India

How to Apply & Prepare for IAS Exam


Providing the opportunity to bring positive changes to the lives of millions, the IAS or Indian Administrative Service is indeed the most prestigious service and a unique career choice in India. To select an officer into the IAS and various other Civil Services of the Government of India, including the IFS (Indian Foreign Service) and IPS (Indian Police Service), a nationwide competitive examination, called the Civil Services Examination (CSE), is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in India. In 2017, the IAS exam will be held on June 18. For details, visit the commission’s website. Let us take a look at the pattern of exams, along with how you can prepare for it.

Eligibility Criteria

To appear for the exam, the candidate must be at least 21 years of age and should hold a graduate degree or have appeared for the exam for a graduation degree in any subject. Candidates belonging to the General category are eligible for 6 attempts, till the age of 32 years. With the maximum age limit set to 37 years, there is no limit to the number of attempts that SC/ST candidates can make. On the other hand, OBC candidates are allowed a maximum 9 attempts, till they turn 35.

Pattern of IAS Exams

The Civil Services Exam, held by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) each year, is conducted in 3 stages.

Stage 1: Preliminary Examination or CSAT, also known as Objective Section

Prelim exams are held in two papers, Paper I and Paper II, where Paper I is designed to test for the candidate’s General Studies, whereas Paper II is based on Aptitude. Paper I consists of 100 questions of 2 marks each, which need to be completed in 2 hours. Paper II is of 200 marks and consists of 80 questions of 2.5 marks each, for which you are given 2 hours.

In the General Studies paper, you’ll be tested rigorously on your knowledge of History, Polity Economics, Geography, Science and Technology and Environment. In Paper II CSAT (Civil Service Aptitude Test), basic numeracy, English, comprehension and decision making are tested.

You are allowed to appear for the Main examination only if you clear Paper I. Paper II is taken to analyse the candidate and is only qualifying in nature. You should know that the marks you score in Paper II will not be added for the overall merit of the CS Prelims. However, it is mandatory for the candidate to appear in both the papers for evaluation purposes, else they’ll be disqualified.

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In the Prelims exam, there is negative marking, where 1/3rd of the marks allotted for a question will be deducted for every wrong answer. Be extra careful! You can find the complete syllabus for all the exams, both prelims and main, on the UPSC website.

Stage 2: Main Examination, also known as Subjective Section

Candidates who qualify the Preliminary exam proceed to the IAS Main examination, which consist of 9 conventional essay type written answers, which are descriptive in nature. The exam consists of language tests, including English and one Indian Language, Essay Writing, General Studies I, General Studies II, General Studies III and General Studies IV, along with Optional Paper I and II.

Stage 3: Interview, also known as Vocal Section

Candidates who qualify the main exam are summoned for an interview for a personality test.

How to Prepare for the Exam

The IAS exam not only tests your general knowledge, it is a test of the candidate’s analytic and presentation skills. Knowing the pattern of the exams and marking can help you develop a successful strategy to achieve top ranks, even if you can dedicate only a few months to study. Stay focused and disciplined in your learning. Form a good foundation by reading a good newspaper daily and through NCERT books. You can join a good coaching centre to get the right guidance, study materials and books.

Hope you found it useful. Of course, this is only a short summary and the actual process of preparing for IAS exam is pretty elaborate. Subscribe to the blog for more updates and learning more about it.


Hi, Mani Karthik here. Having lived in USA, India & Middle East, and worked for big MNC’s to startups, I have a lot to share with you. My aim is to help people, by sharing everything I’ve learned in life, through this blog. It’s read today by more than 150K people world over! I currently live in LA, California and visit India occasionally. Here’s my full story on who I am and why I blog. Connect with me on FBInstagram, Twitter or WhatsApp (+001-408-489-4785). Happy to help! 🙂

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