UPSC Exam or the Civil Service Exam is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) which is India’s central agency for recruiting Civil Service officers. The agency holds many exams for the top government jobs posts including Civil Service Exam or IAS exam, IPS (Indian Police Service) and IRS (Indian Revenue Service), holding the top posts in the list.
UPSC Exam is commonly addressed as the IAS Exam since the Civil Service and the Indian Administrative post is one of the most aspirational and preferred jobs. Every year lakhs of candidates vie for the country’s top Civil Service posts by appearing for the UPSC CSE exams.
It is important to understand that the UPSC is the principal body which organises various annual exams to recruit people for top government posts in India. Civil Service Exams, on the other hand, are a part of the UPSC Exams or one of the many exams held by the UPSC every year.
UPSC exam list includes Indian Engineering Service Exams, Indian Forest Service Exams, Combined Defense Service Exams, Indian Economic/Statistical Service Exams, Combined Medical Service Exams, The Geologists Exams, Stenographers Exams, Central Police Force Exams, NDA exams and SCRA exams besides the Civil Services Exams.
Out of the complete lot, Civil Services exam or the IAS Exam holds great prestige and is the entrance gateway to around 24 government services including IFS, IPS, IRS, IRPS and so on. Every year many Civil Service aspirants compete for close to 1000 (the maximum so far) vacancies released for the Civil Service Exams qualifiers, making it one of the toughest papers to crack. The exact number of vacancies is notified by the UPSC and according to the 2017-18 Notification, this time there are close to 980 qualified posts as vanacies for Civil Service.
Indian Administrative Service, in short IAS, is classified as a ‘Category A service’ because it is a very prestigious government job. IAS, IPS, and IFS are three of the most important posts. IAS officers are given strategic positions in the government sector including the Union Government, PSUs and key role at the state level.
It is very important to know what is IAS before you plunge into the competitive warfare i.e. IAS exam. People who have complete information of the Indian Civil Service post are motivated enough to take multiple attempts to crack the IAS exam code. After all, it is a big service to the whole nation. A person appointed through the Civil Service Exam has a personal morality and professional responsibility, to oversee important matters related to the able administrative functioning of a vast country like India.
IAS officers initially work at the sub-divisional level in the state administration. They also work as a sub-divisional magistrate, overseeing administration/development of the specialist work area they are assigned to. An IAS Officer is given a respectable job exposure and set responsibilities to perform diverse roles like that of a Collector, Commissioner, Chief Secretary, PSU Head, Cabinet Secretary and more. There is an ample scope to gain more experience and handle challenges to make a positive impact to a million lives.
It is not easy to make this distinguished career choice and it is not easy to crack the IAS exam code either. Civil Services Exam is a competitive paper organised annually by the UPSC. Millions of aspirants appear for the coveted posts listed under the UPSC CSE making it even tougher to clear the exam (with a perfect competitive score) in the first attempt.
The IAS exam is officially known as the UPSC Civil Services Exam. The UPSC CSE format includes a standard aptitude test and there are three stages of the Civil Service Exam. It is Prelims, Mains, and Interview. UPSC holds an annual exam to shortlist candidates for the elite positions of Indian Administrative Service (IAS).
The UPSC CSE Exam is an all-inclusive paper. Anybody can apply for the post and an aspirant may not necessarily be a qualified doctor or engineer to be eligible for the crucial government vacancies. Any candidate, irrespective of the financial, social or educational background, can apply for the IAS Exam and appear for the CSE based on his own potential and confidence.
At a preliminary level, it is recommended to be familiar with the UPSC CSE Exam Pattern. At next stage, get to know the exam syllabus, organise a preparation schedule of General Studies, and sequentially, browse through the previous year papers and plan a subject wise strategy to prepare for the IAS exam.
UPSC invites applications for the Civil Service Exams annually. The latest news of an increase in salary post the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission, the job prestige, job security and plethora of reasons make the IAS Exam the most sought after UPSC exam every year. But how many people can, or do qualify, for the Indian Civil Service?
