Indian Foreign Service (IFS) – Exam Pattern, Date, Vacancy, Training

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Indian Foreign Service is one of the most preferred services in the UPSC Exam along with IAS, IPS, and IRS. An IFS officer represents the country internationally and deals with India’s external affairs like cultural relations, trade, and diplomacy. IFS, or the Indian Foreign Service exam, is held by UPSC each year as Civil Services Examination. Candidates qualifying for the Civil Services Examination conducted by UPSC get to the Indian Foreign Service as per their rank. After the service allocation and mandatory training at LBSNAA, the selected candidates go through the service training at the Sushma Swaraj Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi.

The IFS exam date 2023 is 28 May 2023, as per the updated UPSC calendar. Compared to IAS, IPS, and IRS, the vacancies for the recruitment of IFS Officers are comparatively fewer. This article exhaustively covers the eligibility, vacancies, Indian Foreign Service exam pattern, roles and responsibilities of the officers, salary, etc.

What is Indian Foreign Service?

The Indian Foreign Service is the diplomatic service under the Group-A Services recruited by the UPSC. Aspiring IFS Officers appear for the UPSC Exam, and based on their ranks, services are allotted to all successful candidates. Many civil services candidates aspire to become an Indian Foreign Service officer due to the challenging role, responsibilities, power, and sometimes the generous monetary benefits.

  • An officer who cleared the Indian Foreign Service exam frames foreign policies and manages Indian missions abroad.
  • As IFS officers, they get an opportunity to travel to different countries and represent India at the global level and in international forums.
  • Other than this, officers serve at the President’s Secretariat, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Ministry of External Affairs headquarters in New Delhi.
  • They also head Regional Passport Offices throughout the country and hold key positions in several ministries on deputation.

Indian Foreign Service Exam

The IFS Exam, also known as the Indian Foreign Service Exam, is administered by the Union Public Service Commission and is conducted in three stages: Prelims, Mains, and the Interview/ Personality Test. In the last exam cycle, Prelims were conducted on 05 June 2022, and the Mains exam took place from 16 to 25 September 2022. The selected candidates appeared for the Interview from January to May 2023. The IFS exam date 2023 for Prelims is 28 May 2023, for which the notification and application form was released on 01 February 2023. Read the following points to know more about the Indian Foreign Service exam:

  • The UPSC Prelims for IFS screen the candidates for the UPSC Mains Exam.
  • The selected candidates, who clear the cutoff for the Mains examination, go through the interview stage.
  • The total score is calculated by combining the score of the Mains and the UPSC Interview or the Personality Test.

Indian Foreign Service Exam Overview

Go through the highlights of the Indian Foreign Service exam below.

IFS – Indian Foreign Service
IFS Full Form IFS stands for Indian Foreign Service. The recruits selected in this service are known to be IFS Officers (OTs). IFS is one of the Group A services under the UPSC.
Exam conducting body Union Public Service Commission
IFS Training Center Sushma Swaraj Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi.
Who can become an IFS Officer? The IFS Eligibility has similar eligibility criteria as other services mentioned under the UPSC Notification. Candidates who hold a valid graduate degree from any recognized university in India and are within the age limit can apply for the Indian Foreign Service Exam.
Subjects The subjects for the Indian Foreign Service are the same as for the IAS, IPS, or IRS. The Exam Pattern followed is as prescribed by the UPSC for the CSE Examination.

The Indian Foreign Service exam, like the IAS Exam, is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. As mentioned earlier, it is a part of the Civil Services Examination, and the conducting body is the UPSC. To qualify for the IFS Exam, one needs to clear all the three-level, i.e., Prelims, Mains, and Interview. Once qualified, the candidate is allotted the service according to their rank and preference disclosed in the DAF.

IFS Exam 2023 Notification

The notification of the IFS Exam 2023 was released on 01 February 2023 on the UPSC website. The UPSC Notification can be downloaded from the official website or from the links below to learn more about the Indian Foreign Service exam.

