Civil Services Exam – Eligibility, Exam Pattern, Syllabus of UPSC CSE 2024

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Civil Services Exam, popularly known as the UPSC Exam, is a competitive examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in India. This exam is conducted to recruit candidates for All India Service and central posts. There are 24 services that you can get into if you clear the civil services exam, but the most popular services are the IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS, etc. Every year, lakhs of candidates appear in the Civil Services Exam. However, only less than 1% get selected.

The Civil Services Prelims Exam 2024 will be conducted on 26 May 2024. The notification for the Civil Services Exam 2024 will be released in February 2024. In this article, we will be covering all the details related to the Civil Services Exam, starting from the application process, syllabus, eligibility, phases of the exam, etc. UPSC aspirants must go through the article to have in-depth knowledge about the Civil Services Examination in India.


What is Civil Services Exam?

Popularly known as the ‘IAS Exam’, the Civil Services Examination is one of the toughest exams in India conducted by the UPSC in order to recruit candidates for the elite Indian civil services including all-India services like the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS), the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) and many more.

On average, more than 5 lakh candidates appear for the Civil Service Examination each year. This exam is conducted in three stages, and those who clear all three stages get recruited to the civil services in India based on their UPSC Ranks. The Civil Service Exam in India process lasts for almost one year because of the three stages, the prelims, the mains and the interview or personality test stages.

History of UPSC Civil Services Exam in India

The History of Civil Service in India started during British rule. The British government introduced civil service in India in 1858, and it was known as the Indian Civil Service (ICS) until 1947. The Civil Service Exam was divided into three parts during colonial rule namely covenanted, uncovenanted, and special civil services. Indian Civil Service was divided during the partition of India in 1947 when the British left. Pakistan Administrative Service was handed over to Pakistan, and India was left with the Indian Administrative Service. This is how the era of Civil Services in India started.

Civil Services Exam 2023

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is a constitutional body, and it is responsible for conducting the Civil Services Exam. Every year, the UPSC releases a notification on its official website about the CSE. The UPSC Notification 2023 was released on 1st February by the commission. This notification includes all the information to be known by the aspirants.

Civil Services Exam 2023
Name of the Examination Civil Services Exam
Exam Level All India / National Level
Conducting Body Union Public Service Commission
Exam mode Offline / Pen and paper mode
Civil Service Exam Dates 2022 Prelims – 28 May 2023, Mains – September 15, 2023, onward

The USPC mains 2023 concluded on 24 September 2023. The Personality Test, more commonly known as the UPSC interview, is scheduled to be held in January – May 2024.

Types of Civil Services in India

Civil Services is divided into two groups – Group ‘A’ and Group ‘B’. All India Services include IAS, IPS, IFoS, and 18 other services that come under the UPSC Post List for Group A services. Group ‘B’ services include five services under it. Most of the candidates appear for the Civil Service Exam to become a part of All India Services. Only those who clear the CSE with higher ranks get the opportunity to be a part of All India Services.

All Indian Services

Group A Civil Services

Group B Civil Services

  • Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service
  • Pondicherry Civil Service
  • Pondicherry Police Service

Civil Services Exam Timeline

Every year the Civil Services Exam is conducted in almost the same time period. CSE notification is released in the month of February, and the Prelims exam is conducted in the month of June. Those who clear the Prelims then get to appear for the Civil Services Mains Exam that is conducted in the month of October, and then the Interview is scheduled for the selected candidates in the month of February/March of the following year. The final result of the Civil Services Exam is declared in the month of April/May of the following year. The complete process of the CSE, from notification to the declaration of the final result, takes a year.

