPSC Eligibility before applying for the Prelims exam. Candidates who wish to apply for the CSE vacancy must fill out the online form and appear for the UPSC Prelims.

How to Apply for UPSC Prelims 2024?

Candidates who want to apply for UPSC Prelims 2024 need to follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Visit the official website of UPSC.
  • Step 2: Click the UPSC Prelims 2024 application form.
  • Step 3: Enter the required details in the asked fields to register.
  • Step 4: After that, the registration ID and Password will be sent to your given phone number and email ID.
  • Step 5: Log in using the ID and Password.
  • Step 6: Fill the rest of the application form.
  • Step 7: After that, upload the scanned documents.
  • Step 8: Make the payment, and check all the details in the UPSC Prelims 2024 application form before submitting.

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern

The UPSC Prelims 2024 exam consists of two papers: General Studies 1 and General Studies 2 (CSAT). The CSAT exam is qualifying in nature, and candidates must score more than 33% to qualify for this paper. On the other hand, the score obtained in General Studies 1 will determine the selection in UPSC Prelims because it is counted for merit ranking.

  • The questions asked will be objective type (MCQ with 4 options).
  • There is a negative marking of 1/3rd mark for every incorrect answer.
  • The UPSC Prelims paper is in both English and Hindi.

Let’s look at the UPSC Exam Pattern for the Prelims exam in the table below:

UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern
Paper Name No of Questions Marks Time Exam Nature
General Studies Paper 1 100 200 2 Hours The score will decide the selection
General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT) 80 200 2 Hours Qualifying

UPSC Prelims Marking Scheme

The UPSC Prelims paper is objective type and contains negative markings. UPSC Prelims is a tricky stage of the IAS Exam as it has negative markings, and one must clear the cut-off to proceed further.

Paper For Every Correct Answer Negative Marking
Prelims Paper 1 2 Marks – 2*100 = 200 0.66 (1/3rd Marks)
Prelims Paper 2 2.5 Marks – 2.5*80 = 200 0.83 (1/3rd Marks)

UPSC Prelims Syllabus

The UPSC Prelims syllabus is released along with the official UPSC Syllabus in the official notification. The syllabus includes topics from two papers: General Studies Paper 1 and General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT). The commission releases the UPSC Prelims Syllabus in English and Hindi.

UPSC syllabus PDF download can be done by the candidates for both Paper 1 and Paper 2 to fully understand the scope of topics and plan the preparation strategically. Check the detailed UPSC Prelims syllabus below:

UPSC Prelims

UPSC Prelims Syllabus for Paper 1 – General Studies

According to the official notification, the General Studies syllabus for the UPSC Prelims exam covers the following topics:

UPSC Prelims Syllabus for Paper 2 [CSAT]

The UPSC CSAT Syllabus for the Prelims exam includes the following topics as per official notification:

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills (communication skills)
  • English language comprehension skills – Class X level
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Basic numeracy includes numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc. (Class X level)

UPSC Prelims Question Paper

One of the best ways to prepare for the upcoming UPSC Prelims is by solving UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to get a better picture of what to expect in the exam. Candidates must find the right strategy and work hard with sincerity and dedication to clear the UPSC Civil Services Prelims exam on the first attempt.

Candidates must be familiar with the questions asked in the UPSC Prelims. That’s why it becomes important to refer to UPSC Prelims Previous Year Question Papers to keep track of the trends and strengthen your preparation. As the CSAT paper of Prelims is qualifying, it becomes even more important to download and practice UPSC CSAT Question Papers.

UPSC Prelims 2023 Question Paper

In this section, you can download the UPSC Prelims 2023 Question Paper of both the papers.

UPSC Prelims Question Paper 2022

Below we have provided the direct link for UPSC Prelims 2022 Question Paper. You can download the question papers and kickstart your preparation for Prelims 2023.

