Important Tips to Tackle the Compulsory Indian Language Paper in UPSC Mains

The UPSC civil services mains exam comprises of nine papers out of the compulsory Indian language paper is called Paper A. This paper is qualifying in nature and the marks obtained in it do not count in the final ranking. But you must clear this paper. You can pass in this paper by getting at least 25% of the total, i.e., 75 out of 300 marks. The other eight papers in the UPSC civil services exam pattern are GS papers 1, 2, 3, 4; Optional papers 1, 2; English and Essay papers.

Total marks for Paper A – 300

Number of hours – 3 hours

If you do not clear this paper, the UPSC will not disclose your marks in the GS, optional and essay paper. So, all your hard work will go in vain if you take the language paper lightly. You will also not know where you stand in terms of your other papers.

To complement your preparation for the upcoming exam, check the following links:

List of Indian Languages for IAS

Below is a list of the languages (included in the eighth schedule of the Indian constitution) you can choose from for the UPSC language paper:

Language Script
Assamese Assamese
Bengali Bengali
Gujarati Gujarati
Hindi Devanagari
Kannada Kannada
Kashmiri Persian
Konkani Devanagari
Malayalam Malayalam
Manipuri Bengali
Marathi Devanagari
Nepali Devanagari
Odia Odia
Punjabi Gurmukhi
Sanskrit Devanagari
Sindhi Devanagari or Arabic
Tamil Tamil
Telugu Telugu
Urdu Persian
Bodo Devanagari
Dogri Devanagari
Maithili Devanagari
Santhali Devanagari or Olchiki *

*For Santhali language, the question paper will be in Devanagari script; but candidates will be free to answer either in Devanagari script or in Olchiki.

Tips to tackle the compulsory Indian language paper in UPSC civil services mains

Important note: Paper A is not compulsory for candidates hailing from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.

Paper structure for Paper A in UPSC Mains

  1. Essay writing for 100 marks
  2. Reading comprehension for 60 marks
  3. Précis writing for 60 marks
  4. Translation:

a) Translating English to the compulsory language chosen for 20 marks

b) Translating the Compulsory Indian language to English for 20 marks

            5. Usage of grammar and basic language for 40 marks

Preparing for the UPSC Indian language paper

  • The questions asked are of matriculation or equivalent standards.
  • It would help if you prepared for the language paper without compromising on your core subjects preparation as you only need to clear it.
  • Select your language wisely. It is recommended that you select the language that you learnt at school and have some grip over.
  • CBSE school level books (Std. X) will be sufficient for this paper. Revise your school language and basic grammar lessons. Go through the UPSC syllabus.
  • Apart from your regular newspaper, read a newspaper in the language that you have opted for at least 15 minutes every day. This will familiarise you with the subtleties of the language. It will also give you the modern method of writing in the language.
  • Write and practice. If you have not been writing in the regional language after your schooling, writing practice is imperative. It would help if you had common spellings and punctuation at the tip of your fingers.
  • Practising question papers also enhances your writing speed.
  • Practice translating from English to the regional language and vice versa.
  • Handwriting should be legible and neat; if it is not so, please work on it by practising tips to improve handwriting for IAS mains exam.

Tips for writing the UPSC Indian language paper

  • Read the question paper properly first.
  • Solve those questions in which you are confident and comfortable. If your grammar skills are good, you are advised to complete the questions on grammar first.
  • If grammar is not your forte, answer the comprehension passage first. This is usually simpler because you can spot the answers in the passage in the question itself.
  • For the essay question, opt for simple but effective language. Try the essay question at the end with at least forty minutes to spare. Once you are finished with the other sections, you will have developed enough ‘flow’ to pen your essay. Therefore, you should not waste time to write an elaborate essay at the beginning of your paper.
  • Avoid spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
  • Follow the following rule when you attempt the question on translation:
  • If you are better in English than in the Indian language, you should do the Indian language to English translation first.
  • Conversely, if you are more comfortable in the Indian language as compared to English, you should attempt the translation from English to the vernacular first.

The other language paper is the compulsory English language paper, which also requires a specific focus. There are a few tips to tackle the Compulsory English Paper in UPSC Civil Services Exam following which you can walk over the paper with ease.

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28 Comments

  1. I am from Gujarati medium. I can understand English but not as well as hindi and Gujarati. So my question is which language should I prefer for preparation and writing the examination?
    Kindly suggest me the best asap.