Before a candidate even gets to know about what is IAS or what is UPSC, the better-known fact is that the IAS exam is a tough paper and it is difficult to clear the exam in a single attempt. However, more than the difficulty of the UPSC CSE pattern is the fact that the selection ratio is less.
There are limited job vacancies for Indian Civil Service. The 1000 vacancy number approximate is for the combined 24 posts including IAS, IPS, and IFS. Out of this total number, there is only limited number of vacancies every year (only approximately 1000) for all the 24 services and 49.5% seats/posts are under reservation.
There were 11,35,943 candidates who applied for the UPSC CSE 2016 held on 7 August 2016. Out of the total candidates who applied for the exam (11,35,943), only 4,59,659 candidates finally appeared. Only 15,452 candidates could qualify for the Mains examination conducted in December 2016. And, only 2,961 could finally make it to the next stage of the personality test/interview held between March to May in 2017.
The culminating figures of the last eight years show that the new UPSC exam applicants at the preliminary level have increased by almost 8,00,000. In comparison, the total vacancies (for the combined 24 services) has gone up marginally, the increase has been marginal with only 100 to 200 posts added in the same period.
UPSC Eligibility Criteria
To apply for the three-most coveted positions of IAS, IFS & IPS, an aspirant must be an Indian Citizen only. In other words, only citizens of India are eligible to apply for the top positions in the Indian Administrative Service.
There are other posts through the UPSC CSE which includes the IRS and another lot of service posts. To be eligible for these posts, an aspirant or a candidate can be an Indian Citizen or any person who is now residing or has migrated to India. People from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zaire or Vietnam, who are now permanent residents of India can apply for the Indian Civil Service posts. In addition, a Nepal Citizen or a person from Bhutan Tibetan Refugee, who migrated to India before the 1st January 1962 and is now a permanent resident of India can apply for the written test of Civil Service Exam.
To be eligible to apply for an IAS Officer post, a candidate needs to necessarily have at least one of the education degree or qualification.
Obtaining the right education degree should be the basic objective for an IAS Officer aspirant.
Candidates meeting certain criteria can also appear for the UPSC CSE.
In this case, the aspiring individuals or candidates need to submit the proof of eligibility from the designated or practising authority or representative from the university or institution they pursued the course from at the time of appearing for the UPSC Main Exam. If a candidate, who has qualified for the UPSC CSE main paper, is not able to furnish the proof, he/she is not allowed to appear for the examination.
Any candidate who has appeared or intends to take the CSE exam and is waiting for their results is considered eligible to take the IAS preliminary exam. They are still required to submit proof of clearing the final (education qualification) exam alongside the Detailed Application Form (DAF) submission for the CSE Mains.
To be eligible to apply for the Indian Civil Service officer post, an individual should attain a minimum age of 21 years and must not be 32 years old on August 1 in the year of the examination. In other words, any individual who is 32 years old before August 1 in the year of the UPSC CSE is not eligible to apply for the examination. The only exception to this general criterion of the candidate age is in case of OBC category. Under the OBC category, the maximum age to qualify for the IAS exam is 35 years and for the SC and ST, the upper limit is 37 years.
The regulated age criteria for individuals who wish to take the written UPSC CSE exam is subject to many important related conditions. To be sure, a candidate needs to meet all the below-tabulated criteria for the civil service exam.
UPSC CSE is a three-stage exam. The UPSC notification is issued in April and the Preliminary paper is held in August every year. The result for the prelims is declared in September. Following which, the mains are scheduled in December and the results mostly expected to be declared in February/March of the following year.
The Stage I of the CSE Prelims is called the CSAT (Objective Section) and has two objective-type papers. One is the general studies and the second is the aptitude test.
Stage 2 is the CSE Mains and it is a subjective section which has nine papers in the essay (conventional) exam pattern.
The qualified candidates must appear for the Personality Test likely to be held in March and April. The selection result is expected in the months of May or June.
Only individuals who clear the UPSC CSE Mains with the required cut-off marks will be eligible to appear for the next and the final stage- the Personality Test or Interview (a part of the IAS exams) held with the UPSC Board Members.
