Marking Scheme of UPSC Prelims

The Civil Services Exam conducted every year by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is your ticket to a profession in the prestigious civil services. This exam is conducted in three stages – the UPSC Prelims, the UPSC Mains and the UPSC Interview (Personality Test). Each stage eliminates candidates who fail to clear it. Starting with a few lakh candidates, ultimately only about 1000 people make the final cut. In this article, you can read all about the UPSC Prelims marks distribution.

The two constituent papers carry negative marking in UPSC Prelims. Each paper is for 200 marks which means, the UPSC prelims total marks are 400 marks. But it is to be noted that there is negative marking in IAS Prelims. Details like the marking scheme and UPSC Prelims syllabus about both the papers are given below:

UPSC Prelims Paper 1

The UPSC Prelims Paper1 is officially called the General Studies I Paper and is known commonly as the General Awareness paper.

Prelims General Studies(GS) Paper I Syllabus:

  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and Indian National Movement.
  • Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialisation General Science.

In this paper, there would be 100 questions and you would have 2 hours to finish it. Each question will have four choices out of which you should pick the correct answer. Each incorrect answer would cost you 1/3rd of the marks allotted to that question.

In this paper, you should score the cut-off mark (minimum required mark) as prescribed by the commission to clear it. (This mark would be revealed only after the final UPSC results are out, after the whole process is done with.) The UPSC will only reveal whether you qualified or not when the IAS Prelims results are declared. Check out the UPSC Prelims cut-off marks trend over the years here.

UPSC Prelims Paper 2

The second paper is called the General Studies Paper II. It is also known as the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT).

Prelims GS Paper II Syllabus:

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem-solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)

In this paper, there are 80 questions and you would have 2 hours to complete it. Here again, there would be four choices given and you have to select the correct option. An incorrect answer will invite a penalty of 1/3rd of the total marks allocated to that question. In the GS paper II, you have to score 33% or 66 marks in the exam.


The CSAT is a qualifying paper in the UPSC exam and you are required to score at least the minimum required of 33% marks for the marks secured in General Awareness to be counted towards acceptance for the Mains exam.

To qualify for the UPSC Mains, you must score:

1. 33% in the CSAT paper, AND

2. The cut-off marks prescribed by the UPSC or more.

The following table sums up the pattern and marking scheme of the UPSC prelims:



No. of questions

Total marks


Negative marking

Minimum required

GS 1




2 hours


Prescribed cut-off





2 hours



The UPSC Prelims total marks add up to 400. Aspirants should practice from UPSC previous year question papers to gain an idea of the IAS exam pattern and also check their knowledge of the Civil Services syllabus.

UPSC Preparation related queries

  • Is there any negative marking in UPSC Prelims?
  • Ans. UPSC Prelims has negative marking in the papers to the tune of a third of the marks allotted for that question. That means if an incorrect answer is given for one question, ⅓ of the marks allotted to that question are deducted.
  • How many papers are there in UPSC Prelims?
  • Ans. There are two papers in UPSC Prelims which are:
    • UPSC Prelims General Studies(General Awareness) Paper I
    • UPSC Prelims General Studies(Civil Services Aptitude Test) Paper II
  • Will CSAT marks be counted?
  • Ans. CSAT marks are not counted towards the merit ranking of UPSC candidates. However candidates need to score at least 33% in this paper for General Awareness paper to be counted towards clearing UPSC Prelims.
  • How can we calculate negative marking in Prelims?
  • Ans. We can calculate negative marking by multiplying the number of incorrect answers by the number of marks for each question and then by the fraction of negative marks and subtracting from the total marks. For example, if a candidate has answered 9 questions incorrectly with each question carrying 3 marks and negative marking of 0.33 or ⅓, we can get the negative marking by (9 X3)X ⅓ = 9 marks deducted from the total. If the candidate secured 39 marks, then their score would be 39-9 = 30 marks.
  • How many marks are required to clear IAS prelims?
  • Ans. To clear UPSC prelims, candidates need to clear each paper separately as follows:
    • Prelims Paper I: Minimum cut off marks declared by UPSC need to be secured.
    • Prelims Paper II: 33% of the total marks or about 66 marks.
  • Can we check UPSC Prelims marks?
  • Ans. UPSC Prelims marks can be checked on the official website of the UPSC using the roll number allotted for Prelims, the candidate’s date of birth and specifying the services for which the candidate has applied, which in this case are Civil Services and Forest Services.
  • How many marks are required to clear IAS prelims?
  • Ans. The qualifying marks for UPSC Prelims are as follows:
    • UPSC Prelims Paper I: Cut off declared by the UPSC based on Category of the candidate.
    • UPSC Prelims Paper II: 33% or about 66 marks
    • UPSC Prelims cut off marks vary from year to year and may range from 100-125 for General Category to 40-100 for various reserved categories.
  • How to increase my marks substantially in UPSC prelims?
  • Ans. Some strategies to increase marks in prelims are:
    • Keep information sources limited to a few reliable ones instead of reading every UPSC preparation book that comes your way.
    • Practice and evaluate your performance repeatedly to enhance efficiency.
    • Stay focussed and calm during preparation as a panicked or hurried preparation strategy ends up doing more harm.
  • What is the education qualification for IAS?
  • Ans. The educational eligibility for IAS is an undergraduate degree or equivalent from a recognised university either through full-time education or distance education. The university must be recognised by the UGC or established by an act of the central or state legislature.
  • Who got the highest marks in UPSC ever?
  • The highest marks scorer in the UPSC exam is Anudeep Durishetty, the topper for UPSC 2017. He scored 1126 (55.60%) out of 2025 marks. He scored 950 out of 1750 marks in Mains and 176 out of 275 in the personality test (UPSC Interview)

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