UPSC Civil Services IAS Exam : Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Answered

Q: What is the necessary educational qualification needed to appear in the UPSC IAS examination?

Answer: Any equivalent degree which may be regular or distant from a recognized university. The candidate must hold a degree/diploma from any of Universities comprise by an Act of the Central and State Legislature in India or other educational institutions, etc. 

Q: Can the final year students of graduation appear for UPSC CS Exam?

Answer: Yes, candidates who are in their final years or finals years and are waiting for their results can also appear for the Prelims, and they are also eligible for admission to the Preliminary Exam. 

Q: When should I provide the proof of completion of my graduation examination?

Answer: You need to provide the proof before appearing for the mains exam, and all the candidates who are officially declared qualified by the Commission will be required to produce evidence of passing the mentioned exam with their application for the Mains Exam failing to do so will not be admitted to the Mains Exam. 

Q: I hesitated to apply for the Civil Services Exam (CSE) because I can’t speak English fluently. Is it possible for me to write the Civil Services Mains Exam in English and take the interview afterwards in Hindi or any other Indian language?

Answer: You don’t have to hold yourself back just because you can’t speak fluently in English because UPSC gives the options in this regard, such as: 

  • If you decide to write the Civil Services Exam (CSE) in English, you have to choose English as the medium for the interview as well, or maybe Hindi or any other Indian language opted by you for the Indian Language Paper (ILP) in the written part of civil services mains exam.  
  • On the other hand, if you are released from the Compulsory Indian Language paper (ILP), then you will have to choose between English or Hindi as a medium of your interview as per your comfort zone. 

Note- To get more updates on the UPSC 2020 notifications- 

Q: If I apply for the UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) but do not appear in any paper, will that be counted as an attempt?

Answer: No, an attempt will only be counted if you have appeared in at least one paper- be it Prelims or Mains, because only filling the application form is not considered an attempt, you will have to write the exam. 

Q: If a candidate belongs to any community, like in the OBC list but not in the Central list of OBCs is he/she is considered eligible for the age relaxation, reservations etc. for the Civil Services Examinations (CSE)?

Answer: No, only candidates belonging to the listed communities which are included in the Central list of OBCs are considered eligible for such relaxations, etc. 

Q: Is it possible for me to choose an optional subject in CSE (in Mains), which I have never studied before or in the Graduation/PG?

Answer: Yes, you are eligible to choose the optional subject as per your interest as long as you have completed your graduation from a recognized university. 

Q: Can I write different papers in different languages for Civil Services Exam (CSE) Mains?

Answer: No, you have the option to select the language before appearing for the exam to write it either in English or in any language that is mentioned in the UPSC Notification. 

Q: Usually, it is advised that the candidates should carefully study the last ten years question papers of General Studies papers (Prelims) exam as that provides us with the overall overview of nature and format, like-  how the questions are framed from the respective themes of the syllabus and also indicate the difficulty level?

Answer: Yes, old/previous years’ papers help the candidates to understand the format and nature of the exam and helps them to prepare their strategies accordingly. 

Q: Are individual marks secured the phases in various papers or aggregate marks across all documents considered for merit?

Answer: Total marks are considered. 

Q: How severe is the competition in UPSC. Civil Services Examination (CSE)?

Answer: You can understand the level of competition in UPSC from the below-mentioned stats: 

  • No. of vacancies released each year: Are between 1000 to 1200. 
  • No. of candidates who filled the UPSC form: Are usually more than nine lacs. 
  • No. of applicants who appear for the Preliminary exam: Are almost around 4.5-5 lacs. 
  • No. of candidates who qualify the Prelims for the mains exam: They are equal to the twelve to thirteen times the nos. of vacancies released by CSE. 
  • Nos. of Candidates who qualify the mains to appear for the Interview: 2-2½ times the Nos. of vacancies in the CSE Thus, one can say that CSE is one of the most stringent national level exams. 

Q: Will there be any exceptions to anyone in any unfortunate circumstances to the above-mentioned requirements for the UPSC CSE?

Answer: In some exceptional cases, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) may treat a candidate who has not any of the above qualifications as a qualified candidate and prove that he/she has cleared the exam conducted by the other recognized Institution. 

Q: I have professional/technical qualification- So, am I eligible to appear for the UPSC Exam?

Answer: Candidates who have a professional and technical qualifications/degree recognized by the Government of India as equivalent to the other professional and a full-time technical degree would also be eligible for admission to the examination. 

