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It is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) every year. The first stage of the selection process is announced in November-December every year. The selection is done in 3 stages.
Stage I: Preliminary Examination (Prelims)
Stage II: Main Examination
Stage III: Interview Test
Candidates move into the next stage through a process of elimination. The Prelims are held in May-June and results announced in July-August. The Main examination is held in October-November and those who qualify here are invited to the interview in March-April next.

I: Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination consists of two papers of objective type (multiple-choice questions) carrying a maximum of 450 marks.

Paper – I General Studies 150 Marks
Paper – II One of the optional subjects to be selected from the prescribed optional subjects 300 Marks

Optional Subjects (one subject to be selected): Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science, Botany, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Commerce, Economics, Electrical Engineering, Geography, Geology, Indian History, Law, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Medical Science, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology, Statistics, Zoology. 

General Studies Topics:

  • General Science.
  • Current events of national and international importance
  • History of India and Indian National Movement
  • Indian and World Geography
  • Indian Polity and Economy
  • General Mental AbilityQuestions on General Science will cover general appreciation and understanding of science including matters of everyday observation and experience, as may be expected of a well educated person who has not made a special study of any particular scientific discipline. In current events, knowledge of significant national and international events will be tested. In History of India, emphasis will be on broad general understanding of the subject in its social, economic and political aspects. Questions on the Indian National Movement will relate to the nature and character of the nineteenth century resurgence, growth of nationalism and attainment of Independence. In Geography, emphasis will be on Geography of India. Questions on the Geography of India will relate to physical, social and economic Geography of the country, including the main features of Indian agricultural and natural resources. Questions on Indian Polity and Economy will test knowledge of the country�s political system and Constitution of India, Panchayati Raj, Social Systems and economic developments in India. On general mental ability, the candidates will be tested on reasoning and analytical abilities.

    The Question Papers (Test Booklets) are set in English & Hindi.
    The course content of the syllabi is of degree level. 
    Duration of each paper is 2 hours.
    Blind candidates are allowed an extra time of 20 minutes for each paper. 
    There is no negative marking and the score in the Prelims does not affect the ranking in the final merit list.

  • Cut Off Marks for Prelims Exam

    Optional subject Minimum number of questions need to be correct for optional subject Minimum number of questions need to be correct for General Studies
    Geography 84-95 90+
    Indian History 95-98 95
    Mathematics 68 95
    Political Science 90+ 95+
    Public Administration 84-98 90

    Statistical Data of Preliminary

    Year of Exam No of Candidates
    Applied Appeared
    1997 2,65,761 1,30,198
    1998 2,71,517 1,22,363
    1999 3,09,501 1,35,086
    2000 2,25,555 1,19,398
    2001 2,56,673 1,38,240
    2002 3,01,585 1,57,486


    II: Main Examination

    The Main Exam consists of a written exam and an interview test. The written exam has 9 papers of conventional essay type. Marks obtained in the Main Exam will determine whether a candidate is called for the interview. Marks obtained in the Main Exam plus interview determines the final ranking. Candidates are allotted various services keeping in view their ranks in the examination and preferences expressed by them. The written examination consists of the following papers: 

    Paper-I One of the Indian Languages to be selected by the candidate from the 18 languages included in the VIIIth Schedule to the Constitution (Qualifying Paper) 300 Marks
    Paper-II English (Qualifying Paper) 300 Marks
    Paper-III Essay 200 Marks
    Papers IV & V General Studies (300 Marks for each paper) 600 Marks
    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) 1200 Marks
    Total Marks for Written Examination 2000 Marks
    Interview Test 300 Marks
    Grand Total 2300 Marks

     (i) The papers on Indian Languages and English will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature; the marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking.

    (ii) The papers on Essay, General Studies and Optional Subjects of only such candidates will be evaluated as attain such minimum standard as may be fixed by the Commission in their discretion for the qualifying papers on Indian Language and English.

    (iii) The paper-I on Indian Languages will not, however, be compulsory for candidates hailing from the North-Eastern States of Arunachanl Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland and also for candidates hailing from the State of Sikkim.

    (iv) For the Language papers, the script to be used by the candidates will be as under 

    (v) Candidates who have opted for an Indian Language as language medium for the Main Examination have an option of being interviewed either in English or in the same language which they have opted for the Main Examination. 

    List of optional subjects (Literature): Arabic, Assamese, Bengali, Chinese, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Marathi, Malayalam, Manipuri, Nepali, Oriya, Pali, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telegu, Urdu. 

    Optional subjects for Main Examination (any two): Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science, Botany, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Commerce and Accountancy, Economics, Electrical Engineering, Geography, Geology, History, Law, Management, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering,20Medical Science, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science and International Relations, Psychology, Public Administration, Sociology, Statistics, Zoology.

    The following combinations not allowed are: 

    Political Science & International Relations and Public Administration 
    Commerce and Management 
    Anthropology and Sociology 
    Mathematics and Statistics 
    Agriculture and Animal Husbandry &Veterinary Science 
    Management and Public Administration 
    Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science and Medical Science 
    Any two branches of engineering. 

