Frequently asked questions

Generall FAQ

A student's preparation strategy matters more than the amount of time spent studying. The key to succeeding in the UPSC exam is consistency, revision, and practice. The number of hours spent studying does not matter nearly as much as the quality of the work put in during those hours. Students spending two hours of preparation with blistering intensity can learn more than a student studying for 8 hours lackluster.
Yes. In the UPSC prelims papers, for every incorrect answer, you will be penalized 1/3rd of the total marks allocated to that question. For prelims, each question answer carries 2 marks, which means for every wrong answer 0.66 marks will be deducted.
For the Preliminary Examination 2022, the student can focus on the last 1 year's current affairs. I.e. June 2020 to September 2021. However, the student should revise the current affairs from the months preceding June 2020 if you have already covered them as UPSC tends to ask questions from the previous two years.
The minimum eligibility for taking up the Civil Service examination is pass percentage in graduation. As long as the criteria are met, the candidate can apply and write the exam. Most of the candidates clearing the exam are diligent, hardworking but average students. The result of the candidate is dependent on the effort they put in.
Yes, there are quite a few candidates who have prepared and cleared the UPSC CSE in their 30s. Take the case of Mittali Sethi IAS, AIR 56-UPSC CSE 2016. She started her preparation quite late, and in her 3rd attempt, she got AIR 56 and all the while working as a doctor. Similarly, Dr. Shubhamangala, a full-time doctor, started preparing at 33 and got Rank-147, CSE-2017 in her second attempt. UPSC kept 32 as the age limit for a reason. With a correct strategy of preparation, consistency, and practice, one can clear this exam.
Begin with asking yourself why you are aiming for the UPSC CSE exam. UPSC CSE requires tremendous dedication and commitment to the preparation. Once you are clear on whether to go ahead or not dedicate yourself completely to the exam. Consider the 3 months as the break you needed before beginning your preparation. Prepare a study strategy focussing on revision and practice. Because the syllabus is huge, break it down into small parts and study consistently every day. Everyone who clears the UPSC CSE says that the hard work and sacrifice are worth the reward you get once you get selected.
The easiest way is to check if your preparation is on track is to solve sample papers. This will not only tell you if your preparation is on the right track but also help you time yourself in preparation for the real exam and give topics for revision. If it is feasible for you, having a study group where you discuss current affairs and other topics or quiz each other is also a good way to measure if you've grasped a concept or not. However, you have to acknowledge that has a greater scope for distraction. Hence it is best to choose a few good mock papers, for both prelims and mains to start testing yourself. It's okay if you don't feel confident in your preparation. If you start giving mocks, you will be able to understand the nuance in certain topics as well as recognize your blind spots in the exam paper.
Some of the factors to keep in mind while choosing an optional are-1) your academic background and interest areas: 2) the contribution of the subject in preparing for General studies and essay paper: 3) the history of the marks the optional gets in previous UPSC Mains exams, some optional fetch higher marks than others; 4) the time taken and coaching required to prepare for the subject, especially if you are employed while preparing for the exam. Remember, you will have to dedicate close to 6-7 months of preparation for the options, so choose a subject that will keep you motivated. Take a look at the list of options offered and you may choose via the elimination method to narrow down your optionals based on the intersection between interest, education, and time availability.
No, one can clear the IAS exam without coaching. But may not be 'everyone. It depends on the candidate's efficiency in self-study. If you are good at self-study, you can clear UPSC CSE without any classroom coaching. All you need is a good preparation strategy, consistency and practice. It is highly advised to practice via mock tests, so you may have to choose which institute's sample papers to get for.
The pass percentage of those who clear the CSE is around 0.2%. It is advisable therefore to have a backup plan, in case things don't go as planned. Some candidates choose to prepare while being employed, while others keep giving other competitive exams along with the Civil Services Exam. Having a backup takes away some of the fear of failure and allows the candidate to give their best shot; on the downside, having a backup may also make you complacent, so choose what works best for you. Those who do not clear the Civil Services Exam the first time have plenty of chances as well as other options to apply the knowledge and skills acquired, so don't lose hope.
The first thing to note is that UPSC looks for quality over quantity, so the answers should be precise. The answers should have a structure- introduction, body, conclusion- and be consistently followed throughout. Bullet points are preferred over paragraphs; the aim is to make reading the answer easier to grasp for the reader. Start with the most important point of the answer and move to the less important one i.e. bull's eye first. Always substantiate what you say with factual data to make a convincing case and the use of jargon must be restricted to only when necessary. Write the answers in your own words and ensure that writing is free of grammatical and spelling errors. Finally, keep practicing consistently to improve.
