UPSC Civil Services Examination is conducted in three phases—Prelims, Mains and Interview. Each phase demands a unique set of qualities that an aspirant must possess to wrap their preparation.
The first target for you is to clear prelims. It is a one-day exam where you first give Paper 1 and then after 3 hours, Paper 2. Marks you get here are not important because they are not included in preparing the final merit list. This, however, do not, and cannot take away the importance of prelims. You need to clear the minimum cut-off, which prima facie might look like a walkover. But believe me, it is not.
After you clear prelims, congrats, you have just found a place in the top 12,000 of the candidates among the 3 lakh aspirants who have given this examination (Note: These are rough estimates and depends entirely on the number of vacancies). Finish your hangover, buy a lot of pens and prepare for the next battle.
When you come to mains examination, be ready to sit for long hours (No, I am not talking about binge watching your favourite series 😉). It is around a week process and has a total of 9 papers, distributed in the following manner.
|Paper 1||Compulsory Indian language||3 hours||300|
|Paper 2||English||3 hours||300|
|Paper 3||Essay||3 hours||250|
|Paper 4||General Studies I||3 hours||250|
|Paper 5||General Studies II||3 hours||250|
|Paper 6||General Studies III||3 hours||250|
|Paper 7||General Studies IV||3 hours||250|
|Paper 8||Optional I||3 hours||250|
|Paper 9||Optional II||3 hours||250|
The first two papers are qualifying in nature and are not included while calculating total mains marks. Next 7 papers, however, are crucial in a sense that you need to score well in these papers to not only clear mains but also to get a good rank in the exam.
As per the present examination pattern, the Mains exam is conducted in 5 days. Essay paper is conducted on the first day, GS 1 and GS 2 on the second day (in a gap of 2-hours), GS 3 and GS 4 on the third day (again in a gap of two hours). Then, there is a rest of 4-5 days (Yes! You heard it right, it is a rest and not a ‘holiday’). After this, both the qualifying papers are conducted on the same day, then, on the last day, both optional papers are conducted.
After clearing mains (pat your back, you deserve it 😊), you reach the interview phase, which is the last and the final phase of this process. This, however, is an equally important phase and no room for complacency is left here too.
Interview or the personality test is of total 275 marks and getting good marks in this phase is as essential as the second phase. It is often referred as ‘maker or breaker’ due to its uncertainty and highly subjective nature.
So, the final merit list is prepared against 2025 marks.
The details of UPSC Prelims syllabus have been meticulously dealt in How to Prepare for UPSC Prelims: Step by Step Guide for Beginners. Do read it to have a comprehensive understanding about this phase of examination.
- Qualifying Papers on Indian Languages and English
The pattern of questions would be broadly as follows:
(i) Comprehension of given passages.
(ii) Precis Writing.
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary.
(iv) Short Essays.
(i) Comprehension of given passages.
(ii) Precis Writing.
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary.
(iv) Short Essays.
(v) Translation from English to the Indian Language and vice-versa.
Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics.
They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion, and to write concisely.
Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.
Paper-II: General Studies-I
Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society.
(i) Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
(ii) Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
(iii) The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country.
(iv) Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
(v) History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.— their forms and effect on the society.
(vi) Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
(vii) Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
(viii) Effects of globalization on Indian society.
(ix) Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
(x) Salient features of world’s physical geography.
(xi) Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).
(xii) Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location-changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
Paper-III: General Studies-II
Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.
(i) Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
(ii) Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
(iii) Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
(iv) Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries.
(v) Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
(vi) Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
(vii) Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
(viii) Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
(ix) Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
(x) Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
(xi) Development processes and the development industry —the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
(xii) Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
(xiii) Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
(xiv) Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
(xv) Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
(xvi) Role of civil services in a democracy.
(xvii) India and its neighborhood- relations.
(xviii) Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
(xix) Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
(xx) Important International institutions, agencies and fora – their structure, mandate.
Paper-IV: General Studies-III
Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management
(i) Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
(ii) Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
(iii) Government Budgeting.
(iv) Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, – different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
(v) Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System-objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
(vi) Food processing and related industries in India- scope’ and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
(vii) Land reforms in India.
(viii) Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
(ix) Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
(x) Investment models.
(xi) Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
(xii) Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
(xiii) Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
(xiv) Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
(xv) Disaster and disaster management.
(xvi) Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
(xvii) Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
(xviii) Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.
(xix) Security challenges and their management in border areas – linkages of organized crime with terrorism.
(xx) Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.
Paper-V: General Studies-IV
Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude
This paper will include questions to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society.
Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects.
The following broad areas will be covered:
(i) Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in-human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics – in private and public relationships. Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
(ii) Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.
(iii) Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections.
(iv) Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.
(v) Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world.
(vi) Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.
(vii) Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen’s Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.
(viii) Case Studies on above issues.
Paper – VI & VII
Optional Subject Papers I & II. Here you have to choose one subject from the list and the subject will have two papers.
A candidate may opt for any one Optional Subject from the following:
(ii) Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
(vi) Civil Engineering
(vii) Commerce and Accountancy
(ix) Electrical Engineering
(xvi) Mechanical Engineering
(xvii) Medical Science
(xx) Political Science and International Relations
(xxii) Public Administration
(xxvi) Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English.
All the Best 😊