IAS (Indian Administrative Services)

IAS Exam Highlights

The Union Public Service Commission(UPSC) conducts the Civil Services Examination every year for recruitment to various prestigious posts in the Government of India. It is also known as Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the exam is called as Civil Services Examination (CSE). It is considered to be the toughest examination in India. IAS include 24 government services like IPS, IFS (Foreign), IFS (Forest), IP & TAFS, IAAS, IRS, IDAS, CMSE, IRTS, IRAS, IRPS, ITS, CAPF-AF etc.

IAS is the permanent bureaucracy in India and forms a part of the executive branch. It is one of the three All India Services, its cadre can be employed by both the Union Government, the State Governments and public-sector undertakings.Every year Lakhs of candidates appear for this examination, testing their lucks and hard work to get through one of these prestigious posts.It is very important for aspirants to know and understand the requirements of the examination. In this segment we are giving detail about UPSC  IAS exam pattern, syllabus, eligibility criteria, application procedure and other important information.

Exam Notification

The Union Public Service Commission(UPSC) ​release its official notification for the posts of IAS every year. The notification contains all related information viz- vacancies, syllabus and exam pattern. There may not be changes in the exam pattern which includes the sectional timings/sectional cut-offs etc. Thus, it is always beneficial to read over the official notification properly. Click Here Download Full Notification. 

Exam Pattern

To get success in UPSE  Exam, it is necessary to know the exam pattern and detailed syllabus of this exam. This will help you to prepare for this exam. To ensure your full-proof success, it is necessary that you are aware of the ever changing exam pattern and other related details.

The complete selection procedure of UPSC Exam will be conducted in three stages : Preliminary Exam, Mains Exam and Personality Test (Interview) Process. It is mandatory for a candidate to clear each level of examination to get selected to the various posts of IAS.

  • Stage-1: Preliminary Exam : 2 papers (Multiple Choice Questions -200 + 200 Marks)
  • Stage-2: Mains Exam (Subjective Type): 9 papers
  • Stage-3: Personal Interview (275 Marks)

UPSC IAS Prelims Exam Pattern

The UPSC exam pattern for the Preliminary stage consists of two papers, conducted on one day. Both the papers comprise objective type questions with multiple choice of answers. The prelims examination is a qualifying stage to filter candidates for the mains exam. The marks secured at this stage are not counted towards the final merit list, though candidates have to prepare well for this exam as cut-offs are unpredictable and depend on the average score every year.

The first paper, known as the GS or General Study paper, will check the applicant’s knowledge over current affairs, Indian national movements, Indian history, Indian & world geography, Indian economy, Indian polity, social development, biodiversity, environmental ecology, etc.

The second paper is designed to check the applicant’s reasoning and logic building aspects. Here questions are also asked to check in-depth understanding of comprehension skills, communication, and interpersonal skills, decision-making abilities, problem-solving techniques, English language, and data interpretation, etc.

The exam will conducted offline. There includes negative marking as well. Each wrong answer will get a deduction of 1/3 mark as penalty.The details of UPSC Prelims Exam are given below:

Paper Types No. of Question Marks Duration
General Studies I
2 Hours
General Studies II (CSAT)
2 Hours
  • UPSC IAS Mains Exam Pattern

    A candidate who score at least 33% in prelims will be eligible to appear in the mains.The IAS mains exam comprises a total of nine papers.Out of them two papers are considered qualifying papers and the rest of the seven papers decide candidate’s ranking.After the examination, all successfully qualified candidates will be called for a personal interview round.As per the exam pattern of UPSC Mains, all of the papers consist of descriptive answer type questions. The details of UPSC Mains Exam are given below:

Paper Subjects Duration Total Marks
Paper A
Compulsory Indian language
3 hours
Paper B
3 Hours
Paper I
3 Hours
Paper II
General Studies I
3 hours
Paper III
General Studies II
3 hours


Paper IV
General Studies III
3 hours
Paper V
General Studies IV
3 hours
Paper VI
Optional I
3 hours
  • All of the mains papers except for the language papers A and B are of a merit ranking nature. Paper A and B are of qualifying nature.
  • The Indian Language paper covers any of the languages included in the 8th Schedule of the constitution.
  • The subjects which are covered by the General Studies Papers in Mains Exam are:
General Studies I General Studies II General Studies III General Studies IV
Indian Heritage and Culture
History and Geography of the World
Economic Development
Social Justice
International relations
Security and Disaster Management
Optional Subjects
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
Civil Engineering
Commerce and Accountancy
Electrical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering
Medical Science
Political Science and International Relations
Public Administration

Literature of any one of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English.

