UPSC Civil Services: Here’s everything you need to know about UPSC Mains Paper

UPSC Civil Services examination is the most prestigious exam in the country. It is also the most sought after career by the youth. The examination is conducted by the Union Public Services Commission annually in three levels. Preliminary examination is an objective type test. The candidates who manage to score over and above the cut off in GS Paper-1 and a minimum of 33% in CSAT paper are allowed write the Mains examination which is of descriptive type. Those who qualify in the mains examination are then called for the interview. Only those candidates who clear all three levels of examination are offered services based on their rank in the final merit list.
Mains examination is a test of knowledge, conceptual clarity, analysis, mental & physical strength and time management. A candidate must not only have a clear understanding of all the topics mentioned in the UPSC syllabus, but also must be able to write it in a simple manner and to the point. This article covers everything you need to know about the UPSC mains paper.
UPSC Mains examination contains 9 papers in all. They are
  1. Language papers:

    The Mains exam consists of 2 language papers. Each paper is for 300 marks and the marks scored in the papers will not be added to the final marks of the candidate in the Mains examination, as both the papers are qualifying in nature. The candidate is required to score a minimum of 25% of the maximum marks in order to qualify in the language papers. English language paper is mandatory for all the candidates while they are allowed to choose any language from Schedule 8 for the second paper.

    Essay paper: The essay paper requires the candidates to write 2 essays of 125 marks each. The paper is divided into two sections. The candidate must choose one out of the four essay topics from each section. Each essay must contain about 1000-1200 words.

    General Studies Paper-1: General Studies Paper-1 is for 250 marks. The paper contains questions relating to Indian culture, Modern Indian history, Ancient Indian history, Geography of the world and Society.

    General Studies Paper-2: Similar to GS Paper-1, GS Paper-2 is for 250 marks. It contains questions relating to International relations, Social justice, Polity, Constitution and Governance. This paper is mostly current affairs based and it is advisable to keep yourself updated with the current happenings in order to get better marks in this paper.

    General Studies Paper-3: General Studies Paper-3 or Paper-4 is also for 250 marks and contains questions from Economy, Science & Technology, Security, Disaster Management, Environment etc. Like, GS Paper-2, this paper requires a candidate to be well abreast with current affairs to get a good score in the paper.

    General Studies Paper-4: GS Paper-4 commonly known as the Ethics paper consists questions relating to Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude. It is to test the candidates approach to solving various issues in the society and ethical dilemmas attached to it.

Optional Paper: Every candidate must choose any one optional subject OR any language paper from the list of subjects provided by the UPSC. The optional subject will be divided into two papers of 250 marks each. It is important for an aspirant to wisely choose an optional subject, as it constitutes a major chunk of your mains marks and could decide your rank in the final rank list.

Mains examination requires extensive answer writing practice. An aspirant must not wait for the prelims results to start preparing for mains examination. One must integrate his/her prelims and mains preparation as there is an overlap of multiple topics. Answer and essay writing practice must also begin the day you start your UPSC preparation. Most importantly, one must consistently prepare for both static subjects and
daily current affairs in order to score well in the Mains examination.

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