A lot of the questions asked in UPSC CSE revolve around social sciences, however, it is not necessary to choose social sciences for graduation simply to write the CSE. Graduation should be based on your interest and preference. Those who clear the CSE come from a diverse academic background and thus bring their expertise to the profession. You can always choose your optional subject keeping in mind the exam.
It is easy to filter out what isn't relevant for the UPSC exam by going through the syllabus given by UPSC. The focus should be to first cover the topics given in the syllabus and revising those well. Learning should then be tested with mock exams, for both prelims and mains. Mocks should be attempted more frequently as we move closer to the date of the exam. A UPSC aspirant does not need to become a subject expert; The CSE expects you to know about a wide range of subjects, not as a specialist but as a generalist. Approaching answers from this generalist but the knowledgeable front will being you greater marks in the exam.
Yes, you can. Candidates have the option to write their answers either in English or in any one of the Eighth Schedule languages except when writing the Qualifying Language papers- Paper-A and Paper-B, which they have to indicate at the time of filling up of their online application form for the Civil Service (Preliminary) Examination. You may even be provided with translators for the interview.
While the maths paper is an essential component of the UPSC/IAS exams. The Maths paper is, however, a part of CSAT and will be at the rigor that a Class X student will face in the board exam. There is no need to be afraid of the CSAT paper for two reasons. One, the paper itself is qualifying. Two, the mathematical component is one part of the paper, which is balanced out by reasoning, reading comprehension as well. You only need to obtain 33% to qualify in the CSAT paper. You should go through the syllabus and previous years' question papers to get an idea of the maths required to clear CSAT. If if you are weak in mathematics then, start to do mathematics at the Class X level because there are only elementary mathematics concepts that are asked.
If you are given a post other than the one listed as the top preference, then you have to write the exam again to get the post of your preference. IAS and IFS officers are barred from reappearing unless they resign from their present post. If you join IRS, you can continue with training while preparing and writing the exam. If you get a service that you like then you can make the transition through due process.
Yes, you can apply for the UPSC CSE exam when you are in the final year of your graduation as long as you are 21 years of age and you need to produce your Provisional certificate and final mark sheets of your graduation before the CSE Mains in the case you clear Preliminary exam.
There are only two ways you can crack the exam: either you have a high accuracy rate and you attempt a satisfactory number of questions, or you have a moderate accuracy rate and attempt over 90% of the paper. If you have an accuracy rate below 60% (i.e. only 60 questions right out of 100 attempted), even if you attempt 100 questions, you will end up with only 94 marks, which is below the general category cutoff of 98 in Prelims 2019. The aim should not be attempting more than 90 questions, but solving around 70-75 questions correctly and later on solve 10-15 questions for which you can make educated guesses. Do not attempt to answer questions that you do not know at all, it will cost you marks. It is a must that candidates practice extensively with mock papers to check accuracy and timing.
As a UPSC aspirant, test-taking is one of the most important tools in your arsenal against this exam. By taking tests, you will increase your familiarity with the concepts and ideas with the mock tests. You will also have metacognition over your strong and weak areas. This, when combined with the post-test discussion analysis will give you an edge over other competitors. By taking tests repeatedly you can apply different types of strategies to see which one gives you the best results. Furthermore, you can recreate your testing environment. This increased familiarity will take away any anxiety or nominal distractions you face. By repeatedly taking tests, you can learn to manage your time. If you repeat test-taking often enough, you will be able to do this unconsciously, which will improve your performance on the real exam day.
The preparation process for the UPSC exam is at minimum a two-year process. One year of preparation followed by one year of examination. So of course, it is expected that you may experience some hurdles like a lack of motivation, illness, demoralization, or self-doubt which can derail your preparation. The important thing to note here is to not let this hurdle knock down your entire preparation. To do this, you can use the following ideas to lean on during times of crisis. Remember your 'why'. Write it down. Be honest with yourself and use that to refuel. It can help you. If you are a person of faith, turn to prayer and meditation for comfort. Add enjoyment to the process of studying to keep you going just a little further. Break down your studying into manageable 'chunks. That can make it easier for you to study. Another thing to remember is that our bodies work on a cycle of work and rest. It is important to plan some breaks alongside your more rigorous study sessions. Take limited time but high-density fun activity breaks to keep the momentum of your preparation going.
