ABCD of UPSC Civil Services Examination

About the Indian Civil Services Examination. The Civil Services Examination, which is popularly known as the IAS exam, consists of (1) Preliminary Test and (2) Main Examination which further comprises a written exam and a personality test (Interview).

Created On: Aug 1, 2011 01:09 IST
Modified On: May 7, 2013 12:12 IST

The Civil Services Examination, which is popularly known as the IAS exam, consists of (1) Preliminary Test and (2) Main Examination which further comprises a written exam and a personality test (Interview). However, for all practical reasons, the Interview stage is considered a part of the Main stage only.  This examination is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which is a constitutional body in the Indian Constitution under Article 315. All three stages of the exam are important because, without passing one stage of the exam one cannot appear in the other stage. The marks obtained by a student in preliminary examination are not taken into account in preparing the final merit list.

The number of vacancies differs in different years. From the last 3-4 years the no. of vacancies has been more then 500. This is good for the IAS aspirants because, the no. of students selected in the different stages of examination is dependent on the vacancies announced by the UPSC. For main exam, it is 12-15 times of the vacancies and for interview this ratio is 2 to 3 times of the total vacancies.

The first stage of the UPSC Civil Services exam is preliminary examination; it is an objective type test (PT), this stage is also known as IAS Prelims Exam. There are two papers in Prelims exam. These are – (1) General Studies Paper I and (2) General Studies Paper II.  Paper II of the PT exam is basically an aptitude test paper, which is popularly known as Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT); though this acronym is not used by the UPSC officially. GS Paper I holds 200 marks, which contains 100 questions, this is the case for the 2011 IAS examination but, the number of questions may tentatively vary in the coming years. In the notification, UPSC declares only the marks for the examination and not the number of questions. The GS Paper II also holds 200 marks and it contains 80 questions, this is again the case of 2011 IAS preliminary examination. Before 2011, instead of CSAT there used to be an optional paper of 300 marks having 120 Question and General Studies with 150 marks having 150 question.

By a simple rule of thumb, 50% score in both the papers is considered fair enough for qualifying Prelims exam. However, it varies depending on the level of difficulty of the questions asked in the Preliminary Test.

One who qualifies the PT exam is permitted to appear in second stage of the exam, i.e. the main examination. The total mark of the main examination is 2000. There are two optional subjects of 600 marks each. General Studies paper I and paper II hold 600 marks, 300 for each paper. There is a compulsory essay paper of 200 marks. There are two compulsory language papers, i.e. English and any of the 22 Indian languages i.e. Hindi, Urdu, Oriya etc. If a student does not qualify these two compulsory papers, then his/her no other paper of exam gets evaluated. Thus it is essential to prepare and attempt the compulsory papers sincerely and seriously.

The third and the last stage is personality test (interview) of 300 marks. There is no syllabus for this stage given by UPSC, but questions asked in the interview are generally related to the subjects that one opted for the main examination. Interview questions are also base on academic background and general studies, home state etc.

All stages of the exam are held on the schedule time declared by UPSC on its web site or in the Employment newspaper.  The first stage i.e Prelims is generally held in the month of May or June every year. Main exam is held in during the months October and November. The time frame of the interview is March and April every year. The final merit list of the selected candidates comes out in the month of May.

The popular saying ‘early bird catches the worm’ holds good in the UPSC Civil Services Exam. Those who want to succeed should keep the time frame in mind and start their preparation much in advance to get a head start over others.