If the candidate clears the written tests, he/she will receive an e-summon issued by the UPSC Commission. The summon will direct the candidate to appear for a face-to-face discussion round with the UPSC Board Members. This round is conducted to assess and evaluate the individual (personality) traits. The discussion round includes questions related to a candidate’s hobbies, GK and current affairs, case-study or situation based questions, etc. The face to face round is organised in the UPSC Bhawan in New Delhi.
It is important to know and personally comprehend the IAS exam pattern and syllabus. It needs a detailed preparation and a long-form strategy to clear the UPSC CSE. Depending upon the individual capability, a candidate may clear the exam in few months of preparation or may need continued attempts to make it to the IAS qualifier list. The basic requirement is to have a focused approach, commitment, dedication and smart hard work. A candidate should not only focus on the duration of the preparation, the standard duration of 9-12 months may be enough for an aspiring Indian Civil Service Officer, but every individual needs to put emphasis on the quality of preparation during the self-stipulated time.
Only a disciplined and focused approach and mindset can achieve the challenging task. An individual-with a passion for learning and reading can call it a success at the UPSC CSE. A candidate with an analytical bent of mind and sound presentation skills accompanied with the qualities of good knowledge is an ideal aspirant. At the same time, it is important to have access to a repository of books and study material to prepare for the Prelims and the Mains.
UPSC CSE has held annually in three-stages: Preliminary, Mains and Personality Test/Interview.
(Please note that all activities in this section are conducted in the following year like for 2017 UPSC CSE exam papers the personality test/interview will be held in 2018 only).
The syllabus for the IAS Exam is set by UPSC. The nodal authority of Indian Civil Service Exams conducts a single test and follows a common syllabus for IAS and rest of the services like Income Tax and the IPS.
The first stage or the screening test of UPSC CSE is an aptitude assessment examination and the paper includes questions of ‘Reasoning and Analytical’ format.
The prelims are divided in two papers of objective-type questions and each paper is of 200 marks, equaling a total of 400 marks. The total duration of the IAS exam prelims is 2 hours and it is mandatory for every candidate to complete both the papers.
The IAS Exam-Paper 1 has topics of General Studies including history of India, economy, social development, Indian and World geography, science & technology, polity and governance, environment & ecology, etc.
The IAS Exam-Paper 2 has questions related to logical reasoning, analytical ability, English language comprehension, data interpretation, basic numeracy or maths, etc.
UPSC CSE Mains are structured to evaluate the academic knowledge of the shortlisted candidates. The aim is to assess the academic skills in a crisp and precise way. Depending upon a candidate’s profound subject knowledge and analysis, the overall intellectualism is assessed.
The UPSC CSE Mains pattern was revised in 2015. There are a total of 9 (7+2) mains papers. The questions are subjective or descriptive types.
Syllabus for the 7 Mains papers are as follows –
This is the final stage of the IAS Exam on-schedule. The shortlisted candidate must appear for an interview conducted by Board Members based on the candidate’s resume. The interview questions are directed towards assessing the social traits and current affairs aptitude of each candidate. The personality test will focus on determining the mental ability, the presence of mind, clarity in thinking, logical thinking pattern, interest in current affairs, judgement aptitude, moral integrity and leadership like qualities by the interviewer. The candidate needs to appear for a pre-formatted interview test of 275 marks.
For the UPSC CSE Mains, there is a list of optional subjects. The candidate has an option to choose only one of the listed subjects. In other words, there is only 1 optional subject to write during the UPSC CSE mains.
The list includes :
The UPSC CSE Prelims are divided into two papers: Paper 1 for General Studies and Paper 2 for Civil Services Aptitude Test.
Paper 1 has 100 questions to be completed in 2 hours. Each question is of 2 marks each. The paper has a negative marking of 1/3rd of (2 marks) of each wrong answer.