UPSC IAS Interview

This is the final stage of the IAS Exam before the final results are declared. Officially it is called the Interview/Personality Test and counted as a part of the Mains Examination for merit ranking purposes.it isassessment of the personal suitability of the candidate for a particular civil service.A panel of interviewers comprising of various dignitaries and subject experts will be judging applicants for their mental abilities, social traits, intellectual skills, and varied and diverse knowledge about current affairs.

UPSC IAS Qualification

Educational Qualification

The various academic requirements as per the IAS Eligibility Criteria are as follow :

  • The candidate must hold a degree from Government recognized Universities or possess an equivalent qualification.
  • Candidates who are in their final year or awaiting results are also eligible to appear for UPSC preliminary Examination. All such candidates who are eligible to appear for IAS exams must produce proof of having passed the said examination along with the application for the main IAS examination.
  • Candidates having professional and technical qualifications recognized by the Government as equivalent to professional and technical degrees.
  • The criteria for medical students are quite different, in case the student is in the final year but is yet to undergo internship and training process. Such students if qualified for the main examination shall submit a copy of the internship program undertaken along with the main examination application without fail.


For IAS and IPS

  • Candidate must be a citizen of India.

All other Services

Candidate must be either

  1. A citizen of India, or
  2. A subject of Nepal, or
  3. A subject of Bhutan, or
  4. A Tibetan refugee who came to India before 1st January 1962 with the intention of permanently settling in India, or
  5. A person of Indian origin (PIO) who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zaire and Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.
  • The candidates belonging to categories (2), (3), (4) and (5) should furnish a certificate of eligibility issued by the Government of India. Such candidates may take the exam before getting the said certificate of eligibility, but he/she would get the offer of appointment only after the certificate has been issued by the Government of India.
  • A person belonging to categories (2), (3) and (4) are not eligible for appointment to the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).

Age Limit and Relaxation

  • General category: 32 years; 6 attempts.
  • OBC(with certificate): 32 years + 3 years; 9 attempts.
  • SC/ST: 32 years + 5 years; unlimited attempts.
  • Physically Disabled: 32 years + 10 years; Gen/OBC- 9 attempts & SC/ST unlimited attempts.
  • Jammu & Kashmir Domicile: 32 years + 5 years + (3 years, if OBC OR 5 Years, if SC/ST); Number of attempts depends on the reserved category.
  • Disabled and discharged Defence service personnel: 32 years + 3 years + (3 years, if Gen/OBC OR 5 years, if SC/ST).
  • Ex-Servicemen Commission Officer: 32 years + 5 years + (3 years, if OBC OR 5 Years, if SC/ST).

UPSC IAS Exam Syllabus

Preliminary Exam Syllabus

General Studies Paper – I

  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and Indian National Movement.
  • Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, 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, Biodiversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialisation.
  • General Science

CSAT/ General Studies Paper- II

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) – Class X level)
  • Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)

Mains Exam Syllabus

Language Papers (Indian language and English)

Although both these papers are only qualifying in nature, candidates should not be complacent as if they fail to score below 25% in either of them, their remaining answer sheets won’t even be evaluated. Both the papers follow a similar pattern of questions as given below.

  • One essay question for 100 marks – candidates have to select one out of a few given topics
  • Reading comprehension and related five-six questions for a total of 60 marks
  • Precise writing for 60 marks – the answer sheet will have a separate grid structure where this has to be written
  • Translation from English to chosen language for 20 marks
  • Translation from chosen language to English for 20 marks
  • Grammar and basic language usage such as synonyms, sentence correction etc. for a total of 40 marks


The UPSC mains syllabus does not have any prescribed syllabus for the essay paper as such. As per the UPSC, “Candidates are expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in an orderly fashion, and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.”

