UPSC Selection Process – 3 Stages of UPSC Exam

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The UPSC Selection Process is a rigorous and competitive process that aims to select the best candidates for the IAS. It involves multiple stages of examination, evaluation, and interview to ensure that selected candidates have the necessary skills, and aptitude to serve as civil servants in India. The IAS Selection Process is a three-stage process that includes the Preliminary Exam, Main Exam, and Interview. Each stage is designed to test different aspects of the candidate’s knowledge, and personality.

UPSC’s Selection Process is highly competitive and demands hard work, dedication, and discipline from candidates. A clear understanding of the IAS Selection Process will help candidates in identifying their strengths and weaknesses, and focus on areas that need improvement. It is important for candidates to understand the UPSC selection process and the requirements for each stage to develop a successful strategy and increase their chances of success in the examination.

UPSC Selection Process

The UPSC Selection Process consists of three stages: Preliminary Examination, Mains Examination, and Interview. Preliminary Examination is a screening test that evaluates the candidate’s basic knowledge and understanding of various subjects. Mains Examination is a written test that assesses the candidate’s in-depth knowledge of various subjects and their ability to express their thoughts clearly and coherently. The interview is a personal interview that assesses the candidate’s personality, communication skills, and suitability for civil services.

Candidates need to have a strong foundation of basic knowledge to clear the Preliminary Examination, followed by in-depth knowledge for the Mains Examination during the UPSC procedure. The Interview assesses the candidate’s overall personality and communication skills, so candidates need to prepare accordingly. Candidates who understand the IAS selection process and prepare accordingly will have a better chance of succeeding in the UPSC CSE.

IAS Selection Process for Prelims

In UPSC Selection Process for the civil services exam, Prelims is the first stage of the selection process, which is a screening test to assess the basic knowledge and understanding of candidates. This exam consists of two papers: GS Paper 1 (General Studies) and GS Paper 2 (Civil Services Aptitude Test). Both papers are conducted on the same day, with a duration of two hours each. The total marks of both papers are added together to determine the candidate’s score in the preliminary examination.

Paper 1 of UPSC Prelims examines the candidate’s knowledge of current events, Indian history, geography, polity, economy, environment, and general science. While, Paper 2 examines the candidate’s analytical and reasoning abilities, decision-making skills, and comprehension skills. However, It is important to note that Paper 2 is of a qualifying nature and candidates need to score a minimum of 33% marks in this paper to qualify for the next stage of the exam. Marks obtained in Paper 2 will not be included in the merit list. Candidates can check the table below to understand the UPSC Selection Process for the preliminary examination in detail:

Paper Name Type of Paper Marks Number of Questions Duration
GS Paper 1 Objective Type 200 100 2 Hours
GS Paper 2 (CSAT) Objective Type 200 80 2 Hours

UPSC Selection Process – Mains

The Mains examination is the second stage of the UPSC selection process. It is a written examination that tests the candidate’s in-depth knowledge of various subjects and their ability to express their thoughts clearly and coherently. The Mains examination consists of nine papers, out of which seven are compulsory and two are optional. The optional papers are chosen by the candidate based on their area of expertise and interest. Each optional paper carries 250 marks. The candidate can choose from a list of 26 subjects, including literature, history, political science, economics, geography, philosophy, and others.

The UPSC Mains exam is conducted over a period of five days, with two papers per day. The Indian language and English language papers are held on the first two days, followed by the general studies papers, and finally, the optional papers. Each paper is of three hours in duration. Candidates who qualify for the Mains examination are eligible to appear for the interview stage, which is the final stage of the UPSC Selection Process. Candidates can check the table showing the distribution of marks for each paper in the UPSC Mains:

Paper Marks
Paper A – Indian Language 300
Paper B – English Language 300
Paper 1 – Essay 250
Paper 2 – General Studies 1 250
Paper 3 – General Studies 2 250
Paper 4 – General Studies 3 250
Paper 5 – General Studies 4 250
Paper 6 – Optional Subject Paper 1 250
Paper 7 – Optional Subject Paper 2 250

IAS Selection Procedure for Interview

The Interview or the Personality Test is the final stage of the IAS Selection Process. Candidates who qualify for the Mains Exam are called for the Interview round. The Interview is conducted by a board of competent and unbiased observers who assess the candidates’ mental calibre, intellectual depth, and social traits. The interview board comprises experts from various fields, including civil servants, academicians, and subject matter experts. The board members are generally selected based on their expertise and experience in a particular field.

The IAS Interview round lasts for around 30 minutes to an hour, during which the candidate is asked a series of questions related to their educational background, hobbies, interests, current affairs, and views on various social and political issues. The Interview round is a crucial stage of the UPSC selection process, and it carries 275 marks out of a total of 2025 marks. The Interview round plays a significant role in deciding the candidate’s rank in the final merit list. A good performance in the Interview round can significantly improve the candidate’s chances of securing a high rank in the final merit list.

Tips for Cracking the UPSC Selection Process

Cracking the IAS Selection Process can be a challenging task, as it requires dedication, hard work, and a strategic approach. The UPSC exam is considered one of the toughest exams in India, and clearing it requires a thorough understanding of the syllabus, current affairs, and effective time management skills. Candidates can check the tips for cracking the UPSC selection process that can help them to prepare effectively and increase their chances of success.

  • Set a Goal and Stay Motivated: Set a clear goal for yourself and stay motivated throughout the preparation process. Believe in yourself and have faith that you can crack the exam.
  • Plan and Prepare Early: Start your preparation early and plan your study schedule. Ensure that you cover the entire syllabus and revise regularly.
  • Read Newspapers and Stay Updated: Stay updated with current affairs by reading newspapers and news portals regularly. This will help you answer questions related to the latest events in the exam.
  • Focus on Writing Skills: Focus on improving your writing skills as it is an essential aspect of the Main Exam. Practice writing essays, answers, and descriptive passages regularly.
  • Work on Personality: Work on developing your personality and communication skills as they are crucial for the interview. Practice speaking in front of the mirror, participate in group discussions, and seek feedback from friends and mentors.
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