How to prepare Compulsory English Language Paper for UPSC Mains

Compulsory English Language Paper is Paper-B in the scheme of UPSC Mains Exam. It is one of the nine papers in UPSC Mains, however, it is qualifying in nature. It means that the score obtained in this paper is not calculated while determining the final rank. You need to score a minimum of 25% marks or 75+ marks out of 300 to pass this paper.

It is a generic English language paper whose objectives include:

  • Assessing a candidate’s ability to read and understand serious descriptive prose.

  • Assessing a candidate’s ability to express his/her ideas correctly and clearly.

In this article, we will look at the type of questions asked in this paper and how to tackle this paper effectively even if you’ve not had English as your medium of instruction in school.

Type of Questions Asked in UPSC Compulsory English Language Paper in Mains Exam

Here's a break-up of the type of questions asked in the Compulsory English Language paper in the UPSC Mains Exam.

Type of Questions



100 Marks

Reading Comprehension

75 Marks

Precis Writing

75 Marks

Grammar-Based Questions

50 Marks

Preparation Tips for UPSC Compulsory English Language Paper

It is important to note that you need to score only 75+ marks out of 300 to pass this exam. Hence, you should not dedicate a lot of time to this paper. At the same time, it should be enough to let you sail through this seamlessly. Let’s look at an effective preparation strategy for tackling each of the types of questions asked in this paper:

Essay-Writing (100 marks)

The best way to prepare essay-type questions is to practice! Read the editorials in The Hindu or The Indian Express newspaper to get an understanding of what your essay should constitute. It will help you in framing a coherent essay. Make sure you prepare a rough draft incorporating all the important points you have in mind for the particular topic, arrange them in such a way that your essay is coherent and well-structured.

Reading Comprehension (75 marks)

RC involves a passage and 05 subjective questions based on this passage. In order to write effective answers, read the passage carefully. Go through the questions and re-read the passage again. Mark the relevant points which can be probable answers to the questions asked. Now, rephrase and write the answer to the questions asked in your own words. Make sure to not copy the same sentences from the passage. It could create a negative impression and you may end up with a low score. Practice Reading Comprehension questions from previous year’s papers to attempt these questions in exams more comfortably.

Precis Writing (75 marks)

Precis Writing is basically the summary-writing of the given passage. You need to write the gist of the passage using as few words as possible. Generally, the word limit is one-third of the total words of the passage. For this, read the given passage carefully and mark the important points. You can strike through the lines in the passage that do not add to the information or is filler-line. Make sure you’re not exceeding the word limit or repeating the same information again.

rammar-based Questions (50 Marks)

For the grammar-based questions, you will have to work on improving your conceptual understanding. You can refer to standard books like Wren n Martin or Objective General English by S.P Bakshi. Develop a command over parts of speech and practice grammar-based questions from this book or the previous year’s questions. Majorly, questions from error-correction, fill-in-the-blanks, narration, vocabulary are asked in this section. Reading these books and practicing grammar-based and vocabulary-based questions will help you in performing better in this section.

This paper does not require special attention for students who have studied English as a medium of instruction. However, the candidates who face problems in writing or understanding English may need to give a special focus for preparing this paper. We hope that following the strategy mentioned above, you can comfortably tackle the questions in this paper.

Also Read | Subject-wise Strategy for UPSC Civil Services Exam

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