IAS Exam Pattern 2020, Syllabus, Marking Scheme and Compulsory Papers

Updated On -

Jul 22, 2020

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Nikkil Visha

Exams Prep Master

IAS is conducted for the selection of officers for Indian Administrative service. 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 Preliminary Exam: It has two papers of objective type and carries a maximum of 400 marks. There are two papers in the preliminary exam. Paper-II (CSAT) in the IAS exam is of qualifying nature and candidates should score a minimum of 33% in this paper to qualify for the next stage of the IAS exam i.e. the Mains. Check IAS Syllabus
  • IAS Main Exam: There are two types of Papers- Qualifying Papers and Papers that will be counted for Merit. The former will consist of two language exams, one of the candidate’s choices and other English. The latter will consist of 9 papers including 7 merit and 2 qualifying language papers. The main exam will comprise of both essay writing and objective type questions. The sum total of all papers and the score secured in the interview round will be used for the ranking of candidates. Check IAS Cutoff
  • IAS Personality Test: An interview of 275 Marks would be taken of the candidates qualified in the Main Exam. This would include the Psychometric Test, Assessment Test as well as the Personal Interview. Marks obtained in the test would be added to the calculation for the declaration of the final merit list. Read IAS Selection Process

Latest Update:

  • On 1st July 2020, UPSC has released a notice by stating that the IAS 2020 aspirants can change their preferable IAS exam centers, considering the current pandemic.  
  • The aspirants can download their IAS 2020 Admit card before 15 to 20 days of the exam. 

Overview of UPSC IAS 2020 Exam Pattern

Name of the exam

Civil Services Exam- IAS

Conducting authority

Union Public Service Commission

Mode of Exam


Number of Stages

Prelims exam
Mains exam

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


Prelims: 2 hours (Each paper)

Mains: 3 hours (Each paper)

Type of questions

Prelims: Objective type

Mains: Subjective type


1000 (Tentative)

Prepp Test Series

IAS Prelim 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 English and Hindi Language. However, questions relating to the English Language Comprehension skills of the class 10th level is tested through a passage from 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 an approximate number of vacancies to be filled in the year through this examination.

Here are the highlights of IAS Exam Pattern for Prelims:

IAS Exam Pattern for Prelims
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, +20 minutes for blind students
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 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 percent 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 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. Read about IAS Preparation Tips

IAS Main Exam Pattern

IAS Exam Pattern for Mains

  • IAS Mains is also an offline exam. Each paper will carry 250 marks. 
  • Each paper is of 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.
  • IAS Mains is further divided into two types – Qualifying Exam and Merit Exam. It is compulsory to appear in both.

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

Merit Exams- 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. Check IAS Interview Preparation tips

The following table will enrich the candidates for the compulsory papers, the marks allotted in which would be added to calculate Merit:

Paper Title of the Paper Marks Allotted 
Paper 1 Essay writing 250 Marks
Paper 2 General Studies–I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society) 250 Marks
Paper 3 General Studies –II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations) 250 Marks
Paper 4 General Studies –III  (Technology, Economic Development, Bio‐diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management) 250 Marks
Paper 5 General Studies –IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude) 250 Marks
Paper 6 Optional Subject – Paper 1 250 Marks
Paper 7 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

Check IAS Exam Cut off

IAS Marking Scheme for Mains

  • The total marks of the Mains Examination are 1750 marks.
  • Candidates will be graded on the basis of 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.

List of Optional Subjects

List of Optional Subjects in IAS Mains


Anthropology Chemistry
Geography History Political Science & International Relations
Commerce & Accountancy Economics Management
Mathematics Mechanical Engineering Psychology
Public Administration Sociology Electrical Engineering
Physics Zoology Medical Science
Animal Husbandry& Veterinary Science Botany Civil Engineering
Geology Law Philosophy
Statistics - -

IAS Personality Test

IAS Exam Pattern for Personality Test

  • All candidates qualifying the Mains examination will proceed towards the Personality Test.
  • This would include the Psychometric Test, Assessment Test as well as the 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 caliber of a candidate. 
  • In broad terms, this is really an assessment of not only his intellectual qualities but also 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 are 2025 marks 
  • Candidates will be ranked on the basis of the grand total and called for the final interview.

Check IAS Selection Procedure

IAS Syllabus

IAS Syllabus 2020

Preliminary Round

Paper 1 – General Awareness

This paper will test the candidates’ knowledge and passion for the country. The questions will be from various aspects like history, geography, economy, etc pertaining to the country. Some of the important topics include:

  • Events and Happening of National Importance
  • Impact of Geography in the country
  • Governance and Constitutional Structure
  • Current Issues faced by the country
  • Economic and Social Development
  • Research and Development
  • Scientific Developments

Paper 2 – English & General Aptitude

The command of English is mandatory in the field of Public Service and candidates have to score a minimum of 33 % to qualify for the exam. The aptitude of a person determines his ability to solve complex problems, time management, and agility. The important areas to practice for IAS Exam include

  • Logical Reasoning
  • Problem Solving Capacity
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Numerical Ability
  • Analytical Skills
  • Comprehension
  • Antonyms  / Synonyms

