Civil Services Examination

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For a worldwide view, see Civil service examination.

The Civil Services Examination (CSE) is a nationwide competitive examination in India conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment to 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.[1] Of all the Civil Services only two, namely Indian Administrative Service and Indian Foreign Service are premier civil services of Government of India as appointment to anyone of these renders a person ineligible to reappear in Civil Services Examination.[2] The examination is one of the toughest examinations in India with success rate of 0.1%-0.3% with more than 900,000 applicants. It is conducted in two phases - the Preliminary examination, consisting of two objective-type papers (General Studies and Aptitude Test), and the Main examination, consisting of nine papers of conventional (essay) type followed by the Personality Test (Interview).[1] The entire process from the notification of the Preliminary examination to declaration of the final results takes roughly one year.[1]


The Civil Services Examination is based on the British Raj - era Imperial Civil Service, as well as the civil service tests conducted by old Indian Empires such as in the Mauryan Empire, and the Mughal Empire. The Civil Services Examination of India is considered to be one of the most difficult and competitive examinations in India. On an average, 9 to 10 lakh (900,000 to 1,000,000) candidates apply every year and the number of candidates appearing is roughly 4.5 lakh for the examination. Aspirants must complete a three-stage process, with a final success rate of about 0.3% of the total applicants.

  • Stage I: Preliminary examination - This is qualifying test held in August every year. Notification for this is published in May. Results are published in mid-October.
  • Stage II: Main examination - This is the main test, held in December every year. Results are usually published in the second week of March.
  • Stage III: Personality Test (Interview) - It is the final test and is held in April/May every year. Final results are usually announced in the month of May every year

The training program for the selected candidates usually commences on 1 September every year.


The eligibility norms for the examination are as follows:[1]



All candidates must have a minimum of any of the following educational qualifications:

  • A degree from a Central, State or Deemed university[1]
  • A degree received through Correspondence Education or Distance
  • A degree from an Open University[3]
  • A qualification recognized by the Government of India as being

equivalent to either of the above[1] The following candidates are also eligible, but have to submit proof of their eligibility from a competent authority at their institute/university at the time of the main examination, failing which they will not be allowed to attend the exam.[1]

  • Candidates who have appeared in an examination, the passing of which

would render them educationally qualified enough to satisfy any of the above points[4]

  • Candidates who have passed the final exam of the MBBS degree but

have not yet completed their internship

  • Candidates who have passed the Final exam of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India(ICAI), ICSI and ICWAI
  • A degree from a private university
  • A degree from any foreign university recognized by Association of

Indian Universities (AIU)


Prescribed age limits vary with respect to the caste reservations. The minimum age for everyone is 21 years. The upper age limit for General category is 26 years. One who turns 21 on August 1 is eligible where as one who turns 26 on August 1 of the year of examination is not eligible. For OBC category upper age limit is 28, and for SC/ST it is 29 years. Upper age limit relaxation[5] is provided to certain candidates who are backward with respect to other factors and physically handicapped people.[6]

Numbers of attempts[edit]

The number of attempts a candidate can give the exam is limited as follows:[3]

  • General Category Candidates and OBC Category Candidates under the Creamy layer = 6[7] attempts
  • OBC Category Candidates = 9 attempts
  • SC/ST Candidates = Unlimited

However these candidates are requested to bear in mind:

  1. An attempt at a Preliminary Examination shall be considered to be an attempt at the Examination.
  2. If a candidate actually appears in any one paper in the Preliminary Examination, he/she shall be deemed to have made an attempt at the Examination.
  3. Not withstanding the disqualification/cancellation of candidature, the fact of appearance of the candidate at the examination will count as an attempt.
  4. Candidates just applied but not appeared at the exam is not an attempt.

According to the information published on the website of the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, the Narendra Modi's government is planning to reduce the number of attempts. Making it 3 for General category, 5 for OBC category, and 6 for SC/ST category. If decided, then this change will come with effect from 2015 year of examination.[8]

Vacancies and Selection[edit]

Generally the number of vacancies varies every year. In the preliminary examination, the number of candidate selected for the mains is 11 or 12 times the number of vacancies and in case of the main examination, the number of candidates selected for the interview is twice the number of vacancies. As per existing policies, reservation for SC/ST/OBC is applied to each level of the selection process. For example, if the number of vacancies in a given year is 1000, and 100,000 candidates appear for the preliminary examination; the top 11,000 or 12,000 scorers will be selected for the mains and similarly, out of those 12,000 only the top 2,000 scorers will be called for the interview subject to their respective reservation quota.