These are things you need to bear in mind as the days count down towards the Preliminary exam. Assess the level of your preparation. Think of which areas you seem to be lagging in and bolster them. You can use mock tests, given at least once every two days, to do this. Don't forget to take mocks for CSAT as well. This can help you in the Preliminary exam. Revision is your best friend. Revise as much as you can in the shortest span you can manage. This is not the time to start new material, especially since your social media channels will be flooded with 'compilations' of every subject. Stick to your original sources and review them at least 3-5 times over the course of your preparation. This is the time to eat healthy food, avoid food from outside. You need to exercise; even a simple walk up and down the steps of your home or a lap around your street can help. You also need to sleep at least 7 hours a day to maintain your ability to retain information and help memory formation.
The age limit for the UPSC CSE examination is according to the different categories of candidates. The age limit is therefore provided accordingly below. A candidate who belongs to the general category can write the UPSC exam until the age of 32 or use six attempts. A candidate who is part of the OBC category can write the UPSC exam until the age of 35 or with nine attempts. A candidate who belongs to the SC/ST categories can write the UPSC exam until the age of 37. There is a further exemption for ex-servicemen for five years.
A candidate must be over the age of 21 to write the UPSC exam. In addition to this, a candidate must also be a graduate to be eligible to write the UPSC exam. If you are wondering about a mark cut off for the UPSC/IAS exam, then let us reassure you that no specific cut-off marks are requested from a candidate. A candidate must have graduated their undergraduate to qualify for the civil services examination.
It is possible to succeed in cracking the UPSC/IAS exam on the very first attempt. This merely requires a lot of dedication and smart work. A candidate must be able to marry strategy and preparation for success in the very first attempt. As long as you have concept clarity and can stay on top of your revision, it will be easy for you to clear in the first attempt.
As a UPSC aspirant, the only thing that determines your success is your own work ethic and capability. A candidate has to be dedicated to covering the syllabus. The only time the question of family background should arise is if they help/impede your preparation. Outside of this, it is utterly irrelevant. It is a myth that students in urban areas have a greater advantage over their rural peers. Consider that the reverse may also be true. Owing to the limited distractions that a rural life may provide, a candidate from the countryside may be better suited to immerse themselves in the UPSC preparation
The online class is a powerful tool for many students. It offers the ability for students to rewind and review their lessons. Every video hosting platform has options to control video quality and playback speed. When you combine this with the ability to replay the lecture at will or replay videos until you achieve concept clarity, you can understand why the online course is highly sought after. In addition to this, you will often have the option to engage with the faculty live for problem-solving or clarifying doubts. Being able to use the additional resources provided with the lesson, like a pdf of the notes or the PowerPoint used by faculty, will allow you to immediately revise a topic or idea, which can strengthen your understanding and further your preparation. Furthermore, it offers flexibility for working professionals, college students and others to begin preparing for the UPSC, which would otherwise have been unavailable to them.
In the UPSC Mains exam, there are two language papers called Paper A and Paper B. Paper A is the regional language selected while applying for the preliminary exam. Paper B is the English language paper. Both these papers are qualifying in nature. You need to qualify them both to clear the exam. These will not count towards your overall rank, but if you fail the qualifying papers, you will fail the UPSC Mains exam.

The notice issued by the UPSC quotes the following: "The qualifying paper on Indian Languages will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard. The marks obtained in this paper will not be counted for ranking. The aim of the paper is to test the candidates’ ability to read and understand serious discursive prose and to express their ideas clearly and correctly in English and Indian languages concerned."

The pattern of questions in the qualifying Indian Language Paper would be broadly as follows:
(i) Comprehension of given passages.
(ii) Precis Writing
(iii) Usage and Vocabulary.
(iv) Short Essay
(v) Translation from English to the Indian language and vice‐versa.
Depending on their rank as well as the order in which they filled out their post-preference in the Detailed Application Form, which is the application form for the Mains exam, a candidate can receive their posting in their home state. This is contingent on whether the candidate has obtained a high enough rank to consider their preferences first when allocating personnel.
The work-life balance is easier among certain services than others. For instance, IAS and IPS officers work more and have more pressure than, say, a service like the IRS. It would help if you also accounted for the work. Election season tends to be busier, with officers working late and coming in early. This is also the case when disaster relief efforts are needed. Otherwise, the work-life balance of the officers tends to be good. They work weekdays and get leave concessions to travel every two years. They get also get run of the mill benefits like paid time off, medical insurance and so on.
