The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the Civil Services Examination (CSE) to select candidates for various Civil Services of the Indian government, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Foreign Service (IFS). The CSE is one of the most prestigious and competitive exams in India, attracting a large number of applicants each year.

The CSE consists of two stages:

  1. UPSC Preliminary Examination (also known as the Civil Services Aptitude Test or CSAT) – This is the first stage of the CSE and is a screening test to shortlist candidates for the main examination. The CSAT consists of two papers of objective type (multiple-choice questions) with a total of 400 marks and a duration of 2 hours for each paper.

  2. UPSC Main Examination – This is the second and final stage of the CSE and is a descriptive type examination. It consists of seven papers of conventional (essay) type and a Personality Test (Interview). The written examination tests a candidate’s knowledge, analytical abilities, and communication skills, while the Personality Test (Interview) evaluates a candidate’s personal attributes, including intellectual curiosity, communication skills, leadership potential, and personality.

Eligibility: To be eligible to appear for the CSE, a candidate must be a citizen of India, have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university, and must have attained the age of 21 years. There is also an upper age limit for different categories of applicants, which can be found on the UPSC website.

UPSC Preliminary Examination

UPSC Preliminary Examination consists of two papers:

Paper 1: General Studies (GS) – This paper tests a candidate’s knowledge and understanding of current events, history, geography, economics, polity and governance, and general science.

Paper 2: Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) – This paper tests a candidate’s aptitude in problem-solving, communication, logical reasoning, quantitative aptitude, and analytical ability.

The syllabus for both papers is given below:

Paper 1: General Studies

  • 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, Bio-diversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization

Paper 2: Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)

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

Note: The marks obtained in Paper 2 (CSAT) are not counted for determining the final ranking, but it is mandatory to secure the minimum qualifying marks in Paper 2 to be eligible for the Main Examination.

UPSC Main Examination

The UPSC Main Examination consists of nine papers, divided into two stages:

Stage 1: Written Examination

  • This stage consists of seven papers of conventional (essay) type.
  • The papers are designed to test a candidate’s ability to articulate their thoughts and ideas on a given topic and to analyze and evaluate a situation.
  • The seven papers are:
    1. Paper A: Indian Languages
    2. Paper B: English
    3. Paper I: Essay
    4. Paper II: General Studies I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)
    5. Paper III: General Studies II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)
    6. Paper IV: General Studies III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
    7. Paper V: General Studies IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)

Stage 2: Personality Test (Interview)

  • This stage is also known as the viva-voce and is conducted to evaluate a candidate’s personal attributes, including intellectual curiosity, communication skills, leadership potential, and personality.
  • The marks obtained in the interview are added to the marks obtained in the written examination to determine the final ranking.

The syllabus for the Main Examination is vast and covers a wide range of topics. It is expected that a candidate has a good understanding of India’s social, economic, and political situation, as well as international affairs. The examination aims to test a candidate’s knowledge, analytical abilities, and communication skills, as well as their ability to present their thoughts and ideas in a clear and coherent manner.