The Civil Services Examination is based on the British era Imperial Civil Service tests, as well as the civil service tests conducted by old Indian empires such as the Mauryan Empire and Mughal Empire. It is considered
to be the most difficult competitive examination in India. A single attempt takes two complete years of preparation - one year before the prelims and one year from prelims to interview. In total, one sits in actual exam for 32 hours from prelims till interview.
On average, 900,000 to 1,000,000 candidates apply every year and the number of candidates sitting in the preliminary examination is approximately 550,000. Results for the Prelims are published in mid-August, while the final result is published
in May of the next year.
Stage I: Preliminary Examination - Held in June every year. Results are announced in August.
Stage II: Mains - Held in October every year. Results are announced in January.
Personality Test (interview) - Held in March. Final results are usually announced in May.
The training program for the selected candidates usually commences the following September.
The pattern of the Preliminary examination up to 2010 was based on the recommendations of the Kothari Commission (1979). It included two examinations, one on general studies worth 150 marks, and the second on one of 23 optional subjects
worth 300 marks. Until 2011, when it was revamped, the preliminary pattern was sustained with only minor changes once every ten to fifteen years.
From 2011 onwards, the preliminary examination intends to focus on analytical abilities and understanding rather than the ability to memorize. The new pattern includes two papers of two hours duration and 200 marks each. Both
papers have multiple choice objective type questions only. They are as follows:
Paper I tests the candidate's General Knowledge on current events, history of India and Indian national movement, Indian and world geography, Indian polity Panchayati Raj system and governance, economic and social development, environmental
ecology, biodiversity, climate change and general science, Art and culture.
Paper II (also called CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test), tests the candidate's skills in comprehension, interpersonal skills, communication, logical reasoning, analytical ability, decision making, problem solving, basic numeracy,
data interpretation, English language comprehension skills and mental ability. It is qualifying in nature and the marks obtained in this paper are not counted for merit. However, it is mandatory for the candidate to score a minimum of 33 per cent in this paper to qualify the Prelims exam.
Those who qualify in the Prelims become eligible for the Mains.
The Civil Services Mains Examination consists of a written examination and an interview.
The Civil Services Main written examination consists of nine papers, two qualifying and seven ranking in nature. The range of questions may vary from just one mark to sixty marks, twenty words to 600 words answers. Each paper is of a duration of
3 hours. Candidates who pass qualifying papers are ranked according to marks and a selected number of candidates are called for interview or a personality test at the Commission's discretion.
According to the new marks allocations in Civil Service Examination 2013 there are some changes made in the examination according to the suggestion of the Prof. Arun. S. Nigavekar Committee.
Civil Services New Mains Format
(One of the Indian languages listed below, to be selected by the candidate (from the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India) (Qualifying)
General Studies I (Indian heritage and culture, history and geography of the world and society)
General Studies II (Governance, constitution, polity, social justice and international relations)
General Studies III (Technology, economic development, biodiversity, environment, security and disaster management)
General Studies IV (ethics, integrity and aptitude)
Papers VI, VII
Two papers on one subject to be selected by the candidate from the list of optional subjects below (250 marks for each paper)
Sub Total (Written Test)
Personality Test (Interview)
List of Languages
The examination is more than the following languages, with the name of the script in brackets:
Santhali (Devanagari or Ol Chiki)
Sindhi (Devanagari or Arabic)
The subjects available for Papers VI and VII are:
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
Commerce and Accountancy
Literature of any one of the languages listed above
Political Science and International Relations
Public administration is one of the most sought after optional subjects in the Mains examination as it has overlapping content with other subjects like Current Affairs, History, Polity. The standards of Optional papers is of honours level. Paper I is theoretical but Paper II is often dominated by Current Affairs and Application based questions.
Officially called the "Personality Test", the objective of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a board of competent and unbiased observers. The test is intended to evaluate the mental calibre of a candidate. In broad terms, this is really an assessment of not only a candidate's intellectual qualities, but also social traits and interest in current affairs. Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgement, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, and intellectual and moral integrity.
The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination, but of a natural, though directed and purposeful conversation that is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.
The interview is not intended to be a test either of the specialised or general knowledge of the candidate, which has been already tested through written papers. Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study, but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their own state or country as well as in modern currents of thought and in new discoveries which should rouse the curiosity of all well-educated youth. The interview standards are very high and require thorough preparation as well as commitment.
Eligibility for the examination is as follows:
For the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service, the candidate must be a citizen of India.
For other services, the candidate must be one of the following:
A citizen of India
A citizen of Nepal or a subject of Bhutan
A Tibetan refugee who settled permanently in India before January 1, 1962.
A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia or Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India
All candidates must have as a minimum one of the following educational qualifications:
A degree from a Central, State or a Deemed university
A degree received through correspondence or distance education
A degree from an open university
A qualification recognized by the Government of India as being equivalent to one of the above
The following candidates are also eligible, but must submit proof of their eligibility from a competent authority at their institute/university at the time of the main examination, failing which they will not be allowed to attend the exam.
Candidates who have appeared in an examination the passing of which would render them educationally qualified enough to satisfy one of the above points.
Candidates who have passed the final exam of the MBBS degree but have not yet completed an internship.
Candidates who have passed the final exam of ICAI, ICSI and ICWAI.
A degree from a private university.
A degree from any foreign university recognized by the Association of Indian Universities.
The candidate must have attained the age of 21 years and must not have attained the age of 32 years (for the General category candidate) on August 1 of the year of examination. Prescribed age limits vary with respect to caste reservations.
For Other Backward Castes (OBC) the upper age limit is 35 years.
For Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), the limit is 37 years.
For Defence Services Personnel disabled in operations during hostilities, the limit is 40 years.
For Candidates belonging to ex-servicemen including Commissioned officers and ECOs/SSCOs who have rendered Military services for at least five years as on August 1, of the year and have been released
on completion of assignment (including those whose assignment is due to be completed within one year from August 1 of the year otherwise than by way of dismissal or discharge on account of misconduct or inefficiency or
on account of physical disability attributable to Military Service or
on invalidation or
Relaxation of up to a maximum of five years will be given in the case of ECOs/SSCOs who have completed an initial period of assignment of five years of Military Service as on August 1 of the year and whose assignment has been extended beyond five years and in whose case the Ministry of Defence issues a certificate that they can apply for civil employment and that they will be released on three months’ notice on selection from the date of receipt of offer of appointment, the limit is 32 years.
For ECOs/SSCOs who have completed an initial period of assignment of five years of Military Service, the limit is 32 years.
For PwD candidates, the limit is 37 years.
For Domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir from January 1, 1980 to December 31, 1989, the limit is 32 years.
Number of attempts
The number of times a candidate can appear for the exam are given below.
General category candidates = 6.
OBC category candidates = 9.
SC/ST candidates = unlimited attempts till 37
years of age.
Appearing to attempt one of the papers in the preliminary examination is counted as an attempt, including disqualification/ cancellation of candidature. However, applying to sit the exam but failing to attend is not counted as an attempt.
Generally the number of vacancies varies every year. The number of candidates that pass the preliminary examination is generally 11 or 12 times the number of vacancies, and the number of candidates selected for the final interview is twice the number
of vacancies. As per existing policies, reservation for SC/ST/OBC is applied to each level of the selection process.
Vacancies & Selection in different years
No. of candidates applying for Prelims
No. of candidates that appeared for
No. of candidates appearing for interviews
No. of candidates selected
The cut-off marks of the examination of the previous years' are given below: