The Civil Services Examination (CSE) is a nationwide competitive examination in India conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for recruitment to higher Civil Services of the Government of India, including the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service, and Indian Police Service. Also simply referred to as the UPSC examination, it is conducted in three phases: a preliminary examination consisting of two objective-type papers (General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper II also popularly known as Civil Service Aptitude Test or CSAT), and a main examination consisting of nine papers of conventional (essay) type, in which two papers are qualifying and only marks of seven are counted followed by a personality test (interview) A successful candidate sits for 32 hours of examination during the complete process spanning around one year.
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The Civil Services Examination is based on the British era Imperial Civil Service tests, as well as the civil service tests conducted by old Indian empires such as the Mauryan Empire and Mughal Empire. It is one of the most difficult competitive examinations in India. A single attempt can take two complete years of preparation – one year before the prelims and one year from prelims to interview. On average, 900,000 to 1,000,000 candidates apply every year and the number of candidates sitting in the preliminary examination is approximately 550,000. Results for the Prelims are published in mid-August, while the final result is published in May of the next year.
- Stage I: Preliminary Examination - Held in June every year. Results are announced in August.
- Stage II: Mains
- Examination - Held in October every year. Results are announced in January.
- Personality Test (interview) - Held in March. Final results are usually announced in May.
- For the Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service and the Indian Foreign Service the candidate must be a citizen of India.
For other services, the candidate must be one of the following:
- A citizen of India.
- A citizen of Nepal or a subject of Bhutan.
- A Tibetan refugee who settled permanently in India before 1 January 1962.
- A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia or Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India.
All candidates must have as a minimum one of the following educational qualifications:
- A degree from a Central, State or a Deemed university
- A degree received through correspondence or distance education
- A degree from an open university
- A qualification recognized by the Government of India as being equivalent to one of the above
The following candidates are also eligible, but must submit proof of their eligibility from a competent authority at their institute/university at the time of the main examination, failing which they will not be allowed to attend the exam.
- Candidates who have appeared in an examination the passing of which would render them educationally qualified enough to satisfy one of the above points.
- Candidates who have passed the final exam of the MBBS degree but have not yet completed an internship.
- Candidates who have passed the final exam of ICAI, ICSI and ICWAI.
- A degree from a private university.
- A degree from any foreign university recognized by the Association of Indian Universities.
The candidate must have attained the age of 21 years and must not have attained the age of 32 years (for the General category candidate) on 1 August of the year of examination. Prescribed age limits vary with respect to caste reservations.
- For Other Backward Castes (OBC) the upper age limit is 35 years.
- For Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), the limit is 37 years.
- For Defence Services Personnel disabled in operations during hostilities, the limit is 40 years.
- For Candidates belonging to ex-servicemen including Commissioned officers and ECOs/SSCOs who have rendered military services for at least five years as on 1 August, of the year and have been released
- On completion of assignment (including those whose assignment is due to be completed within one year from 1 August of the year otherwise than by way of dismissal or discharge on account of misconduct or inefficiency or
- On account of physical disability attributable to Military Service or
- On invalidation or
- Relaxation of up to a maximum of five years will be given in the case of ECOs/SSCOs who have completed an initial period of assignment of five years of Military Service as on 1 August of the year and whose assignment has been extended beyond five years and in whose case the Ministry of Defence issues a certificate that they can apply for civil employment and that they will be released on three months' notice on selection from the date of receipt of offer of appointment, the limit is 32 years.
- For ECOs/SSCOs who have completed an initial period of assignment of five years of Military Service, the limit is 32 years.
- For PwD candidates, the limit is 37 years.
- For Domiciles of Jammu and Kashmir from 1 January 1980 to 31 December 1989, the limit is 32 years.
- For the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category, the standard age limits apply.
Number of attempts
The number of times a candidate can appear for the exam are given below.
- General category candidates – 6
- OBC category candidates – 9
- SC/ST candidates – unlimited attempts till 37 years of age.