Beginner’s Guide to the UPSC IAS Civil Services Examination


Welcome to the game. Let’s get you through the hoops of the UPSC Civil Services Examination. This is easier said than done, though.


About the Nature of the UPSC Exam:


The Civil Services Examination (CSE) is a national level competitive examination in India. It is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission annually, spanning over the better part of an entire year. It is conducted to recruit officers for the various Civil Services of the Government of India, including Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS) among others – better known as the ‘Indian bureaucracy.’

The examination is the toughest examination in India and one of the toughest in the World. The success rate (making it to the final list) is of the order of around 0.1%-0.3% of the applicant base. For IAS, IPS and IFS, the rate is about 1/4 of the the above figure. The number of applicants at the time of writing this article was around 1,000,000 with about half as many actually appearing for the prelims. Number of vacancies varies between 1000-1200 every year on average.

The exam is conducted in 3 stages, viz. the Preliminary (CSP), Main (CSM) and the Interview (Personality test) apart from a medical exam. The Indian Forest Service recruitment shares its preliminary stage with CSP.

The gross details such as eligibility, education, reservations, etc are notified every year at the time when the prelims form is released. Notifications are usually published on the UPSC website as a pdf, apart from being published in government employment magazines. The notifications can be downloaded form here : CSP / IFoS

You can download this year’s exam calendar and other notifications from here.


Details of Civil Services selected :


All India Services:

  1. Indian Administrative Service.
  2. Indian Foreign Service.
  3. Indian Police Service.

Central Services, Group A:

  1. Indian P & T Accounts & Finance Service, Group ‘A’.
  2. Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
  3. Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise), Group ‘A’.
  4. Indian Defence Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
  5. Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax), Group ‘A’.
  6. Indian Ordnance Factories Service, Group ‘A’ (Assistant Works Manager, Administration).
  7. Indian Postal Service, Group ‘A’.
  8. Indian Civil Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
  9. Indian Railway Traffic Service, Group ‘A’.
  10. Indian Railway Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
  11. Indian Railway Personnel Service, Group ‘A’.
  12. Post of Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force, Group ‘A’
  13. Indian Defence Estates Service, Group ‘A’.
  14. Indian Information Service (Junior Grade), Group ‘A’.
  15. Indian Trade Service, Group ‘A’ (Gr. III).
  16. Indian Corporate Law Service, Group “A”.

Central Services, Group B:

  1. Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service, Group ‘B’ (Section Officer’s Grade).
  2. Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service, Group ‘B’. (aka DANICS)
  3. Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Police Service, Group ‘B’. (aka DANIPS)
  4. Pondicherry Civil Service, Group ‘B’.) Pondicherry Police Service, Group ‘B’.

Scheme and subjects for the UPSC Preliminary and UPSC Main Examinations:

1. UPSC Preliminary Examination – The Examination shall comprise of two compulsory papers of 200 marks each. Both the question papers will be of the objective type (multiple choice questions). The General Studies Paper-II (CSAT) of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination will be a qualifying paper with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33%. The question papers will be set both in Hindi and English.

2. UPSC Main Examination – The written examination will consist of the following papers :

Qualifying Papers :

Paper-A (300 Marks) : (One of the Indian Language to be selected by the candidate from the Languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution)
Paper-B (300 Marks) : English

Papers to be counted for merit :

  • Paper-I (250 Marks) : Essay(s)
  • Paper-II (250 Marks) : General Studies-I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)
  • Paper-III (250 Marks) : General Studies -II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
  • Paper-IV (250 Marks) : General Studies -III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
  • Paper-V (250 Marks) : General Studies -IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
  • Paper-VI (250 Marks) : Optional Subject – Paper 1
  • Paper-VII (250 Marks) : Optional Subject – Paper 2

Sub Total (Written test) : 1750 Marks

  • Personality Test : 275 Marks

Grand Total : 2025 Marks

  • Candidates may choose any one of the optional subject from amongst the list of subjects given in the notification.
  • The papers on Indian languages and English (Paper A and Paper B) will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking.
  • Evaluation of the papers, namely, ‘Essay’, General Studies and Optional Subject of all the candidates would be done simultaneously along with evaluation of their qualifying papers on ‘Indian Languages’ and ‘English’ but the papers on ‘Essay’, General Studies and Optional Subject of only such candidates will be taken cognizance who attain  25% marks in ‘Indian Language and 25% marks in English as minimum qualifying standards in these qualifying papers.
  • Marks obtained by the candidates for the Paper-I-VII only will be counted for merit ranking. However, the Commission will have the discretion to fix qualifying marks in any or all of these papers

3. UPSC Interview – Also known as the “Personality Test”, the objective of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a board of competent and unbiased observers. The test is intended to evaluate the mental calibre of a candidate. In broad terms, this is really an assessment of not only a candidate’s intellectual qualities, but also social traits and interest in current affairs. Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, and intellectual and moral integrity.


Guides for Success in UPSC IAS Exam:

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