Paper 2 or the CSAT paper is a qualifying test round and the cut-off marks are 33% of the total marks of the CSAT paper. A candidate needs to score 66 marks (the 33% cut-off score) to qualify for the IAS exam mains. The total marks are 200.
The CSAT paper has 80 questions and each question has an equal value of 2.5 marks. The total duration of the exam is 2 hours and there is negative marking of 1/3rd of 2.5 marks for every wrong answer.
Both the papers are presented in English and Hindi and are objective-type multiple question format on an OMR sheet.
The Mains exam consists of 7+2=9 papers.
The two qualifying papers of Any Indian Language and English paper called Paper A and Paper B is of matriculation level or the equivalent of the matriculation standard. It is mandatory to pass the qualifier papers.
The 5 papers of General Studies and 2 papers of Optional Subjects will be evaluated simultaneously with the assessment of the qualifying papers (Paper A and Paper B). However, the complete evaluation or the final assessment is done only based on a candidate qualifying the Paper A and Paper B. If a candidate does not qualify the two papers then the complete score of the 7 papers will not be accounted for.
The only exception to the paper A format on Indian Language is for candidates belonging to or appearing from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim.
UPSC shortlists and invites around 2500-3000 candidates on an average every year through an interview call. UPSC creates various boards working on an everyday basis and a UPSC member heading each of the many boards. Each board has 4-5 members comprising of a variety of field experts. The board members ask questions to assess the objective ability and mental agility of a candidate. The questions are related to issues concerning national and international matters. Candidates can expect questions related to personal profile as per the detailed application form details submission.
The objective of this section is to share maximum details about IAS – the complete responsibility of the appointed and the duties, the system of posting, seat allocation criteria and complete functioning of an Indian Civil Service Officer.
An IAS Officer is the part of the administrative unit of the executive branch of the Government of the Republic of India. The prime responsibility of an Indian Civil Service official is to handle the various Government Affairs including the officers appointed at the central level or the state level.
An Indian Civil Service Officer is a part of the backbone structure to govern India. He/she plays a significant role in administering and execution of the day-to-day matters concerning the vast landscape of the country governance. It is a position of power and not without a reason. It is the IAS Officer who has the granted authority to appropriate all important matters, specifically the policy making decisions and empowered with an essence or custodianship to operate a complete nation. It is total power and prestige for a lifetime.
Talking about the functional responsibility of an IAS Officer, the designated person is allocated the task of managing various administrative departments and the respective function of each of these departments. The job role or the job function can include policy framing, acting in an advisory role to the ministries and responsibility for effective execution of designated or appointed duties as an IAS officer in charge of the administration of single (small) administrative units.
An IAS officer is also responsible for maintaining the law and order situation, supervising revenue administration and general administration of the designated area under his/her official jurisdiction. Some of the prime functions of an IAS Officer are Role of a Chief Development Officer or District Development Commissioner, stipulated role of an Executive Magistrate, overseeing and implementing State level and Central Government policies, supervising expenditure of Public Funds and more.
When India was declared a democratic nation, it was a moment to reckon with. Going strong and globally unified with its democratic beliefs and values, at the Centre and state level both, these public representatives are successfully performing the duties of a responsible elected official. The system at the central and state level need to work in great sync to bring a change. One needs to make a judicious use of the evolving state machinery, and create and execute effective policy-making decisions.
The set of skilful and knowledgeable government officials are formally called bureaucrats.
The history of Indian Civil Services under the British Dictation was a one-way command structure. British Officials liked demanding work at own will and did so, authoritatively, unchallenged and unopposed. It was the political system existing during the British Raj which led to the implementation of wrong policies for the Indian governance.
Factually, only later, the Article 311 of the Constitution in 1949 was conceptualised to encourage bureaucrats to inquire or even criticise their superiors. If they did so on justified grounds, there was no fear of losing their jobs in the pretext of an imposed penalty for incompetency or individual wrongdoing by their superiors or the system.
