UPSC Civil Services Exam – Is It Really The Most Difficult Exam?

The UPSC Civil Services Exam is considered the toughest exam in India. But for some, it is just an exam with a vast syllabus which requires a lot of time to cover. Both of the answers – YES or No are correct, but it depends on the candidates, his or her skills and their knowledge.

Reasons Why Civil Services Exam Is The Toughest Exam in India

YES! It’s a tough exam. It takes a significant toll on the lives of the candidates and the ones connected to them. WHY?

  • The Hype: A lot of people you know will simply not understand what you are up-to. Majority of them will try to convince you how the exam is tough and how their distant cousin, despite being brilliant, couldn’t get through. This leaves you skeptical.
  • The Isolation: No matter how social a person you are, or how social you try to be, the extensive syllabus of the exam demands a particular number of dedicated hours over certain months. This will keep you away from the best of your friends. (Even girlfriend at times). They will enjoy their jobs while you say no to every trip they plan. Sometimes they understand, sometimes they won’t. It makes you feel left out.
  • The Prelims Ordeal: People make a big deal out of the Mains exam; the importance of Prelims remains under-stated. The very fact that out of 5 lakh people taking Prelims and 13000 odd making through is daunting. Given this competition even if you happen to miss it by 1–2 marks (Believe me, it happens more than you would like to believe), the whole preparation for Mains goes in a black hole. Not to mention, one precious year of your life.
  • Prelims are not all about knowledge. It requires 20–25 marks worth of on-the-spot thinking as well, not everyone can do it on the exam day. Hence, missing out. Despite even topping mock tests at times.
  • Financial Dependence: If you wish to avail the best test series and books, it requires the right amount of investment. (Not even mentioning the cost of coaching classes. Some also avail that). Stakes automatically get high without we also want it.
  • The Career Question: Selection or no selection, a candidate is bound to invest 2–3 years in the exam preparation. This reduces their utility for other careers. Hence, creating anxiety.
  • The Misinformation: There are some excellent mentors here and there who can change your life upside-down (in a positive way). No doubt. But, the overall vibe around the exam is negative and beset with rumours like the performance of an optional, marks being awarded by a particular interview board, how a specific book is a must etc. This breaks the momentum of the best of the students. Already gullible during exam times, willing to believe anything to improve their odds.
  • The one who clears prelims one year is not sure of removing it the next year as well. So, if you don’t have the right time and opportunity to make the most out of the present occasion, no one knows when will the next chance come. If at all. Sadder is the case of people who miss out after reaching the interview stage.
  • The Mental Stress and Self-Doubt: After 1–2 failures, the exam doesn’t seem as impressive as it did at the start. No matter how intelligent or a hot-shot topper one has been in the past, the will to read the same books, again and again, gets reduced drastically.
  • The Societal Pressure: After reaching the age of 27–28. You see that everyone around you is getting married. Your friends and cousins. This does affect you. Albeit unknowingly. Even parents, no matter how supportive, tend to push you to other pursuits so that you can become a marriageable material. More so, for the girls. Also, being unemployed becomes taboo and a hot social issue in your circle. This, at times, takes the requisite strength away.

Reasons Why Civil Services Exam Not the Toughest Exam in India

But then, there are those who consider it not so tough. Here are the reasons why:

  • The competition at the mains stage is very less as compared to the first stage of UPSC, which is Prelims. Out of 13000-odd people clears the preliminary exam, a selection of few can keep up with the syllabus of all seven papers in that 100-odd days’ time frame given to prepare for mains.
  • Even after clearing prelims, as a lot of people have been hopping between optional looking for the most-scoring subject, they end up wasting a lot of time. Hence, not able to cover the syllabus adequately.
  • Given the well-marketed exam, UPSC CSE is and the discussions trending on this or that number of attempts, some people in an initial couple of attempts feel content by just clearing the Prelims and thinking that they will clear Mains the next year. This makes the way a little easier for people who are in for giving their best shot.
  • Some people are good with the objective format exams, and such people clear Prelims quickly. Again and again. But, quite a few of them lack the requisite aptitude to WRITE in a time-bound manner. Hence, flunking the mains year after year, or reaching the interview stage but finally not clearing it.
  • A handful of people chill after clearing mains and neglecting the interview preparation. This has a significant effect on the final scores and results. A person who is still putting in diligent efforts has better chances of making it.
  • It is a relative exam at the end of the day. If you can do better than your serious competitor next door, you have decent chances. Then it doesn’t quite matter if the final cut-off is 48% or 58% (Or any number for that matter).


There is a fierce competition in getting a post for Civil Services jobs since its considered as the most prestigious in India.

However, the difficulty of the Civil Services Exam and how “easy” or “hard” it is depends on factors like a candidate’s personal strengths and preparation.

Areas covered in this article

  • Reasons why the UPSC Civil Services Exam is very tough
  • Reasons why some consider the UPSC Civil Services Exam not-so-tough

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