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.
In this post, we share some important statistics collected from the official UPSC website over the previous years.
UPSC Prelims Cut-off Marks – Over the Years
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)|
|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|
|2018||774 [out of 1750]||44.22||982 [out of 2025]||48.49|
Trend Analysis of UPSC Interview Marks
Interview marks until 2012, usually ranged from 90 to 245 out of the maximum possible score of 300. That meant the interview marks varied from 30 per cent to 80 per cent, which is a very big range. The median of the interview marks was in the 55-60 percentage range.
However, from 2013, the total possible marks for interview is reduced to 275. Currently, marks are awarded in the range of 45% to 75%. Marks below 45% is not uncommon, however, it’s very rare that UPSC award marks above 75 per cent in the personality test.
Still, there is a big variation between the top interview marks and bottom interview marks awarded. If there is a 50 per cent difference between the top and bottom marks in the interview, that will account to about 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?
It 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 the 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 per cent! Five years after, in 2018, it is 49%.
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 55% in 2018!
Minimum Qualifying Marks in Prelims and Mains
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!
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 example, if the number of vacancies reported is 1200, UPSC will call 1200*12.5=approx.15,000 candidates for mains exam from the lakhs of candidates who write the Prelims.
Again, for the interview, UPSC will call about twice the number of candidates than the reported vacancies. In the above example, UPSC called about 3000 candidates for interview, which was 2.5 times the number of vacancies. UPSC selects only about 1200 candidates among the top 3000 into the final list.
Toppers’ Percentage range between 40 per cent and 55 per cent
Percentage of All India Topper in UPSC Civil Services Exam was around 60 per cent 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!
In 2013, the Topper’s percentage (AIR 1) was around 48% and the last recommended candidate in general category scored 38%. In 2018, the toppers percentage is 55% while that of the last recommended general category candidate is 49%.
If we observe the trend from 2013 to 2018, one can see an increase in mains marks and a tighter competition. Also, now, there is more cluttering per mark.
Will there be an increase in cut-off marks in the coming years?
If questions are easy, and evaluation is liberal, the cut-offs may increase.
However, if UPSC follows the same valuation standards, Civil Services Exam may still remain low scoring – with minor fluctuations.
As students in the online age of WhatsApp, telegram, and test-prep websites are now fully-equipped with a lot of resources, they are better prepared to deal with the requirements of IAS exam.