Know In Detail About the Marking Scheme in the UPSC Exam

If you are currently preparing for the UPSC exam then you must know about the UPSC exam marking scheme in the first place. UPSC conducts civil service examinations to recruit officers in various government departments. All the posts are reputable enough to fight with the aspirant crowd. The exam is considered quite difficult in terms of its syllabus as the aspirants need to cover a range of vast topics for the Prelims and Mains exam.

Every UPSC aspirant must know about the marking scheme and paper pattern before beginning the preparations.  This helps to pick the right strategy for the preparations. Every competitive exam has some marks deduction for the wrong answer and aspirants must know about the negative marking in UPSC.

In this post, we will let you know in detail about the marking scheme for the UPSC exam.

Stages of the UPSC exam

The UPSC exam is conducted in 3 stages. The first stage is the Preliminary exam, the second stage is the Mains exam and the third one is the Personal Interview. Candidates need to clear all the successive stages to crack the exam. Every stage has its own marking scheme and paper pattern.

1.      Preliminary exam:

This is an objective-based exam consisting of paper-I and Paper II. Paper II is qualifying in nature which means you need a minimum set score to qualify for the next stage of the UPSC exam. This exam consists of a total of 400 marks and candidates need to score minimum cut-off marks to qualify for this paper. All the candidates qualifying for the prelims are invited to face the Mains exam in the next round.

2.      Mains Exam:

The Mains exam consists of a total of 9 papers out of which 7 papers are counted for merit. Candidates qualifying for each of the papers are allowed to appear in the next round, which is the interview round. The merit list is prepared using the score gained by the candidate in the Mains exam. It is crucial to score a minimum cut-off score to appear for the personal interview round.

3.      Personal Interview:

UPSC interview round consists of jury members where the candidate is assessed based on thought process and background knowledge. The jury members and officials ask questions based on intellection and the final selection is based on the score obtained by the aspirant in this round.

Marking scheme in the UPSC exam

1)     UPSC Prelims Paper 1 Marking scheme

The UPSC Prelims Paper 1 is technically known as the General Studies I Paper, however, it is more generally referred to as the General Awareness Paper. This paper would contain 100 questions and you would be given 2 hours to complete it. Each question will contain four options from which you must select the proper answer. Each wrong response cost you one-third of the marks assigned to that question. This means there is a deduction of 1/3 mark as a negative marking in UPSC.

To pass this paper, you must achieve the cut-off mark (a minimum needed mark) set by the commission. (This mark would be revealed only after the final UPSC results are out after the whole process is done with.) Once the IAS Prelims results are out, the UPSC will inform you whether you are qualified or not.

2)     UPSC Prelims Paper 2 marking scheme

General Studies Paper II is the title of the second paper. It is often referred to as the Civil Services Aptitude Test. (CSAT).

There are 80 questions in this paper, and you have 2 hours to finish them. Again, four options will be shown, and you must choose the proper answer. In UPSC, a wrong response will result in a penalty of one-third of the total marks allotted to that question. In GS paper II, you must obtain at least 33% or 66 marks.

3)     UPSC Mains marking scheme

There are nine papers in the UPSC test format for the Mains exam, which is given over 5-7 days. Only if you are successful in passing the Preliminary tests will you be eligible to take the UPSC Mains exam. Only those who passed the prelims test are eligible to take the IAS Mains exam. This entails achieving a score in Paper 2 of the Prelims test that is at least 33% higher than the stated cutoff for Paper 1 of the exam.

  • Two of the nine questions on the UPSC Mains exam—English and any other Indian language—are qualifying language questions. Each language exam has a maximum score of 300. For these 2 papers, 25% is the cutoff score. These papers’ grades won’t be used to determine rankings.
  • There are 100 essay questions on each language paper, 60 reading comprehension questions, 60 precise writing questions, 40 questions based on translation, and a final 40 questions based on grammar.
  • The remainder of your mains papers won’t be evaluated further by UPSC if you don’t get at least 25% of the overall 300 marks across the two language papers.

4)     Interview Round marking scheme

  • The last round of the UPSC examinations is the interview round. In this stage, your interview will be conducted by a panel of neutral and competent persons to assess your personality.
  • The questions used during the interviews are designed to elicit the most appropriate responses from the applicants, which are then rigorously scrutinised by the panel.
  • The maximum score granted for the interview process for a candidate is 275, bringing the total merit list maximum marks to 2025 (1750 from the Mains examinations + 275 from the interview round).


Use the given knowledge regarding the UPSC marking scheme to develop your unique test preparation approach. You must understand that passing the UPSC Exam is not an easy undertaking because lakhs of hopefuls sit for it but only a handful get chosen. You may, however, pass this exam with the appropriate coaching, adequate preparation, consistency, and hard effort. As a result, you must thoroughly comprehend the ESE mains exam pattern. The IAS test pattern will dispel your worries and provide you with a clear image. To summarise, plan ahead of time!

Frequently asked questions

  • Is there a negative marking system in the UPSC Prelims?

Negative marking is used in the UPSC Prelims examinations to the tune of one-third of the marks allocated for that question. That is if a question is answered incorrectly, 1/3 of the marks allotted to that answer are deducted.

  • Will CSAT scores be considered?

UPSC applicants’ CSAT scores are not used towards their merit ranking. However, for the General Awareness exam to contribute towards qualifying for the UPSC Prelims, aspirants must score at least 33%.

  • How many marks are needed to pass the IAS preliminary examination?

To pass the UPSC prelims, aspirants must pass each paper individually, as follows:

Prelims Paper I: The lowest cut-off marks set by UPSC must be obtained.

Prelims Paper II: 33% of total marks, or around 66 points.

  • Why is it crucial to comprehend the IAS test format?

An essential component of IAS test preparation is understanding the exam format. This will enable you to choose which subjects require the greatest attention now and which you can put off until later.

Additionally, note that a variety of things might affect the topics you should pay the most attention to. Factors include the topic’s importance from an exam perspective, as well as your talents and shortcomings.

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