UPSC Prelims Question Paper 2021

Below we have provided a direct link to download the UPSC Prelims 2021 Question Paper. It will help the candidates practice and prepare in the best way possible for UPSC Prelims 2023:

UPSC Prelims Analysis

UPSC Prelims is known to surprise candidates with its unpredictable moves. That’s why candidates have to be very careful. Candidates must see the trends and analyze what to expect in UPSC Prelims 2024. Knowing how many questions will be asked from each section of the UPSC Prelims syllabus would be very helpful. That’s why we have broken down the UPSC Prelims 2023, Prelims 2022 and Prelims 2021 below in the table:

UPSC Prelims Analysis 2023 – GS Paper 1

GS Paper 1

Subject Number of questions Difficulty level
Polity 15 Moderate to Difficult
Economy 14 Difficult
Geography 16 Moderate
History 14 Easy to moderate
Science & Technology 12 Moderate to difficult
Environment & Ecology 14 Moderate
International Relations 11 Moderate
Miscellaneous 4 Moderate
Total 100


Subject Number of Questions Difficulty level
Reasoning Ability 13-14 Moderate
Reading Comprehension 27 Moderate to Difficult
Basic Numeracy and Maths (Including Data Sufficiency) 39-40 Moderate to difficult

UPSC Prelims Analysis 2022 – GS Paper 1

The subject-by-subject analysis for GS Paper 1 in the UPSC Prelims is as follows:

Subject Number of Questions
Ancient History 1
Art and Culture 7
Economy 17
Medieval History 4
Modern History 4
Environment & Ecology 17
Science & Technology 14
Geography 12
Polity 13
Total 100

UPSC Prelims Analysis 2021 – GS Paper 1

The following is the specific topic analysis for GS Paper 1 in the UPSC Prelims exam:

Subject Number of questions
Current Affairs 27
Economy 10
History 20
Environment & Ecology 11
Science & Technology 08
Geography 10
Polity 14
Total 100

How to Prepare for UPSC Prelims 2024?

Candidates who are preparing for UPSC Prelims need to have a solid preparation strategy to crack this paper. That is why we have come up with a robust UPSC preparation strategy that is recommended by UPSC toppers to ace the IAS Prelims. Go through the below-mentioned tips to know how to prepare for UPSC Prelims:

  • Candidates must emphasize the Current Affairs section for UPSC Prelims and stay updated with recent incidents and information. Some of the useful sources for current affairs preparation are The Hindu/The Indian Express newspapers, Yojana and Kurukshetra magazines, the Economic and Political Weekly journal, etc.
  • Candidates need to start their preparation for UPSC Prelims and Mains simultaneously, and just 3 months before the Prelims exam, their focus should only be on the exam preparation. Go through the UPSC Mains Syllabus to ensure that you cover all common topics.
  • Going through the UPSC prelims previous year question papers with answers free download pdf would help gauge your preparation level. In addition, by practising the UPSC prelims question paper 2023 and other previous year papers, you will be able to understand the UPSC Prelims exam pattern and the important topics in a better way.
  • Make sure to make notes for revision. Noting down the important points would give you that extra push just before the exam.
  • Start with NCERT Books for UPSC, as the questions asked in the Prelims will check your basic understanding of the concepts, and NCERTs would be a great source for that.
  • Questions in the UPSC Prelims would be objective in nature, and that’s why candidates must attempt as many mock tests as possible. It will also help in reducing negative markings.

UPSC Prelims Books

Candidates must be careful when choosing books for the IAS Prelims exam preparation. The exam demands a high conceptual understanding of topics and good preparation for current affairs. For Prelims, finishing all the NCERT books is recommended, as they will help you strengthen your foundation. Additionally, the NCERTs are written in simple language that beginners can easily understand. Learn how to read NCERT for UPSC to ensure maximum usage and better understanding.

