UPSC Mains

UPSC Mains 2023 – Civil Services (Main) Examination

The Union Public Service Commission administers recruitment examinations for numerous Group A and a few Group B positions within the Indian government annually. Among these, the most esteemed and fiercely competitive examination is the Civil Services Examination.

The format of the UPSC Civil Services Exam 2023 (Mains) is outlined below. Any alterations to the exam pattern or syllabus for the upcoming UPSC Mains examination will be provided here following the release of the official notification.

Key dates to UPSC Civil Services (CS) examinations for 2022 and 2023 are as follows:

  • UPSC CSE (Preliminary) 2022 – June 5, 2022
  • UPSC CSE (Main) 2022 – September 16-25, 2022
  • IAS Interview/UPSC Personality Test 2022 – April 24 to May 18, 2023 (remaining 582 candidates)
  • UPSC CSE (Preliminary) 2023 – May 28, 2023
  • UPSC CSE (Main) 2023 – September 15, 2023
  • IAS Interview/UPSC Personality Test 2023 – Yet to be notified

This article provides an in-depth exploration of the written stage of the Civil Services exam, i.e., UPSC Mains for the year 2023.

Latest Updates about UPSC 2023

The UPSC Interview for 2022 took place from April 24 to May 18, 2023.. Aspirants can view the schedule on the official website, where a notification has been released for the same.

The UPSC Notification for 2023 was issued on February 1, 2023. The Civil Services (Preliminary) Exam 2022 is slated for May 28, 2023. After the announcement of the Prelims exam results, eligible candidates who have cleared the Prelims must fill DAF-I to participate in UPSC Mains. The UPSC CSE Mains exam is scheduled for September 15, 2023. The dates for the IAS Interview in 2023 are yet to be communicated.

All updates related to the UPSC 2023 exam will be posted here for candidates’ convenience.

Detailed Application Form-II (DAF II) will be released following the announcement of the Civil Services Mains Result. Candidates who qualify the personality test must complete this UPSC DAF.

UPSC Mains 2023 Exam Dates9 AM – 12 PM2 PM – 5 PM
15 September 2023Essay Paper (Tentative exam)
To be notifiedGeneral Studies-I (Tentative exam)General Studies-II (Tentative exam)
To be notifiedGeneral Studies-III (Tentative exam)General Studies-IV (Tentative exam)
To be notifiedIndian Language Paper (Tentative exam)English Language Paper (Tentative exam)
To be notifiedOptional Paper-I (Tentative exam)Optional Paper-II (Tentative exam)
UPSC Mains 2022 Exam Dates9 AM – 12 PM2 PM – 5 PM
16 September 2022Essay Paper
17 September 2022General Studies-IGeneral Studies-II
18 January 2022General Studies-IIIGeneral Studies-IV
24 January 2022Indian Language PaperEnglish Language Paper
25 January 2022Optional Paper-IOptional Paper-II

Visit the linked article to download the PDF of UPSC Mains 2021 Question Papers.

For the UPSC syllabus covering Prelims, Mains, and Interview, along with comprehensive information on the Civil Services Exam, check the provided link above.

UPSC Mains – IAS Exam 2023

What is the UPSC Mains Exam/CSE (Main)/IAS Mains?

The UPSC Mains exam represents the second stage of the Civil Services Examination. IAS aspirants who successfully clear the Prelims, scoring above the cutoff in General Studies Paper I and securing more than 33% marks in General Studies Paper-II (CSAT), become eligible to participate in the UPSC Mains.

Candidates aspiring to become IAS, IPS, IFS, and IRS officers must undergo the UPSC Mains before advancing to the IAS interview/UPSC Personality Test stage.

How many candidates appeared for the UPSC Mains 2022?

As per UPSC guidelines, the total candidates allowed to appear for UPSC Mains range from twelve to thirteen times the number of Civil Service vacancies for that exam year. For UPSC 2022, with a total of 1011 vacancies (previously 861), approximately 13 thousand candidates are expected to have participated in UPSC Mains 2022.

How to apply for the UPSC Mains 2023?

Following the declaration of results for the Civil Services Exam (Preliminary), successful candidates are required to complete the online Detailed Application Form (DAF) for UPSC Mains on the official website (

The UPSC Mains DAF comprises six modules/sections:

  • Personal
  • Educational Information
  • Parental Information
  • Employment Information
  • Upload documents
  • Final Submission

Certain fields, such as name, date of birth, and UPSC Mains exam center, will be automatically populated in the UPSC Mains DAF based on the information provided during the UPSC online application for CSE (Preliminary).

For UPSC Mains, the required documents to be uploaded with the DAF can be checked here.

Note – After Final Submission, no online changes are permitted. Hence, candidates should exercise caution and verify all details while completing the DAF for UPSC Mains.

Additionally, since this DAF forms the foundation for many questions in the IAS interview/UPSC Personality Test stage, it is advisable to keep a copy for reference.

