Process of the UPSC Exam: A Comprehensive Guide (2023)

The UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) conducts the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) to select candidates for various prestigious services such as IAS, IPS, IFS, IFoS, IRS, and more. The selection process consists of multiple stages, including the preliminary exam, main exam, interview, and medical tests. It takes approximately a year to complete the entire selection process.

Preliminary Exam (Objective Test)

The UPSC Civil Services Preliminary exam consists of two compulsory papers: General Studies Paper-I and General Studies Paper-II. Each paper carries 200 marks. The questions are of multiple-choice, objective type. It is important to note that the marks obtained in the preliminary exam are not counted for final ranking but only for qualification for the main exam.

Main Exam (Written Test)

The UPSC Civil Services Main exam is the written phase of the examination. It consists of nine papers, out of which only seven papers are counted for the final merit ranking. The remaining two papers are qualifying in nature, and candidates need to score the minimum marks prescribed by the commission each year. The question papers for the main exam are of conventional (essay) type.

The distribution of marks for the main exam is as follows:

  • Paper 1: Essay - 250 marks
  • Paper 2: General Studies-I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society) - 250 marks
  • Paper 3: General Studies-II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice, and International relations) - 250 marks
  • Paper 4: General Studies-III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security, and Disaster Management) - 250 marks
  • Paper 5: General Studies-IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude) - 250 marks
  • Paper 6: Optional Subject - Paper 1 - 250 marks
  • Paper 7: Optional Subject - Paper 2 - 250 marks

The total marks for the main exam are 1750.

Personality Test (Interview)

The personality test, also known as the interview, is the final stage of the UPSC Civil Services Exam. It is conducted by a board of experts who assess the candidate's character and suitability for a career in public service. The interview focuses on issues of general interest, and the candidate's performance in the interview carries 275 marks.

It is important to note that the marks obtained in the preliminary exam are not counted for the final ranking. The candidate's final position in the Civil Service Exam depends solely on the marks scored in the main exam and the interview. The main exam carries 1750 marks, while the interview carries 275 marks. The total marks are calculated out of 2025.

Qualifying Papers

In addition to the main exam, candidates are required to clear two qualifying papers:

  • Paper-A: One of the Indian Languages (chosen from the languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution) - 300 marks
  • Paper-B: English - 300 marks

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the IAS and IPS services, a candidate must be a citizen of India. For other services, a candidate must be either a citizen of India or a citizen of another country (subject to certain special conditions).

Candidates must have attained the age of 21 years and must not have exceeded the age of 32 years as of August 1 of the examination year. There is a relaxation of 5 years in the upper age limit for SC/ST candidates and 3 years for OBC candidates. Age relaxation is also applicable for ex-defense personnel and candidates with specific disabilities.

Candidates must hold a university degree or have an equivalent qualification to appear in the Civil Services Examination. Candidates who have appeared in the final year of the degree examination or intend to appear in such a qualifying examination are also eligible. However, they must provide proof of completing the necessary examination before appearing in the Civil Services (Main) Examination.


The UPSC Civil Services Exam is a highly competitive and rigorous selection process. Clearing the preliminary exam without adequate preparation is challenging, as only a small fraction of candidates are selected to proceed to the main exam. The main exam and interview play a crucial role in determining a candidate's final position in the merit list.

It is important for aspirants to understand the selection process and prepare a comprehensive strategy for each stage of the exam. By dedicating time and effort to thorough preparation, candidates can increase their chances of success in the UPSC Civil Services Examination.

Note: The information provided in this article is based on the given prompt and general knowledge. For the most accurate and up-to-date information, candidates are advised to refer to the official UPSC website and notifications.


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