IFS Officer – How to Become Indian Foreign Service Officer?

By Balaji

Updated on: April 18th, 2023

How to Become IFS Officer? This is one of the most searched questions among the candidates who desire to be a part of the Indian Foreign Service. IFS is a central and chief diplomatic service in the country. The Indian Foreign Service deals with the country’s external affairs, cultural relations, trade, and compromising diplomacy.

Many candidates aspire to serve the country by joining different government posts, but the Indian Foreign Service is one of the sought-after posts among others. So in this article, we have covered how to become an IFS Officer, the eligibility criteria for IFS, and a series of steps and preparation involved to become an IFS officer.

How to Become IFS Officer?

IFS is the diplomatic and administrative division of Group A and Group B central services under the Government of India. Every year, UPSC introduces 17-18 vacancies, which makes it highly competitive among aspirants. To become an IFS officer, candidates need to clear the Civil Service Examination conducted by UPSC every year. After clearing the UPSC CSE, candidates get allotted to the Indian Foreign Service according to their rank and undergo specific training. Below we have provided a step-by-step process for becoming an IFS officer.

  1. Apply for the UPSC Exam or IFS Exam
  2. Appear in the first stage of the IFS exam i.e. Preliminary Exam
  3. Appear in the second stage i.e. Mains Exam
  4. Go for the UPSC Interview which is the last stage of the exam
  5. Complete the training period

After completion of all of the above steps, you will be recruited as an IFS officer.

Apply for the IFS Exam

The first step is to apply for the UPSC Civil Services Exam which is conducted annually. Candidates need to fill up the UPSC Application Form when released by UPSC. They need to keep track of the application form with the help of various websites, employment news, famous newspapers, etc.

IFS Preliminary Exam

IFS Prelims or UPSC Prelims is the first stage of the UPSC Civil Services Examination. And it is the same for other civil services like IAS and IPS. The prelims round carries 400 marks and it is equally divided into two papers- General Studies-1 and General Studies-2 (CSAT).

Both the papers are objective but only the marks of General Studies-1 will be counted for the merit list because CSAT is qualifying in nature. IFS Prelims is only a screening test as marks scored in this exam won’t be counted for the final result.

IFS Mains Exam

IFS Mains is the second stage of the UPSC Exam and it is for those who clear the UPSC Prelims exam. This paper is descriptive. UPSC Mains comprises a total of 9 papers namely- Compulsory Indian language, English, Essay, General Studies I, General Studies II, General Studies III, General Studies IV, Optional Paper-1, and Optional Paper-2.

The Compulsory Indian Language and English are qualifying in nature. This means the marks of the rest of the 7 papers will be considered for the merit list. Candidates can choose any optional subject they like. UPSC Mains carries a total of 1750 marks, and this is an important stage of the UPSC Exam as the marks scored in IFS Mains will be counted for the final merit list.

Personality Test

Those who clear the IFS Mains, get the e-summon letter for the Personality test. The personality test carries 275 marks. The board members will ask questions on various topics. Even though the weightage of the personality test or interview is less, the role in deciding the outcome can be immense.

Who can Become an IFS Officer?

To become an IFS officer candidates need to meet the UPSC Eligibility first. The eligibility for IFS is the same as for other civil services like IAS and IPS. Let’s check the eligibility criteria for IFS such as age limit, qualification, etc below.

IFS Officer Age Limit

To become an IFS officer, the minimum age of the candidate should be 21, and the maximum age should be 32 years as of 1st August of the particular year of the examination. However, age relaxation is applicable for candidates from various categories.

Category Maximum Age Limit for IFS Number of Attempts for IFS
General Category 32 6
EWS 32 9
SC/ST 37 Unlimited (up to age limit)
OBC 35 9

IFS Educational Qualification

  • To become eligible for IFS, the candidate must hold a bachelor’s degree from a government-recognized university or possess an equivalent qualification.
  • Candidates who are in their final year and waiting for the results are also eligible.

