Last 5 Years – Change in UPSC Syllabus and Pattern

Note: This year notification from UPSC has clearly stated that there is no change in the syllabus for UPSC Examination 2017. This article is only an attempt to formulate the series of changes that UPSC Syllabus has seen over the last five years.

It’s not a secret that although its steady and stealth changes; UPSC has maintained its repo towards having a tact syllabus and pattern of the examination. We should also acknowledge that even though we have seen quite a change in UPSC syllabus and pattern, to our surprise, most of it are on the positive side.

Some background on UPSC Syllabus and Pattern

UPSC is considered as the toughest exam in the world. There are trolls that say its syllabus has everything that’s under the sun. This fact, while chuckles a lot of us, is frightening if you are planning to prepare for the examination. This alleged urban bias exam, UPSC, is conducted in three stages; Prelims, Mains and the Personality Test.

Who decides the changes in UPSC Syllabus and Pattern?

The Union Government of India appoints an expert committee usually headed by a former IAS who takes over the task and systematically evaluate the effectiveness of the existing scheme of the Civil Services examination. The committee refers to certain disciplines that assure the inclusiveness in the selection process. The committee also reviews the recommendations of previous expert committees.

Terms of reference of the committee:

  • Plan of Examination
  • System of Evaluation
  • Mechanism of designing
  • Logistical requirements for conduct

To form an opinion—the expert committee also looks for suggestions and feedbacks from the public. Since It has a direct effect on the student body, students are generally expected to give their suggestion on the following areas; Age relaxation, Numbers of attempts Permitted, Test of English Proficiency and Optional Subject; but you can also suggest an improvement attributed to any part of the UPSC.

Changes in Last 5 Years

In last 5 years, UPSC has introduced various major and minor changes in its examination pattern and syllabus;


  • UPSC replaced the optional subject in Prelims with the CSAT.


  • UPSC replaced 2 optional subjects with 1 optional subject.
  • UPSC restructured the number of General Studies Papers. UPSC divided previous 2 papers of GS into 3, and introduced a new paper; Paper 4 – ‘Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude’.
  • The total number of Marks allotted for essay increased from 200 to 250.
  • Increase in the number of questions and decrease in the word limit


  • UPSC increased the number of essays in the exam from 1 to 2. Now there are two sections with four optional choices which previously was a single section with four optional choices.
  • Total number of attempts permitted for the exam increased from 4 to 6
  • Maximum age limit increased from 30 to 32 for general candidates


  • Pre-2015, both GS and CSAT were considered for merit. From 2015, only GS remained as a merit test while CSAT was turned into a qualifying exam.


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