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To understand the UPSC exam, one needs to understand the IAS syllabus. This helps to eliminate wasteful efforts like reading unnecessary topics leading to a loss of time and keeps one strictly aligned to the expectations of the UPSC from day one.
There is a common UPSC syllabus pattern for services such as the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise) to name a few. However, different stages of the IAS exam have different syllabi. The UPSC Prelims syllabus focuses on general and societal awareness which is tested by objective-type (MCQ) questions. The UPSC Mains syllabus is much more comprehensive as this stage comprises nine theory papers.
The Civil services exam is conducted in three phases:
Phase 1: Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination (Objective Type)
Phase 2: Civil Services (Mains) Examination (Descriptive Type)
Phase 3: Personal Interview (Personality Test)
Phase 1: UPSC Prelims Exam
The UPSC Civil Services Prelims Examination is composed of two components:
1) General Studies
2) Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)
Broadly, the UPSC Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination consists of two papers of objective type, each of 200 marks (hence totaling 400 marks) and of two hours duration. To qualify for the Civil Services Mains, a candidate must attempt both the papers.
Further, the UPSC General Studies (GS) paper consists of 100 questions, while the CSAT paper consists of 80 questions. Both papers have negative marks for wrong answers marked to the tune of 1/3rd of the total marks assigned to that question.
To further illustrate this, each correctly answered GS question will be awarded 2 marks. So, 0.66 marks would be deducted from the total for every question that is wrongly marked.
Similarly, in the CSAT paper, since we have 80 questions for 200 marks, correctly answered CSAT question would attract 2.5 marks each, while every wrongly marked question would attract a penalty of 0.833 for each such wrong answer, which will be deducted from the total.
Questions that are not attempted will not attract any negative marks.
The two papers of the IAS prelims are discussed in detail below:
General Studies (Generally conducted between 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM)
The General Studies test is the first paper of the preliminary examination. This test is intended to test the general awareness of a candidate in a wide range of subjects that include: Indian Polity, Geography, History, Indian Economy, Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology, International Relations and associated UPSC current affairs.
Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) (Generally conducted between 2:30 PM to 04:30 PM)
This UPSC Prelims syllabus for CSAT intends to assess the aptitude of the candidate in solving ‘Reasoning and Analytical’ questions, apart from ‘Reading Comprehension’ and the occasionally asked ‘Decision Making’ questions.
The ‘Decision Making’ based questions are generally exempt from negative marks.
The preliminary examination is only meant for screening a candidate for the subsequent stages of the exam.
The marks obtained in the Prelims will not be added up while arriving at the final rank list.
UPSC Prelims Syllabus
Syllabus for GS Paper (Prelims Paper I)
Current events of national and international importance.
History of India and Indian National Movement.
Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity, and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialisation.
Syllabus for CSAT Paper (Prelims Paper-II)
Interpersonal skills including communication skills
Logical reasoning and analytical ability
Decision-making and problem solving
General mental ability
Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. – Class X level)
Phase 2: UPSC Mains Exam (1750 Marks)
The Mains examination constitutes the 2nd phase of the Civil Services Examination. Only after successfully qualifying in the prelims exam would the candidates be allowed to write the IAS Mains.
The Mains exam tests the candidate’s academic talent in depth and his/her ability to present his/her understanding according to the requirements of the question in a time-bound manner.
The UPSC Mains exam consists of 9 papers, out of which two are qualifying papers of 300 marks each.
The two qualifying papers are:
Any Indian Language Paper
English Language Paper
Structure of the language papers:
The types of questions asked are –
Essay – 100 marks
Reading comprehension – 60 marks
Precis Writing – 60 marks
English to compulsory language (e.g. Hindi) – 20 marks
Compulsory language to English – 20 marks
Grammar and basic language usage – 40 marks
Please check the detailed UPSC Mains General Studies Syllabus here.
The UPSC Mains syllabus gives a list of 48 Optional Subjects which include Literature of different languages. Candidates need to choose any one of the ‘Optional Subjects’ from the list of subjects given below:
Phase 3: IAS Interview/UPSC Personality Test (275 Marks)
Candidates who qualify the UPSC Mains Exam will be called for the ‘Personality Test/Interview’. These candidates will be interviewed by a Board appointed by the UPSC.
The objective of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in the civil services by a board of competent and unbiased observers.
The interview is more of a purposive conversation intended to explore the mental qualities and analytical ability of the candidate.
The Interview test will be of 275 marks and the total marks for written examination is 1750. This sums up to a Grand Total of 2025 Marks based on which the final merit list will be prepared.
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