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UPSC Exam Pattern 2024 for Prelims, Mains & Interview

Topics Covered: UPSC Exam Pattern 2024 for Prelims, Mains & Interview Round, Negative Marking Scheme, Optional & Language exam pattern

There is a famous saying which goes as “When solving problems, search for the roots instead of fixing the leaves” and the same can be said for the exam pattern for UPSC CSE.  

Conducted on a national level, UPSC Civil Service Examination is known as one of the toughest exams in the country.  

Despite the high difficulty level and competent nature, lakhs of aspirants apply for the exam every year.  

That is so, because of the opportunity and the prestige that comes along for the candidates to be recruited in the various civil services.  

Therefore, to prepare their best for an exam like the UPSC CSE, the applicants must have thorough knowledge about all the important details related to the nature of the examination. 

One of the effective ways to do so is to familiarize with the crucial aspect, i.e., UPSC exam pattern.  

Knowing the exam pattern is the first step towards preparing for the exam as it will enhance your understanding of the exam structure.  

Along with this, it also helps in identifying the important topics, the weightage given to the topics from the syllabus in the papers as well as the marking scheme.  

With reference to that, I will be discussing in detail about UPSC exam pattern 2024, for which I will provide an elaborate and simple explanation of the exam pattern for Prelims, Mains and Interview.   

So, without further ado, let’s begin to know more about UPSC CSE Exam pattern. 

Table of Content – UPSC CSE Exam Pattern 2024

What is the UPSC Exam pattern 2024?

Exam PatternPrelimsMains
Exam ModeOfflineOffline
Exam Duration2 papers of 2 hours each9 papers of 3 hours each
Type of PaperObjectiveDescriptive
Type of QuestionsMCQsDescriptive
Total Number of QuestionsCSAT: 80 questions
GS: 100 questions
Usually, 20 questions per paper
Total Marks4001750
Marking Scheme+2 for correct answer, negative marking of 1/3 of 2 marksNo negative marking

As the official notification for UPSC CSE 2024 has been released, you must look at the details provided for the latest exam pattern.   

Talking about the UPSC exam pattern 2024, the UPSC CSE is conducted in an offline mode. The questions asked in the examination are both objective and descriptive in nature. 

The marking scheme for the exam consists of negative marking. The selection procedure for UPSC CSE is an elaborate process comprising three stages, which are: 

    • Prelims: It is the first stage of the exam process and consists of 2 papers, i.e., GS Paper 1 and CSAT.  
    • Mains: It is the second stage of the exam pattern and is comprised of 9 papers which are descriptive in nature 
    • Interview: It is the third and the last stage of the exam pattern which is conducted to test a candidate’s personality and is of total 275 marks. 
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Basically, to ace the exam, knowing the UPSC exam pattern 2024 is of utmost importance.  

Now that you know about the exam pattern, you should also go through the detailed UPSC (IAS) CSE syllabus here.

Complete Exam Pattern for UPSC CSE

IAS Exam Pattern for UPSC Prelims

The Prelims’ stage of IAS exam pattern 2024 consists of 2 papers –  

    • General Studies or Paper 1 
    • CSAT or Paper 2 

Both the papers are conducted on the same day. The type of questions asked in both papers is objective in nature with multiple choices provided per question. There is a negative marking of 1/3rd in both the papers.

Let us take a look at the table provided below: 

IAS Prelims Exam Pattern Summary

SubjectsTypeNo. of questionsTotal MarksDurationNegative marks
General Studies (GS)Objective1002002 hours (9:30 AM to 11:30 AM)0.66 Marking
CSATObjective802002 hours (2:30 PM to 4:30 PM)0.83 Marking

To explain the above table of the UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern, let us look at the image provided below:

Exam Pattern for UPSC CSE Prelims

UPSC Prelims Negative Marking Scheme 2024

You must be aware that UPSC Prelims Exam Pattern entails negative markings. It’s time to know little more than that about it. I have provided the explanation of the same in the following points: 

GS Paper 

    • There are total 100 questions. For each correct answer, you are given 2 marks and for an incorrect answer, 1/3rd marks or 0.66 marks shall be deducted.  
    • There are 4 options given to answer each question; if you choose more than one option, it will be treated as a wrong answer with penalty of 0.66 marks.  


