How to Become an IAS Officer

In simple words, you can become an Indian Administrative Officer by clearing the civil services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) every year. This exam recruits officers into the civil services of the country which includes services like the IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and many more. Among all the services, the IAS is the most coveted and considered the most prestigious of all. This is the reason the UPSC civil services exam is known by the sobriquet ‘IAS exam’ although in reality there is no IAS exam! Read on to know how to become IAS officer by clearing the UPSC civil services exam.

How to become IAS officer?

Stage #1: Deciding on your true calling

Preparing for the civil services is a time-consuming affair because unlike many other competitive exams, it has three rounds and many dimensions to it. So, before you embark on this journey, you must decide whether it is what you really want. Ideally, if it’s your heart’s desire to serve your country and be a part of the system to bring about positive changes, you should consider the IAS as a career option. It is challenging and demanding, but it can also be immensely satisfying and fulfilling. You can reach to be the Cabinet Secretary of India. Career prospects and perks aside; you can also enter the hall of fame of those officers whose names fill the heart of every Indian with pride. Think T N Seshan, U Sagayam, S R Sankaran, Armstrong Pame and so on.

Read about the IAS job profile.

Stage #2: Conducting a recce

In this stage, you must gather information about the mountain you are going to conquer. Find out all about the IAS exam schedule and updates. You can get all the latest news and official notifications about the civil services exam by regularly visiting BYJU’S Free IAS Prep.

IAS exam format

There are three rounds in this exam.

Round 1 – UPSC Prelims

This round consists of two papers. The following table gives the details about the IAS prelims.




Total Marks

Negative Marking

Number of Questions

General Studies I


2 hours




General Studies I (CSAT)


2 hours





Check out the UPSC syllabus for prelims here. Only if you score 33% in the CSAT and the required cut-off in the GS Paper I, you will be eligible to sit for the UPSC mains exam.

Round 2 – UPSC Mains

Here, you have to give 9 descriptive papers. There are four General Studies papers, 2 optional papers, 2 language papers (one English and one Indian language) and one essay paper. Check the following table for details:




Paper A

One Indian Language


Paper B



Paper 1



Paper 2

GS Paper 1


Paper 3

GS Paper 2


Paper 4

GS Paper 3


Paper 5

GS Paper 4


Paper 6

Optional Paper 1


Paper 7

Optional Paper 2



Out of the 9 papers, the language papers (English and Indian language) are of a qualifying nature and not counted for the merit ranking. You have to choose one optional subject out of the list given by the UPSC for both the optional papers. If you score the required cut-off in the mains exam, you will be called for the UPSC personality test.

Check out the UPSC syllabus for mains here.

Round 3 – UPSC Personality Test

In this final round of the IAS exam, you will be interviewed by the UPSC board and judged on, apart from knowledge, various aspects of your personality like leadership, clarity of thoughts and expression, ability to tackle stress, presence of mind, general awareness, etc. If you clear this round, you will find your name in the final merit list put out by the UPSC. After this, you will be allotted a service and cadre depending on your rank, category and the number of vacancies available in that category. The IAS requires a high rank as it is the most sought after service among all the services.

Also read | The Last All India Rank to get the Prestigious IAS, IPS and IFS

The last thing to do in Stage 2 is to go through the latest UPSC syllabus in detail. This will give you an idea of the subjects you have to study for the exam, and also the extent of detail you have to cover. Also remember to go through the previous years’ UPSC question papers. This will enlighten you on the kind of questions asked in the IAS exam. A combined perusal of the past question papers and the UPSC syllabus will reveal that the UPSC asks almost all the questions from the syllabus but with a current affairs angle to it.

But don’t get overwhelmed about the mammoth nature of the task ahead of you. Any gigantic mountain can be conquered by taking baby steps one at a time.

Stage #3: Charting your IAS study plan

In this stage, you should break up the syllabus and make a realistic and time-bound study plan. Resolve yourself to stick to the plan no matter what.

Also see | UPSC Preparation Plan from Tina Dabi

Stage #4: Marching ahead

This is the stage where you actually start studying. You will have to spend long hours at the study table. But also ensure to take the much-needed occasional breaks. Avoid burnout. A systematic approach can make your IAS preparation a smooth journey. Have a dedicated strategy for each round namely the UPSC prelims, the UPSC mains and the UPSC interview. BYJU’S gives you tested strategy and subject notes to make your life easier! We also focus on current affairs. To become IAS officers, it is imperative that you give special attention to this section. You must read the daily newspapers, important journals like Yojana, updates on PIB, and basically understand and be able to analyse any news that is of national importance politically, economically and socially. BYJU’S presents many sections exclusively to aid your current affairs preparation. Check out our Daily News Analysis, Gist of PIB, Gist of Yojana, Gist of Rajya Sabha TV, Issues in News, etc.

Stage #5: Assessing your course

It is extremely important that you take periodic tests to assess your preparation. Taking mock tests both for the prelims and the mains helps you know your weak areas like whether it is a few topics that require extra attention or a particular subject, or whether you need to up your speed while answering the papers. This is one of the most important steps in knowing how to became IAS officer.

Stage #6: Keeping the faith

Have faith in yourself and your abilities. Harbouring doubts about your strengths only diminishes them. If you have adopted the right strategy and combined it with intense and steadfast effort, you will get the desired results and find your way into the hallowed Indian civil services.

All the best!

Visit BYJU’S Website for strategy and articles on free IAS prep and all the latest on UPSC IAS exam.