The Civil Services Exam Guide for Beginners

The UPSC Civil Services IAS Exam is one’s entry to the administrative arm of the All India Services. Considered the premier civil service of India, the Indian Administrative Service (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).

To follow the UPSC Civil Services Exam pattern, one needs to understand the IAS and IPS syllabus. It will help you in eliminating wasteful efforts like reading unnecessary topics, and hence the strategy will keep you on track.

UPSC Civil Services IAS Exam: Prelims and Mains Syllabus

UPSC released the official notification for the Civil Service Exam on the 4th of March 2021, along the syllabus. The syllabus can be found at the UPSC official site.

There is usually a typical UPSC Civil Services 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.

10 Important Things to Note About the Civil Services Exams

  1. What is the full form of UPSC? – The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), India’s premier central recruiting agency is responsible for examinations for All India Services and Central Services. At the same time, the Department of Personnel and Training is the central personnel agency in India.
  2. What is the Civil Service Exam? – The UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) in India is a nationwide competitive examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Civil Service posts are categorized into two groups-  Group A and Group B. About 24 services are there which comes under the civil services exam which includes IAS (Indian Administrative Service), IPS (Indian Police Service), IFS (Indian Foreign Service) etc.

    Civil Services jobs are widely considered prestigious in India. The complete process of Indian Civil Services Examination starting from the official notification of the preliminary exam until the declaration of the final results takes place within a year. Candidates those who get selected are recruited and trained for various services by the Central Government and then different State Cadres are allotted as per preference and ranking.
  3. Civil Services Exam Posts: UPSC posts for 23 different Civil Services are filled through CSE conducted by UPSC. Out of thousands and lakhs of aspirants, only a few thousand students clear this exam successfully. Although there are 23 different Civil Services posts and ranks, the most popular ones are IAS, IPS, IRS and IFS.

    The posts are allotted to successful ideal candidates based on their ranks obtained in the exam. Once a candidate is assigned a service, he/she will be appointed to various posts under a particular service except in some cases where he/she may go on deputation to another department in another function.
  4. UPSC Exam Details for 2021
    • Name of the Examination: Civil Services Exam (UPSC CSE Exam| UPSC Civils)
    • Exam Level: All India / National Level
    • Conducting Body: Union Public Service Commission
    • Exam mode: Offline / Pen and paper mode
    • Number of vacancies: 796
    • Eligibility: The Civil Services Age Limit for Indian Citizens is between 21 – 32 years.
    • The number of attempt: Six attempts are allowed for General Category aspirants in UPSC Civil Services.
  5. The Indian Civil Service Exam (UPSC CSE) stages:
    1. Civil Services Exam (Preliminary) – Objective Type – UPSC Preliminary exam is qualifying in nature. It involves the screening test to select the students for the further selection process. The marks of preliminary exams are not considered in the final merit list. It comprises of two objective type papers of 200 marks each.
    2. Civil Services Exam (Main) – Descriptive Type – Mains exam is the second stage in CSE selection process it comprises of 9 descriptive type papers –One Essay paper, four General Studies paper, two optional papers (You can choose as per your choice from CSE Optional subjects), two Language papers (Marks scored in this paper will not be included at final ranking order, but the candidate needs to score at least 25% in each paper to qualify)- Duration- All papers are of 3 hours.
  6. Personality Test / Interview – Personality is test is the final round in the CSE selection process. Only those candidates who got shortlisted after mains exam are allowed to attend the interview- 275 Marks.

    Note- Learn more about the syllabus from this link: Civil Services Exam Syllabus
  7. UPSC Exam Eligibility:
    • Qualification- Graduation        
    • Age Limit- 21-32 years (Age relaxation as per category) 
    • Nationality – Indian Citizens Only
  8. Exam Frequency:– Conducted every year (Once in a year)

    The examination schedule is announced during January-February, after which the selection is made in three stages. (Preliminary, Mains and Interview). Restrictions on attempts- 6 (General), 9 (OBC& PwBD – General), No limits for SC/ST candidates.
  9. How to Apply: Candidates are required to apply online on the official website:

    Use the mentioned detailed instructions to fill the form. Candidates should have details of one id card viz. Aadhar Card/ Voter Card/ PAN Card/ Passport/ Driving license, etc. The facility of withdrawal is available for those who do not want to appear for CSE.
  10. Roles and responsibilities:
    • Handling the affairs of the government, including the framing, implementing rules/plans and reviewing the relevant policies.
    • Consulting with the various departments regarding relevant policies and elected the representatives for the above-mentioned functions.
    • Management and the disbursement of various funds of the central government allocated for the different schemes.
    • Supervising the implementation of various schemes and the policies of the government.
    • Responding to emergencies such as natural disasters, major accidents and riots in their jurisdiction and coordinating relief activities.


Many consider the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) as the top choice when applying for any civil services post. But getting into and becoming an IAS officer is not easy as there is a lot of competition involved, However, one with a right attitude and approach can become an IAS officer. For becoming an IAS officer, a candidate must qualify UPSC Civil Services Exam (UPSC CSE) that consists of three stages – Prelims, Mains, and Interview.

Essential points covered in this article

  • Eligibility criteria – Qualification, Nationality, Physical Standards and, Medical tests, etc.
  • Roles and responsibilities

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