IAS Exam Pattern

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IAS Exam Pattern

The Union of Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams which are highly prestigious have a similar examination pattern for services that include Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Revenue Service, Indian Foreign Service, etc. At different stages, the candidates are tested at various levels. UPSC Exams are known for the level of competitiveness and IAS is one of the toughest exams in India. IAS screens out candidates for highly reputed positions in the administration through the exam which is conducted at three stages. To understand each phase in detail, let us have a look at the IAS exam pattern.

IAS Exam Pattern: Preliminary

The first phase commonly called the IAS Preliminary exam consists of two papers- General Studies and the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT). Both the papers are compulsory and have objective type questions. There are 4 options given for each question out of which, only one has to be chosen. The questions are set in the English and Hindi language for the ease of candidates. Studying class 10th syllabus would help you clear the basic concepts and most of the questions can be answered on this basis. 

Paper Type No. of questions Marks Duration Negative marks
General Studies I MCQ 100 200 2 hours Yes
General Studies II (CSAT) MCQ 80 200 2 hours Yes

General Studies

General Studies or Paper-I in IAS exam pattern tests your knowledge of Current Affairs and other topics. The paper is Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) based and contains 200 marks. All the questions are compulsory and the given time duration is 2 hours. The topics on which the questions are asked include:


An important component of the IAS exam pattern, CSAT or Paper-II is a qualifying paper which means that a candidate has to qualify it to appear in Mains but the marks shall not be counted. A total of 200 marks are there and a minimum of 33% is required to qualify for the paper. Following are the topics that are covered in the CSAT exam:

  • Comprehension
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Logical and Analytical Reasoning
  • Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • General Mental Ability
  • Basic Numeracy

IAS Exam Pattern for Mains

Only those candidates who have cleared the IAS Prelims will be allowed to appear for the IAS Mains exams. The stage consists of 9 papers that are conducted over 5-7 days. Unlike the first stage, the questions in Mains exams are descriptive and objective also. Each paper carries 250 marks and the time duration is 3 hours for each paper. Extra 30 minutes are given to visually impaired students.  The papers are further divided into two categories—Qualifying and Merit. Paper-A and Paper-B are qualifying in nature while as rest of the papers are merit-based in which a minimum of 25% is to be scored.

Given below is the table to help you understand the IAS exam pattern for Mains. 

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Paper Subject Duration Total marks
Paper A Compulsory Indian language 3 hours 300
Paper B English 3 hours 300
Paper I Essay 3 hours 250
Paper II General Studies I 3 hours 250
Paper III General Studies II 3 hours 250
Paper IV General Studies III 3 hours 250
Paper V General Studies IV 3 hours 250
Paper VI Optional I 3 hours 250
Paper VII Optional II 3 hours 250

IAS Exam Pattern: Personal Interview

The candidates who qualify the Mains examination are selected for the Personal Interview. The objective of the interview is to evaluate candidates on various parameters to check if the candidate is suitable to shoulder the responsibilities associated with the position. A panel of experts conducts the interview testing the mental calibre, problem-solving and decision making of a candidate. Besides this,  mental alertness, clear and logical exposition, critical powers of assimilation, a balance of judgement, the ability for social cohesion, leadership, moral and integrity. The maximum of 275 marks is allotted for the Interview stage. The final stage of the IAS Exam, it marks the end of the exam followed by the declaration of the results. 

Knowing about the UPSC IAS exam pattern will help you design your study plan. To know how to crack a competitive exam, talk to our experts at Leverage Edu who will provide you with the best career advice. 

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