Q: I have passed MBBS, but I have not completed an internship yet. Can I appear for UPSC CSE?

Answer: Candidates who have passed the final year of a professional MBBS or any other Medical Examination but are yet to complete their internships by the time of applications for the Civil Services (Main) Examination, but they will have to provide the proof of their qualifications certificate from the concerned University/Institution that they had passed their final professional medical exam, along with their application. 

Q: Is it possible to clear the IAS exam without attending any professional classroom (Practical) coaching?

Answer: Yes, only if you are good at self-study. We are not saying classroom coaching isn’t sufficient- it is, but still, you have to study/revise on your own and if you don’t have a good study plan- doesn’t matter which coaching you have finished you won’t be able to clear the exam.  

There are some outstanding coaching institutes and professors who help aspirants save a lot of time, effort and even money if you follow up the course for 2-3 times. But like I said- not all coaching institutes provide the qualitative information, just follow up with the study materials and mock tests, and you will be good to go.   

Q: Will there be individual cut-offs for papers in Civil Service Prelims exam?

Answer: The minimum cut off for Paper-2 is 33 per cent. The Commission may fix minimum cut-off marks for Paper-1 as well. 

Q: Is there negative marking for the Preliminary exam?

Answer: There is negative marking for the incorrect/wrong answers for all questions, except for the questions where negative marking will be inbuilt as per their appropriateness and not so appropriate solutions for such problems. 

Q: Which stream/subject do I have to choose for graduation if I want to clear UPSC CSE?

Answer: Most of the questions in the first phase like- general studies papers in Prelims and Mains are related to Humanities background. But it is not necessary to take Humanities as your primary stream just to clear the UPSC. CSE. 

You should select your graduation stream based on your interest and skills – it can be humanities, science, engineering, literature or management, etc. For graduation degree, select any stream as per your requirements. Afterwards, you are free to choose any optional subject for UPSC. Mains exam and it doesn’t have to be the one you studied for graduation. 

Q: Will there be a minimum qualifying mark for the UPSC Mains exam for compulsory subjects?

Answer: The Commission has the diplomacy to fix qualifying marks in any or all the subjects of the examination. Since 2015, the minimum score was 25% for any Indian language, and English language, forex-  For GS1, GS2, GS3 and GS4, minimum qualifying marks demanded are 10%. 

Q: Will UPSC CSE deduct marks from the total score for the lousy handwriting or spelling mistakes?

Answer: If a candidate’s handwriting or spelt words are not easily readable, a deduction will be made from the total marks. 

Q: Will there be a minimum qualifying mark for UPSC. CSE Interview phase?

Answer: The interview is of 275 marks (with no qualifying marks). 

Note- Students usually have many doubts about the preparation for the UPSC CSE. There are various number of questions comes in their mind before they think about the developments of the Civil Service Exam (CSE) conducted by UPSC. We are trying to answer here some of the frequently asked questions [FAQs] on how to prepare for the UPSC exam. 

Q: How many times one can take this exam (No. of attempts)?

Answer:  Number of attempts allowed: General Category- FOUR (4) OBC- SEVEN (7) SC/ST- No restriction 

Q: Is there any relaxation in several attempts for physically handicapped?

Answer: Only physically disabled candidates belonging to SC, ST and OBC categories are eligible for relaxation in several attempts provided to such groups. 

Q: Can a candidate who has or about to complete his/her education from an open school/ University apply for the UPSC Exam?

Answer: Yes, candidates having passed a bachelor degree from the any open recognized University are eligible to write the exam. The minimum educational qualifications prescribed for the review is a bachelor’s degree. 

Q: Candidates who belong to a community included in the OBC, SC/ST list of Indian states but not in the Central list are eligible for age relaxation, reservations, etc. for UPSC IAS examination?

Answer: No, only candidates who belong to the communities which are included in the Central lists are eligible. 

Q: Can a candidate/aspirant choose an optional subject, which he/she has not studied at a graduation/PG level?

Answer: Yes. 

Q: Is it compulsory for an aspirant to take the same optional subjects in the Mains Examination, which he/she had in the UG/PG level?

Answer: No, it is not compulsory. 

Q: If a candidate has applied for the Prelims Exam but has not appeared in the exam, will it still be counted as a UPSC attempt?

Answer: No, an attempt is only counted if a candidate has appeared in at least one UPSC CSE paper. 

