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What are the cut-off marks for UPSC?

Marks needed to qualify UPSC Civil Services Prelims and Mains have 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.

UPSC Prelims Cut-off Marks – Over the Years

Year

Cut-off Marks

Percentage

2005

284/450

63.11

2006

282/450

62.66

2007

256/450

56.88

2008

244/450

54.22

2009

250/450

55.55

2010

248/450

55.11

2011

198/400

49.5

2012

209/400

52.25

2013

241/400

60.25

2014

205/400

51.25

2015

107.34/200

53.67

2016

116.00/200

58.00

2017

105.34/200

52.67

2018

98/200

49.00

2019

98/200

49.00

2020

92.5 /200

46.61

2021

87.5 /200

43.77

Mains and ‘Mains+Interview Marks’ (Total Marks) of Last Recommended Candidate in UPSC Civil Services Examination

Year

Mains Marks of the last candidate (General Category) 

Mains Percentage
of the last candidate (%)(General Category) 

Mains+Interview marks of the last candidate (General Category) 

Mains+Interview Percentage of the last candidate (%) (General Category) 

2005

986/2000

49.3

1203/2300

52.3

2006

975/2000

48.75

1179/2300

51.26

2007

1005/2000

50.25

1210/2300

52.6

2008

954/2000

47.7

1161/2300

50.47

2009

899/2000

44.95

1127/2300

49

2010

904/2000

45.2

1134/2300

49.3

2011

842/2000

42.1

1090/2300

47.39

2012

700/2000

35

936/2300

40.69

2013

562/1750

32.1

775/2025

38.27

2014

678/1750

38.74

889/2025

43.90

2015

676/1750

38.62

877/2025

43.30

2016

787/1750

44.97

988/2025

48.79

2017

809/1750]

46.22

1006/2025

49.67

2018

774/1750

44.22

982/2025

48.49

2019

751/1750

42.91

961/2025

47.45

2020

736/1750

42.05

944/2025

46.61

2021

745/1750

42.57

953/2025

47.06

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 percent 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% are 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 the bottom interview marks awarded. If there is a 50 per cent difference between the top and bottom marks in the interview, that will account for about 140 marks, which is by now means a meagre thing to neglect! That difference is enough to shatter the 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 the 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, that in 2015 the total percentage of marks of the last recommended candidate from the 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, SC 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 53% in 2019!

Minimum Qualifying Marks in Prelims and Mains

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 the 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 the OBC category this year, the mark of the last rank candidate in the OBC category becomes the cut-off mark under the 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 1000*12.5=approx.12,500 candidates for the 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 2500 candidates for interviews, which was 2.5 times the number of vacancies. UPSC selects only about 1000 candidates among the top 2500 in 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 the 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 2019, one can see an overall 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.

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