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UPSC Mains Examination Explained

The Civil Services Mains examination is completely different from the Prelims and is based on written format. The Mains exam tests the academic abilities of the candidate and the talent to present the answers in a clear and coherent manner.

The Examination is intended to assess the overall intellectual traits and depth and understanding of the candidates the subject matter prescribed in the syllabus rather than merely the range of their information and memory.

The candidate can pick any one language from the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution or English as the medium for writing the answers in the Mains examination.

The total mark in the Mains examination is 1750 Marks. Candidates are required more than fifty percent of these marks to qualify for the interview stage. The cut of marks for the Mains exam varies each year and it is separate for the General Category, SC, ST and Handicapped persons.

How to Prepare for IAS Mains Exam 2017

Revised Pattern of Mains Exam 2016

There are "NINE papers" in the in the Mains examination that requires descriptive type answers. Out of "NINE" there are two qualifying papers; i) any modern Indian language (300 marks) ii) English (300 marks). The marks of these two papers will not be counted in the merit list of the main examination however, qualifying in these two papers is compulsory.

Out of "SEVEN" Papers there are "FIVE" compulsory papers and Two Optional papers from the subject of your choice.

The first compulsory paper is called 'ESSAY' comprising of 250 Marks. Candidate can write this paper in the medium of language of their choice.

There are "FOUR" General Studies paper that are compulsory. Each General Studies paper comprises of 250 Marks and combining constitutes of 1000 Marks. The syllabus of General Studies papers are of degree level.

The remaining "TWO" papers are from "ONE" optional subject to be chosen by the candidate from the list of subjects. These two papers, each comprising of 300 marks makes a total of 600 marks.

Candidate is allowed to take up literature as an "Optional Subject "without the condition of having the same at graduation level." The scope of the syllabus of optional paper is higher than the bachelor's degree but lower than the master's level.

Marks of English and Language will not be counted in the total tally of marks for the written exam. So the total marks of the written examination is 1750 Marks.

Summary of the Latest Pattern of Civil Services (Mains) Examination


Paper - A
Language -300 Marks
Candidate can take any Modern Indian language but this paper is of qualifying nature

Paper - B
English -300 Marks

This paper is of qualifying nature


Paper - I
Essay - 250 Marks

Can be written in the medium or language of the candidate's choice


Paper-II
General Studies-I 250 Marks
(Indian Heritage and Culture,
History and Geography of the World and Society)

Paper-III
General Studies -II: 250 Marks
(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

Paper-IV
General Studies -III 250 Marks
(Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

Paper-V
General Studies -IV 250 Marks
(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
Marks carried by General Studies papers are 4X 250=1000

Paper-VI
Optional Subject - Paper 1 -250 Marks

Paper-VII
Optional Subject - Paper II -250 Marks

Candidate is allowed to take up literature as an optional subject "without the condition of having it at the graduation level."


Sub Total (Written test) 1750 Marks

Marks of English and Language will not be counted in the total tally of marks for the written exam. So the total of the Mains exam will be 1750 Marks Only.


Interview/Personality Test - 275 marks

Candidate can give preference of the language in which they may like to be interviewed. UPSC will make arrangement for the translators.


Grand Total 2025 Marks



Here are some links that can be useful for your preparation of the Mains Examination