IAS Exam Pattern 2021- Prelims, Mains, Interview, Marking scheme and Papers

Updated On -

Mar 19, 2021

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Exams Prepmaster

IAS Exams are one of the most sought-after exams in the country due to the prestigious posts and high-end salary. It witnesses a lot of competition and is considered one of the toughest exams. Thus, to crack these exams, it is necessary to have a clear knowledge of the exam pattern.

Crash Course

IAS Exam Pattern talks about the distribution of questions, marking schemes, sectional weightage, and duration. The brief for all three stages of IAS are:

IAS Highlights

IAS 2021 Exam Pattern Highlights

Name of the exam Civil Services Exam- IAS
Conducting authority Union Public Service Commission
Mode of Exam Offline
Number of Stages Prelims exam Mains exam Interview
Number of papers Prelims: 2 Mains: 9
Prelims marking scheme

Paper 1: +2 marks

Paper 2: +2.5 marks

Negative marking: One-third of marks allotted to each question

Duration Prelims: 2 hours (Each paper)
Mains: 3 hours (Each paper)
Type of questions Prelims: Objective type
Mains: Subjective type
Post 1000 (Tentative)
IAS Exam Pattern

IAS Exam Pattern

IAS Exam Pattern for Prelims

  • The Prelims stage of IAS consists of 2 compulsory papers- General Ability Test (GAT) and the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT). This will test the analytical skills of the candidates.
  • All questions are objective in nature. Candidates are required to choose any one of the 4 answer choices given for each question.
  • Questions are set in both Compulsory English Language Paper and Hindi Language. However, questions relating to the English Language Comprehension skills of the class 10th level is tested through a passage from the English language only without providing Hindi translation thereof in the question paper.
  • IAS Prelims is a qualifying exam. Candidates have to get a minimum of 33% to be qualified for the Mains.
  • The number of candidates to be admitted to Mains is about twelve to thirteen times the total approximate number of vacancies to be filled in the year through this examination
Exam Mode Offline
Number of Papers 2- General Studies and Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT)
Number of Questions Paper 1- 100; Paper 2- 80
Question Paper Type Multiple Choice Questions
IAS Prelims Total Marks 400
Nature of Exam Qualifying
Exam Duration 2 hours each (only blind aspirants will get additional 20 minutes)
Exam Language English and Hindi

IAS Marking Scheme for Prelims

  • Each question in the General Studies paper carries 2 marks.
  • Each question in the Civil Service Aptitude Test paper carries 2.5 marks.
  • For each question for which a wrong answer has been given by the candidate, one-third (0.33) of the marks assigned to that question will be deducted as a penalty.
  • If a candidate gives more than one answer, it will be treated as a wrong answer even if one of the given answers happens to be correct and the penalty will be the same as mentioned above for that question.
  • If a question is left blank, i.e. no answer is given by the candidate, there will be no penalty for that question.
  • Paper-II (CSAT) in the IAS exam is of qualifying nature and candidates should score a minimum of 33 per cent in this paper to qualify for the next stage of the IAS exam i.e. the Mains.

Negative Marking

The aspirants may get negative marks in the IAS Prelims Exam. More specifically, in the case of three incorrect answers, the aspirants will get a deduction of 1 mark. That is, the aspirants will get a 1/3 mark deduction for every incorrect answer. On the other hand, there will be no deduction if the candidates will leave blank any of the answers.

IAS Exam Pattern for Mains

  • IAS Mains is also an offline exam. Each paper will carry 250 marks. 
  • Each paper is for 3 hours. 30 minutes are given extra to blind students.
  • The exam will contain 9 papers. A candidate will be tested on the basis of their knowledge and understanding of the subject
  • Questions will be subjective in nature. They will be given in both Hindi and English language.
  • Every paper is compulsory to appear to qualify for the IAS interview round. 

Qualifying Papers

  1. Paper A: (One of the Indian Languages to be selected from the ones included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution – 300 Marks)
  2. Paper B: English – 300 Marks

UPSC Qualifying Marks

Candidates will have to score a minimum percentage in the qualifying exam to qualify for the exam. The question papers are prepared to test the intellectual and interpersonal skills of the candidate. The essay type questions will test the student's understanding of the subject and the concept. The students will be tested on the strength of an Indian Language. There would be two optional papers that the candidates would have to select.