Candidates are required to write two essays from a list of given topics for a combined total of 250 marks.

GS Paper 1

  • Modern Indian History
  • Significant events, issues, personalities during the middle of the eighteenth century (1750s) until the present.
  • Different stages and important contributors and contributions from various parts of the country in ‘The Freedom Struggle’.
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganisation within the country.
  • History of the world
  • Events, forms and effect on society since the 18th century (world wars, industrial revolution, colonisation, redrawal of national boundaries, decolonisation, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism, etc.)
  • Society
  • Indian society and diversity – Salient aspects.
  • Role of women and women’s organisations, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanisation, their problems and remedies.
  • Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism.
  • Effects of globalisation on Indian society.
  • Geography
  • Distribution of key natural resources across the world including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent; factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world including India.
  • Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc.
  • Geographical features and their location, changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and polar ice caps) and, in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
  • Salient features of world’s physical geography.

GS Paper II

  • Indian Constitution
  • historical underpinnings,
  • evolution, features
  • amendments, significant provisions
  • basic structure doctrine
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
  • Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions
  • Structure, organisation and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
  • Parliament and State Legislatures
  • structure, functioning
  • conduct of business
  • powers & privileges and issues arising out of these
  • Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
  • Government policies and interventions aimed at development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Development processes and the development industry – the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and the States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures
  • Role of civil services in a democracy
  • International Relations
  • India and its neighborhood – International relations.
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting the Indian interests.
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Important International institutions, agencies, their structure and mandates.

GS Paper III

  • Economy
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilisation of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • Inclusive growth and associated issues/challenges
  • Effects of liberalisation on the economy (post 1991 changes), changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
  • Infrastructure – Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
  • Investment models (PPP etc)
  • Agriculture
  • Major cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers
  • Economics of animal rearing.
  • Food processing and related industries in India – scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  • Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions
  • Land reforms in India.
  • Science and Technology
  • Recent developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
  • Indigenisation of technology and developing new technology.
  • General awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nanotechnology, bio-technology
  • Issues relating to intellectual property rights
  • Environment
  • Conservation,
  • Environmental pollution and degradation
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Disaster Management (Laws, Acts etc.)
  • Security
  • Challenges to internal security (external state and non-state actors)
  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges,
  • Basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organised crime with terrorism

GS Paper IV

This Ethics paper in the UPSC mains syllabus includes questions to check the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity and probity in public life and his/her problem-solving approach to various societal issues. Questions may utilise the case study approach to determine these aspects and the exam covers area as mentioned in the syllabus given below.

  • Ethics and Human Interface
  • Essence of Ethics, Determinants and Consequences of Ethics in Human Interaction
  • Dimensions of Ethics
  • Ethics in private and public relationships
  • Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators
  • Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating moral and ethical values
  • Attitude
  • Content, structure and function of attitude
  • Influence of attitude in thought and behaviour
  • Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour
  • Moral and Political attitudes
  • Social influence and persuasion
  • Aptitude
  • Aptitude and foundational values of Civil Service
  • Integrity
  • Impartiality and non-partisanship
  • Objectivity
  • Dedication to public service
  • Empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Concepts of emotional intelligence
  • Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance.
  • Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality
  • Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration
  • Status and associated problems
  • Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions
  • Laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance
  • Accountability and ethical governance
  • Strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance
  • Ethical Issues in international relations and funding
  • Corporate governance
  • Probity in Governance
  • Concept of public service
  • The philosophical basis of governance and probity
  • Information sharing and transparency in government
  • Right to Information
  • Codes of ethics
  • Codes of Conduct
  • Citizen’s Charters
  • Work culture
  • Quality of service delivery
  • Utilization of public funds
  • Challenges of corruption

Optional Subject (Two Papers)

A candidate has to choose one optional subject (out of a total of 48 options). There will be two papers for a combined total of 500 marks. Selecting the best optional subject for UPSC mains should be a careful and considered decision. Refer to the link given above to understand which optional subject will be the best for you.

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