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UPSC Civil Services 2021: Check detailed syllabus and exam pattern for prelims, mains

The UPSC civil service exam is broadly divided into three successive stages - preliminary, main and personality test. Candidates need to qualify all the three stages to make it to the final merit list. 

Written by Sakshi Saroha | New Delhi |
Updated: May 31, 2021 5:01:22 pm
upsc syllabus, upsc exam pattern, civil services syllabus, ias exam syllabus, ias exam pattern, civil service exam pattern, civil service exam, upsc prelims 2021, upsc 2021, upsc cse 2021The civil service exam is broadly divided into three successive stages - preliminary, mains and personality test. (File photo. Representational)

Amid the second wave of COVID-19 across the country, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) postponed the civil service 2021 prelims exam date to October 10. This delay in the exam process has triggered disparate responses from the UPSC aspirants as they have to alter their preparation strategy once again. The civil service exam is broadly divided into three successive stages – preliminary, mains and personality test. Candidates need to qualify all the three stages to make it to the final merit list. 

Prelims exam pattern & syllabus

The first stage, popularly known as prelims, involves two papers:  GS I and CSAT. General studies I is an amalgamation of several subjects including, history, post independence era, geography, Indian polity, economics, environment, science & technology and current affairs. Whereas, the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) tests the analytical and aptitude skills of the candidates. It include questions based on English comprehension, mathematics, logical and analytical reasoning

Read| UPSC Civil Services Exam: Books to prepare for Prelims and Mains

Candidates need to mandatorily appear in both the papers for evaluation. Both papers carry a maximum mark of 200. While GS I is a merit-based exam, CSAT is a qualifying examination and candidates need to score passing marks to clear the paper. The prelims cut-off is based on GS I only. However, marks secured in the prelims stage are not counted towards the final merit list. GS I question paper contains 100 questions and CSAT paper has 80 questions in multiple choice questions (MCQs) format. There is a negative marking for each wrong answer in both papers. 1/3rd of the total marks allotted to a question is deducted for every wrong answer. Candidates need to complete each paper within the allotted time of two hours each. 

Since the exam has been postponed, the candidates have to redraft a new strategy for the next four months. Apart from revising the static syllabus, candidates should also focus on the current events of the next three months. With the additional time available, candidates can study all the subjects with equal importance. Some of the additional important books that can be referred to while revision are:

Certificate physical and human geography by G. C. Leong, 

Textbook for environmental studies by Erach Bharucha, 

A new look at modern Indian history by B.L. Grover, 

Indian economy by Ramesh Singh

NCERTs are the best sources to understand the basic concepts related to any topic of any subject. It is essential that the students should refer to all the above-mentioned books only after revising the NCERTs and commonly prescribed books for all the subjects. The key should be to focus more on quality than quantity of the study material. 

Mains exam pattern & syllabus

Once a candidate successfully qualifies the prelims stage, the next step is appearing for the mains exam. The mains exam consists of nine papers, out of which seven are merit based papers and two papers are qualifying in nature. All the nine papers are descriptive and to be completed within a time limit of three hours. All the papers except the language papers A and B can be answered in English or any of the languages listed in the eighth schedule of the constitution of India. The optional papers can be answered in English even if none of the other papers have been answered by the candidate in English language. 

Civil services mains syllabus is diversified and covers various subjects in one single paper. General studies 1 paper comprises subjects like history of India & Indian national movement, freedom struggle, world history, Indian & world geography, Indian heritage & culture, social development and the current events related to all these subjects.

General studies II focuses on governance, constitution, polity, social justice and international relations. It also includes topics like welfare schemes by the government, various international institutions, and bilateral relations.

While general studies III deals in several subjects including but not limited to economics, environment & ecology, agriculture, internal security, disaster management, science & technology. It also includes topics like infrastructure, land reforms, military forces among others. 

General Studies IV focuses on ethics, integrity and aptitude. This paper is divided into two sections where section A deals with theoretical questions and section B contains questions based on case studies. 

Apart from the four general studies papers, the mains exam has one essay paper, two optional papers, and two language papers which are qualifying. The essay question paper has two sections, each consisting of four essay topics. Candidates need to attempt one topic from each section. Whereas, for optional papers, UPSC provides 25 subjects and 23 language literature subjects to choose from. Paper V and VI are based on the selected optional subjects. 

Read | Civil servants need to maintain composure while on duty: UPSC aspirants

Personality test

Upon qualifying the mains exam, the selected candidates are called for the personal interview. This stage is conducted by the UPSC board to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for a career in civil services. The board assesses a candidate’s mental ability, reasoning and decision making skills by asking questions based on the information provided by the candidate in his/her detailed application form (DAF). The personality test carries 275 marks. 

A candidate’s rank in UPSC civil service final merit list depends only on the marks scored in mains and personality test together. The cut-off is calculated on the basis of total marks scored out of 2025. 

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