The exam is conducted in three phases as follows: and the candidate must pass a phase to qualify for the next one. UPSC prelims exam is conducted first, qualifying which the candidate appears for the UPSC mains exam. A cut off is given out for all the appearing students, which decides if the candidate would be called for the final interview round or not. The detailed exam pattern is as follows:

- Preliminary (objective): The first stage of the exam and is usually conducted around June.
- Mains (written) : Those who clear the Prelims appear for the second stage of the exam (written), which is conducted around September-October
- Interview/Personality Test: Those who clear Mains will be called for an interview/personality test during the March-May period.

(A) UPSC Prelims 2020 - Objective and qualifying in nature


The prelims exam consists of two exams conducted back to back on the same day. In these, the candidate has to attempt multiple choice questions wherein they would be negatively marked (1/3rd) for each wrong answer.

Exam Time Duration Total Questions Total marks
Paper I: General Studies 2 Hours 100 200
Paper II: GS (CSAT) 2 Hours 80 200

(B) UPSC Mains 2020


The mains exam consists of nine tests in all. These include two qualifying tests and seven descriptive exams for merit ranking of the candidates after which they would be called upon for a personal interview round. The table below shows the exam type along with the marks distribution.

Exam type Name of Paper Nature of Paper Time Duration Marks
Paper - A Any Indian Language Qualifying 3 Hours 300
Paper - B English Qualifying 3 Hours 300
Paper I Essay Writing Merit Ranking System 3 Hours 250
Paper II General Studies I Merit Ranking System 3 Hours 250
Paper III General Studies II Merit Ranking System 3 Hours 250
Paper IV General Studies III Merit Ranking System 3 Hours 250
Paper V General Studies IV Merit Ranking System 3 Hours 250
Paper VI Optional Paper I Merit Ranking System 3 Hours 250
Paper VII Optional Paper II Merit Ranking System 3 Hours 250
Total Marks 1750

(C) Personal Interview


In this part, general personality traits of the candidate are observed and questions related to hobbies, general knowledge, interests, action plan in different situations, etc. are asked. The questions asked are generally tricky and smart replies are expected from the candidate, which must be answered confidently.

Exam type Total marks
Personal Interview 275

The final mark sheet comprises UPSC Mains exam + Personal Interview round score. A merit list is created based on the marks obtained by the candidates and this is the final step towards reaching the mammoth goal of becoming an IAS/IPS/IFS officer.

Exam Sections Total marks
UPSC Mains 1750
UPSC Interview 275
Grand Total 2025

Attempting UPSC and clearing it in the first attempt is a thing which many candidates dream off. A candidate’s basic intellect can play a major role in achieving the desired results however consistent efforts and hard work is the key to crack UPSC prelims 2020.

UPSC prelims is the first phase of the exam, which is divided into two parts.

A.General studies - Merit Ranking system


Question Type Marks per question Negative mark per wrong answer No. of questions Total marks
Multiple choice questions (4 options) 2 marks 0.66 marks (1/3rd) 100 200

B.Civil services Aptitude test (CSAT) - Qualifying in nature (minimum 33% marks)


Question Type Marks per question Negative mark per wrong answer No. of questions Total marks
Multiple choice questions (4 options) 2.5 marks 0.82 marks (1/3rd) 80 200

It is mandatory to obtain a minimum of 33% marks in CSAT. The cut-off of the General Studies paper decides if the candidate would be allowed to attempt the UPSC Mains exam. Apart from some overlapping topics, the syllabus and format of Mains is different from Prelims. The preparation of prelims has to go hand in hand with mains as there is very little time between the two exams.