Does answering all the 20 questions in UPSC Mains become mandatory for a good score

Is it mandatory to answer all the 20 questions in UPSC Mains to ensure a good score?

In the UPSC Civil Services Examination, the main paper, also known as the written examination, is the second stage of the selection process.


Candidates who clear the preliminary exam are eligible to appear for the main exam. The main exam consists of 9 papers, including two qualifying papers and seven papers that are counted for the final selection.

 The qualifying papers are language papers, and the remaining seven papers are on various subjects such as Essay, General Studies-I, General Studies-II, General Studies-III, General Studies-IV and Optional Subjects (papers 1 & 2).

The mains paper carries a total of 1750 marks, out of which the essay paper constitutes 250 marks and optional papers with a total of 500 marks. The language papers are qualifying in nature, and one needs to score at least 25 per cent in each. The marks scored out of 1750 are considered to decide the candidates qualifying for the personality test.

The candidates who score high in the mains exam are called for an interview, which is the final stage of the selection process.

 A combined Mains exam and Personality Test score are used to prepare the final merit list.

A significant portion of the UPSC preparation is believed to include the Mains portion of your curriculum, thus making it a vital part of the CSE journey.

Knowing the mains syllabus is the first step, and how to Articulate it is the second important step.

Instead of memorizing the information, it gives you a chance to think critically. In light of this, it is important to approach this key analysis with the understanding that it requires a thorough, methodical approach that can consider issues from various angles.

Preparing for the mains exam of the UPSC Civil Services Examination requires a systematic approach and much dedication. Here are some steps that can help you in your preparation:

  1. Understand the Exam Pattern: Familiarize yourself with the exam pattern of the main exam, including the number of papers, their duration, and the types of questions that will be asked.
  2. Create a Study Plan: Based on the time you have available for preparation, create a study plan that includes a daily schedule of the subjects and topics you need to cover.
  3. Refer to the Syllabus: Go through each subject and paper in the mains exam syllabus, and list the important topics you need to focus on.
  4. Start with the Basic Concepts: Begin your preparation by mastering the basic concepts of each subject and paper. This will help you understand the more complex topics you will encounter later.
  5. Practice Writing: Practice writing answers to the questions that will be asked in the mains exam, such as descriptive, analytical, and argumentative.
  6. Take Mock Tests: Regularly take mock tests to check your progress and identify areas where you need to improve.
  7. Stay updated on Current Affairs: UPSC's mains General Studies papers have a significant portion of current affairs, make sure to read newspapers, follow current affairs news, and go through the previous year's question papers to understand the pattern of questions.

How many questions should one attempt in the Mains? 

The UPSC mains carries a 1750-point value. Additionally, the general cutoff last year was 774. Each of the seven papers is worth 250 points. 

Each paper typically has 20 questions to answer, and the time allotted is 180 minutes or 3 hours. However, there may be changes. If all the questions have the same marks, it will take about 8 to 9 minutes to respond to each one. Fix the time appropriately if the mark varies from question to question.

Several pointers to keep in mind while answering questions

  • You must present your responses well. When necessary, use diagrams, flow charts etc. Wherever appropriate, use bullet points in questions. Utilize paragraph structure with headings and subheadings for other topics. Highlight keywords, as it may be a smart idea as well. More points are awarded if you make your answer easier for the reviewer to read.
  • It is recommended that applicants set aside enough time to complete all of the essay's questions. When you are short on time, it is frequently preferable to write a brief response to each question rather than a lengthy response to only a few questions and waste much time while ignoring other sections.
  • Your score will increase to 100–120 if you can average 5–6 points for each of the 20 questions, which is fantastic!

Prior to beginning the question paper, it is advised that applicants carefully read the instructions. This is so that UPSC may alter the instructions in accordance with the question. Therefore, take care and do your best!

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