UPSC CSE Exam Pattern

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UPSC CSE Exam Pattern

UPSC has a 3-tier selection process and qualification in every stage is necessary to proceed to the next. UPSC Exam Pattern for every exam varies in terms of mode of paper, duration and scoring of paper. Read below to find out the details.

Selection Process – Brief Overview

UPSC CSE Exam is conducted in 3 stages –  Preliminary, Mains and Personality Test (Interview).

Stage 1: Prelim

The CSE Preliminary Exam is open to all eligible candidates who apply for the exam. UPSC Prelim will comprise 2 objective (MCQ-based) papers of 100 marks each. UPSC will publish list of candidates qualifying for taking Mains Examination around 1.5 months after conduct of the Prelim Exam. Only the candidates whose roll numbers appear in this list are permitted to appear for Mains Exam. However, it is to be noted that the Preliminary Examination is qualifying in nature and marks are not counted towards final merit list.

Stage 2: Mains

The prelim-qualifying candidates will be eligible to appear for Mains Examination (subject to having fulfilled all other eligibility criteria). It consists of 4 General Studies Paper, an Essay Paper, 2 Qualifying Language Papers and 2 Optional Subject Papers. All papers together will be scored out of1750 marks. Hence, candidate must write a total of 9 papers in the Mains Examination. UPSC releases Mains Results as a pdf of candidates who qualify for Personality Test. Mains Exam marks will be counted in preparation of Final Merit List (along with PT score).

Stage 3: Personality Test 

Candidates qualifying Mains will get a summon for Personality Test to be conducted in New Delhi. Candidate will be required to appear before a panel for interview round which is scored out of 275 marks. Mains Examination marks along with Interview marks together are used to prepare final Merit list which determines ranks of candidates.


A] UPSC CSE Preliminary Exam Pattern

UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam 2018 consists of two papers [200 marks each] containing objective-type multiple choice questions.

  • Paper-I (GS) is on General Studies and counts towards cutoff qualification.
  • Paper-II (CSAT) is on Aptitude Test and candidate needs to secure only qualifying marks in this paper (qualifying Paper-II requires minimum of 33 %)
Paper Type of Questions Total Marks Duration
I GS – Objective 200 2 Hours
II CSAT – Objective 200 2 Hours
Total 400 4 Hours
  • Each correct question in General Studies (Paper-I) paper carries 2 marks – 100 questions in total.
  • Each question in Civil Service Aptitude Test paper carries 2.5 marks – 80 questions in total.
  • For each question for which a wrong answer has been given by the candidate, one-third of the marks assigned to that question will be deducted as penalty.

B] UPSC CSE Mains Exam Pattern

The Main exam will consist of two qualifying written papers and seven written papers that will count for score-calculation. Each paper will be of 3 hours (180 mins) duration.

Qualifying Papers in UPSC Mains

UPSC conducts two language papers merely as qualifying/screening papers. The marks obtained in these papers will not be used towards score computation.

Paper Description Marks
A Any one Indian language from the languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution (as selected by the candidate) 300
B English 300
Total Marks 600

Note: Paper A is not mandatory for Persons with Benchmark Hearing Impairment Disability and for candidates hailing from the North-Eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.

UPSC Mains Papers used in Final Score Computation – GS Papers, Essay and Optional

There are a total of 7 written-papers whose marks will be counted at the time of preparation of final merit list along with the PT score.

Paper Description Marks
I Essay Paper 250
II GS-I (Paper on Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society) 250
III GS –II (Paper on Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations) 250
IV GS –III (Paper on Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management) 250
V GS –IV (Paper on Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude) 250
VI Optional Subject Paper I 250
VII Optional Subject Paper II 250
Written Test Total 1750

C] UPSC Personality Test

Candidate qualifying the Mains examination cutoff [as determined by UPSC] will receive call letter (e-summon) for the Personality Test. It is an interview process in which the candidate is to appear before a panel headed by a Chairman. The Interview is marked out of 275 marks and counted towards final score computation.

D] Final Merit List

Mains Examination Total Marks 1750
Personality Test (Interview) 275
UPSC CSE Final Merit List prepared out of 2025

Note: Question papers (other than the literature of language papers) will be set in Hindi and English languages only. However, candidates will have the option to answer all the papers (except the qualifying language papers, Paper-A and Paper-B) in either English or any one of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India.