Civil Services Exam Application Form

The application form for the Civil Services Exam is uploaded on the official website of UPSC. Candidates need to apply for the exam before the last date of the application process as mentioned on the official UPSC website. The CSE has three phases – Prelims, Mains, and Interviews. Candidates need to fill up the form separately for these three phases. To apply online for UPSC candidates can follow these steps:

  • Step-1: Open the UPSC official site, and register yourself by giving the required details on the official website of UPSC.
  • Step-2: Fill up the application form for the Civil Services Exam by providing the required UPSC documents, and paying the application fee.
  • Step-3: Verify all the details, and press on ‘I Agree’ button after reading the declaration.
  • Step 4: The last step of the Civil Services Exam application process is to choose the exam centre. Remember that changes are not allowed once you submit the application for the IAS Exam.

The application process is fairly straightforward and you can easily follow the steps mentioned on the UPSC website.

Civil Services Exam Eligibility

To appear for the Civil Services Exam, candidates need to meet the civil service exam eligibility criteria such as age, educational qualification, and nationality. The minimum age to apply for the CSE is 21 years, and the maximum age is 32 years. Age relaxation can be applied to the candidates from OBC, SC/ST and PH categories. The candidates must have completed graduation from a recognized university. Final-year students can also apply for UPSC CSE, however, they must submit a copy of passing the final year exam while applying for the IAS Mains.

Exam Pattern for Civil Services Examination

The Civil Service Exam or IAS Exam includes three stages, and candidates need to clear each stage to appear for the next one. The exam pattern is different for each stage, and it is imperative that the aspirants are acquainted with the pattern for effective preparation.

IAS Exam Pattern
Civil Services Exam Stages Number of Papers Total Marks Nature of the Exam
IAS Prelims Exam Pattern 2 Papers – GS Paper 1 & CSAT 400 Objective Type
IAS Mains Exam Pattern 9 Papers 1750 Descriptive Test
IAS Interview 275 Personality Test
UPSC Total Marks Mains Marks + Interview Marks = 2025 Marks

UPSC Civil Services Exam Syllabus

UPSC Civil Services Exam syllabus covers a wide range of topics, and candidates need to know all the topics covered in the syllabus before beginning their preparation. Having an idea about the CSE syllabus would help the candidates to take their preparation in the right direction. Candidates can check out the Civil Services Exam syllabus for both Prelims and Mains in the given links in the below sections.

Civil Services Prelims Exam Syllabus

The Prelims paper consists of two papers – General Studies 1 and CSAT. Below we have provided the Prelims syllabus for the UPSC Civil Services Exam that candidates need to follow.

IAS Prelims GS Paper 1 Syllabus
General Studies 1 Constitution of India, Political System, Panchayati Raj, General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change, General Science.
CSAT Syllabus Comprehension; Interpersonal skills, including communication skills, Logical reasoning and analytical ability, Decision-making and problem-solving, and General mental ability

The CSE prelims exam consists of objective types papers (MCQs with negative marking).

UPSC Prelims Syllabus

Civil Services Exam Mains Syllabus

The UPSC CSE Mains has a total of 9 papers including two language papers. The Civil Services Mains Exam tests the writing ability, and thinking abilities of the candidates. Below we have provided the UPSC Mains Syllabus that candidates must follow.

Civil Services Exam Mains Syllabus
Paper Subject
Paper 1 Essay
Paper 2 Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society
Paper 3 Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice & International Relations
Paper 4 (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management)
Paper 5 Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude
Paper 6 Optional Subject – Paper 1
Paper 7 Optional Subject – Paper 2

UPSC Mains Syllabus

Stages of Civil Services Exam

The UPSC Civil Services Exam is divided into three stages – Prelims, Mains, and Interview. The exam pattern and mark distribution at every stage are different. Below we have mentioned all the stages of the exam in brief so that candidates would be able to prepare accordingly.

Civil Services Prelims Exam

The Prelims or Preliminary test is the first stage of the Civil Services Exam. Prelims is a screening test to find the eligible candidates for the next stage, i.e. Mains. The Prelims exam includes two objective-type papers, each carrying 200 marks. Candidates who clear the cut-off marks of that particular year can appear for the next level of UPSC CSE, that is the mains.