Some other queries

  • What is the syllabus for the civil service exam? – To know more, visit- UPSC Syllabus for 2021 
  • What is the core purpose of the civil service exam? – Click on the link, UPSC Exam  
  • What is the qualification of IAS? – Visit, UPSC IAS

Q. Is coaching important for UPSC IAS Exam Preparation?

Answer: No, but it defers from individual to individual. And as we know, UPSC continuously changes its pattern to make the civil services exam (CSE) accessible and possible to every student.  However, it is usually seen that the most candidate who succeeds has taken coaching at some point while preparing. Here why- 

• The vague syllabus, especially in prelims phase- for general studies which the candidates find difficult due to the fact they had never studied that before and due to the time-related constraints. So to escape the book corner, they need well-detailed notes and study materials that can save their time and provides them with the exact pattern.  

Q. Should we prepare notes while studying for the UPSC IAS?

Answer: Yes, notes are essential if you want to save time in your later month. Notes make your revision phase smooth. So you should always prepare notes in the areas in which he/she is weak, or on the specific topics which are very important from the exam point of view.

Q. How many hours of preparation are sufficient to clear the exam?

Answer: As many hours as you can invest efficiently, because if you are spending the entire day but studying only in one hour, then it is a waste. It’s all about qualitative results over quantitative efforts. (Use smart techniques to learn more)

Q. Is it possible for an average student to compete with the rest?

Answer: As long as he/she is aware of their strengths and weaknesses and are ready to invest their time and mind more efficiently to achieve the desired results.  But they need to know how to add that ‘extra’ into the ‘ordinary’ to become the ‘extra-ordinary’. That extra is gained by the firm determination, an honest self-assessment and foolproof planning to create a mind map and strategy which is followed by the strict implementation of the plan.

Q. Does a proper bio-data matter in the UPSC IAS CSE?

Answer: Bio-data only matters during the final phase of the interview and the personality test (i.e. during the third phase). The personality test is based wholly or mostly based on bio-data, and the questions are framed on information provided by you.

Q. Is it allowed to answer civil services questions in a regional language?

Answer: Yes, aspirants can write answers in their selected language provided by the UPSC.

Q. Preparation for Prelims and Mains – Separate or Integrated?

Answer: Can knowledge be compartmentalized? No, it is an integrated whole which gives a comprehensive understanding. Same holds for the exam preparation process. Its basic concepts should understand the whole concept/subject. Only then you will be able to achieve the  Preliminary and Mains target marks.

Q. When should we first attempt the exam irrespective of the fact how many attempts we already had?

Answer: So many candidates appear in the exam first just to have a learning experience, but this is considered the biggest mistake they can commit because every single attempt counts and UPSC attempts are very precious. So if you want to appear for the exam, make sure you are well prepared.  You must go through the whole syllabus in your optional subjects as well as in general studies. You should always check your performance by taking mock tests at home so that you can take corrective measures where it requires.

Q. How to select the optional subjects?

Answer: The essential criteria are in the same sequence of importance.  Interest. Availability of study material and guidance. The gap between the optional during the Mains exam. Scoring optional – as per the trend.

Q. I often see people around me who did not get selected in the prestigious services of UPSC even after trying hard, it affects my self confidence, what should I do?

Answer: Practically speaking, the stakes of losing are high as the best of best students apply for the exam. But just because of this reason you shouldn’t stop yourself from trying and giving your best efforts. Seeing people lose even after trying can affect one’s self-confidence. Still, you shouldn’t take it personally, and you should use this opportunity to learn from their mistakes and form your strategy accordingly.

Q. Most typical reason for failing the UPSC IAS Exam?

Answer: Time is very crucial in UPSC preparation, and it is limited in the examination hall for each candidate, and despite being, aware of the questions, one is not able to express correctly because one has not practiced correctly.  Lack of pressure management No planned routine and lack of guidance on strategy. Analyze your performance regularly- No assessment regarding time management, use of fact and writing style can lead to wrong results.

Solution – Keep a positive view, meet successful people, ignore negative thought. Do not lose your self-confidence, and you have immense potential to use it to achieve your goal honestly.  Identify your shortcomings and try to resolve them by taking corrective measures.

Q. Does only a one-year time duration for preparation enough?

Answer: Well, it depends on how you manage your time and implement your skills for the preparation of the exam, one or two years of intensive study is required and are even enough. Click on this link for tips on Cracking the Civil Service IAS exam.

