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UPSC CSE India’s Toughest Graduate level Examination, Explained.



Clearing UPSC is a dream for every graduate in India. UPSC CSE is considered India’s toughest examination due to its examination structure and low success rate. This guide will sail you across the details of the civil service examination.


The exam is conducted by Union Public Service commission (UPSC) every year. There are three stages in the examination:


Preliminary exam

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The pre exam is the first stage. It consists of two exams: CSAT and General Awareness exam. Both exams in pre stage are objective type ( multiple choice questions). Maximum marks for pre exam is 200 marks each.

The Marks secured in Preliminary Exam are not taken into account while preparing the final merit.It is just for screening of candidates towards the next stage. The duration of the exam is 2hr each and there is a negative marking of 1/3rd of a mark assigned to  questions. The two papers are:



  • General Studies I
  • General Studies – II



 General Studies Paper-I Syllabus


No of questions are  –     100

Max Marks               –      200

Time Allowed           –      2hr

Negative Marking     –      1/3


  • Current events of National & International importance.
  • History of India & Indian National Movement.
  • Indian & World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India & the World.
  • Indian Polity & Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic & Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity & climate change – that do not require subject specialization.
  • General Science.


General Studies Paper – II Syllabus


No of questions are      –     80

Max marks                     –     200

Negative marking         –     ⅓

Time allowed                –     2hr


  • Comprehension.
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills.
  • Logical reasoning & analytical ability.
  • Decision making & problem solving.
  • General mental ability.
  • Basic numeracy (numbers & their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) 

GS Paper – II is a qualifying paper with minimum 33% marks. Both the papers are mandatory for clearing stage 1.


Mains Examination 


After getting through pre exam candidates are selected for the mains exam,which is a descriptive written examination. Mains examination is divided into two parts: qualifying paper and merit weightage paper.


Qualifying paper

There are two papers in the qualifying segment. Paper 1 is of Compulsory english language. Paper 2 is of Indian language (any one language to be selected by the candidate from languages included in the 8th schedule of the Indian constitution. Max marks for both the papers is 300 out of which qualifying percentage of 33% in each is necessary for clearing these two papers. Moreover the marks obtained in these papers are not included in final merit.


Merit Weightage Paper

There are a total of seven  papers in this segment out of which 6 papers are descriptive and 1 is objective type. Each paper is of 250 marks.


Paper I Essay
Paper II General Studies-I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)
Paper III General Studies-II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
Paper IV General Studies-III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
Paper V General Studies-IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
Paper VI Optional  Paper 1
Paper VII Optional Paper 2


These 7 papers make up the total of 1750 marks for the mains. The mains exam consists of two optional paper one descriptive type and one objective type, the candidates can choose from the 26 subjects provided by the UPSC.


  1.  Agriculture
  2.  Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  3.  Anthropology
  4.  Botany
  5.  Chemistry
  6.  Civil Engineering
  7.  Commerce and Accountancy
  8.  Economics
  9.  Electrical Engineering
  10.  Geography
  11.  Geology
  12.  History
  13.  Law
  14.  Management
  15.  Mathematics
  16.  Mechanical Engineering
  17.  Medical Science
  18.  Philosophy
  19.  Physics
  20.  Political Science and International Relations
  21.  Psychology
  22.  Public Administration
  23.  Sociology
  24.  Statistics
  25.  Zoology
  26.  Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English.



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The interview is the last stage worth 275 marks after which the total becomes 2025. The candidates double the no of vacancies are selected for an interview which creates a 50-50 chance of selection among the candidates. In the interview candidate’s mental calibre, intellectual qualities and social traits are tested. After the interview merit list is formed on the basis of the marks secured by the candidate and rank is calculated. Service is allotted to the candidates on the basis of rank and preference. Following is the list of posts.


  1.  Indian Administrative Service.
  2.  Indian Foreign Service.
  3.  Indian Police Service.
  4.  Indian P & T Accounts & Finance Service, Group ‘A’.
  5.  Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
  6.  Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise), Group ‘A’.
  7.  Indian Defence Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
  8.  Indian Revenue Service (I.T.), Group ‘A’.
  9.  Indian Ordnance Factories Service, Group ‘A’ (Assistant Works Manager, Administration).
  10.  Indian Postal Service, Group ‘A’.
  11.  Indian Civil Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
  12.  Indian Railway Traffic Service, Group ‘A’.
  13.  Indian Railway Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
  14.  Indian Railway Personnel Service, Group ‘A’.
  15.  Post of Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force, Group ‘A’
  16.  Indian Defence Estates Service, Group ‘A’.
  17.  Indian Information Service (Junior Grade), Group ‘A’.
  18.  Indian Trade Service, Group ‘A’.
  19.  Indian Corporate Law Service, Group ‘A’.
  20.  Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service, Group ‘B’ (Section Officer’s Grade).
  21.  Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli



  • Civil Service, Group ‘B’.


  1.  Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli
  2. Police Service, Group ‘B’.
  3.  Pondicherry Civil Service, Group ‘B’.
  4.  Pondicherry Police Service, Group ‘B’

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