IAS -The toughest Competitive Examination of India

Why Indian Administrative Services (IAS) – The toughest examination in India of 2021.


This exam has been one of the toughest examinations in India for several years and the story remains the same for this year also.


This article will highlight the structure, pattern, and screening process. It will also make you go through the entire journey of an IAS aspirant.


Indian Administrative Services is commonly referred to as IAS.


Indian Administrative Services is one of the three arms of the Indian Services along with the Indian Police Services (IPS) and the Indian Forest Services(IFS).


Indian Administrative Services (IAS)  is considered to be the hardest competitive examination in India. This is conducted by Union Public Service Commission(UPSC) for the recruitment of the officers in All India Administrative Civil Service. IAS was formerly known as the Imperial Civil Service(ICS).


It was founded in 1858 as Imperial Civil Service.


Later in 1950, it was changed to Indian Administrative Service.


The Indian Administrative Services (IAS) is the top-ranking administrative civil service of the Government of India.


The IAS exam is conducted every year by the central recruiting authority, Union Public Service Commission(UPSC).


IAS exam is popularly called as Civil Services Examination(CSE). Hierarchy-wise, IAS is the highest post among the other 24 services like IPS, IFS, etc.

Highlights Of Indian Administrative Services


Every year, UPSC conducts the Civil Service Examination(CSE) for more than 24 services, such as IAS, IPS, and IFS, by shortlisting the candidates.


More than nine lakh candidates register for the IAS exam and almost five lakh candidates appear for the examination.


The selection process goes through several screenings starting with the preliminary exam, main examination, and interview.


Selection is a year-long process that starts in the month of June and ends in April, and the final list comes in the month of May.



Name of the Exam Civil Service Examination
Organizing Body Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)
Exam Level National
Exam Mode Paper and Pen-based( Offline)
Number of Vacancies Approx. 900
Number of Services 24
Number of Attempts 6 times
Number of Registrations Approx. 9Lakh
Admit Card Online
Official Website https://www.upsc.gov.in/


UPSC IAS Exam Notification & Important dates

The UPSC generally releases the date of the Civil Services Examinations notification in the month of February. Aspirants willing to appear for this All Indian Services along with other services can apply online by visiting the official website of UPSC.


Notification Month
Civil Service Examination Advertisement February
IAS- Online Application Form February to March
IAS- Preliminary Admit Card 2nd Week of May
IAS- Preliminary Exam October
IAS- Preliminary Result November
IAS-Main Exam January
IAS-Main Result February
IAS-Interview March to April
IAS-Final Result May

Eligibility Criteria for an Indian Administrative Services

Indian Administrative Services_Eligibity


The candidate must be a citizen of India to be eligible for the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) and The Indian Police Service (IPS), and for other services, the candidate must be either of the following        



The candidate must be a citizen of India



The candidate must be a citizen of Nepal or a subject of Bhutan.



The candidate must be a Tibetan refugee who came to India before January 1, 1962, for settling permanently in India.



Candidates must be a person of Indian origin who has migrated from Burma, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Myanmar, Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Vietnam, Zaire with the motive to settle permanently in India.



Educational Qualification


Candidates must hold a Bachelor’s degree from any of the recognized universities. There is no minimum percentage required in graduation.


Candidates who have appeared for the qualifying exam and are awaiting results are also eligible.



Candidates with professional and technical qualifications by recognized universities or their equivalent are also eligible to apply.


Age Limit & Number of Attempts

A candidate should be a minimum of 21 years and a maximum of 32 years to appear for the Civil Service Examination.


The maximum age mentioned above is relaxable for the following candidates :


  1. Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST): 5 years
  2. Other Backward Classes(OBC) : 3 Years
  3. Defense Service Personnel : 3 years
  4. Ex-servicemen and ECOs/SSCOs who have served at least 5 years in Military Service as on 1st of August of the Notification Year: 5 years
  5. Blind, Deaf-mute and physically handicapped person: 10 Years.


Category Maximum Age Limit No of Attempts
General 32 Years 06
Other Backwards Castes (OBC) 35 Years 09
Economically Weaker Section(EWS) 32 Years 06
Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) 37 Years Till the age limit
Physically disabled candidates 42 Years For General and OBS candidates = 9

For SC/ST Candidates = Till age limit


IAS Officer: Roles & Responsibilities


The role of an Indian Administrative Services officer is challenging and it demands a lot of perseverance and responsibility.


IAS officer is mainly responsible for maintenance of law and order and administration of the area assigned.


Following are the main roles and responsibility of an Indian Administrative Service officer :



Handling the affairs of the Government consisting of framing, implementation, supervising, and reviewing of the policies.


Management and disbursement of the funds from the central government to different schemes.


Responding to the emergencies such as riots, natural disasters, accidents, curfew, and coordinating for the relief activities.


Responsible for overall expenditure, for which they are answerable to the Parliament and the State Legislature


Bestowed the power to manage the holistic development of the area assigned and ensuring the law and order are maintained in any circumstances.


The responsibility and function differ at different levels of career.


IAS officer joins initially at the sub-divisional level as Sub-divisional Magistrate.


