IFS Officer – How to Become Indian Foreign Service Officer?

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 9th, 2023

The Indian Foreign Service or IFS is one of the services you can get into if you clear the UPSC civil services exam. The IFS exam is the same as the IAS exam held every year by the UPSC. In fact, the Indian Foreign Service is a sought-after service as successful candidates can go on to become diplomats and ambassadors of India to different countries of the world. There are very few seats for the Indian Foreign Service as compared to the other services like the IAS and IPS, so aspiring IFS candidates need to acquire a high rank in the civil services exam in order to become Indian Foreign Service officers.

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 for the foreign service, 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 the step-by-step process for becoming an IFS officer.

  1. Apply for the UPSC Exam or IFS Exam on the official website of the UPSC online
  2. Appear in the first stage of the IFS exam i.e. Preliminary Exam
  3. Appear in the second stage i.e. Mains Exam after clearing the prelims
  4. Go for the UPSC Interview which is the last stage of the exam after clearing the Mains
  5. Complete the training period after clearing the interview round and getting allotted the Indian Foreign Service

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, reliable newspapers, etc. Follow BYJU’s and be updated with the latest UPSC Notifications.

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 equally divided between its 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 CSATis 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 papers 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, also known as the UPSC interview. The personality test carries 275 marks. The UPSC Board members will ask questions on various topics. Even though the weightage of the personality test or interview is less, its 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 take the UPSC exam 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 year of the examination. However, age relaxation is applicable for candidates from various categories as mentioned in the table below.

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 to take the IAS or IFS prelims exam.

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 officer’s career is spent at the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.

  • After clearing all three stages i.e. Prelims, Mains, and Personality Test, the selected candidates have to go through the IFS training if they are allotted the foreign service based on their rank. The training starts at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) in Mussoorie and continues 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 for 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 mention the subjects that you will have to study 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 using the best books to cover the UPSC History Syllabus.
  • Geography – Candidates need to have in-depth knowledge of physical, Indian, and world geography. Topics such as sustainable development goals, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, environment conventions and summits, climate change and natural disasters, 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. Candidates must be aware of the latest developments in science and technology, especially those with an Indian connection.
  • 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. 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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