UPSC Mains Guide - Timetable, Syllabus, Books Exam Pattern & More

UPSC Civil Services Mains is a second stage exam in the scheme of Civil Services Examination conducted by UPSC to recruit suitable candidates in Group A and Group B services. The students who qualify for the Preliminary Examination are shortlisted for UPSC Mains Examination. Since the Prelims exam is qualifying in nature, the marks of the papers held in the Mains along with the Interview round are considered for final selection.

In this article, we will discuss the timetable, exam pattern of UPSC Mains, its syllabus along with the preparation strategy, and some important tips to ace UPSC Mains!

UPSC Mains Timetable 2020

Earlier, the UPSC Mains 2020 was scheduled to be held from 18 September 2020. However, according to the latest notification, the UPSC Mains 2020 will be held from January 8, 2020. UPSC Mains is usually held at a stretch of 4-5 days. The papers are held in the morning and afternoon shifts with a gap of two hours in between.

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern 2020

UPSC Mains consists of 9 papers including two language papers, an essay exam, two optional papers, and four General Studies papers. The list of nine papers is given below:

Paper Subject Duration Total marks
Paper A Compulsory Indian language 3 hours 300
Paper B English 3 hours 300
Paper I Essay 3 hours 250
Paper-II General Studies I 3 hours 250
Paper III General Studies II 3 hours 250
Paper IV General Studies III 3 hours 250
Paper V General Studies IV 3 hours 250
Paper VI Optional I 3 hours 250
Paper VII Optional II 3 hours 250

UPSC Mains Syllabus 2020

Paper A and B: Qualifying Papers On Indian Languages And English

The aim of the paper is to test the candidate's ability to read and understand serious discursive prose and express his ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian Language concerned. The pattern of questions would be as follows:- (i) Comprehension of given passages (ii) Precis Writing (iii) Usage and Vocabulary (iv) Short Essays Indian Languages:- (i) Comprehension of given passages (ii) Precis Writing (iii) Usage and Vocabulary (iv) Short Essays (v) Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa.

Note 1:The Papers on Indian Languages and English will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking.

Note 2: The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where the translation is involved).

PAPER-I Essay:

Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be 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.

PAPER-II General Studies-I: Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society.

  • Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues
  • The Freedom Struggle - its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.
  • History of the world will include events from the 18th century such as the industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society.
  • Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India. Role of women and women's organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies. Effects of globalization on Indian society Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
  • Salient features of world's physical geography.
  • Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India) Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

PAPER-III General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

  • Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  • Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries Parliament and State Legislatures - structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
  • Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  • Salient features of the Representation of People's Act.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  • Role of civil services in a democracy.
  • India and its neighborhood- relations. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.

PAPER-IV General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  • Government Budgeting. Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints;
  • E-technology in the aid of farmers Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices;
  • Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
  • Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  • Land reforms in India. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
  • Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
  • Investment models. Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievement of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  • Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment Disaster and disaster management.
  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism.
  • Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention.
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

PAPER-V General Studies- IV: Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude

This paper will include questions to test the candidates' attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society. Questions may utilize the case study approach to determine these aspects.

The following broad areas will be covered. Ethics and Human Interface: Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships.

  • Human Values - lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.
  • Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; moral and political attitudes; social influence, and persuasion.
  • Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance, and compassion towards the weaker sections.
  • Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world.
  • Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations, and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.
  • Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity;
  • Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen's Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption. Case Studies on the above issues.

How to prepare for UPSC Mains 2020

The one thing that you should keep in mind before beginning the preparation of UPSC Mains is that everyone is one the same level. Since UPSC Prelims was qualifying in nature, UPSC Mains will be a fresh start for everyone. Hence, there are equal chance of selection of all the candidates. With that thought, you should begin your preparation in an extremely focused manner. Here are the step-by-step guide on how to prepare for UPSC Mains:

Step One: Prepare the General Studies Subjects

Preparation of UPSC Mains is done before the preparation of Prelims. For this, read the standard prescribed books at least twice and then develop an answer-writing mechanism. Evaluate the toppers' answer script that you can easily get on the web. Then, have a proper answer-writing mechanism in mind. Your answer should have a definite beginning, middle, and end. Prepare the definitions of all the topics given in the syllabus. Prepare your hand-written notes beforehand so that you can revise it in the gap period.

There is hardly a 2-3 month gap between the Prelims and UPSC Mains. In this time, you must focus only on revising your notes. Hence, after enjoying a week off from studies after Prelims, gear yourself into preparation mode for the UPSC Mains examination. It is a theoretical examination, hence the approach would be entirely different from the Prelims examination. Make a proper revision schedule and keep time for answer-writing practice during this time. You have already prepared the syllabus well, so its time for revision.

Step Two: Practice Answer Writing

Now, answer-writing for Mains is as important as practicing quant or reasoning for exams like CAT! If you don't practice well, you will neither have speed nor accuracy. Hence, develop the habit of writing answers once you've completed at least half the syllabus. You can practice answer writing for previous year questions. Get them evaluated by your peers and mentors and then work on your weaknesses.

Step Three: Prepare Anecdotes and Examples from Current Affairs

Anecdotes, illustrations, and examples to substantiate your argument will always fetch you more marks. And if that is from the recent current affairs, it will further give you a point! So, read the newspapers extremely carefully, especially the editorials in Indian Express and The Hindu. Maintain a separate notebook for writing good points so that you can revise them later. Aside from these, make a note of important stats including ranking in various indexes and reports, recent reports, etc. This will add value to your answer.

Step Four: Practice Map-making/Flow-charts

Practice map-making beforehand so that you can draw out map and explain using that in order to fetch good marks. Flow-charts, illustrations and maps always help in explaining the issue asked in a better way. Hence, prepare them beforehand and maintain a separate notebook for revising at a later stage.

Step Five: Give Mock Tests

Now, since each paper is of 3 hours in which you have to attempt all the questions, you need both speed and accuracy in your answers. Hence, give as many mock tests as you can to attempt as many questions as you can in the final examination. It will also prepare you for the main examination, This is a brief beginner's guide to UPSC Mains Examination. To read more such informative articles, you can check our UPSC website.

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