How many attempts for the UPSC exam?

Every year, lakhs of aspirants apply for the Civil Services Examination, commonly known as UPSC or IAS Exam. The eligibility criteria of the exam give a head start to the aspirants, which also includes information on how many attempts are there for the UPSC Exam. 

This article will provide you with the information on UPSC Exam Attempt Limit for each category (General, SC/ST/OBC, EWS/PwBD). 

Number of Attempts in UPSC Exam – Overview

There are a few exams that do not limit the number of attempts, but the Union Public Service Commission clearly mentions the UPSC exam maximum attempts for each category in its official notification every year. 

Candidates must realize that the Civil Services Exam is a highly competitive exam and one has to clear all the stages in one go to get into the services. It is not an easy task to clear all the three levels in one go, and an attempt go in vain if the aspirant fails in the interview stage also.

Stages of the Exam:

The three stages of the UPSC CSE Exam are: The Prelims level which is objective type, Mains level is descriptive and has nine papers, and the Interview stage tests the personality of the candidate. 

Learn about these stages separately from the linked articles below:

The aspirants can learn about other exam information as important as UPSC exam attempts, in detail, from the links provided below:

What is the UPSC exam attempt limit?

In general, the UPSC Exam maximum attempts are six (6). However, there is relaxation given to a few categories based on community or other criteria. The official notification of the UPSC CSE exam says that every candidate appearing for the examination who is otherwise eligible shall be permitted six (6) attempts at the CSE. However, relaxation in the number of attempts will be available to the SC/ST/OBC and PwBD category candidates who are otherwise eligible. The number of attempts available to candidates who belong to different categories (including the relaxation) is tabled below:

How many attempts for the UPSC Exam?
Category to which the Candidate Belongs  Number of Attempts
GL (General) 6
EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) 6
OBC (Other Backward Classes) 9
SC /ST (Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes) Unlimited
PwBD (Persons with Benchmark Disability) of GL/EWS/OBC 9
PwBD (Persons with Benchmark Disability) of SC/ST Unlimited

Apart from the UPSC exam attempts limit, the commission also sets a bar on the age of the candidate. Similar to the number of attempts, a few relaxations in age limit also has been provided to different categories of candidates. The candidates can read more on UPSC Age Limit, from the linked article. 

What is an Attempt according to the UPSC?

According to the official notification of UPSC, an attempt in CSE Exam is considered to be taken up in the following situations:

  • An attempt at a  Preliminary  Examination shall be deemed to be an attempt at the Civil Services Examination. 
  • If a  candidate actually appears in any one paper in the Preliminary Examination, it will be deemed that the candidate has made an attempt at the Examination. 
  • Notwithstanding any subsequent disqualification/cancellation of candidature, the fact of appearance of the candidate at the examination will count as an attempt. 

Can an aspirant clear UPSC in my last attempt?

Yes, it is possible to clear UPSC in the last attempt also. There have been many who have cleared UPSC in their last chance. Moreover, not all candidates are able to clear the exam on their first attempt. Every year, it is quite disheartening that only a few candidates get into the final merit list and the rest has to wait for giving another trial in the exam. There are a lot of candidates who do not clear the first level – Prelims, even after five trials. 

In India, there are professional exams that judge the merit of the candidate based on the number of attempts. But in UPSC, the merit of the student is not judged based on the number of attempts. There might be a question in the interview to the candidate – why it took so many trials and what went wrong. For these questions, the candidate has to answer genuinely. Apart from that, it doesn’t decide the merit of the candidate. 


As a beginner to this preparation, everyone aspires to crack the exam on the very first attempt. But unfortunately, this is not a selection exam but an elimination exam as popularly known because lakhs of candidates apply for the exam and only a few thousand get into the final list of selection. However, to succeed in fewer attempts and not wait till the last attempt, read some strategies of IAS Toppers from the linked article. 

More UPSC Preparation Links:

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