Civil Services Exam(CSE) – Eligibility, Exam Pattern, Stages & Syllabus

By Balaji

Updated on: March 24th, 2023

Civil Services Exam popularly known as IAS Exam is a competitive examination conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in India. It is also known as UPSC CSE and is conducted to recruit candidates for All India Service and central posts. 24 services come under Civil Services Exam, and the most popular services include IAS, IPS, IFS, etc. Every year lakhs of candidates appear in the Civil Service Exam. However, less than 1% only get selected. The Civil Services Exam 2023 Notification has been released by UPSC.

As per the notification, the application process for Civil Service Exam 2023 has started and the last date to apply for it is 21 Feb 2023. Those who aspire to become civil servants must appear in the Civil Service Exam. In this article, we will be covering all the details of 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 Civil Services Examination in India.

Table of content

  • 1. What is Civil Service Exam? (more)
  • 2. History of Civil Services Exam in India (more)
  • 3. Civil Services Exam 2023 (more)
  • 4. Types of Civil Services in India (more)
  • 5. Civil Services Exam Timeline (more)
  • 6. Civil Service Exam Application Form (more)
  • 7. Civil Service Exam Eligibility (more)
  • 8. Exam Pattern for Civil Services Examination (more)
  • 9. Civil Services Exam Syllabus (more)
  • 10. Stages of Civil Services Exam (more)
  • 11. Civil Service Exam Question Papers (more)
  • 12. How to Prepare for the Civil Services Exam? (more)
  • 13. Best Books to Prepare for Civil Services Exam (more)

What is Civil Service Exam?

Popularly known as the ‘IAS Exam’, the Civil Services Examination is one of the toughest exams in India. Union Public Service Commission(UPSC) conducts the Civil Service Exam every year to recruit candidates for 24 civil services in India. Some of the popular services include IAS, IPS, IFS, and IRS.

More than 5 lakh candidates appear for Civil Service Examination. This exam is conducted in three phases, and those who clear all three stages get recruited in civil services in India based on their UPSC Ranks. The Civil Service Exam in India lasts over a year as it starts from the May-June month of the year to the May-June month of the next year.

History of Civil Services Exam in India

The History of Civil Service in India started during British rule. British Empire introduced civil service in India in 1858, and it was known as the Indian Civil Service(ICS) until 1947. It was one of the positive impacts of British Rule in India. The Civil Service Exam was divided into three parts during the era of British East India era 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 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 UPSC CSE Prelims – 28 May 2023, UPSC CSE Mains – September 15, 2022, onward

Types of Civil Services in India

The UPSC Civil Services is divided into two groups – Group ‘A’ and Group ‘B’. Group ‘A’ includes All India Services such as IAS, IPS, IFS, and 18 other services under UPSC Post List for ‘A’ group. Group ‘B’ services include five services under it. Most of the candidates appear for the UPSC Civil Service Exam to become a part of All India Services. Only those who clear the UPSC 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 almost conducted in the same time period. UPSC 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 on 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 Service 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 Service Exam Application Form

The application form for Civil Service Exam is out of the official website of UPSC. Candidates need to apply for the exam before the last date of the application process. The UPSC 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 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 teh Civil Service Exam application process is to choose the exam center. Remember that changes are not allowed once you submit the application for the IAS Exam.

Civil Service Exam Eligibility

To appear for the Civil Service Exam, candidates need to meet the UPSC Eligibility criteria such as age, educational qualification, and nationality. The minimum age to apply for the UPSC CSE is 21 years, and the maximum age is 32 years. Age relaxation can be applied to the candidates from OBS, SC/ST categories. The candidates must have completed graduation from a recognized university. Candidates from certain backgrounds get the age relaxation as well.

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

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 UPSC CSE syllabus would help the candidates to take their preparation in the right direction. Candidates can check out Civil Services Exam syllabus for both Prelims and Mains in the given link below.

Civil Services Prelims Exam Syllabus

The UPSC Prelims paper consists of two papers – General Studies 1, and CSAT. Below we have provided the Prelims syllabus for 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, andClimate 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

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 Syallbus 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

Stages of Civil Services Exam

The Civil Services Exam is divided into three stages- Prelims, Mains, and Interview. Exam patterns 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. UPSC Prelims is a screening test to find the eligible candidates for the next stage, i.e. UPSC 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.

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

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 Personality Test. Candidates around 2-2.5 times the number of total vacancies get called for the interview round, based on the result of UPSC Mains. The IAS Interview Questions access 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 Service Exam Question Papers

Candidates preparing for the UPSC 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 UPSC 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 Civil Services Exam is highly competitive, and without a solid preparation strategy, it is impossible to crack this exam. The approch for the preparation of the IAS 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 Time Table for UPSC Preparation that can help them cover the syllabus efficiently. You can come up with your own timetable or refer to time 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 their foundation. After that, candidates can refer to advanced books and study materials that would help them to 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 Civil Services Exam

Those who are beginning their preparation for the upcoming Civil Services Exam may find it difficult to choose the right books for their preparation. There is a wide range of books available in the market that may make you feel confused, and you can feel overwhelmed. That’s why it is crucial to make the right UPSC Books selection. You will need a huge collection of books, however, some of the must-have books for the IAS Exam are:

UPSC Articles
UPSC Books In Hindi IPS Training
IAS Toppers Marks Subject Wise Zoology Optional UPSC
UPSC Essay Topics Economics Books For UPSC
IntUPSC Vacancyernational Relations UPSC Mains Questions Public Administration Books For UPSC
Internal Security Previous Year Questions UPSC Mains Can Final Year Students Apply For UPSC
IFS Promotion Chart With Years Ex-Servicemen Quota In UPSC
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