The apex court’s decision has given a further flex-muscle to the Indian Civil Service officers. It has recently notified the Centre and the State Governments to establish a Civil Services Board and handle the bureaucratic affairs of transfers, postings, promotions, inquiries, rewards and punishment, disciplinary action and stipulate the job tenure of the bureaucrats. The aim of this decision is to reduce dependency on political interference concerning the subject of bureaucracy, especially on matters related to frequent bureaucrat’s transfers at political will.
Today, the Indian system of bureaucracy is focused towards delivering in good public faith and a step towards achieving the objective is to enthuse the masses and thus raise the public participation level, entice the youths to join the Indian Civil Service system and thus, make a big leap forwards in general administrative procedure.
The privileged Post of Chief Secretaries is through attaining promotion from the Principal Secretary or the Financial Commissioner level in the respective State Governments. Chief Secretary Post is granted to a deserving official in the State Government Departments. The Chief Secretary post is equivalent of a Secretary at the Centre (in the Central Government).
The next level of promotion is the Cabinet Secretary Post. This designation has no equivalent at the state level. The Single Cabinet Secretary Post to the Government of India and the only official is the ex-officio and Civil Services Board Chairman, the IAS Chief and the Appointed Head of all civil service matters following the rules of business of the Government of India.
Post the selection of IAS candidates, they are allocated to cadres. Each state has a single cadre. The only exception being the joint cadres: Assam-Meghalaya, Manipur-Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories (AGMUT). During the time of allocation, the local to the outside ratio is maintained at 1:2. The local representatives are people belonging to the home states.
A new cadre allocation policy has been recently finalised at the Centre concerning IAS, IPS and other officials. The main objective is to practice national integration for India’s top bureaucracy. The all-India services officials- the IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service – will choose cadres from the zones in place of states. Earlier these officers were allotted a cadre set or to choose from a set of states to appoint self. The only deputation at the centre was allowed during the time of their service.
The present 26 cadres have been grouped into five zones. The new policy facilitates the appointment of an officer from Bihar into the southern zone, for example. Candidates appearing for the UPSC CSE must specify their choices in order of preference.
Every year, the UPSC CSE exam questions are different and are designed in a way to assess the clarity of thought and mental sharpness of a candidate. The recent exam pattern is a testimony to this fact. It clearly implies the fact that candidates need to follow a focussed approach and should concentrate on the clarity on the concepts of each subject to prepare. Solving problems during the IAS exam time needs a candidate to be more mentally agile and possess sharp presence of mind.
This is exactly where the concept of test series as per the CSE syllabus fits in. The fact that all the material is accessible in form of online IAS preparation adds weight to the selection approach. The UPSC Test Series is integral to online IAS preparation, making it easy to accessible anywhere and anytime.
Online IAS coaching institutes like NeoStencil offer a candidate a multi-purposed opportunity by assisting him/her to do periodical evaluation, access to feedback by top coaching faculty, live, video recorded discussion for self-assessment, anytime access to the tests series online, checked answer copies accessible at the right time and to top it up, a pre-registered discount for IAS aspirants who wish to make optimum use of the available online IAS resources before beginning to prepare.
NeoStencil offers this unique opportunity of online IAS preparation. To add volume to IAS preparation schedule or resources, the top-line coaches are made available from Delhi’s Top IAS institutes, who have an impeccable record in creating IAS toppers. The online IAS reference material includes UPSC Test Series for optional papers and General Studies, part of the Prelims curriculum. The selection has test series for subjects like Geography, Sociology, Public Administration, History, Maths, Sociology and so on. The candidate can take the tests in any order at free-will.
The candidates’ interaction with the NeoStencil format is not only limited to taking test papers. The appointed coaching faculty personally invests time to evaluate an individual performance. A candidate has an option to enter a discussion with the faculty member to assess the right strategy or approach for the test paper and how to construct an ideal answer. It is the content of the answer and the complete presentation which is emphasised upon. The faculty gives a detailed feedback and suggestion on each student’s performance.
