The Union Public Service Commission conducts recruitment exams for a variety of Group A and few Group B posts in the Indian government every year. The most prestigious and the most competitive exam conducted by the UPSC is the Civil Services Examination.
The pattern of UPSC Civil Service Exam 2021:
- UPSC CSE (Preliminary) – October 10, 2021
- UPSC CSE (Main) – Revised Dates – January 7th to January 16th 2022 [Earlier Dates: 17th September 2021 onwards]
- IAS Interview/ UPSC Personality Test
This article covers, in-depth, the written stage of the Civil Services exam i.e. UPSC Mains for the year 2021.
Download UPSC Mains 2020 Question Papers PDF from the linked article.
Latest Update about UPSC Mains 2021
UPSC Mains 2021 revised dates out – the dates for IAS Mains 2021 are 7th, 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th January 2022. Check the detailed timetable on the UPSC exam dates page.
* As the date of UPSC Prelims 2021 has been moved from 27th June to 10th October 2021 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases; the IAS Mains 2021 examination that was supposed to start from 17th September will be held on a later date (Jan 2022).
The UPSC Mains 2020 was also postponed last year and it later took place from 8th January 2021 onwards. Civil Services Mains Exam 2021 is following the same format. Candidates are advised to keep checking this page for related updates or visit the official website of the Commission.
- The Result of IAS Mains 2020 has been declared on 23rd March 2021.
- UPSC Mains Admit Card 2021 will be released in December 2021. Check important information about UPSC Admit Card in the linked article.
- UPSC Mains Time Table 2020 was released on 6th November – Civil Services Mains Examination 2020 started from 8th January 2021 onward against the earlier date of 18th September 2020. The detailed UPSC IAS Mains Exam Schedule is mentioned below:
UPSC Mains Exam Dates
9 AM – 12 PM
2 PM – 5 PM
|8th January 2021||Essay Paper||–|
|9th January 2021||General Studies-I||General Studies-II|
|10th January 2021||General Studies-III||General Studies-IV|
|16th January 2021||Indian Language Paper||English Language Paper|
|17th January 2021||Optional Paper-I||Optional Paper-II|
- Detailed Application Form (DAF) for UPSC Mains was out on 28th October 2020 – Candidates who were declared successful post-UPSC Prelims Result 2020, had to fill the UPSC DAF 2020 between 28th October and 11th November 2020 (Before 6 PM). Aspirants can learn in detail about the DAF from the links mentioned below:
If you are looking for the UPSC syllabus for Prelims, Mains and Interview and information on the Civil Services Exam as a whole, refer to the links above.
UPSC Mains – IAS Exam 2021
Topics covered in this article:
- What is the UPSC Mains Exam/CSE(Main)/IAS Mains
- How many candidates will appear for UPSC Mains 2021
- How to apply for UPSC Mains 2021
- Preparation Strategy for UPSC Mains 2021
- UPSC Mains Exam Pattern for IAS exam 2021
- Important information regarding UPSC Mains and UPSC Mains Syllabus
- UPSC Mains Syllabus – IAS exam 2021
- Qualifying Papers
- General Studies
- Optional Subjects
What is the UPSC Mains Exam/CSE (Main)/IAS Mains?
The UPSC Mains exam is the second stage of the Civil Services Examination. IAS aspirants who clear the Prelims i.e. those who score above the cutoff in General Studies Paper I and more than 33% marks in General Studies Paper-II (CSAT) are eligible to appear for the UPSC Mains.
Candidates who aspire to become IAS, IPS, IFS and IRS officers have to give UPSC Mains before they are cleared for the IAS interview/UPSC Personality Test stage.
How many candidates appeared for UPSC Mains 2020?
As per UPSC, the total candidates allowed to appear for UPSC mains are twelve to thirteen times the number of Civil Sevice vacancies for that exam year. For UPSC 2020, the total number of vacancies is 796 so accordingly around 10 thousand candidates are expected to have written the UPSC Mains 2020.
How to apply for UPSC Mains 2021?
Once the Civil Services Exam (Preliminary) results are declared, successful candidates will have to fill the online Detailed Application Form (DAF) for UPSC Mains on the official website (upsc.gov.in).
The DAF for UPSC Mains has six modules/sections:
- Educational Information
- Parental Information
- Employment Information
- Upload documents
- Final Submission
Some fields like name, Date of birth, exam centre for UPSC Mains, etc will be prepopulated in the UPSC Mains DAF from the information provided at the time of filling the UPSC online application for CSE(Preliminary).
For UPSC Mains, you can check here which documents need to be uploaded with the DAF.
Note – Once Final Submission is done no changes are allowed online, so candidates should be extra careful and cross-check all details which filling the DAF for UPSC Mains.
Also, this DAF forms the basis of a lot of questions in the IAS interview/UPSC Personality test stage so make sure that you keep a copy of it for your reference.
Preparation Strategy for UPSC Mains 2021
- Current Affairs are an important part of the Civil Services Exam (for Prelims and for UPSC Mains). Ideally, aspirants should prepare Current Affairs for at least 12-15 months i.e. UPSC Mains exam in 2021 will be held in September 2021, so candidates should prepare Current Affairs from June 2020 onwards.
- Important sources for current affairs preparation for IAS exam 2021 are:
- Yojana Magzine
- Newspapers (The Hindu/The Indian Express)
- Press Information Bureau (PIB)
- Economic and Political Weekly (EPW)
- For the benefit of IAS aspirants, BYJU’S free IAS preparation provides:
- Candidates should prepare for UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains simultaneously as there is a syllabus overlap.