Title of the Paper Marks Allotted
Essay writing 250 Marks
General Studies–I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society) 250 Marks
General Studies –II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations) 250 Marks
General Studies –III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio‐diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management) 250 Marks
General Studies –IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude) 250 Marks
Optional Subject – Paper 1 250 Marks
Optional Subject – Paper 2 250 Marks
Sub Total in the written Test 1750 Marks
Personal Interview 275 Marks
Grand Total ( for merit calculation) 2025 Marks

IAS Marking Scheme for Mains

  • The total marks of the Mains Examination are 1750 marks.
  • Candidates will be graded based on opinion, Content flow, understanding the problems/ situation, offering feasible solutions/strategies, presentation, and language
  • Candidates can choose two optional papers on which they will be questioned.
IAS Personality Test

IAS Exam Pattern for Personality Test

  • All candidates who secured the cutoff marks of the Mains examination will proceed towards the Personality Test.
  • This would include the Psychometric Test, Assessment Test as well as Personal Interview.
  • The objective of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a Board of competent and unbiased observers. The candidate will be asked questions on matters of general interest.
  • The test is intended to judge the mental calibre of a candidate.
  • In broad terms, this is an assessment of not only the candidate’s intellectual qualities but also his social traits and his interest in current affairs.
  • Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, the balance of judgment, variety, and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity.
  • This test will be conducted in the language of choice.
  • The interview will be graded for 275 marks. The total marks of IAS (UPSC CSE) are 2025 marks
  • Candidates will be ranked based on the grand total and called for the final interview.

Check IAS Selection Procedure

IAS Sample Papers, IAS Practice Papers


Ques. What is the IAS Exam pattern of the UPSC main?

Ans. There are 2 compulsory language papers, 4 general studies papers, and 2 optional papers in the UPSC Mains. The total marks for all the exams are 1750 and each paper has 3 hours’ time duration. You can check the details of the main exam here.

Ques. How many subjects are there for IAS Prelims?

Ans. There are 7 compulsory subjects for IAS Prelims-

  1. Economics
  2. History
  3. Geography
  4. Environmental Science
  5. Sociology
  6. Political Science- Civics
  7. General Science- Physics, Chemistry and Biology

Ques. How many papers are there in IAS Mains?

Ans. There are 9 papers in IAS Mains.

Ques. What is the passing percentage of IAS Prelims Exams?

Ans. The passing percentage of IAS Prelims Exams are 25%

Ques. Does my Class 12th percentage matter for IAS?

Ans. No, Class 12th percentage does not matter for IAS. The candidate just needs to be a graduate to be eligible.

3 Months Crash Course

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.


Can you tell me about the IAS Marking Scheme for Mains?
jaya garg

Hi. The total marks of the Mains Examination is 1750 marks and the candidates will get marks based on opinion, Content flow, understanding the problems/ situation, presenting feasible solutions,, etc. Candidates are allowed to select two optional papers on which they will be questioned.

ananya pandey
Will 1/ marks deducted for the wrong attempt in prelim?
jaya garg

Hi. For each question for which a wrong answer has been given by the candidate, one-third (0.33) of the marks assigned will be deducted. Even if a candidate has given more than one answer, then also it will be treated as a wrong answer.

sandesh kumar
How many compulsory papers are there in IAS prelims?
jaya garg

Hi. The Prelims stage of IAS consists of 2 compulsory papers including General Ability Test (GAT) and the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT). This stage is included to test the analytical skills of the candidates. IAS Prelims is a qualifying exam and one need to get at least at least 33% marks.

utkarsha khatri
What is the IAS exam pattern?
jaya garg

There are three stages in the exam, with only successful candidates eligible to apply in subsequent stages. The first stage will be prelims, open for all applicants. But only the ones who cleared this stage will be asked to sit for the Main Exam. Successful candidates at this stage are called for the Personality Test or Interview. Those passing the Personality Test are the ultimate successful candidates.

malay trivedi
How many essays do we have to write in UPSC Mains Paper 1
gurpreet singh

Hi Malay

You can go through our website to get the exam pattern and syllabus for IAS Exam. You will find all the details of the exams and how you can prepare for the exam.