Mock tests are needed to test the personal ability of a candidate before appearing for the actual exam. Through continuous practice and the feel and experience of mock tests, a candidate can eliminate negative thinking and build confidence. It also helps an individual master the intricacies like too many attempts leading to wrong answers and thus, resulting in negative marking. There are series of mock tests available for online IAS preparation and only through real-like exams can a candidate exercise more control over the actual exam.
How online IAS preparation through mocks test helps a candidate –
If an individual is aiming for a top score like 120+ in the prelims or the mains of the UPSC CSE, the only way to achieve in confidence is by taking mock tests. The candidate will be able to monitor own performance in sync with the IAS exam preparation. Learning by practice is the only safe bet to score high and higher.
A candidate is expected not to panic during the IAS exam if he/she has practiced mock tests. This is because a candidate has mastered the trick of managing stipulated time, knows his own weaknesses and strengths as per the subjects in the syllabus and is aware of which section can help in achieving a better score. The candidate can also resist the temptation of answering all questions leading to negative marking.
Practicing mock question adds clarity of concepts given the versatility of questions. Being exposed to a variety of questions on each subject, the basic concepts are clear and a candidate also knows about the type of questions expected in the IAS exam pattern.
A well-prepared candidate, the one who has practiced a lot by taking series of mock tests everyday, is better equipped to make a fine judgement and real assessment of the UPSC competition exam. Such a person knows his own strengths and weaknesses and is generally more aware of how to score faster and quicker by paying attention to subjects he/she is good at and utilising the stipulated IAS exam time in an optimum way.
Every candidate must enroll for a series of all-India mock tests and get feedback on real-time ranking assessment.
Brief about required books
There are some essential books to assist an Indian Civil Service aspirant. It is important to stay focused on the quality of books and not the quantity of books to supplement IAS exam preparation. Only focused preparation using select books can improve the pattern of self-study.
Certain books on History subject like the History of Modern India by Bipin Chandra and India’s Ancient Past by R.S Sharma help an individual to study the subject in detail. Another recommended title by India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipin Chandra and History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra will add to an individual perspective on the subject.
Shifting focus to the subject of culture, the two books- The Wonder That Was India by AL Bhasham and Indian Art and Culture authored by Nitin Singhania– are a must have for the IAS exam preparation.
Geography books like Geography of India by Majid Husain and Oxford School Atlas by Oxford are good references for UPSC CSE self-study.
For the subject of Polity, refer to the book – Indian Polity for Civil Services Examination by M Laxmikanth.
India Year Book and Manorama Year Book are good books on Current Affairs.
Given below is a list of IAS rankers from 2010 to 2016:
IAS Rank 1
IAS Rank 2
IAS Rank 3
Nandini K R
Anmol Sher Singh Bedi
Athar Aamir Ul Shafi Khan
Jasmeet Singh Sandhu
Haritha V Kumar
R V Varun Kumar
Topper’s strategy and the approach towards the main examination by some toppers is as follows:
Anju began her IAS exam preparation after completing B-Tech and only after making five unsuccessful attempts, she joined the Indian Civil Service Rank in her last attempt (which was her sixth attempt of the CSE paper). It was only her sheer will, determination and ambition to become an IAS officer that helped her pursue her long journey to get her dream job. Her focus is commendable.
The 23-year old maths graduate did not benefit much from his graduate studies for his IAS exam preparation. His optional subject was Geography. However, his math studies made Avneet analytically competent and he applied his acquired skills during the CSE exam preparation. Avneet dedicated 1.5 years to the preparation and studied for 8 hours every day. He was also pursuing Masters in Geography from Delhi School of Economics during the preparation time. He took coaching for General Studies. His smart study plan is an inspiring story for many aspirants who dream of an IAS job.
Hariram belongs to a simple family. His father is a section officer at a Kerala state autonomous body and mother a practising Ayurveda Doctor. Hariram is a Mechanical Engineering from NIT Calicut. He had earlier joined SBI as a PO. During his work experience in SBI as a P.O, he realised that he needed to make a difference to the lives of the poor. He chose to become an Indian Civil Service Officer. His experience as the PO helped him gain practical insights specifically concerning issues of financial access for the downtrodden in the society.
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