About UPSC Civil Services Exam

about upsc civil services

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is India’s central recruiting agency for Central Government Services. 

UPSC conducts examinations for recruitment for many organisations. Some of the most commonly known are National Defence Academy (NDA), Combined Defence Services (CDS), Engineering Civil Services (ECS), Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) etc and of course the most popular and most sought-after Civil Services Examination (CSE) through which recruitment of Civil Servants is done for 24 All India/ Group A/ Group B Services

Civil Services include, IAS-Indian Administrative Services, IFS- Indian Foreign Services, IPS – Indian Police Services, IRS- Indian Revenue Services and many other Services.

Pattern of UPSC Civil Services exam

The UPSC conducts the Civil Services Examination (CSE) every year for recruitment to various Group A (including All India Services) and Group B services in the Government of India. UPSC CSE is conducted in offline mode over three stages:

  1. Preliminary Examination
  2. Mains Examination
  3. Personality Test 

As per the IAS exam pattern, candidates are shortlisted at every stage – those who clear the Prelims are eligible for Mains and those who clear the Mains are invited for the UPSC personality Test.

Preliminary Examination, is the first stage

  • Prelims is usually conducted in the month of June/ July
  • Prelims consists of two Objective type (MCQ) Papers – GS Paper I and GS Paper II (CSAT)
  • All questions are objective in nature. Candidates are required to choose any one of the 4 answer choices given for each question.
  • Questions are set in both English and Hindi Language.
  • CSAT is qualifying in nature with 33% marks, 
  • Both the papers are conducted on the same day.
  • Both papers have negative marking for wrong answer. However, if a question is left blank, there will be no penalty for that question.
PapersTypeMarksNo. of MCQsDurationStatus
GS Paper IObjective200 marks100 2 hoursMerit
GS Paper II (CSAT)Objective200 marks80 2 hoursQualifying

Mains Examination, the second stage 

  • Mains is usually conducted in the month of Sept/Oct, roughly 3 months after Prelims  
  • Mains consist of nine descriptive papers 
  • It is conducted over 05 days
  • Two language papers are qualifying in nature and seven papers are counted for merit.
  • All seven account for a Total of 1750 marks in Mains.
Paper A: Compulsory Indian languageDescriptive300 marks3 hoursQualifying
Paper B: EnglishDescriptive300 marks3 hours
Paper I: EssayDescriptive250 marks3 hoursCounted for Merit
Paper II: GS Paper IDescriptive250 marks3 hours
Paper III: GS Paper IIDescriptive250 marks3 hours
Paper IV: GS Paper IIIDescriptive250 marks3 hours
Paper V: GS Paper IVDescriptive250 marks3 hours
Paper VI: Optional Paper IDescriptive250 marks3 hours
Paper VII: Optional Paper IIDescriptive250 marks3 hours
  • Paper A and B are of qualifying nature and candidates must score at least 25% in each for the marks from their Paper I – Paper VII to be given weightage.
  • Paper A is not compulsory for candidates from the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim
  • In Paper A, any of the languages included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution can be opted by a candidate.
  • All the other papers can be answered in English or any of the languages listed in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India.

Personality Test (PT) is the third and final stage of CSE. 

  • It is commonly known as Interview and is usually conducted in the month of Jan/ Feb. 
  • 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 candidate will be asked questions on matters of general interest.
  • PT will be conducted in the language of choice.
  • PT has weightage of 275 Marks.
  • For the final merit, Mains and PT marks are added up. The total marks are thus 1750 + 275 = 2025.

Government Services for which recruitment is done by UPSC through CSE

All India Services

  1. Indian Administrative Service (IAS)
  2. Indian Police Service (IPS)
  3. Indian Forest Service (IFoS)

Group ‘A’ Services 

  1. Indian Foreign Service (IFS)
  2. Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS)
  3. Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS)
  4. Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS)
  5. Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS)
  6. Indian Defence Estates Service (IDES)
  7. Indian Information Service (IIS)
  8. Indian Postal Service (IPoS)
  9. Indian P&T Accounts and Finance Service (IP&TAFS) or Indian Communication Finance Service (ICFS)
  10. Indian Railway Protection Force Service (RPF)
  11. Indian Revenue Service – Customs & Indirect Taxes (IRS C&IT)
  12. Indian Revenue Service – Income Tax (IRS)
  13. Indian Trade Service (ITS)
  14. Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS)
  15. Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS)
  16. Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS)
  17. Indian Ordinance Factories Service (IOFS)

Group ‘B’ Services

  1. Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service, (Section Officer’s Grade)
  2. Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service (DANICS), 
  3. Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Police Service (DANIPS), 
  4. Pondicherry Civil Service (PONDICS), 
  5. Pondicherry Police Service 

What are All India Services? 

