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The Civil Services Examination (CSE) is a countrywide competitive exam in India conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to recruit candidates for different civil services post of the Government of India that includes the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS), among others.

Civil Services Examination Details

Civil Services Exam Conducting Body UPSC
Civil Services Exam Dates for Prelims June/ August
Civil Services Exam Dates for Mains November/ December
Civil Services Exams Eligibility Indian aged between 21 to 32 years
Age Relaxation As per Category
Numbers of Attempts For CSE 6 (7 For OBC & Unlimited for SC/ ST)

The examination is conducted in three stages and they are:

  1. i. Preliminary examination that consists of two objective-type papers (General Studies Paper-I and CSAT Paper-II)
  2. ii. Mains examination consisting of nine papers of conventional (descriptive) type
  3. iii. Finally, the personality test or interview round

The entire process of the civil services examination from the notification of the preliminary examination to the declaration of the final results takes place roughly within a year. The candidates who get selected are recruited and trained for various services by the Central Government and then allotted to different State Cadres.

of Indian Civil Services Post

Given below is the complete list of posts for which candidates are recruited through the civil services examination conducted every calendar year by the UPSC.

The civil services posts are categorized into two categories: Group ‘A’ and Group ‘B’.

Group ‘A’ services includes three All India Services (the IAS, IPS and the IFS) and 18 other services as indicated in the table below. Group ‘B’ has five services under it.

(i) Indian Administrative Services (IAS)
(ii) Indian Forest Services (IFoS)
(iii) Indian Police Services (IPS)

(i) Indian Foreign Service (IFS)
(ii) Indian P & T Accounts & Finance Service
(iii) Indian Audit and Accounts Service
(iv) Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise)
(v) Indian Defence Accounts Service
(vi) Indian Revenue Service (I.T.)
(vii) Indian Ordnance Factories Service (Assistant Works Manager, Administration)
(viii) Indian Postal Service
(ix) Indian Civil Accounts Service
(x) Indian Railway Traffic Service
(xi) Indian Railway Accounts Service
(xii) Indian Railway Personnel Service
(xiii) Post of Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force
(xiv) Indian Defence Estates Service
(xv) Indian Information Service (Junior Grade)
(xvi) Indian Trade Service
(xvii) Indian Corporate Law Service
(xviii) Indian Revenue Service (CBEC)
(i) Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service (Section Officer’s Grade)
(ii) Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service
(iii) Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Police Service
(iv) Pondicherry Civil Service
(v) Pondicherry Police Service

The UPSC civil services exam is more commonly known as the IAS exam because of the popularity of its most famous and sought-after services, the IAS.

Civil Services Exam Schedule

Given below is a general timeframe during which the UPSC schedules important events of the exam like notification and exam dates.

Civil Services Exam Schedule

UPSC CSE Exam Process

The three stages in the IAS exam process are illustrated in the figure below. You must understand that the UPSC exam is a hard-fought exam with intense competition. About 9 – 10 lakh candidates apply for the exam, but only about half of this figure actually take the UPSC prelims. Each stage eliminates failed candidates and at the end of the whole process, only about a thousand actually make it to the final rank list. Again, the number of vacancies varies every year and is notified by the commission in its UPSC exam notification every year.

The examination is conducted in the following three stages:

Recruitment Process

After the declaration of the final results of civil services exam in May of the following year, the training program for the selected candidates generally begins in September.


Eligibility for the civil services examination is as follows:


A candidate must be a citizen of India for the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Foreign Service and the Indian Police Service.

A candidate must be one of the following to get into the Indian Revenue Service:

  1. A citizen of India
  2. A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia or Vietnam with an intention of permanently settling in India

A candidate must be one of the following to get into other services:

  1. A citizen of India
  2. A citizen of Nepal or a subject of Bhutan
  3. A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia or Vietnam with an intention of permanently settling in India


Candidates should have at least one of the following educational qualifications:

  1. A degree from a Central, State or Deemed university
  2. A degree attained through correspondence or distance education
  3. A degree from an open university
  4. A qualification recognized by the Government of India as being equivalent to one of the above

Candidates who meet the below criteria are also eligible to take the exams, however one should submit the proof of eligibility from a proficient authority of their university/institution during the UPSC Mains Examination, failing which the candidate may not be allowed to take the exam.

  1. Candidates who have appeared in an examination and waiting for the results and after success in the exam, if they meet one of the above educational criteria
  2. Candidates who have passed the final exam of the MBBS degree but have not yet completed an internship
  3. Candidates who have passed the final exam of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), ICSI and ICWAI
  4. A degree from a private university
  5. A degree from any foreign university recognized by the Association of Indian Universities


A candidate should have attained the age of 21 years and must not have attained the age of 32 years as on August 1 of the year of the examination. So, for the 2018 UPSC CSE, a candidate must have attained at least 21 years and not yet attained 32 years of age as on 1 August 2018. There are relaxations in the age criterion for the reserved category. Read details of the UPSC age limit criterion.

