Becoming an IAS Officer : Exam, Process, Eligibility, Interview & Important Steps

Becoming an IAS Officer : Exam, Process, Eligibility, Interview & Important Steps

Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is the administrative service of the All India Services. It is considered one of the premier civil service of India, and the IAS is one of the three premier divisions of All India services along with the Indian Police Service (IPS) and the Indian Forest Service (IFS).

There is usually a typical UPSC syllabus pattern for services such as the IAS, Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS), etc. The UPSC Prelims syllabus mainly focuses on general and societal awareness which is tested by objective-type (MCQ) questions. On the other hand, the UPSC Mains syllabus is much more comprehensive as this stage comprises of nine theory papers.

IAS Exam – Eligibility Criteria

All candidates are requested to carefully read the Rules of Civil Services Examination notified by the Government (Department of Personnel and Training) and the Notice of Examination. The Candidates applying for the examination should ensure that they fulfill all eligibility conditions for admission to examination. Their admission to all the stages of the examination will be purely provisional subject to satisfying the prescribed eligibility conditions. Mere issue of e-Admit Card to the candidate will not imply that his/her candidature has been finally cleared by the Commission. The Commission takes up verification of eligibility conditions with reference to original documents only after the candidate has qualified for Interview/Personality Test. Further details on eligibility criteria are mentioned here.

UPSC Civil Services IAS Exam Phases

The UPSC Civil Services Exam for IAS is conducted in three phases:

Phase 1: UPSC Civil Services Prelims Exam

The UPSC CSE IAS Prelims Examination is composed of two components:

  1. General Studies
  2. Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) – The UPSC Civil Services Prelims Exam consists of two papers (objective type), each of 200 marks (with a total of 400 marks) and two hours’ duration. To qualify for the CSE Mains, a candidate needs to clear both the papers. The CSAT paper has 80 questions for 200 marks, correctly answered CSAT question would attract 2.5 marks each, while every wrongly marked item would carry a negative marking of 0.833 for each wrong answer, which will be deducted from the total marks.

Note- Questions that are not attempted will not carry negative marks.

Phase 2: UPSC Civil Services Main Exam

The Main Exam is created to assess/understand the overall intellectual traits and depth of understanding of an ideal candidate rather than merely focusing on the range of their information and memory skills.

The nature and the standard of questions in the General Studies papers (Paper II to Paper V) will focus on a well-educated person who will be able to answer them without any specialized study or understanding about the topic. The questions will test/judge an ideal candidate’s general awareness of a variety of subjects, which will be useful to have for a successful career in CS.

The questions are likely to test the candidate’s basic understanding of all relevant issues, and ability to analyze, and take a view on conflicting socio-economic goals, objectives and demands. The candidates must give relevant, meaningful and concise answers.

The scope of the syllabus for optional subject papers (Paper VI and Paper VII) for the examination is broad of the honours degree 1evel, i.e. a level higher than the bachelors’ degree and lower than the masters’ degree. In the case of Engineering, Medical Science and law, the level corresponds to the bachelors’ degree.

Civil Services Mains Exam Syllabus

Syllabus of the papers included in the scheme of Civil Services (Main) Examination are given as follows:

Qualifying Papers on Indian Languages and English

The paper aims to test the candidates’ ability to read and understand serious discursive prose and to express his ideas clearly and correctly, in English and Indian language concerned.

The pattern of questions would be broad as follows:

  • Comprehension of given passages.
  • Précis Writing.
  • Usage and Vocabulary.
  • Short Essays.
  • Translation from English to the Indian Language and vice-versa.

Note 1: The papers on Indian Languages and English will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking.

Note 2: The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where the translation is involved).

Phase 3: Interview

The candidate will be interviewed by a Board who will have before them a record of his career. He/she will be asked questions on matters of general interest. The object of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a job in public service by a Board of competent and unbiased observers. 

The test is designed to judge the mental calibre of a candidate. In broad terms, this is an assessment of not only his intellectual qualities but also social traits and his interest in current affairs.

Some of the qualities of an ideal candidate to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, the balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity.

The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination but a natural, though directed and purposive conversation which is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate. Government strives to have a workforce which reflects gender balance, and women candidates are encouraged to apply.

The interview test is not intended to be a test either of the specialized or general knowledge of the candidates which has been already tested through their written papers. 

Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their particular subjects of academic study but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their State or Country as well as in modern currents of thought and in discoveries which should arouse the curiosity of well-educated youth.

Important Steps to become an IAS Officer

The following stages are necessary to pass to become an ideal IAS Officer.

  • Step #1: Deciding on your true calling:
    Preparing for the civil services exams is a very time-consuming task, and it involved a lot of responsibilities and dedication because unlike other competitive exams, it consists of three rounds and many different dimensions to it. So, before aspirants embark on this journey, they must decide whether it is something that they want to do.
    Ideally, if your heart desires to serve the country and become a part of the prestigious system to bring the positive changes you seek, you should consider the IAS position as a career option. It is considered one of the challenging and demanding profession, but it can be immensely satisfying and fulfilling if this is something you want. You can also reach to be the Cabinet Secretary of India through the promotions in this profile.
  • Step #2: Conducting research and gathering all the relevant information
    In this step, aspirants must gather all the relevant information about the exam and constraints involved in the different stages.
  • Step #3: Creating and strategizing your IAS plan
    Candidates should break up the syllabus and understand its pattern and nature to make a realistic study plan. Candidates must resolve themselves to stick to the plan no matter what- to clear the exam.
  • Step #4: Marching ahead
    This is the step where you implement the plan and start preparing accordingly. Aspirants will have to invest long hours at the study table while understanding the in-depth questions. But they also have to ensure that they need to take the much-needed breaks in between to avoid the burnout. Candidates need to take a systematic approach that can make your preparation a smooth ride.
    Have a dedicated strategy for each specific round, the prelims, mains and the interview. You must read the daily newspapers, relevant journals like Yojana, updates on PIB, and understand and be able to analyze any news that is relevant to your subject and something which is included in your study plan- and is of some importance politically, economically and socially, etc.
  • Step #5: Assessing your course
    Aspirants must take the periodic tests to assess the status of their preparation. Taking the mock tests both for the prelims and the mains helps you understand where you are standing today in terms of your preparation and where you want to teach while bridging the gap accordingly. Aspirants need to know their weakness it can be a particular subject or area of that subject- may be a few topics that require extra attention, and it also tells whether you need to speed up while answering the questions in the paper. This is the vital steps in knowing how to become an IAS officer.
  • Step #6: Keeping up with the faith
    Candidates need to have faith in themselves, and your abilities are necessary because having doubts about your strengths in the first place can lead to wrong results and depression throughout the journey. And even if one has adopted the right strategy and combined it with intense and steadfast effort, you won’t get the desired results and find your way into the Indian civil services. We need to maintain a positive mentality while preparing for the exam as it is essential to clear the exam stages and especially the interview.


In simpler terms, you can become an Indian Administrative (IAS) Officer by clearing the UPSC Civil Services Examination every year. This exam recruits officers into the civil services of the country which includes services like the IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and many more. In this article, we explore a step-by-step guide to help you on your IAS journey.

Areas covered in this article

  • UPSC Civil Services Exam Phases
  • Step-by-step guide to becoming an IAS Officer

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This post was last updated on September 28th, 2021 at 02:43 pm




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