    1. Hi Arjun
      If you are comfortable with writing your UPSC Mains in the Gujarati language, you can.

  2. Can I opt for Hindi but Hindi is not my mother tongue. and I am more comfortable with Hindi more than Malayalam. Please guide me for the same

    1. Hi Aarathy
      Yes, you can opt for the Hindi language even if it is not your mother tongue.

  3. I want to write all my papers in English as I don’t know how to write properly in Odia which is my mother tongue so Can I write all my mains paper in English? Please help me out

    1. Hi Payal
      Yes, you can opt for the English language as a medium for Mains paper. Check the following links to help aid your preparation:
      1. Free IAS prep
      2. NCERT Notes for UPSC

  4. I’m from Tripura. Can I opt for the English paper instead of the Indian language paper.

    1. Hi Jackson
      There are two language papers – Paper A and Paper B. While Paper B is the English Language paper, in Paper A, you have to choose one language from the regional Indian languages (official languages of India.)

  5. I am from kerala but I am more comfortable with hindi. So can I choose Hindi as my paper A even though my mother tongue is malayalam?

  6. Hello

    I want to know that is English is a compulsory paper or I can take any other regional language in the qualifying paper where the questions come on reading comprehension, grammar etc ?

    1. Hi
      English language is a compulsory language paper and is qualifying in nature, You have to score a minimum of 25 percent in it.

  7. Sir I am very comfortable in English but very weak in hindi because I never got an opportunity to read anything in hindi after class 10 th. I can read and understand the contents but my writing skill is poor. So what can I do to improve hindi?

    1. If you taking Hindi as your language paper, then practise Hindy by reading Hindi newspaper for a month before the exam. Learn Hindi synonyms, antonyms, essay writing and practise all these before exam. UPSC Previous Year Question paper can be useful for your IAS Exam preparation.

  8. Hi
    I am from the khasi community (ST) in the State of Meghalaya. Coming to the language paper A, since we don’t speak any of the languages under 8th schedule, so are we exempted from taking the compulsory language paper for IPS exam

    1. Hi Wendy
      Candidates hailing from the north-eastern states of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland are exempted from taking the compulsory Indian language paper. For more details on the exemption in compulsory paper, check the linked article.

  9. Sir I’m from Maharashtra, I want write GS eassy paper, GS 1 , GS 2, , GS 4 these paper in marathi language it is possible

    1. Hi
      Candidates can choose either English or any one of the Indian languages mentioned in the 8th schedule of the Constitution of India. Hence, you can write in Marathi language.

  10. Can I write Essay, GS1, GS2, GS3, and GS4 of Upsc CSE papers in Marathi language.

    1. Yes, you can. You have to note that if you choose the Marathi language as the medium of answer writing, you have to write all Mains papers (excluding language papers) in the same language.

  11. My mother tongue is bengali,But is it compulsory in upsc to select an Indian language other than English,And write paper A in both the languages,Is it must to write the essays and others in indian language and English both

    1. Hi Disha
      In Mains, there are two language papers (qualifying in nature). Paper A in English language and Paper B is Indian regional language (You can choose anyone from 22 official languages). For the other seven papers, you can either write in English or in any other language (Indian official language) that you had chosen while filling the DAF form for Mains.

  12. hi
    can I write both the papers (PAPER A and PAPER B ) both in English as I’m more comfortable with English more than Indian regional language??

    1. No, you cannot. Paper A and Paper B are compulsory but qualifying papers. You have to choose one regional language (Official languages) to sit for Paper A. Candidates hailing from the north-eastern states of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland are exempt from taking the compulsory Indian language paper. Read more about Exemption from compulsory papers in UPSC Mains at the linked article.

  13. I am a hindu student who was born and brought up in meghalaya . So I don’t know how to write hindi language am i eligible for exemption.

    1. Candidates hailing from the north-eastern states of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland are exempt from taking the compulsory Indian language paper. In order to avail this exemption, qualified candidates should upload the scanned copy of a document supporting their status of hailing from these states, when they submit their Detailed Application Form (DAF) for the UPSC Mains.

  14. Hi, can we choose any indian language of(8th schedule) for paper A even if we had not had that language at school but still have command over it, ex:studied hindi at school but want to take kannada which was not part of my school subjects.

    1. Yes, you can choose any regional language.

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