Tackling the compulsory language paper in UPSC mains

Every year about 10-12 percent candidates are unable to qualify the compulsory language paper in UPSC mains. It is also called paper A in UPSC mains. This means all their hard work goes in vain as their other paper’s marks are not taken into account. Worst part is they cannot even know their marks of other papers. It is thus strongly suggested that compulsory language paper should not be taken lightly.


Structure of the paper 

The type of questions asked are –

1. Essay – 100 marks

2. Reading comprehension – 60 marks

3. Precis – 60 marks

4. Translation :
a) English to compulsory language (e.g. Hindi) – 20 marks
b) Compulsory language to English – 20 marks

5. Grammar and basic language usage – 40 marks


Qualifying marks

In the 2016 notification for Civil services examination, UPSC declared the qualifying marks for the compulsory language paper to be 25% i.e 75 marks out of 300.



Let me try to put forward a general approach. I am telling this keeping in mind the Hindi compulsory paper. However, it can adopted for other languages too –

1. You can have any Hindi guide book available for class 10 CBSE, for eg the Laxmi Publication Navyug book
Navyug Hindi Vyakaran IX & X (Course A)

2. When you don’t feel like doing anything, read some essays, idioms & phrases (muhaware and lokoktiyan), grammar etc from that book. Just casual reading, so that you don’t lose touch with the subject.

3. Go through few previous year question papers. You can find these at the UPSC website ‘previous year questions’ section.


While attempting the paper 

4. While writing the paper in exam, you may follow this sequence –

a) Start with reading comprehension. This is often the most easiest. Best thing about it is you don’t have to write much. Also you get immense help in putting right words from the passage itself.

b) Precis – Same advantage as passage. Sometime they might be a little tough. But then it can be managed.

c) Grammar – Answer all that you know, though most people will be able to answer only about half the questions correctly.

d) Translation – Attempt the Hindi to English one first. They are often easier compared to the English to Hindi one. You do not have to be totally accurate in translating the sentence. When a sentence seems complicated, just give a general translation so that its meaning is understood.

By this time solving the above sections, you must have got enough words, vocabulary and usage and now will be ready to write the essay. Only thing is to make sure that you have approx 40 minutes left for essay.

e) Essay – Use simple sentences and words, so as to avoid making spelling mistakes. If word limit is not mentioned you can take it to be 100 words. make sure your handwriting is readable. also beautify it by underlining important stuff. Beautification is one way to overcome the shortage of content

All these will be enough to get you above 75 marks.


1000 Prelims MCQs with answer & detailed explanation @ Rs 350. Click here for more information.

Please read these important articles about prelims preparation

1. How UPSC asks current affairs in GS Prelims

2. How to practice prelims MCQs for UPSC

3. Applying logic in UPSC General Studies Prelims


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