  1. There are 3 All India Services, namely, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS), and the Indian Forest Service (IFoS).
  2. Central Government regulates the recruitment and the conditions of service of persons appointed to these All-India Services. These officers are trained by the Central Government and then allotted to different State cadres.
  3. The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions is the cadre controlling authority for the IAS. 

Difference between Group A and Group B services

  • The Civil Service of the Central Government is organised into four groups, viz. Group `A’ (which includes all- India Service) Group `B’, Group `C’ and Group `D’. 
  • Such classification broadly corresponds to the rank, status and the degree of the level of responsibility attached to the posts. 
  • Group `A’ posts carry higher administrative and executive responsibilities and include senior management positions in the ministries/departments and field organisations. 
  • The middle and junior levels of Group `A’ along with Group `B’ constitute middle management. 
  • Group `C’ posts perform supervisory as well as operative tasks and render clerical assistances in ministries and field organisations. Group `D’ posts are meant for carrying out routine duties.
  • The recruitment of officers in Group A is made through conducting the following examinations. All the appointments of officers selected through passing the Group A exams are appointed by the President of India.
    • Civil Services Examination
    • Engineering Services Examination
    • Combined Geo-Scientist and Geologist Examination
    • E.S./I.S.S. Examination
    • Combined Medical Services Examination
    • Central Armed Police Forces
  • The recruitment of officers in Group B is made through CGLE (combined graduate level examination), SSC (Staff Selection Commission). The officers of Group B are appointed by authorities specified by the President of India through any specified or general order

Eligibility to appear for UPSC CSE

UPSC Eligibility is explained under four criteria:

  • Nationality
  • Educational Qualification
  • Age Limit 
  • Number of Attempts


  • For Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), candidate must be a citizen of India
  • For all other services, candidate must be:
    • a citizen of India, or (A)
    • a subject of Nepal, or (B)
    • a subject of Bhutan, or (C)
    • a Tibetan refugee who came to India before 1st January 1962 with the intention of permanently settling in India, or (D)
    • a person of Indian origin (PIO) who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zaire and Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India. (E) 
  • The candidates belonging to categories (B), (C), (D) and (E) should furnish a certificate of eligibility issued by the Government of India. Such candidates may take the exam before getting the said certificate of eligibility, but he/she would get the offer of appointment only after the certificate has been issued by the Government of India. Candidates belonging to (B), (C) and (D) are not eligible for appointment to the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).

Educational Qualification

  • Candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree from a recognised university to take the UPSC exam.
  • Candidates with professional and technical qualifications recognized by the Government or its equivalent are also eligible to apply
  • Even those candidates who have written the final year exams of the qualifying exam (bachelor’s degree) and are awaiting results can apply. Also, candidates who would write the final exam are also eligible to apply for the IAS prelims exam. But, these candidates must produce proof of passing the exam while applying for the IAS mains exam.
  • Candidates who have passed the final year of MBBS or any Medical Examination but are yet to complete the internship can also appear for the Main Examination. However, they must submit a certificate from the concerned University that they have passed the final professional medical examination

Age Limit

  • A general category 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. 
  • However, prescribed age limit and number of attempts vary with respect to caste reservations and defence reservations. 
CategoryUpper Age Limit
General Category32
Other Backward Class (OBC)35
Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST)37
Defence Service Personnel disabled during service35
Ex-servicemen including Commissioned Officers and ECOs/SSCOs who have rendered at least 5 years military service as on 1st August of the year of CSE and have been released *37
Persons with Benchmark Disabilities (PwBD) categories – Visually challenged/hearing impaired/physically challenged candidates42
  • such candidates on completion of assignment (including those whose assignment would complete within one year from 1st August 2021) other than those who have been dismissed or discharged on account of misconduct or inefficiency. Also, includes those servicemen who have been released due to physical disability attributable to military service; and also who have been released owing to invaliding.
  • Note: Apart from the mentioned limits, OBC/ SC/ ST candidates will get the benefit of cumulative age relaxation. This means age relaxations gets added in special cases, say, for example, if the person is OBC + Ex-servicemen, he will get an extension of 3 + 5 = 8 years, ie his upper age limit now stands at 40 years.

Number of Attempts

CategoryMaximum Attempts
General Category6
Other Backward Class (OBC)9
Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST)No Restriction
Physically handicapped – General 9
Physically handicapped – OBC9
Physically handicapped – SC/STNo Restriction
  • Note: Physically Handicapped /disabled candidates belonging to General category will get the benefit of 9 attempts till the age prescribed by UPSC – 42 years.
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