Want To Know The Target Marks To Crack Ias Exam!

Friends, to become an IAS officer is the dream of lakhs of IAS aspirants preparing day and night for this challenging examination. But the final success in this examination is not only the product of hard work, commitment and dedication but also of a well calibrated strategy for IAS preparation. In this context, the present article discusses the target marks at each level of examination so as to prepare an effective strategy to qualify this examination. If you are also looking for the research based inputs to prepare a well thought out plan to crack civil services examination, then this write-up could prove very helpful for you.


It is the first tier of civil services examination and the first hurdle that the Civil Services aspirants have to qualify. It consists of two papers viz. General Studies Paper-1 and General Studies Paper-2. The prime objective of the Prelims examination is to select the sincere and suitable candidates for Civil Services Main Exam and filter-out the insincere candidates. Though, the marks awarded in Prelims exam is not carried forward and added to the marks awarded in Main examination yet a competitive score is required to qualify the this highly competitive tier of the civil services examination. It is critical to note that a vast majority of the candidates are filtered out at this preliminary stage and only few candidates get the privilege to appear in Civil Services Main examination which is the decisive tier of the fate of IAS aspirants.

General Studies Paper-1:This paper covers to test the general awareness of the candidates about history, geography, economy and polity of India. Besides, the candidates are also tested to be well aware of the basic principles of general science and their practical applications in human life. They are also expected to be alert and conscious of the recent happenings and latest developments around them. This paper carries 200 (100 MCQs carrying 2 marks each). Only this paper is counted for merit to qualify for the preliminary examination. The following table shows the cut-off marks of the last candidate qualified in Prelims exam and recommend for next stage of examination i.e., IAS Main Examination.


  Cut-Off Marks for Qualifying in Prelims Examination (out of 200 Marks)
Category 2019 2018 2017 2016 Avg. %
GEN 98 98 105 116 104 52
OBC 95 97 103 111 102 51
SC 82 84 89 99 89 44
ST 77 83 89 96 86 43
Source: UPSC official website

A trend Analysis of the cut-off marks of the last 4 years shows that the average cut off marks to qualify Prelims exam for different categories rangesfrom 43% to 52%. However to be on safe side, candidates from General and OBC categories should target 55% marks i.e., 110 to secure sure selection in the Prelims examination. Whereas the candidates from SC and ST categories should target 50% marks i.e. 100 in order to qualify preliminary examination.

GS-Paper-2: The purpose of this paper is to test the administrative aptitude and the skills required to discharge the job responsibilities of a civil servant. This paper is popularly known as CSAT i.e., Civil Services Aptitude Test. The paper consists of language comprehension skills, quantitative aptitude, data interpretation skills and reasoning abilities among the candidates. This paper carries 200 (80 MCQs carrying 2.5 marks each). Though, this paper is not counted for merit to qualify preliminary examination but one needs to qualify this paper by securing at least 33% marks that is about 67 marks. Thus, it is sincerely suggested that candidates who are from Hindi background and had late exposure to English and are not comfortable with general mathematics must not take this paper non-seriously as it has been seen in past years that several aspirants had to suffer because they couldn’t secure qualifying marks in this and their precious attempt went into vain. It becomes more painful and disappointing when candidates are left with only one or two attempts and have lost their at least their one attempt owing to their failure to secure minimum qualifying marks.

Therefore, adequate practice should be done particularly in questions of quantitative aptitude i.e. general arithmetic because often the students from humanities background find it difficult to solve questions in given time. Therefore they should practice questions from arithmetic and reasoning to solve these questions in time.


A. Qualifying Papers

  1. General English: This paper carries 300 marks and the level of this paper is of higher secondary level. The objective of this paper is to test the ability of Civil services aspirants to read, write and comprehend English as they are to work either under All India Services or Central Services both are of national character and require functional knowledge of English language because of the lingual diversity in India and the want of second language for communication. This paper is also not counted for merit but the candidates having low or late exposure to English must take this paper sincerely as all candidates have to secure minimum qualifying marks as prescribed by UPSC. However the level of paper is of higher secondary level one doesn’t need to be a specialist in language. However, one must know the basic grammar and English comprehension skills in order to qualify this paper.
  2. Modern Indian Language: This paper also carries 300 marks however the scores are not counted for merit but the candidates need to score minimum qualifying marks as prescribed by UPSC. The candidates can choose any modern Indian language from the list of languages. The level of this paper is also of a higher secondary level.

B. Merit-based Papers

There are 7 papers which are counted for merit in the IAS Main (written) examination. Each paper carries 250 marks and consists of descriptive questions carrying 10 and 15 marks each. The maximum marks of written examination counted for final merit is 1750. There are four General studies papers and an Essay paper which are compulsory for all the candidates. Besides these papers, theIAS candidates are required to choose an Optional subject of their choice from the listed subjects. From the chosen Optional subject the candidates are required to appear in two papers carrying 250 marks each. The following table shows the cut off marks of the last candidate qualified in the Main (written) Exam for Personality test/Interview.


  Cut-Off Marks for Qualifying in Prelims Examination (out of 200 Marks)
Category 2019 2018 2017 2016 Avg. %
GEN 751 744 809 787 780 45
OBC 718 732 777 745 743 42
SC 706 719 756 739 730 42
ST 699 719 749 730 724 41
Source: UPSC official website

As per the average trend of past four years’ cut-off marks in IAS Main (written) examination shows that candidates can be called for the interview if they secures 40% to 45% off marks in Main (written) examination depending upon their category. It means that a candidate has to secure 700 marks to 800 marks. But in order to secure one’s high rank in civil services from Gen or OBC category, one has to target 50% i.e., 875 marksin written examination for sure selection. For candidates belonging to SC and ST categories can secure this by targeting 45% marks i.e., about 790 marks. In these cases, if the candidates also perform well in interview then they will be placed at higher rank and will get their preferred service, usually the Indian administrative Services but if they performs average than their chances of final selection in other services are also bright however theymaysecure a comparatively at lower rank in final result.


Personality test is popularly known as IAS interview which carries 275 marks. It has been observed from previous years’ trend that a candidate may be awarded as low as 40% marks that is 110 marks and as high as 220 marks depending upon the performance of the candidates on the basis of their personality attributes reflected during the interview. Therefore, we can see the difference in performance of the different candidates, mainly varies by 90 to100 marks. If we take the average marks in an IAS interview they are about 150-160 marks for average performance. 180-190 marks for good performance and 210-220 marks for excellent performance.


Final result is calculated on the basis of the marks secured in the Main (written) examination and in the Interview which account for 2075 (1750+275). The following table shows the cut off marks of the last candidate (out of 2075) qualified for appointment from different categories during 2016 to 2019.


  Cut-Off Marks for Qualifying in Prelims Examination (out of 200 Marks)
Category 2019 2018 2017 2016 Avg. %
GEN 961 982 1006 988 984 49
OBC 925 938 968 951 945 47
SC 898 912 944 937 923 46
ST 893 912 939 920 916 45
Source: UPSC official website

If we consider the trend of cut-off marks in final selection then we can easily conclude that the candidates selected for appointment from GEN category on an average secured about from 49% i.e., 984 marks and OBC candidates on an average scored about 47% i.e., 945 marks. Whereas SC and SC candidates on an average scored 46 % and 45% (i.e., 923 and 916 marks) respectively. Thus, for final selection GEN and OBC candidates should target as high as 55% marks and SC and ST candidates should target 50% to be sure of their selection in Civil Services Examination with top rank.