    The question papers for the examination will be of conventional (essay) type.
    Each paper will be of three hours duration. Blind candidates will, however be allowed an extra time of thirty minutes at each paper. 

    Sequence of papers

    General Studies 
    Essay, followed by English Language 
    Indian Language (1, 2 and 3 are on three consecutive days) 
    Civil Engg./Electrical Engg./Mechanical Engg./Medical Science 
    Political Science and International Relations/Public Administration 
    Literature (literature in all languages) 
    Commerce and Accountancy/Management 
    Agriculture/Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science 

    General Studies

    (a) History of Modern India and Indian Culture

    The History of Modern India will cover history of the Country from about the middle of nineteenth century and would also include questions on important personalities who shaped the Freedom Movement and Social reforms. The part relating to Indian Culture will cover all aspects of Indian Culture from the ancient to modern times.

    (b) Geography of India
    In this part, questions will be on the physical, economic and social geography of India.

    (c) Indian Polity
    This part will include questions on the Constitution of India, Political system and related matters.

    (d) Current National issues and topics of social relevance
    This part is intended to test the Candidate’s awareness of current national issues and topics of social relevance in the present-day India, such as the following.

    Demography & Human Resource & related issues. Behavioral & Social issues & Social Welfare problems, such as child labour, gender equality, adult literacy, rehabilitation of the handicapped and other deprived segments of the society, drug abuse, public health etc.

    Law enforcement issues, human rights, corruption in public life, communal harmony etc.

    Internal Security and related issues.

    Environmental issues, ecological preservation, conservation of natural resources and national heritage.

    The role of national institutions, their relevance and need for change.


    (a) India and the World
    This part is intended to test candidate’s awareness of India’s relationship with the world in various spheres, such as the following:-
    Foreign Affairs
    External Security and related matters
    Nuclear Policy
    Indians abroad

    (b) Indian Economy
    In this part, questions will be on the planning and economic development in India, economic & trade issues, Foreign Trade, the role and functions of I.M.F., World Bank, W.T.O. etc.

    (c) International Affairs & Institutions
    This part will include questions on important events in world affairs and on international institutions.

    (d) Developments in the field of science & technology, communications and space
    In this part, questions will test the candidate’s awareness of the developments in the field of science & technology, communications and space and also basic ideas of computers.

    (e) Statistical analysis, graphs and diagrams
    This part will include exercises to test the candidate’s ability to draw common sense conclusions from information presented in statistical, graphical or diagrammatical form and to point out deficiencies, limitations or inconsistencies therein.

    Candidates will be required to write an essay on a specific topic. The choice of subjects will be given. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion, and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.

    The aim of the paper is to test the candidate’s ability to read and understand serious discursive prose, and to express his ideas clearly and correctly in English/Indian language concerned.

    The pattern of questions would be broadly as follows :- 
    (i) Comprehension of given passages. 
    (ii) Precise Writing 
    (iii) Usage and Vocabulary 
    (iv) Short Essay

    Note 1 : The candidates will have to answer the English papers in English language (except where translation is involved).

    General Instructions (Preliminary as well as Main Examination):
    (i) Candidates must write the papers in their own hand. In no circumstances, they will be allowed the help of a scribe to write the answers for them. However, blind candidates will be allowed to write the examination with the help of a scribe.

    Note (1) : The eligibility conditions of a scribe, his/her conduct inside the examination hall and the manner in which and extent to which he/she can help the blind candidate in writing the Civil Services Examination shall be governed by the instructions issued by the UPSC in this regard. Violation of all or any of the said instructions shall entail the cancellation of the candidature of the blind candidate in addition to any other action that the UPSC may take against the scribe.

    ii) The Commission have discretion to fix qualifying marks in any or all the subjects of the examination.

    (iii) If a candidate�s handwriting is not easily legible, a deduction will be made on this account from the total marks otherwise accruing to him.

    (iv) Marks will not be allotted for mere superficial knowledge.

    (v) Credit will be given for orderly, effective and exact expression combined with due economy of words in all subjects of the examination.

    (vi) In the question papers, wherever required, SI units will be used.

    (vii) Candidates should use only international form of Indian numerals (i.e. 1,2,3,4,5,6 etc.) while answering question papers.

    (viii) Candidates will be allowed the use of Scientific (Non-Programmable type) calculators at the conventional (Essay) type examination of UPSC. Programmable type calculators will however not be allowed and the use of such calculators shall tantamount to resorting to unfair means by the candidates. Loaning or interchanging of calculators in the Examination Hall is not permitted.
    It is also important to note that candidates are not permitted to use calculators for answering objective type papers (Test Booklets). They should not therefore bring the same inside the Examination Hall.