    • This paper contains 80 questions. There are 2.5 marks awarded for each right answer and 1/3rd marks or .83 marks are deducted for an incorrect answer.  
    • There are 4 options given to answer each question, if you choose more than one option, it will be considered as a wrong answer and 0.83 marks will be deducted 

To get an idea about difficulty level of the UPSC exam, you can check the  latest UPSC cut off  here.

Now that we have discussed the exam pattern for Prelims, let us proceed to UPSC Mains exam pattern. 

IAS Exam Pattern for UPSC Mains

The exam structure for UPSC Mains is very different from the Prelim’s exam.  

The UPSC Mains exam pattern involves 9 papers which consists of 4 GS Papers, 1 Essay Paper, 2 Language Papers, 2 Optional Subjects.   

There is no negative marking for the Mains examination and the papers consist of descriptive- based questions which are for total 1750 marks.    

Since, the UPSC Mains is subjective in nature, the candidates are required to write answers in an elaborate manner in comparison to UPSC Prelims exam pattern has objective – based questions.

IAS Mains Exam Pattern Summary

PapersSubjectsNature of PaperMarksDuration
Paper AAny Indian language (compulsory)Qualifying (75 Marks required. ie. 25%)300 Marks3 Hours
Paper BEnglish
Paper 1EssayFinal Merit (Marks will be counted in the final merit list)250 Marks 3 Hours
Paper 2General Studies 1
Paper 3General Studies 2
Paper 4General Studies 3
Paper 5General Studies 4
Paper 6Optional Paper 1
Paper 7Optional Paper 2

Therefore, having a proper understanding of all IAS-related topics is a must, and for that, you’d need to read from the best IAS books in the market. To know more about the best UPSC preparation books, you can go through the linked blog.

Exam Pattern for UPSC CSE Prelims

If you have Commerce and Management as your optional subjects, then you can check UPSC Commerce and Management syllabus.   

That said, let us now look at the list of optional subjects for paper 6 and paper 7 of the UPSC Mains exam.  

Language & Optional Subjects Exam Pattern

  • There are 2 qualifying language papers, i.e., English and any other Indian language. Both language papers are of 300 each. The minimum qualifying marks for both papers is 25%.  
  • The language papers consist of the following: 
    • 100 marks worth of essay questions 
    • 60 marks worth of reading comprehension questions 
    • 60 marks worth precis – writing 
    • 40 worth translation-based questions, and 
    • 40 worth grammar-based questions.  
  • In the UPSC Mains exam pattern for optional subjects, there are 2 papers, i.e., Paper 1 and Paper 2 which consists of 250 marks each.  
  • For optional subject, the candidates are required to choose any subject from the given list of 48 subjects. 

 UPSC Mains Paper Optional and Language Subjects

List of Optional Subjects
AgricultureAnthropologyChemistryAnimal Husbandry and Veterinary ScienceBotany
PsycologySociologyZoologyPublic AdministrationStatistics
Commerce and AccountancyElectrical EngineeringCivil EngineeringEconomicsGeography
Medical SciencePhysicsMechanical EngineeringPhilosophyPolitical Science and International Relations
Literature of any of the following languages: Bengali, Dogri, Hindi, Kashmiri, Maithili, Manipuri, Nepali, Punjabi, Santhali, Tamil, Urdu, Assamese, Bodo, Gujarati, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Telugu, and English

An important thing to note is that you can write both your optional papers, namely Paper 6 and 7 in English, even if you have written all the other papers in some other language.    

To know more about the type of questions asked in Prelims and Mains, you can check UPSC Previous year questions.  

