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Civil Services Examination

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Civil Services Examination
TypePaper-based test
AdministratorUnion Public Service Commission
Skills testedGeneral knowledge, writing, comprehension, logic etc
PurposeMeasuring the eligibility of candidates for recommending as civil servants
Year started1855 (169 years ago) (1855)[1]
Duration240 minutes (preliminary)
1620 minutes (main)
20 – 40 minutes (personality test)
Score range0 – 2025
OfferedOnce a year
Restrictions on attempts6 (General)
No limits (SC/ST)
Annual number of test takers11,35,697 (registrations for preliminary, 2022)
5,73,735 (appeared for preliminary, 2022)[2]
Fee₹100 (males)
Used byGovernment of India
Qualification rate0.078% (2023)[3]

The Civil Services Examination (CSE) is a standardized test in India conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment to higher civil services in the Government of India, such as the All India Services and Central Civil Services (Group A and a few Group B posts).[4]

It is conducted in three phases: a preliminary examination consisting of two objective-type papers (Paper I consisting of General Studies and Paper II, referred to as the Civil Service Aptitude Test or CSAT), and a main examination consisting of nine papers of conventional (essay) type, in which two papers are qualifying and only marks of seven are counted; finally followed by a personality test (interview).[4][5] A successful candidate sits for 32 hours of examination during the complete process spanning around one year.

List of services[edit]

Those who pass the Civil Service Examination may be selected to join the following services:

All India Services
Central Civil Services (Group A)
Central Civil Services (Group B)

Previously, passing the Civil Services Examination also allowed candidates to join the Central Secretariat Service (CSS)[a],[6][7] Indian Ordnance Factories Service (IOFS)[b] or the Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS).[8][9][10]


The Civil Services Examination is based on the British era Imperial Civil Service tests, as well as the civil service tests conducted by old Indian empires such as the Mauryan Empire and Mughal Empire. It is one of the most difficult competitive examinations in not just India but across the world, with more than a million candidates every year. A single attempt can take two complete years of preparation - one year before the prelims and one year from the prelims to the interview. As of 2014, on an average, 900,000 to 1,000,000 candidates apply every year and the number of candidates sitting in the preliminary examination is approximately 550,000.[11] Results for the Prelims are published in mid-August, while the final result is published in May of the next year.

  • Stage I: Preliminary Examination - Held in June every year. Results are announced in August.
  • Stage II: Mains
  1. Examination - Held in October every year. Results are announced in January.
  2. Personality Test (interview) - Held in March. Final results are usually announced in May.

After the completion of the Medical examination of the successful candidates and other necessary formalities, the training program for the selected candidates usually commences the following September.


Eligibility for the examination is as follows:[4]


  • For the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service and the Indian Foreign Service the candidate must be a citizen of India.
  • For other services, the candidate must be one of the following:
  1. A citizen of India.
  2. A citizen of Nepal or a subject of Bhutan.
  3. A Tibetan refugee who settled permanently in India before 1 January 1962.
  4. A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia or Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.

Educational qualification[edit]

All candidates must have as a minimum one of the following educational qualifications:[4]

  • A degree from a Central, State or a Deemed university
  • A degree received through correspondence or distance education
  • A degree from an open university[12]
  • A qualification recognized by the Government of India as being equivalent to one of the above

The following candidates are also eligible, but must 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.[4]

  • Candidates who have appeared in an examination the passing of which would render them educationally qualified enough to satisfy one of the above points.[13]
  • Candidates who have passed the final exam of the MBBS degree but have not yet completed an internship.
  • Candidates who have passed the final exam of ICAI, ICSI and ICWAI.
  • A degree from a private university.
  • A degree from any foreign university recognized by the Association of Indian Universities.


The candidate must have attained the age of 21 years and must not have attained the age of 32 years (for the General category candidate) on 1 August of the year of examination. Prescribed age limits vary with respect to caste reservations.[14]

  • For Other Backward Castes (OBC) the upper age limit is 35 years.
  • For Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), the limit is 37 years.
  • For Defence Services Personnel disabled in operations during hostilities, the limit is 40 years.
  • For Candidates belonging to ex-servicemen including Commissioned officers and ECOs/SSCOs who have rendered military services for at least five years as of 1 August, of the year and have been released
    1. on completion of assignment (including those whose assignment is due to be completed within one year from 1 August of the year otherwise than by way of dismissal or discharge on account of misconduct or inefficiency or
    2. on account of physical disability attributable to Military Service or
    3. on invalidation or
    • Relaxation of up to a maximum of five years will be given in the case of ECOs/SSCOs who have completed an initial period of assignment of five years of Military Service as of 1 August of the year and whose assignment has been extended beyond five years and in whose case the Ministry of Defence issues a certificate that they can apply for civil employment and that they will be released on three months' notice on selection from the date of receipt of an offer of appointment, the limit is 32 years.
  • For ECOs/SSCOs who have completed an initial period of assignment of five years of Military Service, the limit is 32 years.
  • For PWD candidates, the limit is 37 years.
  • For Domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir from 1 January 1980 to 31 December 1989, the limit is 32 years.
  • For the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category, the standard age limits apply.

Number of attempts[edit]

The number of times a candidate can appear for the exam are given below.[12]

  • General category candidates – 6[15]
  • OBC category candidates – 9
  • SC/ST candidates – unlimited attempts till 37 years of age.

