IAS Exam Pattern 2020, Syllabus, Marking Scheme and Compulsory Papers

IAS is conducted for the selection of officers for Indian Administrative service. IAS Exam Pattern talks about the distribution of questions, marking schemes, sectional weightage, and duration. The brief for all three stages of IAS are:

Ø  IAS Preliminary Exam: It has two papers of objective type and carries a maximum of 400 marks. There are two papers in the preliminary exam. Paper-II (CSAT) in the IAS exam is of qualifying nature and candidates should score a minimum of 33% in this paper to qualify for the next stage of the IAS exam i.e. the Mains. 

Ø  IAS Main Exam: There are two types of Papers- Qualifying Papers and Papers that will be counted for Merit. The former will consist of two language exams, one of the candidate’s choices and other English. The latter will consist of 9 papers including 7 merit and 2 qualifying language papers. The main exam will comprise of both essay writing and objective type questions. The sum total of all papers and the score secured in the interview round will be used for the ranking of candidates. 

Ø   IAS Personality Test: An interview of 275 Marks would be taken of the candidates qualified in the Main Exam. This would include the Psychometric Test, Assessment Test as well as the Personal Interview. Marks obtained in the test would be added to the calculation for the declaration of the final merit list. 

Latest Update:

Ø  On 1st July 2020, UPSC has released a notice by stating that the IAS 2020 aspirants can change their preferable IAS exam centers, considering the current pandemic.  

Ø  The aspirants can download their IAS 2020 Admit card before 15 to 20 days of the exam. 

IAS Prelim Exam Pattern

IAS Exam Pattern for Prelims

Ø  The Prelims stage of IAS consists of 2 compulsory papers- General Ability Test (GAT) and the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT). This will test the analytical skills of the candidates.

Ø  All questions are objective in nature. Candidates are required to choose any one of the 4 answer choices given for each question.

Ø  Questions are set in both English and Hindi Language. However, questions relating to the English Language Comprehension skills of the class 10th level is tested through a passage from English language only without providing Hindi translation thereof in the question paper.

Ø  IAS Prelims is a qualifying exam. Candidates have to get a minimum of 33 % to be qualified for the Mains. 

Ø  The number of candidates to be admitted to Mains is about twelve to thirteen times the total an approximate number of vacancies to be filled in the year through this examination.

Here are the highlights of IAS Exam Pattern for Prelims:

IAS Exam Pattern for Prelims

Exam Mode


Number of Papers

2- General Studies and Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT)

Number of Questions

Paper 1- 100; Paper 2- 80

Question Paper Type

Multiple Choice Questions 

IAS Prelims Total Marks


Nature of Exam


Exam Duration

2 hours each, +20 minutes for blind students

Exam Language

English and Hindi

IAS Marking Scheme for Prelims

Ø  Each question in the General Studies paper carries 2 marks.

Ø  Each question in the Civil Service Aptitude Test paper carries 2.5 marks.

Ø  For each question for which a wrong answer has been given by the candidate, one-third (0.33) of the marks assigned to that question will be deducted as penalty.

Ø  If a candidate gives more than one answer, it will be treated as a wrong answer even if one of the given answers happens to be correct and the penalty will be the same as mentioned above for that question.

Ø  If a question is left blank, i.e. no answer is given by the candidate, there will be no penalty for that question.

Ø  Paper-II (CSAT) in the IAS exam is of qualifying nature and candidates should score a minimum of 33 percent in this paper to qualify for the next stage of the IAS exam i.e. the Mains.

Negative Marking

The aspirants may get negative marks in the IAS Prelims Exam. More specifically, in the case of three incorrect answers, the aspirants will get a deduction of 1 mark. That is, the aspirants will get 1/3 mark deduction for every incorrect answer. On the other hand, there will be no deduction if the candidates will leave blank any of the answers. 

IAS Main Exam Pattern

IAS Exam Pattern for Mains

Ø  IAS Mains is also an offline exam. Each paper will carry 250 marks. 

Ø  Each paper is of 3 hours. 30 minutes are given extra to blind students.

Ø  The exam will contain 9 papers. A candidate will be tested on the basis of their knowledge and understanding of the subject

Ø  Questions will be subjective in nature. They will be given in both Hindi and English language.

Ø  IAS Mains is further divided into two types – Qualifying Exam and Merit Exam. It is compulsory to appear in both.

Qualifying Papers- 

  1. Paper A: (One of the Indian Languages to be selected from the ones included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution – 300 Marks)
  2. Paper B: English – 300 Marks

Merit Exams- Candidates will have to score a minimum percentage in the qualifying exam to qualify for the exam. The question papers are prepared to test the intellectual and interpersonal skills of the candidate. The essay type questions will test the student's understanding of the subject and the concept. The students will be tested on the strength of an Indian Language. There would be two optional papers that the candidates would have to select.