Exam Pattern for Prelims Type Nature of Paper No. of questions Total Marks
General Studies 1 Objective Merit Ranking 100 200
CSAT Objective Qualifying 80 200

UPSC Civil Service Mains Exam

The second stage of the Civil Services Exam is known as Mains or UPSC Mains, and it includes 9 descriptive papers – 2 optional papers, 4 general studies, 1 Essay, and 2 compulsory language papers. Candidates get an option to choose the optional subject as per their interest. The language papers are qualifying in nature, and one has to score at least 25% in order to qualify.

Civil Services Interview

The last stage of the UPSC Civil Service Exam is known as the Personality Test (PT). Based on the results of the mains, the number of candidates who get the summons for the PT is around 2-2.5 times the number of total UPSC vacancies. The IAS Interview Questions assess the personality and knowledge of the candidate to evaluate if he/she is suitable to become a civil servant. The total mark of the UPSC CSE interview is 275.

Civil Services Exam Question Papers

Candidates preparing for the Civil Service exam need to know about the types of questions asked in the previous years of USPC CSE and their difficulty level. It would help the candidates to prepare accordingly, and they can come up with the best possible strategy to ace the UPSC Civil Services Exam. We have linked the CSE Previous Year’s question papers below that would help aid the preparation of the candidates.

How to Prepare for the Civil Services Exam?

The UPSC Civil Services Exam is highly competitive, and without a solid preparation strategy, it is impossible to crack this exam. The approach for the preparation of the CSE Exam may vary from candidate to candidate. However, everyone should stick to a basic preparation strategy for fruitful results that we have mentioned below.

  • First, candidates need to create a solid timetable for UPSC Preparation that can help them cover the syllabus efficiently. You can come up with your own timetable or refer to the table recommended by UPSC Toppers.
  • It is highly recommended to go through the complete UPSC Syllabus. Candidates need to know the exact topics to be covered so that they can make the best use of their time.
  • Start with covering the basic NCERT Books and slowly build your foundation. After that, candidates can refer to advanced books and study materials that would help them gain in-depth knowledge on topics mentioned in the IAS Exam Syllabus.
  • During the Civil Services Exam preparation, candidates need to make their own hand-written notes or refer to NCERT Notes that would be beneficial during the revision period. They must create a mind map of the UPSC Syllabus to make the best use of their preparation time.
  • Practice the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers that would help the candidates to analyze the types of questions asked previously in the IAS exam, and they can prepare accordingly.

Best Books to Prepare for UPSC Civil Services Exam

Choosing the right books to study from the plethora of options available is a daunting task for candidates who are beginning their USPC civil services exam preparation. Some of the must-have books for the IAS Exam are:

  • Indian Polity by M. Laxmikant
  • Indian Art and Culture by Nitin Singhania
  • Certificate Physical Geography – G C Leong
  • Tata McGraw Hill CSAT Manual
  • Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning – R S Aggarwal
  • India after Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • Ancient India by R.S Sharma
  • History of Medieval India by Satish Chandra
  • Indian Economy by Nitin Singhania
  • India’s Struggle for Independence by Bipan Chandra
  • Geography of India by Majid Husain
  • World Geography by Majid Husain
  • International Relations: Pushpesh Pant
  • Challenges to Internal Security of India – Ashok Kumar
  • Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude for Civil Services Main Examination by Subba Rao and P.N. Roy Chaudary
UPSC Articles
UPSC Books in Hindi IPS Training
IAS Toppers Marks Subject Wise Zoology Optional UPSC
UPSC Essay Topics Economics Books For UPSC
Internal Security Previous Year Questions UPSC Mains Public Administration Books for UPSC
IFS Promotion Chart With Years Ex-Servicemen Quota in UPSC
Our Apps Playstore
SSC and Bank
Other Exams
GradeStack Learning Pvt. Ltd.Windsor IT Park, Tower - A, 2nd Floor, Sector 125, Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201303
Home Practice Test Series Premium