Now it is time to talk about the final stage of the UPSC exams or the Interview round.  

IAS Exam Pattern for UPSC Interview Round

The Interview is the third and the final stage of the UPSC exams. If you clear Mains examination, you will be called for this round.  

The Interview takes place within 3 – 4 months after the UPSC Mains exam.  

The maximum marks for the Interview are 275 marks, which adds up to total 2025 marks in the final merit (1750 of the Mains exams + 275 of the interview round).   

For this round, a panel of impartial and competent individuals will take your interview in order to test your personality.  

Keeping this in mind, the questions that can be asked in the interview could range from   

    • Personal details such as your interests, hobbies, work and education  
    • Current affairs issues of national and international importance 
    • Socio- economic issues currently taking place in the country or in your homeplace.  
    • Situational – based questions are asked to assess your decision – making abilities 
    • Opinion–based questions are asked to test your analytical skills as well as to judge your moral integrity.  

The candidates are judged as to how close their mental and social traits are to that of an ideal IAS officer. 

Some of the qualities that the panel would be looking for in you are critical powers of assimilation, a balance of judgment, ability to lead and create social cohesion, mental alertness, clear and logical exposition, variety and depth of interest, and intellectual and moral integrity.  

You can look at the updated UPSC CSE 2024 Eligibility Criteria to ensure that you meet the suitability requirements for the exam.  

On that note, we have come to the end of the topic of UPSC Interview Pattern.  


We have finally arrived at the end of the page. I have explained in depth the important information related to UPSC Exam pattern 2024 which includes Prelims, Mains and Interview in a proper section – wise manner.

From this, you will know about key factors like marking scheme and weightage which will help you to structure your study plan and strategize the time you need to allocate on each subject.

I wish you best of luck for future! Stay motivated and Be Curious!

CEO of Anujjindal.in

About Anuj Jindal


Anuj Jindal, the founder, is an ex-manager from SBI, with an M.Com from Delhi School of Economics. He also has a JRF in Commerce & Management and NET in HRM, along with more than 5 years of experience in the field of Education.

UPSC CSE – Related Resources

FAQs: UPSC CSE Exam pattern

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    Is there negative marking in the UPSC IAS Exam 2024? 

    Yes, there is a provision of negative marking in the UPSC IAS exam pattern 2024, and the marking scheme is as follows:  

    • For Prelims : Every wrong answer will cost you 1/3rd of the marks for that answer, i.e., 0.66 marks for Paper 1 (GS) and 0.83 marks for Paper 2 (CSAT).  
    • For Mains and Interview: There is no negative marking in these two stages.  
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    Why is it important to understand the IAS exam pattern? 

    Understanding the IAS exam pattern is an extremely important aspect of the IAS exam preparation. This will help you decide on the topics that you would need to prioritize and focus most on and the ones that you can leave for later.  

    Apart from that, it also helps in understanding other factors such as the weightage of the given topics in the exam, nature of the questions asked in the paper as well as help in better judgement of your own strengths and weaknesses.    

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    Are Commerce and Management good options to choose as an optional subject? 

    Yes, Commerce and Management are definitely good choices as optional subjects as they have a good success rate among candidates. Even though they’re not as popular as the other optional subjects like Geography or Public Administration, there have been several IAS toppers who have chosen Commerce or Management as their optional subjects and made it big.    

    Now to state, some advantages of choosing Commerce or Management as the subjects of your optional papers are that they’re generally scoring subjects as they’re logic and rationality-based by nature.  

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    What is the IAS exam pattern of Prelims? 

    The IAS exam pattern of the Prelims section consists of 2 papers. Both the papers have objective-type questions with a total of 200 marks each are as follows: 

    • The GS Paper 1 –  It contains 100 questions and has negative marking. For each right answer, the candidate receives 2 marks, and for every wrong one, they lose 0.66 marks. The total time duration for the GS paper is 2 hours.   
    • The CSAT paper –  There are 80 questions and has the provision of negative marking. For each right answer, the candidate receives 2.5 marks, and for every wrong one, they lose 0.83 marks. The total time duration for the CSAT paper is 2 hours. 
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    What is the selection process for the UPSC IAS Exam? 