After finishing the NCERT textbooks, candidates can jump into the standard books for the UPSC Prelims. The subject-wise list of important books for IAS Prelims is as follows:

  • Polity: M. Laxmikanth
  • Economics: Nitin Singhania
  • History: History of Modern India by Bipin Chandra
  • Geography: NCERT + Goh Cheng Leong
  • Indian Art and Culture: Nitin Singhania
  • Environment: NCERT Biology Class 12 selected chapters
  • The Hindu for Current Affairs

UPSC Prelims Notes

You should study from the recommended UPSC study material while preparing for the Civil Services Prelims examination. The UPSC Prelims notes play a big role in exam preparation, and studying from the right notes would be highly efficient and effective. It is highly recommended that aspirants make their own study notes for the exam, as it helps in revision. UPSC Prelims exam pattern gives more weightage to quality over quantity; therefore, effort must be on revising the UPSC syllabus multiple times.

UPSC Prelims Cut Off

The UPSC Prelims cut-off is the minimum mark required for candidates to qualify in the exam and be eligible for the Mains round. The cut-off varies depending on the category of the candidate. The official UPSC Prelims cut off will be released after the declaration of the final result.

  • Candidates who have scored more than the cut-off will be qualified for the next stage of the exam.
  • The UPSC Prelims cut off only depends on the score of General Studies 1 only, as General Studies 2 is qualifying in nature, where the candidate needs to score at least 33%.
  • The cut-off will depend on the number of vacancies, the number of candidates who applied, and the difficulty level of the exam.

Note: UPSC Prelims 2023 Cut off (as given by our experts) – 82-85 marks (for general category)

The cut-off for UPSC Prelims 2021 was 87.54, while for Prelims 2020, the cut off for General Category was 92.51.

Expected UPSC Prelims Cut-Offs 2023
Category Expected UPSC Cut-Off (Prelims)
General 82-85
EWS 77-81
OBC 80-84
SC 65-69
ST 60-64
PwBD 47-51

UPSC Prelims 2023 Answer Key

The official answer key of UPSC Prelims 2023 will be out along with the final result in 2024. Meanwhile, candidates can check and download the answer keys of General Studies Paper 1 and CSAT from the direct links below. These are prepared by our subject matter experts and contain the right answer to every question.

Paper UPSC Prelims Answer Key 2023 PDF
GS Paper 1 Download PDF
CSAT Download PDF

UPSC Prelims Result

The UPSC Prelims Result will be declared within a few weeks after the completion of the Prelims on the official website of UPSC. The UPSC Prelims Result 2023 was released on 12 June 2023 on the official website. The candidates who have qualified for the Prelims exams appeared for UPSC Mains.

How to Check the UPSC Prelims Result?

Here are the following steps to check the UPSC Prelims result:

  • Step 1: Go to the official website of UPSC.
  • Step 2: Click on Written Results.
  • Step 3: Click on Civil Services Prelims Result.
  • Step 4: Download the PDF to see the list of candidates who have cleared the UPSC Prelims.

UPSC Prelims vs Mains

The Prelims and Mains are two different stages of the UPSC exam. The UPSC Prelims is the first stage, and Mains is the second stage of the exam. The difference between Prelims and Mains is given below:

  • The UPSC Prelims follow an objective type paper pattern, whereas the Mains exam is of a descriptive type pattern.
  • In Prelims, questions are mostly to the point, factual, or one-liners, but in Mains, the questions are of descriptive type, assessing the candidate’s analytical and critical thinking ability.
  • The UPSC Prelims consist of two papers, GS Paper 1 and CSAT. In Mains, there are 9 papers in total, where the 2 language papers are qualifying, and the rest 7 papers comprise of essays, General Studies subjects, and the Optional Subjects for UPSC.
  • The duration for both the papers of Prelims is 2 hours. The Mains have papers of 3 hours each.
  • There is no concept of an Optional Subject in UPSC Prelims, but for Mains, a candidate needs to select an optional subject from the list of 48 Optional Subjects given by the Commission.
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