Preparation Strategy for the UPSC Mains 2023

Current Affairs holds significant importance in the UPSC Exam, encompassing both the Prelims and the UPSC Mains. It is advisable for aspirants to ideally prepare for Current Affairs over a span of 12-15 months. For instance, considering that the UPSC Mains exam in 2023 is scheduled from September 15, 2023, candidates should focus on Current Affairs from June 2023 onwards.

Key sources for Current Affairs preparation for the IAS exam in 2023 include:

  • Yojana Magazine
  • Newspapers (The Hindu/The Indian Express)
  • Press Information Bureau (PIB)
  • Economic and Political Weekly (EPW)
  • Given the overlapping syllabuses of UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains, candidates are encouraged to prepare for both exams simultaneously. According to UPSC guidelines, marks in the Civil Services (Main) exam are not awarded for superficial answers, emphasizing the importance of answer writing practice.

A crucial aspect of IAS preparation involves practicing UPSC previous year question papers. Those gearing up for the upcoming Civil Services examination can access and download the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers from the provided link.

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern for the IAS 2023

The UPSC Mains or Civil Services Examination (Main) pattern underwent revision in 2015. According to the updated structure, the UPSC Mains 2023 will consist of nine theory papers of the essay descriptive type. Merit ranking will be based on seven out of the nine papers. Additionally, candidates are required to select one optional subject for the UPSC Mains, and more details about UPSC Mains optional subjects will be discussed later in the article.

The total marks for the UPSC Mains exam amount to 1750 (7 papers * 250 marks each). Each paper has a duration of three hours.

Below is the UPSC Mains pattern for the Civil Services Exam 2023:

S.No.PapersSubjectNature of ExamTotal Marks
1Paper AIndian LanguageQualifying300
2Paper BEnglishQualifying300
3Paper IEssayCounted for Merit250
4Paper IIGeneral Studies (GS) ICounted for Merit250
5Paper IIIGeneral Studies (GS) IICounted for Merit250
6Paper IVGeneral Studies (GS) IIICounted for Merit250
7Paper VGeneral Studies (GS) IVCounted for Merit250
8Paper VIOptional Subject Paper-ICounted for Merit250
9Paper VIIOptional Subject Paper-IICounted for Merit250

Important information regarding the UPSC Mains and UPSC Mains Syllabus

Key information about UPSC Mains and the UPSC Mains Syllabus:

An aspirant’s ranking in the merit list is determined by their marks in the UPSC Mains and IAS interview.

The UPSC Mains aims to gauge the depth of a candidate’s knowledge, awarding marks only for responses that are “relevant, meaningful, and succinct.”

Questions in the UPSC Mains evaluate aspirants’ basic understanding, analytical abilities, and perspectives on conflicting socio-economic goals, objectives, and demands.

While UPSC asserts that General Studies papers (Paper II to Paper V) can be answered by a well-educated person without specialized study, candidates are encouraged to review previous year UPSC question papers to assess the necessity for “specialized study.”

Candidates may use Scientific (Non-Programmable) calculators if required during the UPSC Mains.

The examination level for optional subjects in UPSC Mains is akin to an honors degree (between bachelor’s and master’s level), with the exception of engineering, Law, and Medical Science, which are limited to the bachelor’s degree level.

UPSC Mains Syllabus – IAS Exam 2023

The UPSC Mains syllabus can be categorized into two sections:

Qualifying Papers

  • Paper A
  • Paper B

Papers considered for merit ranking

  • Essay
  • General Studies (Paper II to Paper V)
  • Optional Subject (Two Papers)

UPSC Mains Syllabus and Exam Pattern for Qualifying Papers

In UPSC Mains, candidates must achieve a minimum of 25% marks in both Paper A and Paper B; otherwise, their marks in other papers will not be considered. The pattern/syllabus for qualifying papers in UPSC Mains is outlined below:

PaperExam Pattern
Paper A – Indian Language (any of the Indian languages listed in the 8th schedule of the Constitution)Comprehension of given passages.Precis WritingUsage and VocabularyShort EssaysTranslation from English to the Indian Language and vice-versa
Paper B – EnglishComprehension of given passagesPrecis WritingUsage and VocabularyShort Essays

Important information regarding UPSC Mains qualifying papers

Paper A and Paper B assess the candidates’ ability to comprehend and articulate coherent views in the specified language. The marks obtained in Paper A and Paper B during UPSC Mains do not contribute to merit ranking. However, if candidates fall below the 25% threshold in either of these papers, their marks in the remaining papers will not be disclosed.

The difficulty level of Paper A and Paper B is equivalent to that of a Matriculation (or equivalent) standard. Notably, Paper A (Indian Language) is not mandatory for candidates from Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim during UPSC Mains.

UPSC Mains Syllabus for Essay paper

The UPSC Mains syllabus lacks a designated section for the Essay paper. In the UPSC Mains essay paper, candidates are required to compose two essays from a selection of provided options, with a total weightage of 250 marks. According to UPSC guidelines, candidates are anticipated to stay closely aligned with the essay’s subject, organize their thoughts systematically, and express themselves concisely. Recognition will be granted for effective and precise expression.

