Preliminary Examination

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The UPSC Prelims exam, also known as the Civil Services Preliminary Examination, is an important step towards becoming a civil servant in India. It is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and serves as the first stage of the UPSC Civil Services Examination.

The Prelims exam consists of two papers: General Studies Paper-I and General Studies Paper-II (CSAT). General Studies Paper-I tests your knowledge on various subjects like History, Geography, Polity, Economy, Science, and Current Affairs. General Studies Paper-II assesses your aptitude and comprehension skills.

Here are a few key points to remember about the UPSC Prelims exam:


Any Indian citizen who holds a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university is eligible to appear for the exam.

Exam Pattern:

The Prelims exam is conducted in an objective multiple-choice question (MCQ) format. Each paper is of 200 marks and has a duration of 2 hours.

Negative Marking:

There is a negative marking of one-third of the marks assigned to a question for each incorrect answer. So, it’s important to be cautious while attempting questions.


The UPSC releases a detailed syllabus for both papers. It is essential to study the syllabus thoroughly and focus on the key topics mentioned.

Current Affairs:

Current affairs play a crucial role in the Prelims exam. Stay updated with national and international news, government policies, and important events.

Practice and Revision:

Regular practice is essential to improve your speed and accuracy. Solve previous years’ question papers and take mock tests to gauge your preparation level.

Reference Books:

Refer to standard textbooks and study materials recommended by experts to cover the topics effectively.

Time Management:

Manage your time wisely during the exam. Allocate sufficient time to each section and attempt the questions you are confident about first.

Multiple Revision:

Revise the topics multiple times to reinforce your understanding. Make concise notes and revise them regularly.

Stay Focused and Positive:

The UPSC Prelims exam can be challenging, but with dedication, hard work, and a positive attitude, you can succeed. Believe in yourself and stay focused on your goal.

Remember, the UPSC Prelims exam is just the first step towards your dream of becoming a civil servant. Prepare well, stay motivated, and give it your best shot. Good luck!

Exam Pattern

  • Number of Papers: The Prelims exam consists of two papers: General Studies Paper-I and General Studies Paper-II (CSAT).
  • Duration: Each paper has a duration of 2 hours (120 minutes).
  • Language: Both papers are conducted in both English and Hindi. However, the questions in the English language comprehension section of the CSAT paper are only available in English.

General Studies Paper-I:

  • Total Marks: 200 marks
  • Number of Questions: Approximately 100 questions
  • Question Type: Multiple-choice questions (MCQs)
  • Syllabus: Covers various subjects such as History, Geography, Polity, Economy, Science and Technology, Environment, and Current Affairs.
  • Marking Scheme: Each correct answer carries 2 marks.
  • Negative Marking: There is a penalty of one-third (0.66) of the marks assigned to a question for each incorrect answer.

General Studies Paper-II (CSAT):

  • Total Marks: 200 marks
  • Number of Questions: Approximately 80 questions
  • Question Type: Multiple-choice questions (MCQs)
  • Syllabus: Tests aptitude and comprehension skills including topics like logical reasoning, analytical ability, problem-solving, data interpretation, English language comprehension, and decision-making.
  • Marking Scheme: Each correct answer carries 2.5 marks.
  • Negative Marking: There is a penalty of one-third (0.83) of the marks assigned to a question for each incorrect answer.
  • Qualifying Marks: To qualify for the UPSC Prelims, candidates must meet the minimum qualifying marks set by the UPSC. These marks are determined based on the performance of candidates and can vary each year.
  • Cut-off: The UPSC determines a cut-off score for each paper based on various factors such as the number of vacancies and the overall performance of candidates. Only those candidates who score above the cut-off marks in General Studies Paper-I are eligible to have their General Studies Paper-II (CSAT) evaluated.

It’s important to note that the marks obtained in the Prelims exam are not considered for the final merit list. The Prelims exam serves as a screening test, and candidates who qualify are eligible to appear for the UPSC Mains examination.

Prelims Booklist: Best Books for UPSC Prelims Preperation

Preparing for the UPSC Prelims exam requires a comprehensive study plan and the right set of books and resources. Here are some commonly recommended booklists for UPSC Prelims preparation:


  • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • History of Modern India by Bipan Chandra
  • A Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir
  • Ancient and Medieval India by Poonam Dalal Dahiya


  • Certificate Physical and Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong
  • Oxford School Atlas by Oxford University Press
  • PMF IAS Geography
  • Geography of India by Majid Husain
  • World Geography by Majid Husain
  • Physical, Human and Economic Geography for Civil Services Examination by D R Khuller


  • Indian Polity by M. Laxmikanth
  • Introduction to the Constitution of India by D.D. Basu


  • Indian Economy by Ramesh Singh
  • Indian Economy Key Concepts by Sankarganesh K
  • Economic Survey published by the Government of India
  • Indian Economy: Performance and Policies by Uma Kapila

Science and Technology:

  • General Science by Lucent Publications
  • NCERT textbooks for Science from Class 6 to 10

Environment and Ecology:

  • Environment by Shankar IAS
  • Environmental Studies: From Crisis to Cure by Rajagopalan
  • Environment and Ecology – Biodiversity, Climate Change and Disaster Management
  • Environment and Ecology – Arihant

Current Affairs:

  • The Hindu or The Indian Express newspaper (for daily news coverage)
  • Pratiyogita Darpan or Civil Services Chronicle (monthly magazines for current affairs).

General Studies Paper-II (CSAT):

  • CSAT Manual by TMH Publications
  • Analytical Reasoning by M.K. Pandey
  • Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning by R.S. Aggarwal

Remember, the booklist provided above is not exhaustive, and there are many other good resources available. It’s important to refer to multiple sources, including NCERT textbooks, standard reference books, and relevant government reports, to get a comprehensive understanding of the subjects.

Apart from books, it’s also recommended to refer to previous years’ question papers, take mock tests, and make concise notes for effective revision.

Additionally, consider using online resources, video lectures, and current affairs websites to supplement your preparation. The key is to have a well-rounded approach and stay updated with the latest information and trends.

Best of luck with your UPSC Prelims preparation!

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