    Statistical Data of Main Examination

    Year Of Exam Vacancies Candidates Recommended
    1995 98 49 165 333 645 101 49 192 303 645
    1996 125 57 174 383 739 138 59 212 330 739
    1997 89 43 166 323 621 94 46 215 266 621
    1998 53 28 114 275 470 60 30 142 238 470
    1999 53 27 97 234 411 63 30 127 191 411
    2000 54 29 100 244 427 58 34 128 207 427
    2001 47 39 97 234 417 52 42 131 192 417
    2002 38 22 88 162 310 38 22 88 138 286

    III: Interview Test
    The final stage of selection is the interview which is conducted in April/May every year. The object of the interview is to assess the suitability of the candidate for a career in public service. It is an assessment of not only the intellectual qualities but also social traits and interest in current affairs. Some of the qualities judged are: mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, logical exposition, balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, social cohesion, leadership and above all, intellectual and moral integrity. There are cases where students clear the preliminary and the mains but fail at the last stage. The secret is to start for preparations for the interview along with the written test. To succeed in the interview, candidates should take an intelligent interest not only in areas of their subjects, but also in what is happening around them, both within and outside their country. They should be aware of modern currents of thought and in new discoveries which should arouse the curiosity of well educated youth. That is why it is most important to read magazines and newspapers, watch television programmes on current affairs and learn to organise thoughts the way the participants do.
    Develop the habit of debating and discussing issues with friends or parents. Develop interests and hobbies so that you are able to answer convincingly Understand the current affairs and the issues behind the events. Remember that the interview is not a cross examination but a natural but purposeful conversation. It is an opportunity to reveal the mental qualities of a candidate. 

    The interview is not a test of specialised knowledge, as that has already been tested in written examination. The idea is to see the social traits of a person and his personality as suited to a career in the Civil Services. If a person gives the impression of being a bookworm, the chances of his selection are reduced. The candidate must exhibit an intelligent interest in events happening around him so that he appears to be a complete personality.

    Tips to improve your performance at the UPSC Interview

    • There are generally 5 members at the board with the Chairperson seated at the center. Enter confidently and greet the Chairperson, who will probably welcome you, and pleasantly nod at other members. Wait till you are asked to sit. Have a positive body language.
    • Intelligent listing is the mantra, and for this maintaining eye contact is very important. You should not glare but all the same appear attentive and do not glance at other members, it can be very distracting for the interviewer. However if some other member asks you anything, look at that member and answer and turn back to the first – this is what we do in normal attentive listening.
    • Do not fidget or throw your hands around, or shake your head. Less amount of movement does not mean you should sit unnaturally stiff. Your posture should be attentive and relaxed at the same time. Do not crouch/bend forward or place your hands on the table.
    • Cut your answer short to the required patience shown by the member talking to you. They usually like to talk more, so listen carefully and think for a few seconds before you start answering the question. This will show that you are organising your thoughts in mind before starting to speak.
    • Leave some room for difference in opinion. Do take a stand, but do not look adamant or unwilling to appreciate the board’s opinion.
    • Use couple of words from the question while answering any question. It shows you have listened to the question carefully. But at the same time limit the use the technical jargon.
    • Listen very carefully. Come to the central issue of the enquiry immediately. Wild guessing or speculation are a complete no no. Answer questions clearly and confidently.
    • Do not start evaluating your performance while still in the interview. Even if you have committed mistakes in the beginning, do not think that you have already lost the game. They are looking for warm, sensitive respectful and attentive youngsters. They know you are good or you would not have come so far.
    • Talk humbly about your achievements and hobbies. You may have mentioned some hobbies in the form without serious background in them, but before the interview it would be useful to pick up some basic info on the hobby.
    • Say less to convey more. Try not getting into long winded explanations and answer to the point.Less is more these days as per the minimalist creed. Argue logically and generalise correctly. Do not try to read too much between the lines.
    • Remember, while answering any question, what is easy to see is easy to miss. We often tend to miss the obvious and go for some non-crucial aspect of the subject.
    • Get up to leave only when the chairperson asks you to, not because you think everyone has asked a question. Similarly, even if someone has not asked a question and the chairperson asks you to leave then please leave. Some members do not ask questions at all, due to various reasons like limited time.
    • Before leaving politely thank the chairperson and nod at the others politely. Avoid saying “Have a good day sir”. A “Thank you Sir/Madam” is enough.

    Things To Be Avoided at the UPSC Interview

    • Avoid the expression, ‘I am sorry.’
    • Avoid conversational cliches, like: ‘as you know’, ‘that’s correct’, ‘of course’, ‘indeed’, ‘obviously’, etc.
    • Avoid technical jargon. However, if a member continues to probe you in any technical field, you can use technical expressions.
    • Maintain a cheerful disposition. Now and then you can appear serious; but most of the time keep smiling or look cheerful and composed. One caution here: if the board laughs, you should only smile. It is only when you maintain some amount of distance that the board begins to wonder about the depth of your personality.
    • Do not give long introductions. Come straight to the heart of the matter.
    • Show human concern whenever possible in your answers.
    • You should be logically consistent and analyse things rationally while talking. You are supposed to defend what you say, but with due respect to the views of the board. Stop trying to defend an answer if it becomes difficult to do so logically and fairly.
    • Do not make hasty or sweeping generalisations.



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