Under Article 320 of the Constitution of India, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is, inter-alia, required to function as the administering body for conducting examinations and interviews for appointment to the services of the Union. The crown jewel among the great many examinations this body overlooks is the Civil Services Examination (CSE) also conversationally known as the IAS Examination. The Civil Services Examination (CSE) encompasses under its aegis recruitment opportunities to more than 11 civil services including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), and Indian Police Service (IPS) among others. Clearing CSE, considered as one of the toughest and most prestigious competitive exams in India, is quite an arduous task as nearly 10,00,000 candidates appear for the examination, out of which only about 1,000 candidates get selected after a year-long selection process. A successful candidate may then opt for IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS, IDAS or other services based on their All India Rank. Statistics indicate that the coveted position of an IAS Officer is the top choice of most students, IPS and IFS follow next in terms of popularity.
The UPSC mandates a strict adherence to the eligibility criteria which requires general category candidates satisfying educational qualifications to have attained an age between 21 and 32 years, while also limiting the number of attempts they are allowed to make to 6. The Commission, however, provides a greater flexibility regarding eligibility to privileged category candidates.
The ultimate test for all budding IAS Officers, this competitive examination comprises two successive stages:
- Preliminary Examination (Objective Type) for the selection of candidates for the Main Examination; and
- Main Examination (Written and Interview) for the selection of candidates for various posts.
The Preliminary Examination consists of two compulsory papers, set both in Hindi and English, having Multiple Choice Questions carrying a maximum of 400 marks. This examination is meant to serve as a screening test only; the marks obtained in the Preliminary Examination by the candidates who are declared qualified for admission to the Main Examination will not be counted for determining the final order of merit.
The Main Examination consists of a written examination and an interview test. The written examination will consist of 9 papers of conventional essay type in wide ranging subjects, out of which two papers will be qualifying in nature. These two papers will be on Indian Languages and English of Matriculation standard. The rest of the papers, which will be counted for merit, are further divided among compulsory and optional papers. Candidates are required to attempt 5 mandatory General Studies paper which test to the very core, their knowledge and understanding of Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society, Governance, Constitution, Economic Development and a plethora of other topics. In addition to this, the UPSC is also not short on the number of choices it provides its candidates with as far as optional subjects go (of which candidates are demanded to choose any 2), from Chemistry, Botany and Agriculture to Law, Mathematics and Science it is all inclusive and expansive.
Candidates, who obtain minimum qualifying marks in the written part of the Main Examination as may be fixed by the Commission at their discretion, shall be summoned by them for an interview for a Personality Test. The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination but of a natural, though directed and purposive communication which is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate. Marks thus obtained in the Main Examination (out of a grand total of 2025 marks) would determine their final ranking and post.
It is not an exaggerated fact that the IAS entrance exam is the nation’s toughest competitive exam and calls for intensive practice and preparation. Experts believe that aggressive preparation for 10 to 12 months is a must for this curriculum heavy test. Most IAS aspirants get discouraged seeing the bulk of IAS syllabus but the secret to success is in catabolically breaking every discipline and mastering it over time with fervour and commitment. Four out of every 10 Indians aspire to become an IAS officer and the competition is so intense that only 0.01% of that massive number gets through, therefore an aspirant must map-out an effective strategy for qualitative preparation to secure a good rank followed by a post of his choice.
Unarguably, UPSC preparation is a lengthy process. But the moment you start enjoying your preparation, all the unwarranted stress and anxiety associated with the preparation will vanish.
It does not matter how slowly or quickly you traverse this thousand mile journey as long as you do not stop and enjoy every view it offers. ☺