Civil Services Examination (India)

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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 (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS) among others. Also simply referred as UPSC examination[1]. 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 paper are counted followed by a personality test (interview).[1]


The Civil Services Examination is based on the British Raj Era Imperial Civil Service tests, as well as the civil service tests conducted by old Indian empires such as in the Mauryan Empire and Mughal Empire. The Civil Services Examination is considered to be one of the most difficult competitive examination in India. On an average, 900,000 to 1,000,000 candidates apply every year and the number of candidates appearing to sit the preliminary examination is approximately 500,000.[2] The examination consists of the following stage. Results are published in mid-August.

  • Stage I: Main examination - Held in October every year.
  • Stage II: Personality Test (interview) - held in March each year. 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:[1]



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

  • A degree from a Central, State or a Deemed university[1]
  • A degree received through correspondence or distance education
  • A degree from an open university[3]
  • A qualification recognized by the Government of India as being equivalent to one of the above[1]

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.[1]

  • Candidates who have appeared in an examination, the passing of which would render them educationally qualified enough to satisfy one of the above points[4]
  • 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 August 1 of the year of examination. Prescribed age limits vary with respect to caste reservations.

Number of attempts[edit]

The number of times a candidate may attempt the exam is limited as follows:[3]

  • General category candidates = 6.[6]
  • 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.[7]

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 in different years
Year Number of candidates appeared for Number of cadidates

called for interviews



Prelims Mains
2010 269036 11865 2589 1043
2011 243236 11237 2415 1001
2012 271442 12190 2674 1091
2013 3,23,949 14178 3003 1228
2014 4,51,602 16286 3308 1364
2015 4,65,882 15000* 2797 1164
2016 4,59,659 15445 2961 1209

List of Services[edit]

Following are the services which one gets on qualifying the Civil Service Examination.[8]

All India Services

Central Services (Group A)

Group B Services


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. Until 2011, when it was revamped,[10] the preliminary pattern was sustained with only minor changes once every ten to fifteen years.[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.[11] Both papers have multiple choice objective type questions only.[11] 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 polity panchayti Raj system and governance, economic and social development, environmental ecology, biodiversity, climate change and general science, Art and culture.[11]
  • 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.[11]

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.[12]

In May 2015, the Government of India announced that Paper II of the preliminary examination will be qualifying in nature i.e. it wouldn't be graded for eligibility in Mains Examination & a candidate needs to secure at least 33% marks in order to be eligible for graded on basis of marks of Paper I of Preliminary Examination.[1]


The Civil Services Mains Examination consists of a written examination and an interview.[1][13]


The written examination consists of nine papers, two qualifying and seven rankings in nature. 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.[14] However, after some controversy, the qualifying papers for Indian languages and English were restored to the examination.[15]

Civil Services New Mains Format
Paper Subject Marks
Paper 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, 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 one subject to be selected by the candidate from the list of optional subjects below (250 marks for each paper) 500
Sub Total (Written Test) 1750
Personality Test (Interview) 275
Total Marks 2025

List of Languages[edit]

The examination is offered in the following languages, with the name of the script in braces:[16]

Optional subjects[edit]

The subjects available for Papers VI and VII are:[16] Public administration is one of the most sought after optional subjects in Mains examination as it has overlapping content with other subjects like Current Affairs, History, Polity. The standards of Optional papers is of honours level. Paper I is theoretical but Paper II is often dominated by Current Affairs and Application based questions.

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


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. The interview standards are very high and require thorough preparation as well as commitment.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Union Public Service Commission Central Civil Services Examination, 2011 Notice" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "FAQs". Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  4. ^ "Civil Services Examination - Overview". Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "List of Services through the Civil Services Examination".
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ a b "Change of pattern in UPSC". The Pioneer. 22 June 2011. Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d "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.
  12. ^ "CSAT Row : Marks of English paper will not be included for merit". Patrika Group (4 August 2014). Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  13. ^ List of Optional Subjects - CS (Main)
  14. ^ "PM approves changes in civil services exam pattern". LiveMint. February 27, 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Govt rolls back changes to UPSC mains exam". The Hindu. 2 September 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  16. ^ a b "CIVIL SERVICES EXAMINATION, 2015" (PDF). Union Public Services Commission. 23 May 2015. p. 5. Retrieved 23 June 2016.

External links[edit]