Appearing to attempt one of the papers in the preliminary examination is counted as an attempt, including disqualification/ cancellation of candidature. However, applying to sit the exam but failing to attend is not counted as an attempt.[16]


The pattern of the Preliminary examination, also known as the Prelims exam 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. Until 2011, when it was revamped,[17] the preliminary pattern was sustained with only minor changes once every ten to fifteen years.[17]

From 2011 onwards, the preliminary examination 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.[18] Both papers have multiple-choice objective type questions only.[18] They are as follows:

General Studies Paper I[edit]

Tests the candidate's knowledge of current events, the history of India and the Indian national movement, Indian and world geography, Indian polity Panchayati Raj system, and governance, economic and social development, environmental ecology, biodiversity, climate change, and general science, Art and culture.[18]

General Studies Paper II (CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test)[edit]

Tests the candidate's 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.[18] It is qualifying, and the marks obtained in this paper are not counted for merit. However, the candidate must score a minimum of 33 percent in this paper to qualify for the Prelims exam.[19]


In August 2014, the Centre announced that English marks in CSAT will not be included for gradation or merit and 2011 candidates may get a second chance to appear for the test next year.[20]

In May 2015, the Government of India announced that Paper II of the preliminary examination would be qualifying in nature i.e. it will not be graded for eligibility in the Mains Examination and a candidate will need to score at least 33% to be eligible for grading based on marks of Paper I of the Preliminary Examination.[4] Those who qualify in the Prelims become eligible for the Mains.


The Civil Services Mains Examination consists of a written examination and an interview.[4]

Mains Examination[edit]

The Civil Services Main written examination consists of nine papers, two qualifying and seven ranking in nature. The range of questions may vary from just one mark to sixty marks, twenty words to 600 words answers. Each paper is of a duration of 3 hours. Candidates who pass qualifying papers are ranked according to marks and a selected number of candidates are called for an 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 Prof. Arun. S. Nigavekar Committee.[21] However, after some controversy, the qualifying papers for Indian languages and English were restored.[22]

Civil Services New Mains Format[19]
Paper Subject Marks
Paper A[A] (One of the Indian languages listed below, to be selected by the candidate (from the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India) (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, policy, 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
Paper VI Two papers on one subject to be selected by the candidate from the list of optional subjects below (250 marks for each paper) 250
Paper VII 250
Sub Total (Written Test) 1750
Personality Test (Interview) 275
Total Marks 2025

1.A The paper A on Indian Language will not, however, be compulsory for candidates hailing from the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.

List of languages[edit]

The examination is available in the following languages, with the name of the script in parentheses:[23]

Optional subjects[edit]

The subjects available for Papers VI and VII are:[24]

Personality test[edit]

Unofficially called the "interview", 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 purposeful conversation that is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.

The interview is not intended to test either of the specialized 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. The interview standards are generally high and require thorough preparation as well as commitment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ From 1946 until 2003, 50 percent of direct recruitment into CSS cadre was through the UPSC CSE. In 2003, the direct recruitment through CSE has been permanently stopped and now happens through UPSC Limited Departmental Competitive Examination.
  2. ^ The service has been removed from the list of services that are offered by UPSC through Civil Services Examination, since 2022.


  1. ^ "UPSC | History" (PDF). upsc.gov.in. UPSC. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  2. ^ PIB (23 May 2023). "The final result of Civil Services Examination (CSE), 2022 has been declared today, the 23rd May, 2023. Highlights of the result are given below:". Public Information Bureau. Retrieved 27 June 2024.
  3. ^ India Today Education Desk (19 April 2024). "UPSC aspirant's '12 attempts, no selection' post strikes a chord, goes viral". India Today. Retrieved 27 June 2024.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Union Public Service Commission Central Civil Services Examination, 2011 Notice" (PDF). upsc.gov.in. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  5. ^ "Change in the UPSC exam pattern over the years". The Indian Express. 18 March 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  6. ^ "Mode of Recruitment into CSS cadre". Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Federal Government takes first step in downsizing CSS officers". Business Standard. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  8. ^ "Indian Railway merges eight service cadres into one newly created cadre". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  9. ^ "Addendum to the Notice of Civil Services Examination- 2022" (PDF). Union Public Service Commission. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  10. ^ "Recruitment to Indian Railway Management Service (IRMS) to be done through a specially designed examination (IRMS Examination)". pib.gov.in. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  11. ^ "Over 4.5 lakh students appear for UPSC preliminary exam". The Indian Express. 24 August 2014. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  12. ^ a b "FAQs". upsc.gov.in. Archived from the original on 3 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  13. ^ "Civil Services Examination - Overview". upsc.gov.in. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2023" (PDF). UPSC. 8 February 2023.
  15. ^ https://www.upsc.gov.in/sites/default/files/Notif-CSP-23-engl-010223.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  16. ^ Kumar, S. Vijay (18 November 2014). "Centre to lower age limit for civil service aspirants". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  17. ^ a b "Change of pattern in UPSC". The Pioneer. 22 June 2011. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  18. ^ a b c d "Changes in the civil service examination". Hindustan Times. New Delhi. 21 June 2011. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  19. ^ a b "Civil Services Examination (updated pattern) 2021". Jagranjosh. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  20. ^ "CSAT Row: Marks of English paper will not be included for merit". Patrika Group. No. 4 August 2014. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  21. ^ "PM approves changes in civil services exam pattern". LiveMint. 27 February 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  22. ^ "Govt rolls back changes to UPSC mains exam". The Hindu. 2 September 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  23. ^ "Civil Services Examination, 2015" (PDF). Union Public Services Commission. 23 May 2015. p. 5. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  24. ^ "(IAS Planner) Optional Subjects Syllabus: (Paper VI, VII,VIII, IX) | IAS EXAM PORTAL - India's Largest Community for UPSC Exam Aspirants". iasexamportal.com. Retrieved 10 July 2021.

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