- As per UPSC, marks in the Civil Services(Main) exam are not given for superficial answers, so candidates should do answer writing practice.
- An important part of IAS preparation is practising the UPSC previous year question papers. For reference, IAS aspirants can view the UPSC Mains papers for General Studies for the exam year 2018 below:
|UPSC Mains GS PAPER I||UPSC Mains GS PAPER II|
|UPSC Mains GS PAPER III||UPSC Mains GS PAPER IV|
- For more previous years’ UPSC question papers, you can refer to the link.
UPSC Mains Exam Pattern for IAS 2021
The UPSC Mains or CSE (Main) pattern was revised in 2015. As per the revised pattern, the UPSC Mains 2021 will comprise nine theory papers (essay descriptive type). Out of the nine papers, only seven will be counted for merit ranking. Candidates also have to choose one optional subject for UPSC Mains. More on UPSC Mains optional later in the article.
The maximum marks for the UPSC Mains exam are 1750 (7 papers * 250 marks each). All papers are of three-hour duration.
The UPSC Mains pattern for Civil Services Exam 2021 is given below:
|S.No||Papers||Subject||Nature of Exam||Total Marks|
|1||Paper A||Indian Language||Qualifying||300|
|3||Paper I||Essay||Counted for Merit||250|
|4||Paper II||General Studies (GS) I||Counted for Merit||250|
|5||Paper III||General Studies (GS) II||Counted for Merit||250|
|6||Paper IV||General Studies (GS) III||Counted for Merit||250|
|7||Paper V||General Studies (GS) IV||Counted for Merit||250|
|8||Paper VI||Optional Subject Paper-I||Counted for Merit||250|
|9||Paper VII||Optional Subject Paper-II||Counted for Merit||250|
Important information regarding UPSC Mains and UPSC Mains Syllabus
- An IAS aspirant’s marks in UPSC Mains and IAS interview determine his/her final rank in the merit list
- The UPSC Mains intends to assess the depth of a candidate’s knowledge. Hence marks will only be given for “relevant, meaningful, and succinct answers.”
- The questions in UPSC Mains test aspirant’s basic understanding, ability to analyse and “take a view on conflicting socio-economic goals, objectives and demands.”
- Although UPSC maintains that for General Studies papers (Paper II to Paper V), a “well-educated person will be able to answer them without any specialised study,” candidates are advised to go through previous year UPSC question papers to ascertain for themselves whether they need ‘specialised study.’
- Candidates are allowed to use Scientific(Non-Programmable) calculators in UPSC Mains if needed.
- The level of examination for the optional subjects in UPSC Mains will be equivalent to an honours degree (between bachelors’ and masters’ level). Only for engineering subjects, Law and Medical Science, the scope is limited to the bachelors’ degree level.
Candidates can download the pdf of UPSC notification 2020 from the link below:
UPSC Mains Syllabus – IAS Exam 2021
The UPSC Mains syllabus 2020 can be divided into two parts:
- Qualifying Papers
- Paper A
- Paper B
- Papers which are counted for merit ranking
- General Studies (Paper II to Paper V)
- Optional Subject (Two Papers)
Read on for the paper-wise syllabus for UPSC Mains 2020. Also, you can download the updated
UPSC Mains Syllabus and Exam Pattern for Qualifying Papers
In UPSC Mains, candidates have to score a minimum of 25% marks in Paper A and Paper B otherwise their marks in other papers will not be taken into account. The pattern/syllabus for qualifying papers in UPSC Mains is given below:
|Paper A – Indian Language (any of the Indian languages listed in the 8th schedule of the Constitution)||
|Paper B – English||
Important information regarding UPSC Mains qualifying papers:
- Paper A and Paper B test the candidates’ ability to read and understand serious prose in the given language and to express her/her views correctly and clearly.
- The marks in Paper A and Paper B in UPSC Mains will not be counted for merit but if candidates score below 25% in either of these two papers, then their marks in the remaining papers will not even be declared.
- The level of Paper A and Paper B is of a Matriculation (or equivalent) level.
- Paper A (Indian Language) in UPSC Mains is not compulsory for candidates hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim
UPSC Mains Syllabus for Essay paper
As such the UPSC Mains syllabus doesn’t have a prescribed section for the Essay paper. In the essay paper in UPSC Mains, candidates have to write two essays out of a few given options for a total of 250 marks. As per the UPSC, “Candidates are expected to keep close to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in an orderly fashion and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.”
Here, candidates can find topic-wise essay questions asked in UPSC Mains in the last 25 years.
UPSC Mains Syllabus for General Studies
The UPSC Mains syllabus for GS papers covers broadly the following subjects/areas:
|UPSC Mains Paper II – General Studies I||UPSC Mains Paper III – General Studies II||UPSC Mains Paper-IV – General Studies III||UPSC Mains Paper V – General Studies IV|
|Indian Heritage and Culture||Governance||Technology||Ethics|
|History and Geography of the World||Constitution||Economic Development||Integrity|
|Social Justice||International relations||Security and Disaster Management||–|
For detailed UPSC Mains syllabus 2020 for General Studies Papers, refer the link.
UPSC Mains Syllabus for Optional Subjects
Since the pattern change in UPSC Mains, candidates now have to choose only one optional subject. There are two papers based on the optional subject for a total of 500 marks (250 marks * 2 papers) which are counted for the merit ranking.
The list of optional subjects for the UPSC IAS exam 2021 and links to the detailed syllabi for each optional subject are given below:
Also, read – Important links for UPSC Mains 2021