IFS Exam Date 2023

The UPSC IFS Exam Date 2023 for Prelims is released. As per the official UPSC calendar, the exam will be conducted on 28 May 2023, for which the notification was out on 01 February 2023. Last year, the Prelims exam was held on 05 June 2022. The Indian Foreign Service Exam was conducted in two shifts:

  • Shift 1 – General Studies Paper-1: 9:30 A.M to 11:30 A.M.
  • Shift 2 – General Studies Paper-2 (CSAT): 02:30 P.M. to 04:30 P.M.
Events IFS Exam Date 2023 Indian Foreign Service Exam Date 2022
Notification release date 01 February 2023 02 February 2022
Application Date 01 February 2023 02 February 2022
Last Date of Application 21 February 2023 22 February 2022
UPSC Indian Foreign Service Exam Date – Prelims 28 May 2023 05 June 2022
Mains Exam Date 15 September 2023 onwards 16 September 2022 onwards

Indian Foreign Service Syllabus

The candidates are advised to go through the UPSC Prelims Syllabus and prepare accordingly. The topics under the Indian Foreign Service syllabus for Prelims paper 1 include:

  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and Indian National Movement.
  • Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, and Economic Geography of India and the World.
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights, Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change, that do not require subject specialization.
  • General Science.

Indian Foreign Service Exam Syllabus for CSAT

The Indian Foreign Service syllabus for the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) is provided here. The topics included in the UPSC CSAT Syllabus for IFS prelims preparation include the following:

  • Comprehension;
  • Interpersonal skills, including communication skills;
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability;
  • Decision-making and problem-solving;
  • General mental ability;
  • Basic numeracy (Class X level),
  • Data interpretation

The candidate must appear in both papers of the Indian Foreign Service exam for the purpose of evaluation; otherwise, he/she will be disqualified.

Indian Foreign Service Exam Syllabus for Mains

The candidates are advised to go through the UPSC Mains Syllabus published in this section for the Indian Foreign Service Mains examination. The questions in the Mains exam test candidate’s basic understanding of all relevant issues, and their ability to analyze, views on conflicting socio-economic goals, objectives, and demands. The topics include:

English: Comprehension of given passages, Precis Writing, Usage and Vocabulary, Short Essays

Indian Language: Comprehension of given passages, Precis Writing, Usage and Vocabulary, Short Essays, Translation from English to the Indian Language and vice-versa

Indian Foreign Service Syllabus for Essay: Candidates are required to write essays on a total of two topics, selecting one from each section.

General Studies Paper 1 to 4: The IFS Exam Syllabus for Mains is similar to UPSC Mains Syllabus. The GS Paper 1 includes History, Indian Art and Culture, Geography, and Indian Society. The IFS Syllabus for GS 2 includes Polity, Governance, IR, and more. The GS Paper 2 syllabus has a good overlap with Political Science and International Relations UPSC Syllabus. The GS Paper 3 includes Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security, and Disaster Management. The GS Paper 3 can be easily covered through Current Affairs and the economic development part through the Economy Notes for UPSC.

The GS Paper 4 includes Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude, and all of these topics can be easily covered if one refers to the Ethics Books for UPSC.

Indian Foreign Service Exam Syllabus for Optional Subject Paper 1 and 2: Candidates can choose any optional subject from amongst the list of Optional Subjects for UPSC given in the notification. The UPSC has 48 optional subjects in total. Learn How to choose Optional Subject for UPSC to make the correct choice.

IFS Officer Salary

At the initial level, the overall IFS Officer salary is nearly 60,000 INR per month, including all the perks and allowances, in India, which increases with subsequent promotions. However, the Indian Foreign Service Officer salary who is appointed outside India is different because they get a special foreign allowance, which makes a huge difference in the monthly salary. Apart from salary, IFS Officers are also entitled to:

  • Accommodation
  • Water and electricity (Expenses borne by GOI)
  • Free phone calls
  • Retirement benefits and pension
  • Government Transportation
  • Security and House Help
  • Medical Expenses

Indian Foreign Service Salary per Month

The Indian Foreign Service Officer’s Salary is tabulated below as per their grade:

Grade Rank Basic Pay/Grade Pay
Junior Time Scale Under-Secretary ₹8000/₹5400
Senior Time Scale Under-Secretary ₹10700/₹6600
Junior Administrative Scale Deputy Secretary ₹12750/₹7600
Selection Grade Counselor Director ₹15100/₹8700
Senior Administrative Scale Joint Secretary ₹18400/₹10000
High Commissioner/Ambassador Foreign Secretary ₹26000 (Fixed)

Indian Foreign Service Eligibility

There are no prerequisites or physical requirements needed for IFS. Indian Foreign Service eligibility is the same as the UPSC Eligibility, released in detail in the CSE Notification. The complete IFS eligibility requirements include:

  • IFS Exam Age Limit
  • IFS Educational Qualifications
  • Nationality

Indian Foreign Service Officer Qualification

To apply for the Indian Foreign Service Exam, there is no minimum qualifying percentage required. Candidates who have graduated from a recognized government institution/college can apply for the IFS exam. Also, candidates in their final year of graduation are eligible to appear for the Indian Foreign Service Exam.

