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Holistic Preparation: Understanding the Pattern

Preparation for Civil Services examination is a holistic and comprehensive process in itself. It is quite necessary to understand the fact that the toppers do not make any extraordinary preparation; they study the same books and study materials. Their preparations are almost the same as those of the other aspirants. Then, what are the factors which help them in achieving the desired success? In the previous chapter, we discussed the manner in which an aspirant should develop one’s personality. In this chapter, we will understand the practical aspects of the overall preparations for the civil services examination. First of all, let us try to understand the scheme of exam and the latest pattern of this examination.

Scheme of Civil Services Examination

The highly prestigious Civil Services Examination is conducted every year by the Union Public Service Commission to select the deserving candidates for the various All India Services, Central Services (Group-A and Group-B) of Government of India.

The examination is conducted in three phases: Preliminary, Mains and Interview.

In the Preliminary examination, two papers are to be attempted in a day, consisting of Multiple Choice Questions. It is a kind of screening examination, because its marks are not added in the final merit. ‘The success in the preliminary examination leads to the mains exam.

The Mains examination, is the most important phase of the Civil Services Examination. Your success depends mainly on this phase. It consists nine written papers, which are conducted usually over a span of one week.

The candidates, selected in the Mains examination are called for an Interview (Personality Test) at the Commission’s office in Delhi. Generally against the total vacancy, nearly two and a half or three times of the vacancies are called for the interview.

Generally, the preliminary examination is conducted in May-June, the mains examinationin October-November, and the interview in the beginning of next year, i.e., in February-March. The Foundation Course, the first phase of the training of the finally selected candidates, begins in August-September at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie.

The basic facts of the Civil Services Examination:


This prestigious examination is conducted to select the deserving candidates for the following All India Services and Central Services at the all India level:

• Indian Administrative Service (IAS)

• Indian Foreign Service (IFS)

• Indian Police Service (IPS)

• Indian Post &Telegraph Accounts and Finance Service

• Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS)

• Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax) (IRS-IT)

• Indian Revenue Service (Customs & Central Excise) (IRS-c & CE)

• Indian Ordinance Factory Service (IOFS)

• Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS)

• Indian Defense Accounts Service (IDAS)

• Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS)

• Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS)

• Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS)

• Indian Postal Service (IPOS)

• Indian Defence Estates Service (IDES)

• Indian Information Service (IIS)

• Indian Trade Service (ITS)

• Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force (RPF)

• Armed Force Headquarters Civil Service Group ‘B’ (AFHQ)

  • Delhi, Andaman-Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman-Diu, Dadar and                        Nagar Haveli Civil service Group-B (DANICS)
  • Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Laksha-dweep, Daman and Diu, Dadar and Nagar Haveli Police Service (Group-B) (DA NIPS)
  • Pondicherry Civil Service (Group-B)
  • Pondicherry Police Service (Group-B)

The candidates, who succeed in the preliminary examination, have to fill up their preferences of the services in a form, sent by the Commission. The preferences for the State Cadres for I.A.S and I.P.S are also to be filled up in the same form.

Division of Marks in the Three Phases of Examination Preliminary Examination

  • Paper-I: General Studies, consisting 100 questions, carries 200 marks.
  • Paper-II: General Studies (C-SAT), consisting 80 questions, carries 200 marks
  • Both the papers have the multiple choice questions. Since the Preliminary examination is a kind of screening examination, so in both the papers, for each wrong answer, one-third of the total marks allotted to the question are deducted.

The candidates who pass it, get an opportunity appear in the mains examination.

Mains Examination

This exam comprises of nine papers. Out of these nine papers, two papers are the qualifying papers, i.e., the English and any one of the Indian languages, to be chosen from the 22 languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India. Each qualifying paper carries 300 marks; and the marks obtained in these two papers are not added in the final merit. The remaining seven papers in the mains examination, which are included in the merit, are as following:

  1. Essay
  2. General Studies-I

(Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the world and Society)

  1. General Studies-II

(Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations)

  1. General Studies-III

(Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

5. General Studies-IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)

6. Optional subject: Paper one

7. Optional subject: Paper two

Each of these seven papers carries 250 marks. In this way, total marks allotted to the mains examination are – 1750.

Personality Test/Interview

The candidates, who are declared successful in the Mains examination, are called for the final phase, i.e., Interview, at the Commission’s office in Delhi. The total marks allotted to the Interview is 275. In this way, the total marks allotted for the final merit is 2025 (1750 marks for Mains examination and 275 marks for Interview).