Responsible for the overall development of the area under their control by coming up with the new innovation and strategic plan and programs.


The District Officer also known as the District Magistrate, District Collector is one of the reputed and respectable posts, which come with some years of experience.


They are also appointed in the State Secretariat or Public Sector Undertaking.


At times they also serve in different State and Central Departments through deputation.

Career Graph of Indian Administrative Service Officer


The highest position, an Indian Administrative Service officer can desire is the rank of Cabinet Secretary of India. At the State level, they can go up to the post of Chief Secretary of States. The following is the career path of an IAS Officer after the probation period:



ü  Training at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA)


ü  Training at the district level in the assigned cadre.


ü  Training at LBSNAA that includes some attachment with the foreign and India’s Diplomatic mission functioning abroad.


ü  Posted as Sub Collector/ Joint Magistrate/ SDM


ü  Posted as Municipal Commissioner, DDO/CDO


ü  Posted as Collector/DM


ü  Posted as Director/Joint Secretary at the State Secretariat.


ü  Posted as Principal/Additional Secretary in the State Secretariat or Central Secretariat.


ü  Posted as Chief Secretary of a State.


ü  Posted as Cabinet Secretary.

Indian Administrative Service Exam Pattern


UPSC conducts the  Indian Administrative Services exam in three levels as mentioned below.  The candidate has to clear all the 3 exams successfully to get the offer letter from Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)


1.Preliminary Test

2. Main Exam

3. Interview.


Stage One-Preliminary Test (400 Marks) 


o   The Preliminary Exam consists of GS (General Studies) & CSAT (Civil Service Aptitude Test).


o   Both the papers are objective type (Multiple Choice Question)


o   The question papers are set in Hindi and English language.


o   Blind candidate gets an additional 20 minutes of time for both the paper.


o   Candidate appearing in the preliminary test must qualify for the cut-off score to get oneself eligible for the mains exam.


o   There is a negative marking associated with the question asked in the exam.


Paper Type Number of Questions Total Marks Negative Marking Duration
General Studies I Objective( MCQ) 100 200 Yes 2 Hours
General Studies II (CSAT) Objective( MCQ) 80 200 Yes 2 Hours


Stage Two-Main Examination (2025 Marks)


Ø  Candidates who qualify for the preliminary test are called for the Main Exam.


Ø  Main exam consists of 9 papers.


Ø  Paper A & B are qualifying in nature (Highlighted below)


Ø  The candidate needs to obtain at least 25% in each of the Paper I to Paper VII to be given weightage to the Main Exam.


Ø  Paper A is not compulsory for the candidate belonging to the State of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim as well as the candidate from hearing impairment provided the fact that they have been exempted from such  2nd or 3rd language courses from their board or university.


Ø  The language paper consists of the languages included in the 8th schedule of the Constitution.


Ø  All the paper is bilingual – Hindi & English except for the language papers.


 The written exam consists of the following papers


Paper Subject Type Duration Total Marks
Paper A One of the Indian Language Descriptive 3 Hours 300
Paper B English Descriptive 3 Hours 300
Paper I Essay Descriptive 3 Hours 250
Paper-II General Studies I Descriptive 3 Hours 250
Paper III General Studies II Descriptive 3 Hours 250
Paper IV General Studies III Descriptive 3 Hours 250
Paper V General Studies IV Descriptive 3 Hours 250
Paper VI Optional I Descriptive 3 Hours 250
Paper VII Optional II Descriptive 3 Hours 250
Sub Total Marks 1750
Interview Marks 275
Grand Total Marks 2025


The subject which is covered in the General Studies in Main Exam is mentioned below :


General Studies I General Studies II General Studies III General Studies IV
Indian Heritage and Culture Governance Technology Ethics
History and Geography of the World Constitution Economic Development Integrity
Society Polity Biodiversity Aptitude
  Social Justice Environment  
  International Relations Security and Disaster Management  


The list of the Optional Paper VI and VII of the Main Exam is enumerated below:


Agriculture Chemistry History Geography Mathematics
Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science Political Science and International Relations Mechanical Engineering Commerce and Accountancy Electrical Engineering
Anthropology Psychology Statistics Physics Economics
Botany Sociology Law Medical Science Geology
Zoology Philosophy Civil Engineering Public Administration Management
Literature can be opted from any of the following languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit,  Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and English.



Stage Three- Interview (275 Marks )


The candidates who qualify for the mains exam of the Indian Administrative Services are called for the interview process.


This is the last and final stage of the recruitment cycle before the results are declared. The maximum mark in the interview is 275 thus accruing the total marks in the merit list to be 2025.


UPSC board takes the interview which consists of the competent panelist, who would judge the candidature on the following grounds :


v  Mental Attentiveness


v  Critical power of understanding


v  Clear and Logical Interpretation


v  Balance of Judgement


v  Ability of social solidarity and leadership


v  Intellectual and virtuous integrity


Career Planning plays an important role in shaping your career, so is the planning to choose the best suitable option for yourself. You need to focus on various aspects before jumping into a final decision.


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