In 2006, around 400,000 candidates applied for fewer than 500 vacancies and around 7,500 got through the preliminary and appeared in the Mains exam. In 2010, 5,47,698 candidates appeared for the preliminary exam.[9]

To secure a place in the highly sought after Indian Administrative Service (IAS), a candidate must secure a rank in the top 70, a success rate of around 0.025 percent.

The number of vacancies in 2011 was approximately 880.[1]

Exam Statistics[4]
Year Preliminary Mains
Category-wise Vacancies(Selection)
SC ST OBC General Total
1995 NA(NA) 98(101) 49(49) 165(192) 333(303) 645(645)
1996 NA(NA) 125(138) 57(59) 174(212) 383(330) 739(739)
1997 2,65,761(1,30,198) 89(94) 43(46) 166(215) 323(266) 621(621)
1998 2,71,517(1,22,363) 53(60) 28(30) 114(142) 275(238) 470(470)
1999 3,09,501(1,35,086) 53(63) 27(30) 97(127) 234(191) 411(411)
2000 2,25,555(1,19,398) 54(58) 29(34) 100(128) 244(207) 427(427)
2001 2,56,673(1,38,240) 47(52) 39(42) 97(131) 234(192) 417(417)
2002 3,01,585(1,57,486) 38(38) 22(22) 88(88) 162(138) 310(286)


The pattern of the Preliminary examination up to 2010 was based on the recommendations of the Kothari Commission (1979). It included two examinations, one on general studies worth 150 marks, and the second on one of 23 optional subjects worth 300 marks.[4][10] Until 2011, when it was revamped,[10] the preliminary pattern was sustained with only minor changes once every ten to fifteen years. It is possible that in the coming years there can be some more changes in the format.[10]

From 2011 onwards, the Preliminary examination, now popularly known as the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)( officially it is still called General Studies Paper-1 and Paper-2), intends to focus on analytical abilities and understanding rather than the ability to memorize. The new pattern includes two papers of two hours duration and 200 marks each.[9] Both papers have multiple choice objective type questions only.[9] They are as under:

  • Paper I tests the candidate's knowledge on current events, history of India and Indian national movement, Indian and World Geography, Indian Policy and governance, Economic and social development, environmental ecology, biodiversity, climate change and general science.[9] To qualify minimum marks should be 30.
  • Paper II tests the candidates' skills in comprehension, interpersonal skills, communication, logical reasoning, analytical ability, decision making, problem solving, basic numeracy, data interpretation, English language comprehension skills and mental ability.[9] To qualify minimum marks should be 70.

Note: These papers are qualifying in nature and are not used for ranking. Hence their marks are not added to the total. Candidates who fail these papers as per the Commission's standards are not eligible for the mains.


The Civil Services Mains Examination consists of a written examination and an interview.[1]


The written examination consists of nine papers, two qualifying and seven ranking in nature.[1] The range of questions may vary from just one mark to sixty marks, twenty words to 600 words answers. Candidates who pass qualifying papers are ranked according to marks and a selected number of candidates are called for interview or a personality test at the Commission's discretion

According to the new marks allocations in Civil Service Examination 2013 there are some changes made in the examination according to the suggestion of the Prof. Arun. S. Nigavekar Committee.[11] However, after some controversy, the qualifying papers for Indian languages and English were restored to the examination.[12]

In August 2014, the Centre announced that English marks in CSAT-II will not be included for gradation or merit and 2011 candidates may get a second chance to appear for the test next year.[13]

Civil Services New Mains Format[1][4]
Paper Subject Marks
Paper I Essay 250
Paper II, III, IV, V General Studies with new topics (250 marks for each paper) 1000
Papers VI,VII Any one subject (having 2 papers) to be selected from the prescribed optional subjects (250 marks for each paper) 500
Personality Test (Interview) 275
Total Marks 2025


Officially called 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.

The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination, but of a natural, though directed and purposive conversation that is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.

The interview is not intended to be a test either of the specialised or general knowledge of the candidate, which has been already tested through written papers. Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study, but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their own state or country as well as in modern currents of thought and in new discoveries which should rouse the curiosity of all well-educated youth.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Union Public Service Commission Central Civil Services Examination, 2011 Notice". Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "FAQs". Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Civil Services Examination - Overview". Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c d e "Changes in the civil service examination". Hindustan Times (New Delhi). 21 June 2011. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c "Change of pattern in UPSC". The Pioneer. 22 June 2011. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011. 
  11. ^ "PM approves changes in civil services exam pattern". First Published: Wed, Feb 27 2013. 07 46 PM IST. Retrieved 25 March 2013.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ Govt rolls back changes to UPSC mains exam
  13. ^ "CSAT Row : Marks of English paper will not be included for merit". Patrika Group (4 August 2014). Retrieved 4 August 2014. 

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