The Why, How and What of Indian Civil Services Exams–Part 2

UPSC Exams

The Indian Civil Services Exams are not easy to crack. While you have geared yourself with the motivation and guidance from teachers and counselors regarding the exam, its important to know the exact procedure of the exam. So here are the details:

Exam Procedure

Eligibility & number of attempts:


The candidate must be an Indian citizen, but in some cases, a person of Indian origin is also eligible. If you are not an Indian citizen, please be sure to check the official website for details.


Candidates need to have the following educational qualifications:

- Degree from a recognized Central, State or Deemed-to-be University

- Degree obtained through Distance/ Correspondence Education/ Open University

- Any such qualification/ degree that equals the above mentioned qualifications as per the Government of India

- Appeared for MBBS but have not yet completed the internship

- Appeared in any such examination the results of which would qualify the candidate for the exam


The minimum age of the candidate should be 21 and maximum 30 years of age on 1st August when the candidate appears for the exam. There are a few relaxations of rules for various brackets of minority populace of India.

Number of Attempts to Clear the Examination

Every candidate is permitted to appear 4 (four) times for the exam. The minority classes are permitted to appear 7 times; there is no attempt number limit for SC/ST candidates.


A brief description of what the civil services in India are:

The Civil Services Examination is a competitive test that is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for recruitment or Civil Services for Government of India. The major cervices are IAS, IPS and IFS. This examination consists of three major phases:

(i) Preliminary examination, which in turn consists of two objective-type papers, i.e. General Studies Test (150 marks) and Aptitude Test (300 marks). The qualifying test is normally held every May-June and the results published in August.

(ii) Main examination – held every October-November – consists of 9 conventional papers (total 2000 marks).

(iii) Interview – which is also known as Personality Test (total 300 marks) – is held every April-May. The results of this examination is published every December-January.

The examination – from the time it is announced in the paper until the results are announced – takes about 18 months. There are 1037 posts to be filled in 2012 – as per the results announced.

(i) Prelims or the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)

The Preliminary exam is also known as the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT), which has come into effect in the year 2011. You will have two objective questions papers here, each one carrying 200 marks.

This exam is conducted as an elimination round, hence there is no set cut-off mark for it. From 2011 onwards, the CSAT focuses more on the candidate’s analytical abilities rather than his capacity to recall memorized information.

(ii) Main Examination

The main examination is carried out over 20 days; it consists of 9 papers of descriptive sort (essay type questions). This examination is designed to test the candidates’ intelligence and ability to understand more than learnt study material. There are 2000 marks in this type of examination:



Description of the Paper

Total Marks


One of the Indian Languages to be selected by the candidate from the 22 languages included in the VIIIth Schedule to the Constitution

(Qualifying Paper)**




(Qualifying Paper)**




[in the medium you choose]


Papers IV & V

General Studies

(300 Marks for each paper)


Papers VI, VII, VIII & IX

Any two subjects (each having 2 papers) to be selected from the prescribed optional subjects (300 marks for each paper)


Total Marks for Written Examination

2000 Marks

**: These are qualifying papers; hence, marks are not added to the total

(iii) Interview

The interview is often the deciding factor of the whole exam, even if only 300 marks are accredited to it. The questions asked during the interview focus upon:

- National and international economic and political affairs

- Logic questions

- IQ questions

- Ethics questions

- General knowledge questions

Watch out part 3 for further details.


  1. Atul Sharma says:

    Bhakti ji All your articles are good but you are completely outdated here. This post depicts old pattern. Now Pattern for mains is changed. GS now has four papers and only one optional.

    Papers to be counted for merit:

    Paper‐I Essay 250 Marks

    Paper‐II General Studies–I 250Marks
    (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)
    Paper‐III General Studies –II 250 Marks
    (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
    Paper‐IV General Studies –III 250 Marks
    (Technology, Economic Development, Bio‐diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
    Paper‐V General Studies –IV 250 Marks
    (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)

    Paper‐VI Optional Subject – Paper 1 250 Marks
    Paper‐VII Optional Subject – Paper 2 250 Marks

    Sub Total (Written test): 1750 Marks
    Personality Test: 275 Marks
    Grand Total: 2025 Marks
    – See more at:

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