Indian Foreign Service Officer – Nationality

Candidate must be either:-

  1. A citizen of India, or
  2. A person of Indian origin (PIO) who has migrated from East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zaire, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, and Vietnam intending to settle in India permanently.

What After Becoming an IFS Officer? (IFS Training)

The career of an IFS officer is unlike any other civil service. Two-thirds of the IFS career is spent abroad and only one-third of the IFS career is spent at the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs.

  • After clearing all three stages i.e. Prelims, Mains, and Personality Test, the selected candidates have to go through the IFS training. The training starts at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in Mussoorie for three months. Here the candidates will be designed as officer trainees.
  • After the completion of the training period at LBSNAA, the officer trainee moves to additional training at the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi. Here he/she will undergo training for a year comprising various modules like Indian International Relations, Foreign Service Pay, Leave and Compensatory Allowances (IFS-PLCA) Rules, and Foreign Trade.
  • After this, the IFS officer trainee gets involved with the Division of the Ministry of External Affairs for six months as on-the-job training. Here the IFS probationer is assigned a Compulsory Foreign Language.
  • After the assigned Compulsory Foreign Langauge is completed, the School of Foreign Languages, Ministry of Defence, India conducts an ability test. Once the IFS probationer completes the ability test successfully, he/she gets a place in the Indian Foreign Service.
  • Generally, it takes around 3 years to become an IFS officer from the starting date as a Foreign Service Probationer.

What to Study to Become an IFS Officer?

Those who aspire to become an Indian Foreign Service officer need to have in-depth knowledge of the subjects covered in the UPSC Syllabus. UPSC CSE is one of the toughest government exams in the country and the preparation has to be rock-solid to crack this exam. Below we will mention the subjects that are a must when preparing for the IFS exam.

  • History & Indian Culture – Here, the candidates need to have a solid grasp of modern, ancient, medieval, and Indian History. They need to prepare with the best books to cover the UPSC History Syllabus.
  • Geography – Candidates need to have in-depth knowledge of the physical, Indian, and world geography. Topics such as sustainable development goals, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, environment conventions and summits, etc must be prepared carefully to score well in this subject.
  • Economy – This is an important part of the syllabus that covers topics like inflation, economic growth and development, economic organisations, etc.
  • Polity – Candidates need to have a strong knowledge of Polity topics as well such as powers and functions of the Supreme Court and High Courts, jurisdictions, important judgments, committees, etc.
  • Current Affairs – Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Current Affairs are a must. Candidates need to stay prepared with newspapers, magazines, and online resources.
  • Science & Technology – Preparing Science & Tech can be done with the help of NCERTs, Daily Newspapers, and the ISRO website.
  • Environment and Ecology – This subject is also required for the IFS exam, and candidates can take the help of various resources available both online and offline to prepare for it.

What are the Mandatory Subjects to Become an IFS Officer?

To become an IFS officer, candidates need to know the subjects mentioned in the UPSC Syllabus. The Commission has set a certain syllabus for both Prelims and Mains exams. Below we will be covering the required subjects for both Prelims and Mains.

Subjects Required for IFS Prelims (General Studies-1)

As per the UPSC Prelims Syllabus, candidates need to study:

  • History – Ancient, Medieval, and Modern History along with Post-Independence History
  • Indian Polity and governance
  • Environment
  • General Science
  • Indian and World Geography
  • Economic and Social Development

Subjects Required for IFS Prelims (CSAT)

The CSAT Syllabus for the IFS Prelims exam includes:

  • Interpersonal Skills and Communication Skills
  • Basic English Comprehension Skills
  • Decision-making skills and problem-solving skills
  • Basic numeracy
  • General mental ability

Subjects Required for the IFS Mains

For IFS Mains, candidates need to cover the UPSC Mains Syllabus that includes Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society, Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice & International Relations, Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management, Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude. Additionally, candidates will get to choose one optional subject from the list of 48 UPSC Optional Subjects.

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