UPSC Civil Services Mains Exam consists of nine papers out of which two are Language Paper. These are qualifying papers, hence, the score obtained is not calculated while determining the final rank. You need to score 25% or 75+ marks out of 300 marks in order to pass. If you do not clear these, the UPSC will not disclose your marks in the GS, optional and essay paper.

General tips to be followed :

  • Select the language that you have a strong command over. It can be your mother tongue or the language you’ve spoken and learned since childhood.
  • For revising the grammar portion, it is recommended that you glance through the school textbooks till Class X.
  • Read newspapers in the language that you’ve chosen to improve your essay-writing and precis-writing skills.
  • Practice translation to and from your choice of language to English. It will help you in tackling the translation questions.
  • You can again refer to the newspapers for this activity.
  • Solve 2-3 previous year question papers in order to get strong command of your language.
  • Your handwriting should be neat and legible while answering the questions.
  • For attempting both the papers follow a time management according to your own convenience.
    • Paper A
      • Essay-Writing: 45 minutes
      • Reading Comprehension: 30 minutes
      • Precis Writing: 30 minutes
      • Translation: 40 minutes (20 minutes for each)
      • Grammar-Based Questions: 30 minutes
      • Revision: 5 minutes
    • Paper B
      • Essay-Writing: 60 minutes
      • Reading Comprehension: 30 minutes
      • Precis Writing: 40 minutes
      • Grammar-Based Questions: 40 minutes
      • Revision: 10 minutes

Compulsory Indian language paper :

The compulsory Indian language paper is called Paper A. You can pass in this paper by getting at least 25% of the total, i.e., 75 out of 300 marks. Paper A is not compulsory for candidates hailing from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.

Below is a list of the languages you can choose from for the UPSC language paper :

Language Script
Assamese Assamese
Bengali Bengali
Gujarati Gujarati
Hindi Devanagari
Kannada Kannada
Kashmiri Persian
Konkani Devanagari
Malayalam Malayalam
Manipuri Bengali
Marathi Devanagari
Nepali Devanagari
Odia Odia
Punjabi Gurmukhi
Sanskrit Devanagari
Sindhi Devanagari or Arabic
Tamil Tamil
Telugu Telugu
Urdu Persian
Bodo Devanagari
Dogri Devanagari
Maithili Devanagari
Santhali Devanagari or Olchiki *


*For Santhali language, the question paper will be in Devanagari script; but candidates will be free to answer either in Devanagari script or in Olchiki.

Type of Questions :

  • Essay writing:100 marks
  • Reading comprehension: 60 marks
  • Precise writing: 60 marks
  • Translation:
    • Translating English to the compulsory language: 20 marks
    • Translating the Compulsory Indian language to English: 20 marks
  • Grammar: 40 marks

Tip :

  • CBSE school level books (Std. X) will be sufficient for this paper.
  • Read a newspaper in the language that you have opted for at least 15 minutes every day.
  • Write and practice.
  • Practising previous year question papers.
  • Practice translating from English to the regional language and vice versa.
  • Handwriting should be legible and neat.
  • If your grammar skills are good, you are advised to complete the questions on grammar first.
  • Comprehension passage is usually simpler because you can spot the answers in the passage easily.
  • For the essay question, opt for simple but effective language. Avoid spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.

English paper :

Compulsory English Language Paper is Paper-B in the scheme of UPSC Mains Exam. You need to score a minimum of 25% marks or 75+ marks out of 300 to pass this paper.

It is a generic English language paper whose objectives include:

  • Assessing a candidate’s ability to read and understand serious descriptive prose.
  • Assessing a candidate’s ability to express his/her ideas correctly and clearly.

Type of Questions :

  • Essay-Writing: 100 Marks
  • Reading Comprehension: 75 Marks
  • Precis Writing: 75 Marks
  • Grammar-Based Questions: 50 Marks

Tips :

  • The best way to prepare essay-type questions is to practice! Make sure your essay is grammatically correct, coherent and well-structured.
  • Reading Comprehension involves a passage and 05 subjective questions based on this passage. In order to write effective answers, read the passage carefully. Go through the questions and re-read the passage again. Mark the relevant points which can be probable answers to the questions asked. Make sure to not copy the same sentences from the passage.
  • Precis Writing is basically the summary-writing of the given passage. Generally, the word limit is one-third of the total words of the passage. Make sure you’re not exceeding the word limit or repeating the same information again.
  • For the grammar-based questions, refer to standard books like Wren n Martin or Objective General English by S.P Bakshi.

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