Q. How to read NCERT books more efficiently? Is it vital to read the India Year Book?

Answer: Yes, as it contains detailed information on the Government’s plans, policies and the achievements of the Government and challenges before it.

Q. How helpful are the Test Series in the UPSC CSE preparations?

Answer: Significant, because test series can determine your performance and where you are standing today. It can give you an in-depth analysis so that you can take the corrective measures accordingly.

Q. While working, how can I prepare for the UPSC CSE exam?

Answer: Firstly, it depends on how serious you are regarding your exam preparations and the second thing is the nature of your, you will have to manage and adjust your routine, as well as time management, is the key.

Q. Is a candidate who has gone through his graduation without passing class Xth and class XIIth eligible for the Civil Service Examination?

Answer: Yes.

Q. Can a candidate write different papers of the Mains Exam in different languages?

Answer: No, Candidates have the option to select his/her desired language before appearing for the final exam, and they have to write their answers either in English or in any one of the words mentioned in the Eighth schedule.

Q. Can a candidate take the interview in Hindi or any other Indian language for that matter?

Answer: Yes, the aspirant can take the interview in any Indian language.

Q. On what criterion are the answer books of the written examination sent for evaluation?

Answer: After the exams, the answer books that are collected from different centres are brought to the UPSC office. All the answers books are then first mixed and then reshuffled, after that, the computerized fictitious code is given to each answer-book; it is only when this process is over the answer books are being sent for evaluation.

Q. Are answer books segregated/sorted based on a community of the candidate?

Answer: No, this is not done, neither it is allowed at any stage of the evaluation process.

Q. Evaluation in mains exam may likely suffer due to ‘strict’ assessment by examiners, is it possible for those evaluated by a ‘liberal’ examiner get benefited?

Answer: No, to achieve uniformity in evaluation, where more than one Examiner is involved.

Q. Is it possible that evaluation could be affected by the knowledge of a candidate’s identity?

Answer: No.

Q. In which Civil Services examinations, subject-wise/paper-wise, marks of each candidate are not made accessible or available? 

Answer: Prelims exam and this is because the Prelims exam is an elimination phase to shortlist the candidates for the Mains Exam.

Q. Can I know the marks of the candidate who took the exam with me from UPSC?

Answer: No. The UPSC does not reveal such information about the ones who have qualified the Civil Services. This rule is applied because the Commission sends the detailed results of qualified candidates to the concerned Ministry/Department for further processing.

Q. If the overall marks of two or more candidates are equal, how is relative merit between such candidates decided?

Answer: ‘Tie-breaking’ principles are applied to decide inter merit – among the candidates who have the same total marks. Candidates securing more marks in the Compulsory Papers and the Personality Test placed higher; In the case where the trademarks mentioned at – (i) above are equal, the candidate senior in age is to be ranked higher.

Q. It is often claimed that UPSC IAS Civil Service Exams is very tough to crack by an average student. Is it true?

Answer: The Civil Services is the most stringent exams not only because of it’s complex nature and the syllabus but because the questions are based on the practical and dynamic current events and require one to have the strong fundamental knowledge about the topics.

Q. Many experts say IAS is for the strong-hearted. Is it true?

Answer: Appearing for the exam doesn’t require one to be strong hearted- you are not going for war after all. All you need is a reliable will power and a great mind to resolve the daily issues that take place within our country.

Q. Is it mandatory to stay in Delhi to prepare for the UPSC IAS exam?

Answer:  No, You don’t have to be from Delhi to clear the exam. Resources are available everywhere with a lot of coaching institute branches all over India. It is the time of the Internet, and you can access almost everything with a single click.

Q. Is it necessary to be fluent in English to clear the UPSC IAS CS exam?

Answer: No, but you should at least be able to write in English, and you must understand the spoken words in English to have a decent conversation in the interview phase.

Q. The UPSC IAS exam requires preparation for 20 hours everyday for 365 days. Is this true?

Answer:  No. It’s more about quality over quantity.

Q. What will happen if FIR is filed against a candidate?

Answer:  FIR is not a constraint to write UPSC exam because, after the final selection, UPSC makes police verification about the candidate. Those who check all the functional boxes will be selected.

Q. Is having a foreign graduation degree eligible/applicable for UPSC IAS CS Exam?

Answer: Having a Graduation Degree recognized by an Act of the Central or State Legislature by University Grants Commission are considered valid and eligible for UPSC Exam.

Note: For more information on the UPSC CSE, visit: