UPSC Pre Exam Pattern, Insights and Details

The Union Public Service Commission or UPSC is India's central agency which conducts the Civil Services Examination,Civil Services Examination is a nationwide competitive test in India for recruitment to many civil services including Indian Administrative service(IAS), Indian Foreign Service(IFS), Indian Police Service(IPS) among others. The CSE(Civil Services Examinations) are held in three in 3 phases including UPSC Preliminary, UPSC Mains and Personality Test. Covering a time period of 3 months from the Preliminary Exam to the final stage of Personality Test, the examination take place once every year. The minimum educational qualification required to appear for a Preliminary Exam in UPSC should hold a graduate degree from a recognized board or university or candidates who are awaited their graduation results are also eligible for appearing in Preliminary Exam. A candidate who falls in General category is allowed 6 attempts with an age limit of 32.The Preliminary test is divided into two papers with 2 hours allotted to each, carrying 200 marks each. UPSC Pre is the first step to get to the main examination. The UPSC Examination is held in mid of June with lakhs of aspirants across the country appearing every year, whereas the exam is still a paper based test. To Prepare well, candidates are advised to attempt UPSC Exam previous year question papers.

Exam Pattern | Syllabus | Eligibility Criteria | Tips and Tricks | Take Free Mock Test

Key Highlight
Registration Period:
Starts: Feb 12, 2020 Ends: Mar 03, 2020
Time Duration:
Prelims: 120 mins Mains: 180 mins
Total marks:
Paper 1: 200 marks Paper 2: 200 marks
Age limit:
General: 32yrs OBC: 32yrs(with 3yrs age relaxation=35yrs) SC/ST: 32yrs(with 5yrs age relaxation=37 yrs) PH: 32yrs(with 10yrs age relaxation=42yrs) Age Limit :Disabled servicemen disabled from duty:- General:37yrs OBC:38yrs SC/ST:40yrs Age Limit: J&K domicile- General:37yrs OBC:40yrs SC/ST:42yrs PH:50yrs
Number of attempts:
General: 6 OBC: 9 SC/ST: Till Upper age limit PH: For general/OBC- 9 For SC/ST- Unlimited till age limit J&K Domicile: Upto Upper Age Limit Disabled Servicemen: Upto Upper Age Limit
Graduation degree
Important dates:
Preliminary Exam: May 31, 2020 Mains Exam: Sep 18, 2020

UPSC Preliminary Exam

General Studies Paper 1:

  • Type:  Paper-based test(Offline Mode)

  • Duration: The duration of the General Studies Paper 1 for UPSC Pre exam will be of 120 minutes.

  • No. of Questions: 100 Objective type questions.

  • Syllabus Covered: The Syllabus includes areas like; Indian National Movement, Indian Polity, Basic Economic Understanding, Geography. While these are static parts of the syllabus, the dynamic part includes Current affairs, General Knowledge and that does not a proper definition, thus making the syllabus quite vast.

  • Marking Scheme: 2 marks will be awarded for every correct answer and 1/3 mark will be deducted for every wrong answer.

General Studies Paper 2:

  • Type:  Paper-based test(Offline Mode)

  • Duration: The duration of the General Studies Paper 2 for UPSC Pre exam will be of 120 minutes.

  • No. of Questions: 80 Objective type questions.

  • Syllabus Covered: Paper 2 is an Aptitude Test that is dynamic in nature and includes mathematics, reasoning, analytical ability, and interpersonal skills. All these areas require spot mental ability.

  • Marking Scheme: 2.5 marks will be awarded for every correct answer and 1/3 mark will be deducted for every wrong answer.

  • Paper 2 is now of only qualifying nature and its marks are not counted while making the merit list. However, it is mandatory for the candidate to score minimum 33% in this paper to qualify the Prelims Exam.

Understanding the competition in UPSC Prelims

UPSC Pre is the toughest Qualifying format in India which is a first step out of the three to become a civil service official in the country.The competitiveness of this exam is really high as the number of appearances per year has grown with approximately 12 lakh applications coming up in the last year. Being the exam leading to one of the most prestigious job across the country the level of difficulty is always high. The candidates who secured the cut-off marks is next eligible for the UPSC Main Examination. The intensity and difficulty level of this examination has always been a high as the exam is setup by the most qualified and certified officers who formerly cracked the examination.The examination is conducted in two parts General Studies Paper 1 and General Studies Paper 2 both the paper carrying 200 marks each with 2 hours allotted to each paper. Paper 1 is what makes the cut-off marks where as Paper 2 is a qualifying Paper which required at least a 33% marks. A highlight point of this examination is, an eligible candidate can appear for 6 times until the age of 32 in General category.