While there is a practice of candidates selecting their optional subjects in graduation, or conversely, candidates choosing their graduation subjects as an optional. There is no compulsion for candidates to follow this. It will not guarantee that your marks in your optional paper will be higher than your peers. It might prove advantageous if your familiarity with the material overlaps with the UPSC syllabus for that optional. It is not a given that you should take up your optional as a graduation subject. If you are able to prepare well in your chosen optional and you can prepare according to the syllabus of the exam. In addition to this, if you practice answer writing for your optional, you can easily get a good rank.
A closely guarded secret of some first attempt toppers is that even though they stated that they committed to the UPSC preparation full time for one year. It might be possible that they were also the people who started their preparation when they were much younger. Some of them may have started their preparation once they passed higher secondary school. They would have kept up with their college and dedicated their additional time to cover the basics, their optionals before tackling current affairs and the remainder of their preparation within the last year before the exam. This is also a strategy that might win you the exam and a good rank in the end. So, yes, it might be a good idea to start your preparation for the UPSC/IAS exam after class XII.
The UPSC/IAS exam is a pan-India exam. This exam is oriented towards finding the right candidate for the posting, regardless of their medium. This is supported by the fact that you can write the exam in 22 official languages. This is an option that is explicitly presented in the application form in the Preliminary examination. In addition to this, you can request that a trained translator be present for the interview if you choose to give it in your native tongue. Something to note here is that once you decide to give the option to write the exam in your regional language, you will be required to produce the entire paper in that language. If nothing else, remember this, Anuradha Pal (AIR 62, 2015) cleared the exam as a Hindi medium student.
From the perspective of the civil services exams, there is no weightage given to anyone undergraduate over the other. Even if you are asked questions regarding the undergraduate course by the interview panel, the question orientation will be towards quizzing you on the subject matter expertise than a justification for the undergraduate. So, the undergraduate course you've taken up has no particular weightage in the examination. We must, of course, acknowledge those who take up their optionals as undergraduates. Even if students take up their optional subject as their undergraduate, there may or may not be an overlap between the UPSC/IAS exam syllabus and the course curriculum offered by the colleges. Choosing this leaves students with an understanding of their optional more than the mastery expected by the UPSC/Civil Services Examination.
There are three stages of the examination- Preliminary, Mains and Interview Stages. The preliminary stage is set in place to weed out candidates suited to the UPSC preparation from those who aren't. Consequently, it is moderate to difficult in nature, especially in recent times. It consists of two papers held between 9.00 a.m. and 12.00 p.m. and 2.00 p.m.and 5.00 p.m.

The first paper is the general studies paper, the syllabus provided in the gazette notification published on the website. The second paper is the CSAT paper, which tests numerical ability, logical reasoning and reading comprehension. Both papers award a maximum mark of 200. The CSAT paper is a qualifying paper. Both papers carry negative marks of 1/3rd value.

The Mains exam consists of 9 papers that are of a descriptive nature. Out of this, two papers are qualifying in nature. The remaining papers have a minimum qualifying mark, determined by the UPSC. Those marks, along with the mark for the interview, are taken into consideration for the candidate's rank.

The Personality Test or Interview carries 275 marks and presents the opportunity for a board of UPSC members to determine whether a candidate is suited to service or not. The final marks of the candidate determine their rank alongside the cadre and service.
Rule 21 of the Civil Services Examination Rules prescribed by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) says, “A candidate must be in good mental and bodily health and free from any physical defect likely to interfere with the discharge of his duties as an officer of the service.”
Depending on the marks that you score in Mains and Interview, the UPSC will decide your rank. If your rank is high enough and you indicate in your DAF that your preference is a home state posting, you will be assigned to your preferred home state in your preferred cadre.
Once you are over the age of 21 and a graduate, you can apply. You can also apply in the final year of your law degree as long as you have a guarentee that you can submit your provisional certificate or graduation certificate before your Mains examination
As a final year student, you can opt to approach your UPSC preparation in two ways. If you know what optional you want to start preparing for, then sit down with the syllabus of your optional paper (the syllabus is available as a gazetted notice on the UPSC website). Learn your optional as deeply and thoroughly as you can. Test yourself regularly. Sign up for mains answer writing courses for your chosen optional, and then keep practising until you can bring your writing up to scratch. If you do not know your optionals yet, then it is time for you to consolidate your fundamentals. Build up your knowledge base with NCERTs from Class VI to XII. Learn those books inside-out. Test yourself vigorously with every concept and idea you encounter in the book. This is one sure-fire way that can help your preparation. The next step after this is to pick one standard book for each subject and revise them at least 3-5 times a year.