Numbers of attempts

The number of times a candidate may attempt the exam is limited and again it is based on the category and is as follows:

  1. General Category candidates = 6
  2. OBC category candidates = 7
  3. SC/ST candidates = unlimited attempts till 37 years of age

If a candidate appears for one of the papers in the preliminary examination then it is considered as an attempt, which also includes ineligibility or withdrawal of the application. But, if a candidate applies to take the exam but fails to attend the exam then it is not considered as an attempt.

Civil Services Posts/Vacancies and Selection

Normally, the number of vacancies differs every year. The number of candidates who clear the preliminary examination and qualify for the mains exam is generally 11 or 12 times the number of vacancies while the number of candidates selected for the final interview is twice the number of vacancies or posts to be filled.

According to the prevalent norms, reservation in vacancies for SC, ST and OBC category is applicable at every level of the selection process.

Civil Services Exam Pattern

Preliminary Exam

The civil services preliminary examination pattern was based on the recommendations of the Kothari Commission (1979) till 2010, and the exam had two papers namely, General Studies as paper 1 and any one of the optional subjects among 23 subjects as paper 2 for a total of 300 marks.

Once in every 10 to 15 years, the prelims exam pattern saw minor changes, until in 2011 when it was completely overhauled. The optional prelims paper was done away with and in its place, the CSAT paper was made paper 2. The CSAT or the Civil Services Aptitude Test aims to assess the analytical abilities and understanding of a candidate rather than their ability to memorize. At present, the new prelims exam includes two papers for two hours duration with 200 marks for each paper. Both the papers are objective in nature with negative marking for incorrect answers.

The two papers of prelims are defined as below:

Recruitment Process

In May 2015, the Government of India declared that CSAT Paper II of the civil services prelims exam will qualifying in nature and not counted for the merit ranking list, however, candidates should score at least 33% in the CSAT paper order to move to next stage of the examination i.e., the UPSC mains.

Mains Exam

The Civil Services Mains Examination is a written descriptive examination and consists of nine papers out of which two are qualifying in nature and seven are ranking in nature.

Papers Subjects Marks
Paper A One of the Indian languages (listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India) mentioned below to be selected by the candidate (Qualifying) 300
Paper B English (Qualifying) 300
Paper I Essay 250
Paper II General Studies I (Indian heritage and culture, history and geography of the world and society) 250
Paper III General Studies II (Governance, constitution, polity, social justice and international relations) 250
Paper IV General Studies III (Technology, economic development, bio-diversity, environment, security and disaster management) 250
Paper V General Studies IV(ethics, integrity and aptitude) 250
Papers VI, VII Two papers on subjects to be selected by the candidate from the list of optional subjects below (250 marks for each paper) 250
Sub Total (Written Test) 1750
Personality Test (Interview) 275
Total Marks 2025

List of Languages

The examination can be taken in the following languages and the script is mentioned in the brackets:

Assamese (Assamese) Kashmiri (Persian) Punjabi (Gurumukhi)
Bengali (Bengali) Konkani (Devanagari) Sanskrit (Devanagari)
Bodo (Devanagari) Maithili (Devanagari) Santhali (Devanagri or Ol Chiki)
Dogri (Devanagari) Malayalam (Malayalam) Sindhi (Devanagari or Arabic)
English (English) Manipuri (Bengali) Tamil (Tamil)
Gujarati (Gujarati) Marathi (Devanagari) Telugu (Telugu)
Hindi (Devanagari) Nepali (Devanagari) Urdu (Persian)
Kannada (Kannada) Odia (Odia)

Optional subjects

There are 26 optional subjects available for Papers VI and VII among which candidates can choose any subjects.

The optional subject papers are of Post Graduate level. In general, the optional Paper I is theoretical while Paper II comprises of Current Affairs based questions also.

Agriculture Literature of any one of the non-English languages listed above
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science Management
Anthropology Mathematics
Botany Mechanical Engineering
Chemistry Medical Science
Civil Engineering Philosophy
Commerce and Accountancy Physics
Economics Political Science and International Relations
Electrical Engineering Psychology
Geography Public Administration
Geology Sociology
History Statistics
Law Zoology

Candidates who pass in the qualifying papers are ranked according to the marks scored in other papers and are selected and called for interview or a personality test at the discretion of the commission.

Click here to know the Civil service exam syllabus .


The interview round is officially called the “UPSC Personality Test” and is the final hurdle to cross in order to clear the UPSC CSE. The main aim of the personality test, as the name suggests, is to assess the personality of the candidate. A competent group of eminent people, known as the UPSC board, tests the candidate’s qualities and readiness for a job in the demanding civil services through the interview. The interview does not take the form of a one-sided interrogation, but that of a purposeful discussion through which the board aims to get a picture of the mental toughness, character, clarity of thought, decision-making skills, analytical abilities, rationality, ethical values, leadership qualities, etc. of the prospective officer.

The results of the personality test, i.e., the whole UPSC CSE process, are released about 2 months after the interview round. After that, the service allocation is done according to preference lists, categories and ranks of the candidates. Generally, the service training starts in September in the various training academies in the country as per the service allotted.

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