Cutoff (UPSC PRE)

The cut-off is the next step in a UPSC Civil Service Examination after the PRE Exam.The cut-off is what decides how many candidates are eligible for the next Examination and allowing them to enter for the Mains Exam.

UPSC Preliminary Exam: Eligibility Criteria

  • Nationality:

Candidate must be a citizen of India

  • Qualification: 

Candidate applying for civil service exams is required to fulfill the following criteria:

  • Candidate must hold a Bachelor's Degree from any of the recognized universities
  • Candidates who have appeared for the qualifying examination and are awaiting results or those who are yet to appear for the qualifying examination are also eligible for the Preliminary Examination.
  • Such candidates have to produce proof of passing the said examination along with the application for the Main Examination Candidates with professional and technical qualifications recognized by the Government or its equivalent are also eligible to apply Candidates who have passed the final year of MBBS or any Medical Examination but are yet to complete the internship can also appear for the Main Examination. However, they must submit a certificate from the concerned University that they have passed the final professional medical examination

  • Age Limit :

  • A candidate should be minimum of 21 years and maximum 32 years old.
  • The upper age limit prescribed above is relaxable for the following candidates: 5 Years - Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) 3 Years - Other Backward Classes (OBC) 3 Years - Defence Services personnel 5 Years - ex-servicemen including Commissioned Officers and ECOs/SSCOs who have rendered at least 5 years Military Service  5 Years in the case of ECOs/SSCOs 10 Years - Blind, deaf-mute, and orthopedically handicapped persons 5 Years -  In the case of ECOs/SSCOs who have completed an initial period of assignment of five years of Military Service  and whose assignment has been extended beyond five years and in whose case the Ministry of Defence issues a certificate that they can apply for civil employment and that they will be released on three months’ notice on selection from the date of receipt of offer of appointment

Syllabus: UPSC Preliminary

The Preliminary Examination is composed of two components:

  • General Studies (Prelims Paper I) 200 Marks

    • 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, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change - that do not require subject specialization General Science

  • Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) (Prelims Paper-II) 200 Marks

    • Comprehension

    • 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: Civil Services (Mains) Examination Syllabus

  • Paper - I: Essay (Can be written in the medium or language of the candidate's choice) 250 Marks

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

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

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

  • Paper-V: General Studies- IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude) 250 Marks

  • Paper-VI:  Optional Subject - Paper I 250 Marks

  • Paper-VII: Optional Subject - Paper-II (A Candidate can also take up literature as an optional subject and candidate need not be a graduate in that language’s literature.)

Tips and Tricks: UPSC Preliminary

With people applying for UPSC Pre in lakhs, it became really difficult to crack but all you need to do is follow these tricks and tips to succeed:

  • Take Mock tests online to know your Strengths’ and Weakness.

  • Must have the full knowledge of Reasoning and Quantitative Aptitude.

  • Must be clear with roots of rural economy should be clear.

  • Should have the understanding of Computers and its parts.

  • Should know what’s happening in the country i.e. Current Affairs.

  • Blind candidates will be given 20 Minutes more.

  • The exam revision is to revise what you read in your graduation.

  • Since both the papers are of Objective type, properly distribute time.

  • Since, the exam will be held in two Papers offline: You need to pay attention and prepare well.

  • Solve previous year’s question papers in order to know what to expect and it will test your speed as well as accuracy.

  • Paper I will decide whether you qualify for Mains or not, For Paper II you just need to get 33%, which is the passing mark.

  • Wrong answers will fetch you 1/3 mark deducted and right answers will fetch you +2.5 marks.

  • Prepare yourself with the timing of the exam so that you will able to finish well in time.

  • Don’t be anxious and before going to examination hall eat properly, have proper sleep and just relax.

Youth4work Prep Tests

Online practice tests for competitive exams – are very unique and popular among aspirants. Aspirants can take self-designed mock-tests as well as practice for sections and topics separately. Youth4work’s unique and proprietary technology is helping lakhs of aspirants to reveal personal details on what are the strength areas of aspirants for any exam and also suggest how they can improve the performance.
Following are interesting insights from nearly lakhs of question attempts on UPSC Pre  exam practice tests on Youth4work. Every aspirant is rated on a Rating Scale. The ratings of the aspirants change with every question attempt

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