koyena biswas
Can a candidate write different papers of Civil Service (Main) Examination in different languages?
jaya garg

Hi Koyena. Candidates can’t write mains in two languages. Whole examination can be given in one language except one out of total 9 papers. That one paper is of regional language other than English.

ibashisha mukhim
Which is the language / medium of question papers?
jaya garg

Hi Ibashisha. The mode of the exam is Hindi and English. Qualifying Papers in the IAS include Paper A (Indian Language) and Paper B (English). Other details related to the same are mentioned here.

divakar sharma
Is the Indian language Paper compulsory for candidates hailing from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim?
jaya garg

Hi Divakar. Candidates belonging to the north-eastern states of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland are exempted from taking the compulsory Indian language paper.

kashish tomar
How are the Question Papers for the Civil Services (Main) Examination structured? What is the duration of each paper?
jaya garg

Hi Kasish. There are 2 compulsory language papers, 4 general studies papers, and 2 optional papers in the UPSC Mains. Check other details here.

sheetal chib
Is there any negative marking at the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination?
jaya garg

Hi sheetal. Yes, for each wrong answer, one-third (0.33) marks assigned will be deducted as penalty. 

jitender singh
Ma'am I am a 1st year Computer science and engineering student guide me how to start the preparation for UPSC..
diya suresh

Hi Jitender, To begin with the preparation, you must under the syllabus thoroughly. Then follow the preparation tips and strategies to score well in the UPSC exams. To understand the detailed preparation strategies for UPSC click here.

marri nanda swaroop
Sir please give me a detail information about.....the qualification required for cracking IPS exam!!!
swati srivastava

Hi Marri, you must be a graduate from any recognised university and should have attained the age of 21 years. For details visit: IAS 2020

kriya kanunga
Sir/Ma'am can you plz let us know what are the areas at which I need to be best ? I'm from commerce so which are the subjects that I should focus upon?
swati srivastava

Hi Kriya, you must focus on history, geography, political science, economics, current affairs, science, environment and all basic knowledge. For details visit: IAS EXAM

kriya kanunga
Sir I'm in FY BBA When can I give IAS exam ? Can you mention proper month?
swati srivastava

Hi Kriya, the exam is generally conducted in the month of june. you can give the exam when complete 21 years of age. For details visit: IAS EXAM

dhakane samir
Hi sir I have passed out 12th exam and I want to prepare for ias plzz tell me where should I start??
manika gupta

Hi Dhakane, Search about IAS exam pattern and make a study plan. Make a habit of reading the newspaper daily and keep yourself updated with the current happening in the country as well outside the country. Be well versed with the syllabus and start taking notes. Practise previous years IAS question papers.

vaibhav awchar
Hi I am preparing to upsc for 2021 Last PRE exam i got about 105 marks in c sat paper but first general paper not clear Please guide me About the first general paper I am civil engineeing students and started prepration from ncert book, current affair But I can't knowledge about the book for first general paper
swati srivastava

Hi Vaibhav, for GS paper you must have a good knowledge about current affairs and have all basic knowledge of subjects history, geography, economics, political science. For more details visit: IAS EXAM

ankit kumar
Hindi literature is my optional subject. Is it right for Hindi medium student?
akankshya pattanaik
sachin sharma
I am in indian navy, I want to preparing for upsc, bt how did I start it, I don't understand, please guide me
akankshya pattanaik


Please start practicing wrting, reading about current affairs and for more details on the preparation tricks, kindly check: UPSC preparation

divakar sharma
How do you clear the UPSC exam with a top ranking in the first attempt?
jaya garg

Hi Divakar. You must be well-versed with the latest UPSC exam pattern and syllabus. Understanding the latest paper pattern is important so that you can study in the right manner. In case, you want to check the latest Syllabus for Prelims and Main, Pattern and recommended books, refer here.

kunal thakrar
I am a 3rd year engineering student and a “zero level” UPSC aspirant. I’m unsure what my next step is. How one can prepare for UPSC while studying in an engineering college?
jaya garg

Hi Kunal. The majority of the college aspirants can prepare for the IAS exam while studying in their college only because studying at a comfortable place improves the chances of clearing the exam. Work hard and stay focused as it will help you get success in your life.