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Civil Services Examination (India)

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Civil Services Examination
  • UPSC CSPE (Preliminary)
  • UPSC CSME (Mains)
TypePaper-based standardized test
Developer / administratorUnion Public Service Commission
Knowledge / skills testedWriting, English, General knowledge, others
PurposeSelection of candidates to the various posts of Civil Services of India
Year started1922 (98 years ago) (1922)[1]
Duration2 hours/paper (Prelims)
3 hours/paper (Mains)
Score / grade range0 - 200 (Prelims)
0 - 1750 (Mains)
0 - 275 (Interview)
Total = 2025 (Mains + Interview)
Score / grade validity2025
OfferedOnce a year
Restrictions on attempts6 (General), 9 (OBC & PwBD- General), no limits for SC & ST candidates
Countries / regionsIndia
LanguagesQuestion paper is only given in Hindi or English. Answers can be given in any one of the scheduled languages of India
Annual number of test takersDecrease ≈ 1 million per year appears in Preliminary exam
Prerequisites / eligibility criteriaMust be a graduate, and an Indian citizen.
Fee 100/- (for general male candidates). For other categories of candidates, the registration fee is exempted.
Scores / grades used byUnion Public Service Commission for the selection of the students to the various Civil Services of India
Qualification rateapproximately 0.1%

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 the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Indian Police Service. Also simply referred to as the UPSC examination,[2] it is conducted in three phases - a preliminary examination consisting of two objective-type papers (General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II also popularly known as 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 followed by a personality test (interview).[2]


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 considered to be the most difficult competitive examination in India. A single attempt takes two complete years of preparation - one year before the prelims and one year from prelims to interview. In total, one sits in actual exam for 32 hours from prelims till interview. On 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.[3] 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.

The training program for the selected candidates usually commences the following September.


Eligibility for the examination is as follows:[2][4]


  • For the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service and 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:[2]

  • A degree from a Central, State or a Deemed university
  • A degree received through correspondence or distance education
  • A degree from an open university[5]
  • 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.[2]

  • Candidates who have appeared in an examination the passing of which would render them educationally qualified enough to satisfy one of the above points.[6]
  • 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.[7]

  • 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 on 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 on 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 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.[5]

  • General category candidates – 6[8]
  • 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.[9]

Vacancies and selection[edit]

Generally the number of vacancies varies every year. The number of candidates that pass the preliminary examination is generally 11 or 12 times the number of vacancies, and the number of candidates selected for the final 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.

Vacancies & selection in different years[10]
Year No. of candidates applying for Prelims No. of candidates that appeared for No. of candidates
appearing for interviews
No. of candidates selected Final
Prelims Mains
2010 5,47,698 2,69,036 11,865 2,589 965 1,043
2011 4,99,120 2,43,236 11,237 2,415 999 1,001
2012 5,50,080 2,71,442 12,190 2,674 998 1,091
2013 7,76,604 3,23,949 14,178 3,003 1,122 1,228
2014 9,47,428 4,51,602 16,286 3,308 1,236 1,364
2015 9,45,908 4,65,882 15,008 2,797 1,078 1,164
2016 11,36,000 5,00,000 15,452 2,961 1,099 1,209
2017 10,00,000 (approx.) 4,56,625 13,366 2,568 1058 980
2018 11,00,000 (approx.) 4,93,972 10,468 1,994 758 759


The cut-off marks of the examination of the previous years' are given below:

Cut-off marks in different years
Year Prelims Main

(out of 1750)


(out of 2025)

Category Marks Total Marks Category Marks Category Marks
2013 General 241 400 General 564 General 775 [11]
OBC 222 OBC 534 OBC 742
SC 207 SC 518 SC 719
ST 201 ST 510 ST 707
PH-1 199 H-1 510 PH-1 725
PH-2 184 PH-2 502 PH-2 718
PH-3 163 PH-3 410 PH-3 613
2014 General 205 385 General 678 General 889 [11]
OBC 204 OBC 631 OBC 844
SC 182 SC 631 SC 830
ST 174 ST 619 ST 811
PH-1 167 PH-1 609 PH-1 816
PH-2 113 PH-2 575 PH-2 778
PH-3 115 PH-3 449 PH-3 713
2015 General 107.34 200 General 676 General 877 [11]
OBC 106 OBC 630 OBC 834
SC 94 SC 622 SC 810
ST 91.34 ST 617 ST 801
PH-1 90.66 PH-1 580 PH-1 802
PH-2 76.66 PH-2 627 PH-2 830
PH-3 40.00 PH-3 504 PH-3 697
2016 General 116 200 General 787 General 988 [4]
OBC 110.66 OBC 745 OBC 951
SC 99.34 SC 739 SC 937
ST 96 ST 730 ST 920
PH-1 75.34 PH-1 713 PH-1 927
PH-2 72.66 PH-2 740 PH-2 951
PH-3 40 PH-3 545 PH-3 817
2017 General 105.34 200 General 809 General 1006 [4]
OBC 102.66 OBC 770 OBC 968
SC 88.66 SC 756 SC 944
ST 88.66 ST 749 ST 939
PH-1 88.88 PH-1 734 PH-1 923
PH-2 61.34 PH-2 745 PH-2 948
PH-3 40 PH-3 578 PH-3 830
2018 General 98 200 General 774 General 982 [12]
OBC 96.66 OBC 732 OBC 938
SC 84 SC 719 SC 912
ST 83.34 ST 719 ST 912
PH-1 73.34 PH-1 711 PH-1 899
PH-2 53.34 PH-2 696 PH-2 908
PH-3 40 PH-3 520 PH-3 754

List of Services[edit]

Following are the services which one gets on qualifying the Civil Service Examination.[13]

All India Services

Central Services (Group A)

  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e "Union Public Service Commission Central Civil Services Examination, 2011 Notice" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  3. ^ "Over 4.5 lakh students appear for UPSC preliminary exam". The Indian Express. 24 August 2014. Retrieved 16 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Indian Administrative Service Exam - IAS-Exam". Careers360.
  5. ^ a b "FAQs". Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Civil Services Examination - Overview". Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  7. ^ "Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2019" (PDF). UPSC. 19 February 2019.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Kumar, S. Vijay (18 November 2014). "Centre to lower age limit for civil service aspirants". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  10. ^ "UPSC IAS Candidates Selection Ratio". Competition Careers360. 7 January 2020. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  11. ^ a b c "Civil Services Examination trend of Previous Years Cut off Marks | IAS Exam Portal - India's Largest Community for UPSC Exam Aspirants". Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  12. ^ Civil Services Examination, 2018
  13. ^ "UPSC Posts, Civil Services Posts, UPSC jobs List, Indian Civil Service, Indian Services Post". Retrieved 19 April 2019.