Read complete IAS Syllabus

Mains Round

Paper 3 – Essay Writing

Candidates can write the essay on the topic of their choice

Paper 4 – General Studies I

This paper will contain questions relating to ancient India pertaining to History, Geography, Heritage, Culture, etc. Some of the topics include

  • History of India – Ancient and Modern
  • Significant changes in Architecture, Literature, etc.
  • Geographical Significance
  • Notable events in World History
  • Diversity
  • Globalization

Paper 5 – General Studies II

This paper will contain questions about the reforms in Indian Governance post-Independence. The topics include

  • Constitution of India
  • Constitutional Analysis of the world
  • Parliament and Legislatures
  • Key issues faced by the nation and solutions
  • Welfare Schemes by the Government
  • Department and Structures in Government
IAS Sample Papers, IAS Practice Papers

Paper 6 – General Studies III

This paper will contain questions about Modern India and recent Key developments. The topics include

  • Indian Economy
  • Farming
  • Science
  • Research and Development
  • Information Technology
  • Environmental Studies
  • Achievements in various fields
  • Security Challenges
  • Industrial Growth
  • Infrastructural developments

Paper 7 – General Studies IV

This paper will contain questions about Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. The topics include

  • Ethics in Public Administration
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Behavioral Analysis
  • Functional Values

Paper 8 & 9 – Candidates can select their desired subject from the list of subjects given below

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Anthropology
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Commerce and Accountancy
  • Economics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Indian History
  • Law
  • Management
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medical Science
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Psychology
  • Public Administration
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Zoology
Note: Candidate can also select one of the regional languages as an optional subject.

IAS Preparation Books

IAS Preparation Books

Here are some of the most recommended books for IAS Preparation. We suggest you make vital use of your time and go through these books. 

important books
Subject Book Name Author/ Publisher
 History Ancient India  RS Sharma 
 History Modern India Satish Chandra Mittal
History History Of Modern India Bipan Chandra
Polity The Constitution of India   PM Bakshi
Ethics Ethics, Aptitude and Integrity for Civil Services Mail Examination Subba Rao and P.N. Roy Chaudary
Economy Indian Economy  Mishra and Puri
Environment Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure Rajagopalan
Environment Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Mains Khullar
Science and Technology Science and Technology in India TMH
English High School English Grammar and Composition  Wren and Martin
General Studies IAS Mains Exam General Studies (IAS Mains Exam General Studies) Ashish Bharti (IPS)


2. Certificate Physical Geography: G C Leong

3. World Atlas


Check IAS Preparation Tips


Ques. What are the best books for UPSC civil services prelims?

Ans. The following are the best books for UPSC Prelims-

  • Ancient India - RS Sharma
  • Modern India- Satish Chandra Mittal
  • History Of Modern India- Bipan Chandra
  • The Constitution of India - PM Bakshi
  • Indian Economy Mishra and Puri
  • Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure- Rajagopalan
  • Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Mains- Khullar
  • Science and Technology in India- TMH
  • High School English Grammar and Composition- Wren and Martin

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. Which subjects are compulsory and optional in UPSC?

Ans. English comprehension, regional language papers, and the four general studies papers are all compulsory. You can select a subject of your choice for the optional papers in UPSC. History, geography, public administration, sociology, mechanical engineering, and many other similar subjects are there for you to choose for the optional paper.

Ques. Is mathematics a good optional subject for UPSC?

Ans. Maths is very scoring for UPSC and you do not have to memorize anything. But on the other, it requires lots of practice and has a huge syllabus. You can learn more about mathematics optional and relevant preparation tips here.

Ques. How is geography as an optional for UPSC?

Ans. Geography is a very popular subject and chosen by many aspirants as optional paper. It overlaps to a certain extent with general studies papers too making it a smart choice. However, whether it is the best choice for you depends entirely on your preference and aptitude.

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


shivani pal
objective subject syllabus
shobhna chaturvedi

Hi Shivani, you can check the syllabus of the exam in detail from here: IAS Exam Syllabus

harjot singh
I recently moved to Canada to do my graduation in political science. i wanted to ask whether i can still become a civil servant because i will be having a canadian degree. if yes how can i become one and what is the procedure.
himanshu samariya
how much least-marks needed for top2 language qualifying papers(hindi+english) in IAS-mains
kouser nalband
hoe can start my preparation to upsc which ncert books are important for my preparation
shobhna chaturvedi
Hi Kouser, kindly go through the Syllabus of the exam from here in detail from here. Then , you can decide the books that you will require for preparation of the exam concerned.
heena kinnal nalband
thank you so much for this valuable information
koteswararao gudipati
Thanks very much Good information
abhishek yadav
how prepare for ias in undergraduation
shobhna chaturvedi

Hi Abhishek, you can check the Preparation Tips for this exam from here.

maheshwari brahmanandreddy
Tqs a lot sir
zahid siddiqui
thanx alot
shobhna chaturvedi
All the best!
ganga raju k
Tanks give me knowlege
shobhna chaturvedi
All the best!