IFS Officer Nationality

For Indian Foreign Service, a candidate must be either:

  • a citizen of India or
  • a subject of Nepal, or
  • a subject of Bhutan, or
  • a Tibetan refugee who came over to India before 1st January 1962 with the intention of permanently settling in India, or
  • a person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma, East African countries of Uganda, Kenya, the United Republic of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Zaire, and Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.

Indian Foreign Service Age Limit

The UPSC calculates age as of 1st August of the year in which the exam is conducted. The minimum age limit to sit for the Indian Foreign Service exam is 21 years. Even the upper age for the IFS Exam is calculated as of 1st August.

  • For general category candidates, the upper IFS Age Limit is 32 years.
  • The upper age limit prescribed is relaxable up to a maximum of five years if the candidate belongs to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe.
  • For an OBC candidate, a relaxation of 3 years is mentioned, making the maximum age to sit for the UPSC Exam to be 35 years.
Category Minimum Age Limit for IFS Maximum Age Limit for IFS Number of Attempts
General Category 21 32 6
EWS Category 21 32 6
IFS Age Limit for SC/ST 21 37 Unlimited
OBC 21 35 9

How to Apply for Indian Foreign Service Exam?

As discussed earlier, the Indian Foreign Service Exam is conducted by the UPSC. UPSC releases the Indian Foreign Service Exam application form every year, and the eligible candidates can fill up the application form on the official website of UPSC. To apply, the candidate must fill out the UPSC Online Application before the last date.

  • Visit the official website of UPSC.
  • Then go to the Examination Tab, and select ‘Active Examination’.
  • Click on Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination.
  • Click on the ‘Apply’ option.
  • Fill in all the required information and upload your latest photo and signature according to the desired size and file format.
  • Once filled, preview the application form, save a copy for your reference, and then submit it.

IFS Exam Application Fee

Candidates willing to join the Indian Foreign Service are required to pay a fee of ₹100/- (Rupees One Hundred only) either by remitting the money in any Branch of the State Bank of India or by using Visa/Master/RuPay Credit/Debit Card or by using Internet Banking of SBI. Female/SC/ST/Persons with Benchmark Disability Candidates are exempted from payment of the fee.

Applicants who opt for the “Pay by Cash” mode should print the system-generated Pay-in-slip during part II registration and deposit the fee at the counter of the SBI Branch on the next working day only.

IFS Exam Pattern

The exam pattern for the IFS Exam is to test the academic expertise of the candidate. Aspirants who wish to appear for the IFS exam must check out the complete exam pattern and shape their preparation accordingly. The exam pattern for Prelims, Mains, and Interview rounds are discussed as follows. The aspirants must understand the UPSC Exam Pattern and, with a strategic approach, fetch good marks in each stage of the IFS Exam.

Indian Foreign Service Exam Pattern for Prelims

The Indian Foreign Service exam pattern for Prelims consists of two papers that are MCQs based.

  • These include General Studies-1 and General Studies-2 (CSAT).
  • The General Studies-1 paper is considered for the cutoff, while the CSAT paper is the only qualifying paper where candidates need to secure at least 33% to pass.
  • The marks obtained in the prelims are not counted for the final merit list.
  • Each paper carries 200 marks, and the time duration for both papers is 2 hours each.
IFS Prelims Exam Pattern
Paper Type No. of questions UPSC Total Marks Duration Negative marks
General Studies I Objective 100 200 (+2 marks per question) 2 hours Yes (One-third of marks allotted to each question)
General Studies II (CSAT) Objective 80 200 (+2.5 marks per question) 2 hours Yes (One-third of marks allotted to each question)

IFS Exam Pattern for Mains

The Indian Foreign Service exam pattern for Mains includes 9 papers in total. The first two papers, Compulsory Indian Language and English are qualifying in nature. Other than this, the main papers include 1 Essay paper, 4 General Studies papers, and 2 papers on the Optional Subjects. The score obtained in the mains exam decides the rank and service allocation to a great extent.

