Changes in UPSC Civil Services Exam Pattern for 2015

UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) 2015 notification is published. The date of Prelims exam is 23rd August 2015. There are approximately 1129 vacancies (around 150 vacancies less than the number of vacancies reported for 2014). The online Applications can be filled up to 19th June, 2015 till 11:59 PM after which the link will be disabled. Candidates are required to apply online by using the website Aspirants may click to download the official UPSC Civil Services Exam notification 2015.

Changes in UPSC Civil Services Exam Pattern for 2015

Popularly known as IAS exam, UPSC CSE will undergo some major changes in 2015. The main change regarding exam structure is with the first stage, the preliminary exam. Though there are two papers (Paper I and Paper II) for Prelims 2015 as in the previous years, for 2015 Prelims the General Studies Paper II which deals with aptitude (CSAT) has been made qualifying in nature. The minimum qualifying marks for Paper II is fixed at 33 percent. Thus, the merit of the Preliminary Examination will be determined purely on the basis of marks obtained in the General Studies Paper I, provided the candidate has minimum qualifying marks for General Studies Paper II.

Prelims 2015 merit ranking out of 200 marks and not 400 marks!

Ever since the aptitude paper (CSAT) was introduced in 2011, Prelims ranking was based on total of marks obtained for Paper I and Paper 2, ie. 400 marks. Even now the exam is conducted for 400 marks, but now as the government has decided to make Paper 2 qualifying in nature, the merit of the Preliminary Examination will be purely on the basis of marks obtained in the General Studies Paper 1. So Prelims 2015 merit ranking will be out of 200 marks and that effectively means tighter competition as hundreds of candidates will share the same mark!

Reference: PIB notification about the changes in UPSC Civil Services Exam pattern.

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What does UPSC Prelims notification 2015 say?

The Commission will draw a list of candidates to be qualified for Civil Service (Main) Examination based on the criterion of minimum qualifying marks of 33% in General Studies PaperII of Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination and total qualifying marks of General Studies Paper-I of Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination as may be determined by the Commission.

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No change in syllabus or time duration for Prelims Paper 1

The syllabus for the Paper I remains the same. The test will be for 200 marks and the duration is two hours. Prelims is objective in nature and Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) can be asked from the below topics mentioned in the syllabus.

  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and Indian National Movement.
  • Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World.
    Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights
    Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics,
    Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change – that do not require
    subject specialization.
  • General Science.

Changes with respect to Prelims Paper 2

2014 Prelims notification included the English Language comprehension section in Paper 2 syllabus, but because of the CSAT row, these questions were cancelled in the actual exam. The English Language comprehension skill portion from General Studies Paper-II of Civil Services(Preliminary) Examination will continue to remain excluded and hence there is no mention about the English language comprehension (without Hindi translation) in Prelims 2015 notification. Apart from this, the syllabus for Prelims Paper 2 remains the same. But the paper has turned qualifying in nature and the marks of this paper will not be counted to the final Prelims score.

Paper II will be of 200 marks. Duration of this paper will be two hours. You need at-least 66 marks on Paper II to get your marks on Paper 1 be counted for merit ranking. Prelims is objective in nature and Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) can be asked from the below topics mentioned in the syllabus.

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem-solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data
    interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)

UPSC Prelims 2015 Mock Tests

Revision in UPSC Mains syllabus

A periodic revision has been done in several subjects. So all candidates are advised to check the UPSC CSE notification (May 22, 2015) for more details.

More changes in future…

An Expert Committee would be constituted to comprehensively examine various issues raised from time to time namely, eligibility, syllabus, scheme and pattern of Civil Services Examination. Till such time the Government takes decision on the recommendation of the above Committee, the General Studies Paper-II(CSAT) in the Civil Services(Preliminary) Examination will remain a qualifying paper with a minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%. The English Language comprehension skill portion from General Studies Paper-II of Civil Services(Preliminary) Examination will continue to remain excluded.

Reference: PIB notification about the expert committee for changes in UPSC exam pattern.

One more chance is given to those candidates who attempted UPSC CSE in 2011!

Any candidate who finished the number of attempts permissible by UPSC but attempted UPSC CSE exam in 2011 will get one more additional attempt in UPSC CSE 2015.

What do these the changes mean to candidates who appear for Prelims 2015?

Tighter competition: 33 percent marks in Paper 2 (66 marks out of 200) may not pose trouble for most candidates, even for those who are poor in Paper 2. So things now boil down to Paper 1. A few mistakes can cost candidates a year in a 200 marks exam. Probably many candidates who used clear prelims solely on the basis of marks in Paper 2 will go out.

Knowledge matters: Paper 2 is skill/aptitude based and that comes natural to many candidates. But Paper 1 is knowledge based and it requires time to finish the topics. Aspirants now need to focus more on acquiring knowledge and develop proper understanding on traditional subjects as well as current issues.

Requires time: As subjects like History, Polity, Economics etc. cannot be be studied within a short span of time, those who start early will be at an advantage. If preparation not begun early, it might not be easy for freshers (read engineers). It may turn a difficult task to clear the IAS exam in the same year of graduation for engineers, but still not impossible. Marks may become proportional to the time spent on subjects.

Rural students: This pattern removes the advantage for those who are good at maths and reasoning (predominantly engineers or management graduates). The new pattern is more knowledge-oriented. We are nobody to judge whether reasoning/logic should be preferred to knowledge. We just know that this exam should select the best brains of this country. This exam should also be as much inclusive as possible to be attempted and cleared by candidates without any difference of urban or rural background. Only time can tell if the 2015 CSE pattern help rural students, as the coaching institutes mushroom in metros. Whatever be the case, this pattern too is not here to stay for long. When the expert committee submits their suggestions, then there can be further change in the syllabus (2016/2017).

Coaching institutes: Most coaching institutes should be happy about the new pattern unless they specialize in Prelims Paper 2. But at the same time, UPSC can always bring surprises like what happened in Prelims 2014. UPSC may explore un-digged areas in Prelims syllabus like culture or environment. They can also go deep to test the understanding and conceptual knowledge in subjects like polity and economics. Another area which can create a difference in marks can be current affairs if questions on national and international issues are included.

Conclusion: 2014 Prelims exam got 9 lakh applications for around 1300 vacancies. For 2015, not only the vacancies but also the marks counted for merit ranking went down – that means close competition. Will the number of applicants cross 10 lakh this year?

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