Pattern of the Civil Service Examination (CSE)

The toughest aspect of this exam is that aspirants must complete a three-stage process, requiring in depth knowledge, rational thinking, drafting skills, creativity, language competency, and a can do empathetic personality.

Pattern of the Civil Service Examination

Stage 1 Preliminary Examination
  • Qualifying test held in August every year
  • Notification Around March
  • Result around Mid-October
Stage 2 Main Examination
  • Held Around December
  • Results are usually published in the second week of March
Stage 3 Interview
  • Also known as personality test
  • Held around April/May every year
  • Final results are out by June/July

Civil Service Examination procedure

Civil Service Prelims Examination

  • From 2011 onwards, the Preliminary examination, is popularly known as the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)
  • Officially it is still called General Studies Paper-1 and General Studies Paper-2
  • Intends to focus on analytical abilities and understanding rather than the ability to memorize
  • The marks in prelims are not counted for final ranking, but just for qualification for main exam
  • The questions are objective in nature.
  • There are two papers in Civil Service Prelims Examination viz.
Paper 1 2 Hours
  • Tests the candidate’s knowledge on current events
  • Deals with subjects like History, Geography, Polity, Economics etc.
Paper 2 2 Hours
  • Deals with subjects like Mental Ability, English Comprehension etc.
  • Analysis logical reasoning, analytical ability, decision making, problem solving ability of a candidate
  • In May 2015, the Government of India announced that Paper II of Preliminary Examination(CSAT) will be of qualifying in nature
  • Means it wouldn’t be graded for eligibility in Mains Examination


Prelims Merit Process

  • The Commission draws a list of candidates to be qualified for Civil Service (Main) Examination based on the criterion of -
  • minimum qualifying marks of 33% in General Studies Paper II of Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination and;
  • total qualifying marks of General Studies Paper-I of Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination as may be determined by the Commission.


Civil Service Mains Examination

  • UPSC Civil Services Main Examination as per revised syllabus consists of 9 papers.
  • Marks of 7 out of these 9 papers will be counted for final ranking, while 2 papers (Paper A & Paper B) will be of qualifying nature.
  • Questions are subjective in nature
  • The range of questions may vary from just one mark to sixty marks, twenty words to 600 words answers
  • Candidates who pass qualifying papers are ranked according to marks and a selected number of candidates are called for interview or a personality test at the Commission’s discretion


Civil Services Mains Format

Papers Subject Marks
Paper A One of the Indian Language to be selected by the candidate from the Languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution 300
Paper B English 300
Paper 1 Essay 250
Paper 2 General Studies I ((Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society) 250
Paper 3 General Studies II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations) 250
Paper 4 General Studies III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management) 250
Paper 5 General Studies IV(Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude) 250
Paper 6 – 7 Any one subject (having 2 papers) to be selected from the prescribed optional subjects (250 marks for each paper) 500
Sub Total (Written Test) 1750

Qualifying Papers of Civil Services Mains

 Paper A – Indian Language 
Assamese Bengali Gujarati Hindi
Kannada Kashmiri Konkani Malayalam
Manipuri Marathi Nepali Oriya
Punjabi Sanskrit Sindhi Tamil
Telugu Urdu Bodo Dogri
Maithilli Santhali    
  • The qualifying paper on Indian Languages will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard.
  • The marks obtained in this paper will not be counted for ranking.
  • The aim of the paper is to test the candidates’ ability to read and understand serious discursive prose, and to express his ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian Language concerned.
  • Minimum marks needed is 30%
  • Paper A will not be compulsory for candidates hailing from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim


Paper B – English
  • Qualifying in nature – Marks not counted – Passing mandatory (approx. 30%)
  • The aim of the paper is to test the candidates’ ability to read and understand serious discursive prose, and to express his ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian Language concerned.


The pattern of questions would be broadly as follows -

  • Comprehension of given passages.
  • Precise Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary
  • Short Essay
  • Translation from English to the Indian language and vice‐versa


List of optional subjects for Main Examination

Agriculture Geography Physics Chemistry Management
Animal Husbandry Geology PSIR Civil Engineering Mathematics
Anthropology History Psychology Commerce Mechanical Engineering
Botany Law Pub Ad Economics Medical Science
Electrical Engineering Statistics Sociology Zoology Philosophy
Languages Optional
Assamese Bengali Hindi Konkani
Marathi Nepali Santhali Telugu
Bodo Dogri Kannada Maithili
Oriya Punjabi Sindhi Urdu
Malayalam Gujarati Kashmiri Manipuri
English Sanskrit Tamil
Note You can opt for the literatures of a language as an optional subject, only if you have graduated in the literature of that particular language as the main subject.

Civil Services Interview – 275 Marks

  • Officially called the “Personality Test”, the objective of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service
  • The test is intended to evaluate the mental calibre of a candidate
  • In broad terms, this is really an assessment of not only a candidate’s intellectual qualities, but also social traits and interest in current affairs
  • Candidate can give preference of the language in which they may like to be interviewed Final ranks are calculated by adding Mains (Out of 1750) and Interview marks (Out of 275)
  • Hence the rank list is prepared based on marks scored out of 2025
India Yearbook English India Yearbook Hindi Economic Survey 2017

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