UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus and Resources: Paper A & B

Dear Aspirants,

The second phase of the UPSC CSE Examination is the Main exam. It is a descriptive type paper held in offline mode. The main exam tests candidates’ overall intellectual traits & understanding.

Paper A & B are qualifying papers on Indian Languages & English. These papers test candidates’ abilities to read & understand prose, and to express their ideas correctly through languages.


Pattern of questions

1. Comprehension of passages

2. Precis writing

3. Usage and Vocabulary

4. Short Essays

5. Translation from English to the Indian Language & vice versa.


The marks obtained in these papers are qualifying in nature and will not be counted for ranking.


Resources & preparation

1. Read Newspapers such as The Hindu and magazines, novels and a variety of text.

Reading a newspaper regularly is an indispensable part of the UPSC CSE Exam Preparation. This will not only keep you abreast with the current affairs but will also give you the knowledge to express opinions during your essay writing.

While reading a newspaper, it is important that you focus on the issue, rather than the news. It’s also a good idea to take notes while reading it. For a more detailed guide on how to effectively read & assimilate a newspaper, read: How to read Newspapers effectively for UPSC CSE Exams.

Recommended book: Proficiency in Reading Comprehension by Ajay Singh

2. Keep a dictionary handy. If you come across any difficult word, look it up immediately and try and use it in your conversations to improve your vocabulary.

3. Brush up your grammar. We recommend: High school Grammar and Composition by Wren and Martin.

The following eBooks contain sample questions and tips for English Grammar:

Comprehensive English Language Guide Part 1

Comprehensive English Language Guide Part 2

4. Pick any recent (Jan 2016 – present) incident from National or International news and briefly write an essay on it. This will not only help you improve your knowledge in current affairs but also hone your essay writing.


For more articles on UPSC Civil Services Exam:

UPSC CSE Prelims General Studies Paper I Syllabus & Resources

UPSC CSE Prelims General Studies Paper II Syllabus & Resources

UPSC CSE 2017 Notification

UPSC CSE List of Services

An IPS Officers Strategy to Crack UPSC CSE


Click here to take a FREE UPSC (IAS) Mock Test.



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