Cut-Off Marks for UPSC Civil Services Exam: Trend Analysis

Marks needed to qualify UPSC Civil Services Prelims and Mains has always been a topic of hot discussion and speculation. There are always different rumours around and many candidates are unclear about how UPSC fix the bottom cut-off. That’s why in this post, we have decided to give insights about the Cut-Off Marks for UPSC Civil Services Exam and to share some important statistics collected through RTIs and official UPSC website.

Minimum Qualifying Marks in Prelims and Mains

UPSC Exam Cut Off marks

Quoting from Civil Services Exam Rules:

Candidates who obtain such minimum qualifying marks in the Preliminary Examination as may be fixed by the Commission at their discretion shall be admitted to the Main Examination; and candidates who obtain such minimum qualifying marks in the Main Examination (Written) as may be fixed by the Commission at their discretion shall be summoned by them for an interview for personality test : Provided that candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes or Other Backward Classes may be summoned for an interview for a personality test by the Commission by applying relaxed standards in the Preliminary Examination as well as Main Examination (Written) if the Commission is of the opinion that sufficient number of candidates from these communities are not likely to be summoned for interview for a personality test on the basis of the general standard in order to fill up vacancies reserved for them.

UPSC uses the term ‘minimum qualifying mark’ instead of cut-off. This minimum qualifying mark is the mark of the last candidate (in the descending order of marks) who made it to the list, be it Mains list, Interview list or Final Rank list. As per our understanding, the figure just depends on the number of vacancies each year and nothing else. So if there are 313 vacancies under OBC category this year, the mark of the last rank candidate in OBC category becomes the cut-off marks under OBC category. Hope the point is now clear!

ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series

How will UPSC determine the numbers, ie. Calls for Mains and Interview?

It should be noted that UPSC normally calls for Civil Services Mains Exam, 12-13 times the number of actual vacancies reported for the corresponding year. For 2013, the number of vacancies reported was 1200, so UPSC called 1200*12.5=approx.15,000 candidates for mains exam from the lakhs of candidates who wrote the Prelims. Again, for the interview, UPSC calls about twice the number of candidates than the reported vacancies. For 2013, UPSC called about 3000 candidates for interview, which was 2.5 times the number of vacancies. UPSC selected only 1200 among the 3000 into the final list.

 Trend Analysis of UPSC Prelims Marks

Year Cut-off Marks Percentage
2005 284/450 63.11
2006 282/450 62.66
2007 256/450 56.88
2008 244/450 54.22
2009 250/450 55.55
2010 248/450 55.11
2011 198/400 49.5
2012 209/400 52.25
2013 241/400 60.25
2014 205/400 51.25
2015 107.34/200 53.67
2016 116.00/200 58.00
2017 105.34/200 52.67

Mains and Mains+Interview Marks (Total Marks) of Last Recommended Candidate in UPSC Civil Services Examination


Year Mains Marks (out of 2000) of the last candidate (General Category)  Mains Percentage
of the last candidate (%)(General Category) 
Mains+Interview (out of 2300) marks of the last candidate (General Category)  Mains+Interview Percentage of the last candidate (%) (General Category) 
2005 986 49.3 1203 52.3
2006 975 48.75 1179 51.26
2007 1005 50.25 1210 52.6
2008 954 47.7 1161 50.47
2009 899 44.95 1127 49
2010 904 45.2 1134 49.3
2011 842 42.1 1090 47.39
2012 700 35 936 40.69
2013 562 [out of 1750] 32.1 775 [out of 2025] 38.27
2014 678 [out of 1750] 38.74 889 [out of 2025] 43.90
2015 676 [out of 1750] 38.62 877 [out of 2025] 43.30
2016 787 [out of 1750] 44.97 988 [out of 2025] 48.79
2017 809 [out of 1750] 46.22 1006 [out of 2025] 49.67

Trend Analysis of UPSC Interview Marks

Interview marks in 2012 ranged from 90 to 245 out of the maximum possible 300. This means the marks varied from 30 percent to 80 percent, which is a very big range. The median of the interview marks was in the 55-60 percentage range. From 2013, the total possible marks for interview is reduced to 275, but the big variation between the top interview marks and bottom interview marks continued. The near 50 percent difference between the top and bottom marks in the interview comes out around 140 marks, which is by now means a meagre thing to neglect! That difference is enough to shatter hopes of many and enough to give wings to the hopes of others!

What is the cut-off score to make it to the final rank list in UPSC Civil Services Exam?

UPSC cut off marksIt all depends on the vacancies in category or community you are from. UPSC prepares a separate rank list for those under General Category, OBC, SC, ST etc and you have to make sure that you rank well within the number of vacancies listed in each category to be in the final rank list.

Also, be clear that the ‘General Vacancies’ are always filled on merit, and that means that all other categories can get into the Vacancies mentioned under General Vacancies, and not just general category candidates.

There is no reservation for general category candidates. However, the vacancies reserved for separate categories are only open to those respective candidates, and since they are reserved, there is no competition based on open-merit in these vacancies.

Ok. Back to the topic. Do you have any idea what was the minimum percentage of marks (General Category) required to make it into any of the 24 services for which UPSC conducts Civil Services Examination, during last few years?

No, it’s not in the eighties or nineties.

You might be surprised, in 2015 the total percentage of marks of the last recommended candidate from General Category was around 43 percent!

The ‘cut-off’ percentage of marks of other categories like OBC, CS and ST were 1-3 % lower than the general category.

It should also be specially noted that the percentage of marks for All India Topper was 52% in 2015!

Also read: Till Which Rank Can An Aspirant Get Into IAS, IPS or IFS?

Toppers’ Percentage range between 40 percent and 50 percent?

Percentage of All India Topper in UPSC Civil Services Exam was around 60 percent some five-six years back – when there were 2 optional subjects.

But it began to fall down later, obviously due to tougher questions, tougher evaluations, reduction in optional subject marks, and obviously due to lack of right resources to study General studies!

And in 2013, the Topper’s percentage (AIR 1) was around 48% and the last recommended candidate in general category scored 38%.

If once observe the trend from 2013 to 2016, one can see an increase in mains marks and a tighter competition.

In 2016, the topper scored 55%, while the last recommended candidate from General category scored 49%. Also, now, there is more cluttering per mark.

Is there an increase in cut-off marks?

Yes. Students are now fully-equipped with a lot of resources – mainly online.

That was not the case in 2013 when UPSC bought the syllabus change.

If UPSC follows the same valuation standards, there is no need to be surprised, if the hardworking students score record marks in the coming mains.

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