    According to the UPSC Exam Pattern, the selection procedure for the UPSC CSE is a 3-stage process:   

    • Prelims – At first stage of the UPSC exam is an objective type of exam comprising of 2 papers. The 2 papers are the GS and CSAT papers.    
    • Mains – After clearing the prelims exam, the candidate appears for the second stage of the exam cycle which comprises of 9 descriptive papers and finally,   
    • Interview – After qualifying the Mains, the candidates undergoes the third and the final round which is also known as the Personality Test.    

    The final selection depends on the combined performance in both the Mains & Interview Round (i.e., marks obtained from a total of 2025 marks – 1750 for Mains & 275 for Interview Round). 


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    What is the pattern for the UPSC Mains exam? 

    According to the UPSC exam pattern, the IAS Mains exam has a total of 9 descriptive type papers. There is no negative marking and all the papers are of 3 hours each. The exam pattern for Mains is as follows: 

    • Out of the 9 papers, there are 2 are language papers which are qualifying in nature with 300 marks for each, the candidate is required to score a minimum of 25% marks in the two language papers with 300 marks each  
    • Among the remaining 7 papers, there is 1 essay paper, 4 General Studies papers, and 2 papers based on the optional subject that a candidate chooses. All the papers are maximum marks of 250 each. 


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    How many subjects are there for IAS Prelims? 

    The two papers in the UPSC Prelims exam pattern include some of the subjects as follows:  

    • GS paper –  For Paper 1 of CSE Prelims, some of the subjects are Economics, Geography, History, Environmental science, Sociology, Political science, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. 
    • CSAT paper – The questions are asked primarily from 3 subjects – English, Quantative Aptiude and Logical Reasoning . 
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    How many papers are there in IAS Mains? 

    There are a total of 9 descriptive type papers given in the IAS Mains which are as follows: 

    • 2 lanuguage papers – Paper A (Compulsory Indian Language) and Paper B (English) which are qualifying in nature.  
    • 1 Essay paper for which the candidate are required to write 2 essays.  
    • 4 General Studies Papers, i.e., GS Paper I, II, III and IV.  
    • 2 Optional Papers for which the candidate is required to select an optional subject. 
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    What are the important current affairs topics from where IAS questions can be asked in UPSC Prelims 2024? 

    Okay, this is a very important question because the current affairs topics form a major part of the question pool of the prelims stage. So let us understand the kind of topics that you should be aware of to successfully clear the UPSC cut offs for the prelims.  

    So, UPSC usually asks questions from schemes, programs, acts, and National/international events that have been in the news for the last 2 years. Therefore, to ace the current affairs portion of the Prelims exam, you’d need to go through all the current affairs news daily without a miss. 


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    What kind of questions are asked in the IAS interview? 

    The questions in IAS interviews asked from the wide – ranging topics such as personal background, educational qualifications, interests, hobbies, current affairs, national and international events, socio- political issues, governance and ethics. The UPSC Interview pattern is designed to test a candidate’s general awareness, decision – making abilities, problem – solving skills and moral integrity.  

    Some examples of the type of questions asked are as follows: 

    • What is the meaning of your name and explain your background? 
    • Where do you live? Tell us interesting facts about your native place? 
    • Explain why did you pursue this subject for your graduation? 
    • Did you participate in other activities during your college time? 
    • Did you read about the recent incident which took place in your native place? 
    • What are your thoughts on the current socio- political climate in India? 
    • Tell us about your interests and hobbies which you pursue in idle time? 
    • How will your past working experience help you in administration? 
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    Are only MCQs asked in the UPSC Exam?
    No. While objective-based questions are asked in the Prelims exam, the questions asked in the Mains examination are descriptive type.   

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