There is no need to prepare separate notes for Prelims and Mains. However, it must be noted that Prelims notes are focused on factual information, whereas for Mains, you will need to assimilate perspectives that can inform your answer writer. To this end, your notes must be a comprehensive mix of facts, key concepts, ideas as well as areas of concern and the way forward.
It is possible to cover the Mains syllabus in the gap between Prelims and Mains, but it will be strenuous. You will have only 100 days to cover a wide array of subjects. Therefore, it is advisable to cover the mains syllabus beforehand. Spend the time between Prelims and Mains preparing and revising what you have already learned. This will provide the best possible defence against doing poorly in the exam.
Every aspirant worth their salt would see the vast Mains syllabus as a blessing. It restricts what you need to study from what you don't. The mains covers two essay papers, four General Studies papers and two Optional papers. For mains, prepare the syllabus according to the topic. For each topic, prepare a set of notes containing basic keywords/concepts and add in current affairs that are relevant every year. Answer writing is your best friend. Learn to write and rewrite and learn from your mistakes to hone your answers. The more you practice, the faster the recall in the exam hall and the better your performance. You can use this time to answer the questions asked in the previous few years. If you can, compare them to the topper's answer and how you fare in comparison. The strategy to prepare for the optionals is similar to the GS paper. You will need to know the syllabus inside and out. Cover the relevant material stipulated in your syllabus, and then answer the previous year questions to help. As for essay writing, your essay has to have language, content, structure, coherence and paragraph unity. The essay section is one of the few areas where you can score maximum marks with minimum effort.
There are two ways you can interpret this question. One is where you talk about your preparation, and the other is your mental readiness to face the UPSC/IAS exam. To the latter, I say even toppers have anxieties before writing the exam. They focus on their preparation and ensure that they revise their syllabus at least 3-5 times before the exams. They supplement their knowledge with mock tests. These tests are crucial to ensuring that they can fill in gaps in knowledge and help them review what they have learned. This can help them overcome some anxieties before the exam but not all. The best remedy for this is to ensure your preparation is the best you can manage.
The Previous Year Question papers are hosted on The PRS website is a goldmine for analysis for government bills and acts, white papers and policy reviews: The Press Information Bureau relays information directly from the various ministries. It's the most reliable source of information: Law Commission Reports break down crucial issues and are essential for GS2 papers: The ARC reports can also help inform your preparation for Mains: › arc-reports Ministry Websites are a sure shot way to gain unfiltered information and perspectives on the work under the aegis of each. Pay attention to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
You do not need to write different exams for different posts in the same arm of the central government. However, if you want to write for the government exams of a particular state, you will need to apply for the Public Service Commission of each state. However, between the different cadres like IAS/IFS/IPS, there is only one exam you have to write and clear in order to get your posting.
Having a good command of English is only an advantage insofar as you can convey your meaning. The UPSC has permitted its candidates to write the exam in any of the 22 official languages for a reason. More than the language itself, you would benefit more from the content you are attempting to communicate. Even if you feel your language is poor, keep your chin up and keep preparing well.That matters more than your language per se.
As the UPSC exam asks for a qualifying regional language paper, knowing Hindi is an advantage. Once you clear, the UPSC may post you to an area where communicating in Hindi may be a bonus. This does not mean that you MUST know Hindi. Knowing a regional language is a requirement for the exam. This can also apply to any of the other regional languages as well.
The exams are conducted once a year. First, a notice inviting candidates to apply for the exam is released. This is typically released in February. The Preliminary exam is generally hosted in June-July. Due to the pandemic, the dates have been pushed back to October instead. Now, with increased vaccinations, the upcoming exams may be conducted in June again.
The vacancies in the UPSC recruitment vary between 730-1200, based on a trend analysis from 2014 to 2021.
While public speaking may not be your forte, it is okay as long as you have the knowledge and the communication skills to present yourself in front of the interview board. You may need to practice a little to polish your answers and present your ideas and conversation skills. The UPSC looks for a candidate who can hold their own in a public-facing role. Therefore you may need to practice your public speaking a little.