Union Public Service Commission


The Civil Services Examination (CSE) is a national competitive examination in India which is held every year at different centres throughout the country. This exam is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which is aleading constitutional body at the Union level. The exam is held for recruitment to various Civil Services which are

  • Indian Administrative Service
  • Indian Foreign Service
  • Indian Police Service
  • Indian P&T Accounts & Finance Service, Group ‘A’
  • Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
  • Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise), Group ‘A’
  • Indian Defence Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
  • Indian Revenue Service (I.T.), Group ‘A’
  • Indian Ordnance Factories Service, Group ‘A’ (Assistant Works Manager, Administration)
  • Indian Postal Service, Group ‘A’
  • Indian Civil Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
  • Indian Railway Traffic Service, Group ‘A’
  • Indian Railway Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
  • Indian Railway Personnel Service, Group ‘A’
  • Post of Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force, Group ‘A’
  • Indian Defence Estates Service, Group ‘A’
  • Indian Information Service (Junior Grade), Group ‘A’
  • Indian Trade Service, Group ‘A’ (Gr. III)
  • Indian Corporate Law Service, Group ‘A’
  • Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service, Group ‘B’ (Section Officer’s Grade)
  • Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service, Group ‘B’
  • Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Police Service, Group ‘B’
  • Pondicherry Civil Service, Group ‘B’
  • Pondicherry Police Service, Group ‘B’

One single exam is held for all the above services and successful candidates are assigned to these services according to their rank and preferences. Top rankers generally choose IAS, IPS, IFS and IRS, in that order.

The examination is one of the most difficult examinations in the world with a success rate of 0.1%-0.3% with more than 9,00,000 applicants.

It is conducted in three phases, (1) Preliminary examination, (2) Main examination and (3) Personality test (Interview). The entire process from the notification of the Preliminary examination to the declaration of the final results takes roughly one year.


  • Stage I: Preliminary examination – This is qualifying test held in August every year. It consists of two objective-type papers (General Studies and Aptitude Test). Notification for this exam is published in May. Results are published in mid-October.
  • Stage II: Main examination – This is the main test, held in December every year. It consists of nine papers of conventional (essay) type. Results are usually published in the second week of March.
  • Stage III: Personality Test (Interview) – It is the final test and is held in April/May every year. Final results are usually announced in the month of June every year.

The training program for the selected candidates usually commences on first Monday of September every year. The training duration is roughly 2 years, after which candidates are inducted into their services.


The eligibility norms for the examination are as follows:


For the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Foreign Service and the Indian Police Service, a candidate must be a citizen of India.

For the Indian Revenue Service, a candidate must be one of the following:

  • A citizen of India
  • A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia or Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India

For other services, a candidate must be one of the following:

  • A citizen of India
  • A citizen of Nepal or a subject of Bhutan
  • A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia or Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.


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

  • A degree from a Central, State or Deemed university
  • A degree received through Correspondence Education or Distance Learning
  • A degree from an Open University
  • A qualification recognized by the Government of India as being equivalent to either of the above

The following candidates are also eligible, but have to 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.

  • Candidates who have appeared in an examination, the passing of which would render them educationally qualified enough to satisfy any of the above points
  • Candidates who have passed the final exam of the MBBS degree but have not yet completed their internship
  • Candidates who have passed the Final exam of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), ICSI and ICWAI
  • A degree from a private university
  • A degree from any foreign university recognized by Association of Indian Universities (AIU)


A candidate must have attained the age of 21 years and must not have attained the age of 32 years on August 1 of the year of examination. Prescribed age limits vary with respect to the caste reservations. For OBC category upper age limit is 35, and for SC/ST it is 37 years. Upper age limit relaxation is provided to certain candidates who are backward with respect to other factors and physically handicapped people.

Numbers of attempts

The number of attempts a candidate can take the exam is limited as follows:

  • General category candidates and OBC category candidates under the creamy layer = 6attempts
  • OBC category candidates = 9 attempts
  • SC/ST candidates = Unlimited number of attempts

However these candidates are requested to bear in mind:

  • An attempt at a Preliminary Examination shall be considered to be an attempt at the Examination.
  • If a candidate actually appears in any one paper in the Preliminary Examination, he/she shall be deemed to have made an attempt at the Examination.
  • Notwithstanding the disqualification/cancellation of candidature, the fact of appearance of the candidate at the examination will count as an attempt.
  • Candidates just applied but not appeared at the exam will not be counted as an attempt.

Vacancies and Selection

Generally the number of vacancies vary every year. In the preliminary examination, the number of candidate selected for the main examination is 11 or 12 times the number of vacancies, and in the case of main examination, the number of candidates selected for the 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. For example, if the number of vacancies in a given year is 1,000 and 1,00,000 candidates appear for the preliminary examination, the top 11,000 or 12,000 scorers will be selected for the main examination and similarly, out of those 12,000, only the top 2,000 scorers will be called for the interview, subject to their respective reservation quota.

Data for recent CSE Examinations

These data are based on Annual Reports of the UPSC available on its website.

For Prelims 2017,  9,47,728 candidates filled the form. Out of these  candidates, only 4,56,625 or 48.2 percent candidates appeared for this examination.

The number of candidates who cleared the first stage was 13,366. They were qualified to appear in Civil Services (Main) Examination. Out of these candidates, 13,060 (97.7%) appeared in the written part of Civil Services (Main) Examination, 2017 held in October-November, 2017.

Based on the results of the written part of the Main Examination, only 2,568 (19.7%) candidates had qualified for the Interview and 2,564 candidates had appeared in the interview and thereafter, a total of 1056 candidates were recommended by the Commission for appointment to the civil services.

The total number of 1056 candidates, included 524 in General category, 291 belonging to Other Backward Classes, 196 from Scheduled Caste and 75 from Scheduled Tribe.

Data for CSE-2018

UPSC conducted the first stage of CSE-2015 on August 23, 2015. The exam was conducted at 2,186 venues in 71 cities across the country. A total of 4,65,882 candidates took the examination this year as compared to 4,51,602 examinees last year (an increase by 14,280). As against a record number of 9,45,908 candidates who have applied for the exam, 6,81,549 of them had downloaded their e-admit card and out of those who downloaded their admit cards, 4,65,882 took the examination, which is about 49% of the total candidates who had applied.

Details of the Three Stage Exam


From 2011 onwards, the Preliminary examination consists of two papers called General Studies Paper-1 and Paper-2. This pattern includes two papers of two hours duration and 200 marks each. Both papers have multiple choice objective type questions only. 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 Policy and Governance, Economic and social development, Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity, Climate Change and General Science
  • 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.

In May 2015, the Government of India announced that Paper II of Preliminary Examination (CSAT) will be of qualifying nature i.e. it would not be graded for eligibility in the Main Examination & a candidate needs to secure at least 33% marks in order to be eligible to be graded on basis of Marks of Paper I of Preliminary Examination. CSE prelims-2015 was conducted accordingly i.e. Paper I (General Studies) was only counted for the selection in main and Paper II was of qualifying nature.


The written examination consists of nine papers, two qualifying and seven which are ranked. The range of questions may vary from just one mark to sixty marks, 20 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.


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. It carries 275 marks and the final selection of the candidate is done after adding these marks to the total obtained at the main stage.

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.

Profile of the various services which are part of the Civil Services Examination can be found on the website of the DOPT. It also outlines the career progression in the different services. But you should keep in mind that the Civil Services are going through a period of flux and things will keep on changing.