Title of the Paper

Marks Allotted 

Paper 1

Essay writing

250 Marks

Paper 2

General Studies–I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)

250 Marks

Paper 3

General Studies –II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

250 Marks

Paper 4

General Studies –III  (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

250 Marks

Paper 5

General Studies –IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)

250 Marks

Paper 6

Optional Subject – Paper 1

250 Marks

Paper 7

Optional Subject – Paper 2

250 Marks


  Sub Total in the written Test  

1750 Marks


  Personal Interview  

275 Marks


Grand Total ( for merit calculation)

2025 Marks


IAS Marking Scheme for Mains

Ø  The total marks of the Mains Examination are 1750 marks.

Ø  Candidates will be graded on the basis of opinion, Content flow, understanding the problems/ situation, offering feasible solutions/strategies, presentation, and language

Ø  Candidates can choose one optional Subject and that will be divided into two papers on which they will be questioned.

List of Optional Subjects

List of Optional Subjects in IAS Mains






Political Science & International Relations

Commerce & Accountancy




Mechanical Engineering


Public Administration


Electrical Engineering



Medical Science

Animal Husbandry& Veterinary Science


Civil Engineering







IAS Personality Test

IAS Exam Pattern for Personality Test

Ø  All candidates qualifying the Mains examination will proceed towards the Personality Test.

Ø  This would include the Psychometric Test, Assessment Test as well as the Personal Interview.

Ø  The objective of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a Board of competent and unbiased observers. The candidate will be asked questions on matters of general interest. 

Ø  The test is intended to judge the mental caliber of a candidate. 

Ø  In broad terms, this is really an assessment of not only his intellectual qualities but also social traits and his interest in current affairs. 

Ø  Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, the balance of judgment, variety, and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity.

Ø  This test will be conducted in the language of choice. 

Ø  The interview will be graded for 275 marks. The total marks of IAS are 2025 marks 

Ø  Candidates will be ranked on the basis of the grand total and called for the final interview.

IAS Syllabus

IAS Syllabus 2020

Preliminary Round

Paper 1 – General Awareness

This paper will test the candidates’ knowledge and passion for the country. The questions will be from various aspects like history, geography, economy, etc pertaining to the country. Some of the important topics include:

Ø  Events and Happening of National Importance

Ø  Impact of Geography in the country

Ø  Governance and Constitutional Structure

Ø  Current Issues faced by the country

Ø  Economic and Social Development

Ø  Research and Development

Ø  Scientific Developments

Paper 2 – English & General Aptitude

The command of English is mandatory in the field of Public Service and candidates have to score a minimum of 33 % to qualify for the exam. The aptitude of a person determines his ability to solve complex problems, time management, and agility. The important areas to practice for IAS Exam include

  • Problem Solving Capacity
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Numerical Ability
  • Analytical Skills
  • Comprehension
  • Antonyms  / Synonyms

Mains Round

Paper 3 – Essay Writing

Candidates can write the essay on the topic of their choice

Paper 4 – General Studies I

This paper will contain questions relating to ancient India pertaining to History, Geography, Heritage, Culture, etc. Some of the topics include

Ø  History of India – Ancient and Modern

Ø  Significant changes in Architecture, Literature, etc.

Ø  Geographical Significance

Ø  Notable events in World History

Ø  Diversity

Ø  Globalization

Paper 5 – General Studies II

This paper will contain questions about the reforms in Indian Governance post-Independence. The topics include

Ø  Constitution of India

Ø  Constitutional Analysis of the world

Ø  Parliament and Legislatures

Ø  Key issues faced by the nation and solutions

Ø  Welfare Schemes by the Government

Ø  Department and Structures in Government


Paper 6 – General Studies III

This paper will contain questions about Modern India and recent Key developments. The topics include

Ø  Indian Economy

Ø  Farming

Ø  Science

Ø  Research and Development

Ø  Information Technology

Ø  Environmental Studies

Ø  Achievements in various fields

Ø  Security Challenges

Ø  Industrial Growth

Ø  Infrastructural developments

Paper 7 – General Studies IV

This paper will contain questions about Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude. The topics include

Ø  Ethics in Public Administration

Ø  Emotional Intelligence

Ø  Behavioral Analysis

Ø  Functional Values

Paper 8 & 9 – Candidates can select their desired subject from the list of subjects given below

Ø  Agriculture

Ø  Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science

Ø  Anthropology

Ø  Botany

Ø  Chemistry

Ø  Civil Engineering

Ø  Commerce and Accountancy

Ø  Economics

Ø  Electrical Engineering

Ø  Geography

Ø  Geology

Ø  Indian History

Ø  Law

Ø  Management

Ø  Mathematics

Ø  Mechanical Engineering

Ø  Medical Science

Ø  Philosophy

Ø  Physics

Ø  Political Science and International Relations

Ø  Psychology

Ø  Public Administration

Ø  Sociology

Ø  Statistics

Ø  Zoology


Note: Candidate can also select one of the regional languages as an optional subject.

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