  • Paper A – Compulsory Indian Language
  • Paper B – English
  • Essay
  • General Studies – 1 (Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society)
  • General Studies – 2 (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice & International Relations)
  • General Studies – 3 (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management)
  • General Studies – 4 (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude)
  • Optional Subject – Paper 1
  • Optional Subject – Paper 2
IFS – Indian Foreign Service Mains Exam Pattern
Paper Subject Nature Duration Total marks
Paper A Compulsory Indian language Qualifying (25% Marks required) 3 hours 300
Paper B English 3 hours 300

Merit Ranking in Nature

3 hours 250
Paper- I General Studies I 3 hours 250
Paper-II General Studies II 3 hours 250
Paper-III General Studies III 3 hours 250
Paper-IV General Studies IV 3 hours 250
Paper -V Optional I 3 hours 250
Paper -VI Optional II 3 hours 250

Indian Foreign Service Exam Pattern for Interview

Once the candidate has cleared the Mains level, they have won half the battle. For the Indian Foreign Service Officer Interview, prepare your DAF well. Make notes and pointers on all questions asked in the DAF, as the majority of the questions arise from the Detailed Application Form. They form the base of your IFS Officer Interview.

The second part of the Indian Foreign Service interview consists of questions based on your service preference. For IFS, questions may generally arise from recent international events, International Organizations, India’s stand on recent issues on the global level, etc.

How to Become an Indian Foreign Service Officer?

The preparation for the Indian Foreign Service Exam is the same as for the IAS Exam. The Commission conducts a single exam to recruit candidates for IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS, and all the other services mentioned in the UPSC Notification. To become an Indian Foreign Service officer, one needs to apply for the UPSC prelims exam. After it is cleared, the selected candidates will be asked to appear for Mains, followed by an Interview.

Books for Indian Foreign Service Exam

Keeping resources limited in the Indian Foreign Service Exam preparation is always advised. Keep the books concise, but revise them thoroughly. The books to be consulted for different subjects of the IFS exam, both for Prelims and Mains, are given below. Choose them accordingly:

IFS Training

On selection into the Indian Foreign Service through the UPSC Exam, the Officer Trainees (OTs) undergo a comprehensive and multi-faceted training program intended to give them diplomatic knowledge, qualities, and skills. The probationers commence their training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussourie, and thereafter they join the Sushma Swaraj Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi.

At the Indian Foreign Service Institute, they undergo focused training in various disciplines. The aim of the course at Sushma Swaraj Foreign Service Institute is to inculcate a strong sense of history, knowledge of diplomacy and international relations, and a grasp of general economic and political principles into the officers.

At the conclusion of the Indian Foreign Service training program, the OTs are assigned their compulsory foreign language (CFL). After a brief period of desk attachment in the Ministry of External Affairs, the OTs are posted to an Indian Mission abroad as Third Secretary in a country where their CFL is the native language and enrolled in a language course. The OT is expected to develop proficiency in his/her CFL and pass the requisite examination before he/she is confirmed in service.

Life of an Indian Foreign Service Officer

An Indian Foreign Service Officer begins his career abroad as a Third Secretary and is promoted to Second Secretary as soon as he/she is confirmed in service. After being promoted as the Second Secretary, they are assigned to one of the wings (Political, Economic or Commerce, Consular, Administrative or Cultural) at an Indian Embassy or as Consul at an Indian Consulate for a period of 3 years. Here, the life of an IFS officer revolves around learning about the economic, commercial, political, and cultural nuances of their country of posting as an Indian Foreign Service officer.

IFS Officer Functions

An Indian Foreign Service Officer is required to project India’s interests on various issues at home and abroad. These include:

  • Protecting India’s national interests in the country of their posting;
  • Representing India in its Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates, and Permanent Missions to multilateral organizations;
  • Reporting accurately on developments in the country of posting which are likely to influence the formulation of India’s policies;
  • Promoting friendly relations with the receiving state as also its people, including NRI / PIOs;
  • Negotiating agreements on various issues with the authorities of the receiving state, and
  • Extending consular facilities to foreigners and Indian nationals abroad.

In India, the Ministry of External Affairs is responsible for all aspects of external relations. Territorial divisions deal with bilateral political and economic work, while functional divisions look after policy planning, multilateral organizations, regional groupings, legal matters, disarmament, protocol, consular, Indian Diaspora, press and publicity, administration, and other aspects.

Indian Foreign Service Promotions

The designations within the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) are as follows:

  • At an Indian Mission/Post abroad: Third Secretary (Language Trainee), Second Secretary, First Secretary, Counsellor, Minister, Ambassador
  • At MEA Headquarters: Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Director, Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary, Secretary

Check IFS Promotion Chart With Years here.

IFS Result 2023

The IFS final result 2023 is expected to be out anytime soon along with the cadre allocation list and ranks. Earlier, the Mains result was released on the official site on 6th December 2022. The result PDF comprises the roll numbers of the candidates selected for the exam. The UPSC result is determined by the marks scored by the candidates in all three levels of the recruitment process.

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