UPSC Mains Syllabus for General Studies

The UPSC Mains syllabus for GS papers covers broadly the following subjects/areas

UPSC Mains Paper II – General Studies IUPSC Mains Paper III – General Studies IIUPSC Mains Paper-IV – General Studies IIIUPSC Mains Paper V – General Studies IV
Indian Heritage and CultureGovernanceTechnologyEthics
History and Geography of the WorldConstitutionEconomic DevelopmentIntegrity
SocietyPolityEnvironment, BiodiversityAptitude
Social JusticeInternational relationsSecurity and Disaster Management

UPSC Mains Syllabus for Optional Subjects

Following the alteration in the UPSC Mains pattern, candidates are now required to select a single optional subject. This choice entails two papers related to the optional subject, amounting to a total of 500 marks (250 marks for each of the two papers), which contribute to the merit ranking.

The list of optional subjects for the UPSC IAS exam 2023, along with links to the comprehensive syllabi for each optional subject, is provided below:

List of optional subjects in UPSC Mains 2023Detailed Syllabus
1AgricultureSyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Agriculture
2Animal Husbandry and Veterinary ScienceSyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Animal Husbandry & Vet Science
3AnthropologySyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Anthropology
4BotanySyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Botany
5ChemistrySyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Chemistry
6Civil EngineeringSyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Civil Engg
7Commerce & AccountancySyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Commerce & Accountancy
8EconomicsSyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Economics
9Electrical EngineeringSyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Electrical Engg
10GeographySyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Geography
11GeologySyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – Geology
12HistorySyllabus for UPSC Mains Optional – History
13LawSyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Law
14ManagementSyllabus for CSE (Main) Optional – Management
15MathematicsSyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Mathematics
16Mechanical EngineeringSyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Mech Engg
17Medical ScienceSyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Medical Science
18PhilosophySyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Philosophy
19PhysicsSyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Physics
20Political Science & International RelationsSyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Political Science & IR
21PsychologySyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Psychology
22Public AdministrationSyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Public Administration
23SociologySyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Sociology
24StatisticsSyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Statistics
25ZoologySyllabus for CSE(Main) Optional – Zoology
26Assamese (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Assamese Lit
27Bengali (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Bengali Lit
28Bodo (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Bodo Lit
29Dogri (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Dogri Lit
30Gujarati (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Gujarati Lit
31Hindi (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Hindi Lit
32Kannada (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Kannada Lit
33Kashmiri (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Kashmiri Lit
34Konkani (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Konkani Lit
35Maithili (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Maithali Lit
36Malayalam (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Malayalam Lit
37Manipuri (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Manipuri Lit
38Marathi (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Marathi Lit
39Nepali (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Nepali Lit
40Oriya (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Oriya Lit
41Punjabi (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Punjabi Lit
42Sanskrit (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Sanskrit Lit
43Santhali (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Santhali Lit
44Sindhi (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Sindhi Lit
45Tamil (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional -Tamil Lit
46Telugu (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Telugu Lit
47Urdu (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – Urdu Lit
48English (Literature)Syllabus for IAS Mains Optional – English Lit

FAQs related to UPSC Mains 2023 – Civil Services (Main) Examination

1. How many papers are there in UPSC Mains?

A. UPSC Mains consists of nine papers, including two qualifying papers (English and Indian Language) and seven merit-based papers, covering a wide range of subjects.

2. What is the duration of UPSC Mains Paper?

A. The duration of each paper in UPSC Mains varies, with most papers being of three hours duration. However, some papers may have different durations.

3. Is Hindi an optional subject in UPSC Mains?

A. Yes, Hindi is one of the optional subjects that candidates can choose for their UPSC Mains examination.

4. What is the syllabus for UPSC Mains Hindi Paper?

A. The UPSC Mains Hindi syllabus includes topics such as essay writing, grammar, translation, and literature. It aims to assess the candidate’s proficiency in Hindi language and literature.

5. Can candidates write the UPSC Mains exam in Hindi?

A. Yes, candidates can choose to write their answers in Hindi for the UPSC Mains examination. The commission provides bilingual question papers in Hindi and English.

6. Can I choose any optional subject for UPSC Mains?

A. Yes, candidates can choose any one optional subject from the list provided by UPSC for Papers VI and VII in the Mains examination. The optional subject should align with the candidate’s interests and strengths.

7. Are there any restrictions on the choice of optional subjects in UPSC Mains?

A. While there are no strict restrictions, candidates should consider their background, interest, and the availability of study material before choosing optional subjects for UPSC Mains.

8. What is the next step after the declaration of UPSC Mains Result?

A. After the UPSC Mains Result is declared, candidates who qualify move on to the next stage, which is the Personality Test (Interview). The final selection is based on the cumulative marks obtained in the Mains and Interview stages.

9. Can I request a re-evaluation of my UPSC Mains Answer Sheets?

A. No, the UPSC does not provide an option for re-evaluation of answer sheets. However, candidates can request a photocopy of their answer sheets for a fee to ensure transparency in the evaluation process.

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