UPSC Prelims Subject-Wise Weightage

The UPSC Civil Services Prelims exam 2020 was conducted on 4th October. Lakhs of aspirants took the exam in the hope of realising their IAS dreams.

The UPSC Prelims is the first step towards making a career in the prestigious Civil Services of India. The Civil Services Exam is a three-stage exam consisting of a preliminary exam, mains exam, and interview.

In this article, aspirants can find trend analysis of UPSC Prelims along with marks distribution from 2011 to 2020 and videos of paper analysis.

UPSC Prelims Pattern and Syllabus

The IAS prelims exam round consists of two papers. The Prelims is essentially an eliminating round in which, from about 5 lakh people (on average) who take the exam, only about 10 – 15 thousand clear it. The marks secured in this exam decide whether aspirants can go on to the next stage or not. It is important to prepare well and have a comprehensive understanding of the subjects covered in this exam. In this article, we bring you an analysis of the trends in marks distribution according to various subjects covered in the exam over the past decade.

The prelims papers consist of objective type questions with negative marking for incorrect answers. The structure of the prelims exam is as follows:

Paper Total Marks No. of Questions Duration Type Negative Marks Nature
General Studies Paper 1 200 100 2 hours Objective Yes Merit Ranking
General Studies Paper 2 (CSAT) 200 80 2 hours Objective Yes Qualifying

UPSC Prelims Syllabus:

General Studies Paper I General Studies Paper II
Current events of national and international importance. Comprehension
History of India and Indian National Movement Interpersonal skills including communication skills
Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Logical reasoning and analytical ability
Geography of India and the World Decision making and problem-solving
Indian Polity and Governance-Constitution General mental ability
Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc. Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of

Magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation

(charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. — Class X


General issues on Environmental ecology, Biodiversity

and Climate Change – that do not require subject


Economic and Social Development-Sustainable
Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social
Sector Initiatives, etc.
General Science

Candidates need to secure at least 33% in the General Studies Paper II and it is compulsory to attempt both the papers to be eligible for evaluation. The candidates who secure at least the minimum cut off marks for General Studies I and qualify in General Studies II are invited to appear in the Mains exam.

About the UPSC Prelims Cut off Marks:

The prelims cut off marks refer to the minimum marks required in the GS Paper I to qualify for the mains (provided candidates score at least 33% in the CSAT). This cut off mark changes every year depending upon the performance of the candidates and the number of vacancies.

Read more about UPSC cut off marks here.

Subject-Wise Weightage & IAS Prelims Marks Distribution

The Subject-wise weightage for the number of questions in General Studies I from 2011 are as shown in the graph and table below:

UPSC Prelims GS 1 Trend Analysis of Questions 2011 - 2020 Table Data

UPSC Prelims GS 1 Trend Analysis of Questions 2011 - 2020 Bar Graph

As we can see from the above chart, only questions from the subject Environment had shown a somewhat stable trend hovering around 15 to 18 questions most of the years, but this section is showing a decreasing trend. The other subjects show wide variations every year.

For example, questions from Polity have ranged from 7 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. That is a wide variation for one year. Similarly, questions directly related to current affairs have ranged from none in 2013 to 27 three years later in 2016. Hence it is very difficult to predict the UPSC prelims weightage for different subjects. This is intentional on the part of UPSC to deter pattern-based studying as it is very difficult to deduce the dominating subject for the next exam. However, current affairs top the charts with a major portion of the question papers dedicated to it. Nevertheless, aspirants should practice previous year’s UPSC papers to check their preparedness. Also, a balanced study plan is a must to be able to beat the unpredictability of UPSC Prelims Subject wise marks weightage.

In the following video lecture, you can get a detailed analysis of all the questions of UPSC Prelims 2020 GS Paper I:

We have done a detailed analysis of the UPSC Prelims GS Paper I 2019 also. All the questions asked have been analysed and explained in the videos given below. The explanation has been divided as per subjects for convenience.

More IAS related queries

      • Is there any negative marking in UPSC Prelims?
      • Yes, for every incorrect answer you will be penalised by 1/3rd of the total marks allocated for that question in the UPSC Prelims exam. This negative marking is in both papers of the IAS prelims – GS Paper I and GS Paper II (CSAT). However, no marks will be deducted if the question is left unanswered.
      • What was the cut off for UPSC Prelims 2019?
      • For UPSC Prelims 2019, the cut off marks are given below:
Category UPSC Prelims Cut off Marks (out of 200)
General 98
EWS 90
OBC 95.34
SC 82
ST 77.34
PwBD – 1 53.34
PwBD – 2 44.66
PwBD – 3 54.66
PwBD – 5 61.34
  • How can I check my UPSC Prelims marks?
  • UPSC releases the mark sheet after the entire exam process is over. Refer the sequence given below for clarity:
    • UPSC CSE Prelims
    • UPSC Prelims Result
    • UPSC Mains
    • UPSC Mains Result
    • IAS Interview
    • UPSC Final Result and Merit List
    • You can download the UPSC Marksheet for Prelims, Mains and Interview when they are available on the official website. For any doubts, read the detailed explanation related to UPSC mark sheet for Prelims, Mains and Interview.
  • How many papers are there in UPSC Mains?
  • The UPSC IAS Mains exam comprises nine theory papers:
  • What is the monthly salary of an IAS officer in India?
  • The starting monthly salary of IAS officer in India after the 7th Pay Commission recommendation is Rs 56,100 ( DA, HRA etc.). Here, you can read the salary structure and pay scale for IAS officers after the 7th Pay Commission.
  • What is the exam pattern for IAS exam?
  • The UPSC IAS exam has three stages:
    • Civil Services Prelims Exam: 4th October 2020
    • Civil Services Mains Exam: 8th January 2021 onward
    • IAS Interview: 2021
  • Is Indian language compulsory in UPSC?
  • In UPSC Mains, Paper A and Paper B are compulsory language papers. Although, Paper A is not mandatory for candidates hailing from parts of North East India.
  • How many marks are required to clear IAS prelims?
  • The IAS prelims comprise two papers:
    • GS Paper I – Candidates have to score above the UPSC cut off for that year (usually between 100-125 marks for General Category aspirants)
    • GS Paper II (CSAT) – Candidates have to score above 33% and marks in CSAT won’t be counted for the merit list of UPSC Mains.

For study tips, tricks and preparation material on IAS 2021, please check out the following links:


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