UPSC Mains Syllabus , Exam Pattern and Application Process

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UPSC Mains exam is the second stage of IAS examinations – The first one being UPSC prelims. This exam decides your final score and rank. Scoring well in this UPSC Mains exam will lead to personality tests with the officers.

Candidates who clear the UPSC preliminary exam can appear for this exam as well. There are a total of nine papers in this UPSC Mains Exam. The first seven are fixed but for the last two papers, candidates can choose their subject.

Around 10,000 candidates appear for this UPSC exam after clearing the first stage of UPSC prelims. Let’s take a look at different aspects of this UPSC examination like UPSC Mains Syllabus, Exam pattern, Strategy you mus follow etc.

Before moving towards UPSC Mains Exam, do not forget to check UPSC Prelims Details.

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UPSC Mains Exam Pattern







1Modern Indian Language5300Qualifying3 hours
2English5300Qualifying3 hours
3Essay2 (out of 8 option)250For Merit3 hours
4General Studies I20250For Merit3 hours
5General Studies II20250For Merit3 hours
6General Studies III20250For Merit3 hours
7General Studies IV12250For Merit3 hours
8Optional I8250For Merit3 hours
9Optional II8250For Merit3 hours

Modern Indian Language and English Language Papers for UPSC Mains Exam

  • The questions are around – Comprehension of given passages, Precise Writing, Usage and Vocabulary, Short Essays, and Translation from English to the Indian Language and vice-versa.
  • These papers test a candidate’s ability to read and understand the given language and if they are able to communicate in that.
  • The marks scored in these two papers are not counted for merit but are compulsory to pass with a minimum of 30%.
  • Candidates from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim can be exempted from the English language paper.
  • Your rank is not affected by these two papers but the UPSC will not disclose your GS marks if you fail these two papers.
  • The Modern Indian Languages are listed in the eighth schedule of the Indian constitution. They are –

Now when you have seen UPSC Prelims and Mains details, if you are UPSC 2020/2021 aspirant, do take DataFlair Free UPSC Mock test Series to check your knowledge.

UPSC Essay Paper

  • Candidates have to write two essays from given topics. There are usually 8 topics.
  • The word count of each essay has to be between 1000 – 1200 words.
  • The Essay Paper holds 250 marks with each essay for 125 marks.
  • The essay topics can be around – Administration, Constitution, International Relations, Security, Economic Growth and Development, Indian Independence, Current Affairs, and more.
  • The candidates are marked on structure, ideas, and language.

UPSC Mains General Studies I Syllabus – Indian Heritage and Culture, Indian and Global History and Geography

  • Indian Heritage and Culture – Dance, Music, and Literature
  • Modern Indian History – Mughals, Pre Independence, Post Independence, etc.
  • Geographical Features and their Location
  • Features of World’s Physical Geography
  • Indian Society – Gender Roles, Social and economic issues
  • World History – World Wars
  • There are 20 questions in this paper and the total marks are 250.
  • The paper type is subjective.

UPSC Mains General Studies II Exam – Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations

  • Governance – NGOs, SHGs, Society, Trust, and Cooperatives, etc.
  • Polity and Constitution – Provisions, Acts, Sources, Features, etc.
  • Social Justice – Issues Related to Vulnerable Sections of Society
  • International Relations – Summits, Organisations, Policies, etc.
  • There are 20 questions in this paper and the total marks are 250.
  • The paper type is subjective.

UPSC Mains General Studies III – Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

  • Science and Technology – Prominent Indian Scientists, Intellectual Property Rights, etc.
  • Security – Terrorism, Internal Security Threat, Money Laundering, etc.
  • Economic Development – Industrialisation, LPG Policy, Government Budgeting, etc.
  • Biodiversity and Environment – Environment Agencies, Pollution, Conservation, Agriculture, etc.
  • There are 20 questions in this paper and the total marks are 250.
  • The paper type is subjective.

UPSC General Studies IV Mains Exam – Ethics

  • Emotional Intelligence Concepts
  • Moral Thinkers and Philosophers from India and the World.
  • Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration
  • Case studies on above
  • There are 12 questions in this paper and the total marks are 250.
  • The paper type is subjective.

UPSC Optional I and Optional II Subjects

  • The candidates have to choose only one optional subject from 48 given options.
  • There are two papers on this optional subject for 250 marks each.
  • There are 8 questions in each paper with different marking schemes.
  • These UPSC Optional papers are subjective in nature.
  • Candidates can choose literature as their option as well. This can be English literature or any other Indian language.
  • The optional subjects for UPSC Mains are –
AgricultureAnimal Husbandry
Chemistry Civil Engineering
Accounts Economics 
Electrical EngineeringGeography 
Geology History 
Law Management 
Mathematics Mechanical Engineering
Medical Science Philosophy 
Physics Political  Science 
Psychology Public Administration
Sociology Statistics 
Zoology English Literature 
Gujarati Literature Assamese Literature 
Kannada Literature Kashmiri Literature 
Konkani Literature Manipuri Literature 
Bengali Literature HindiLiterature 
Sindhi Literature Santali Literature 
Tamil Literature Maithili Literature 
Telugu Literature Dogri Literature 
Urdu Literature Bodo Literature 
Sanskrit Literature Odia Literature 
Nepali Literature Punjabi Literature 
Malayalam Literature Marathi Literature 

Application Process for UPSC Mains

  • The candidates who successfully clear the UPSC prelims can apply for the UPSC mains.
  • They have to fill a Detailed Application Form on UPSC official website.
  • The form has six sections – Personal Information, Education, Family, Employment, Documents upload, and then submission.
  • Some of the information is prefilled from the UPSC prelims form.
  • After the final submission, candidates cannot change the information filled.
  • Many times UPSC Personal Interviews have questions from your DAF form. Be extra careful while filling it.

Cut Off for UPSC Mains 2019


Cut Off Marks (1750)


Tips for UPSC Mains Exam

  • Current affairs will stay with you from the UPSC prelims until the interview. The first focus should be to keep reading about contemporary issues. The essay paper often has a topic from contemporary issues.
  • Read Newspapers every day to stay updated about Current Affairs. You can also opt for watching prime time news. This will help you with UPSC Interviews.
  • NCERT books of mathematics, social science, and science are the best basic books to kickstart your preparation. Prepare for both UPSC prelims and UPSC mains together as the UPSC syllabus is similar.
  • Keep the sources you refer to limited that are reliable instead of reading everything that says UPSC. Follow a time table so that you cover all the topics before the exam and have sufficient time to revise.
  • Start with the basic and easier topics and then get into more complicated topics. This UPSC Mains exam is subjective and will include a lot of writing. It is better to know all the topics inside and out.
  • Choose your UPSC optional subjects very carefully. The paper has graduation level questions and if you are not familiar with the subject, don’t choose it.


Finally, we have seen UPSC mains examination is the second stage of the civil service exam. It is important for all the candidates to know everything about it. This article will guide you step to step about UPSC Mains exam, UPSC mains syllabus, time, questions, and more.

All the aspirants should go through it once before appearing for the UPSC IAS mains exams. We also added some quick tips to help you enjoy the learning process efficiently and effectively.

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