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UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) Guide: All you need to know

Updated on 13 May 2021
UPSC & State PSC
7 min read 29 views
Updated on 13 May 2021

UPSC CSE (Civil Services Exam) is a national level entrance exam into the much coveted Indian civil services. Union Public Service Commission is the central committee that holds this exam and recruits selected candidates for various posts in group A and B services. The services are as shown below:

Group A Services

Group B Services

Indian Administrative Service

Indian Police Service

Indian Revenue Service (Custom and Central Excise)

Indian Foreign Service

Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax)

Indian Post and Telecommunication Accounts and Finance Service

Indian Audit and Accounts Service

Indian Postal Service

Indian Civil Accounts Service

Indian Railway Accounts Service

Indian Corporate Law Service

Indian Railway Personnel Service

Indian Defence Accounts Service

Indian Railway Traffic Service

Indian Defence Estates Service

Indian Information Service (Junior Grade)

Indian Trade Service (Gr. III)

Indian Ordnance Factories Service (Assistant Works Manager, Administration)

Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force

Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services (Section Officer’s Grade)

Pondicherry Civil Service

Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Services

Pondicherry Police Service

Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Police Services

UPSC CSE Exam Date 2021:

The UPSC 2021 Prelims Exam was earlier scheduled to be on 27 June 2021. However, amid a surge in the number of covid-19 cases, the UPSC has postponed the examination to 10 October 2021. Take a look at the exam notification below.

Exam Events 

Official Dates 

Release of Online Notification 

4 March 2021

Commencement of UPSC Prelims Exam 

27 June 2021  

10 October 2021

Last date of Receipt of Applications

24 March 2021

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility criteria for UPSC CSE can be understood on the basis of nationality, education and age. Please read these in detail below:


Candidates should be one of the following:

  1. A citizen of India
  2. A citizen of Nepal
  3. A subject of Bhutan
  4. A Tibetan Refugee who was migrated to India to settle permanently before 1st January 1962
  5. A person of Indian origin who migrated from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Vietnam, and Zaire.

Educational Qualification:

Candidates applying for the UPSC CSE exam should have a graduation degree from a government recognized university.

Candidates who are still pursuing graduation and are awaiting final results can also apply. But their result should be declared before filling the application for the mains exam.

Age Limit:

Candidates need to be minimum 21 years of age and maximum 32 years of age to apply for the UPSC CSE exam. It has also defined relaxations in maximum age limits for the candidates based on categories, as shown below: 


Age Relaxation

Scheduled caste/Scheduled tribe

5 years

Other backward classes (OBC)

3 years

Defense Services Personnel

3 years

Ex-servicemen including Commissioned Officers and ECOs/SSCOs

5 years

Deaf, hard of hearing, low vision or blindness, ex-servicemen or candidates with any other locomotor disability or muscle deformity

10 years

Apart from the above, UPSC has also set a limit to the number of attempts candidates can give. Following is the category wise differentiation:


Maximum Number of Attempts







Total Vacancy in UPSC CSE 2021

A total of 712 vacancies have been declared this year by UPSC.

Application Process for UPSC CSE 2021:

Following are the steps to fill the UPSC CSE exam online application form:

  1. Visit the official UPSC website
  2. Go to the Civil Services Examination section.
  3. Click on the ‘Apply’ button
  4. Fill all required personal and educational details
  5. Upload your latest photo and signature
  6. Preview and check your application
  7. Click ‘Submit’ 
  8. Pay online application fee of Rs. 100 via Visa/Master/RuPay Credit/ Debit card/netbanking. SC/ST/PwD and female candidates are exempted from paying the application fee.

UPSC CSE 2021 Admit Card:

UPSC issues separate admit cards for each stage of their exam. The admit card is issued 10-15 days before the examination date. Following are the steps to download the admit card:

1) Go to the official UPSC website 

2) Click on the link to 'Download IAS Prelims 2021 Admit Card' on the homepage

3) Carefully read the instructions and click on the ‘Yes’ button.

4) Enter your Registration ID/Roll Number and Date of Birth

5) Enter the captcha and click on the submit button.

6) Download the admit card.

7) Check for discrepancies and report immediately if found.

UPSC CSE Salary Structure:

Following is the salary structure for the Indian Civil Services:

Pay Level

Basic Pay (INR)

Number of years in service





District Administration

State Secretariat

Central Secretariat




Sub-divisional magistrate


Assistant Secretary




Additional district magistrate

Deputy Secretary





District magistrate

Joint Secretary

Deputy Secretary




District magistrate

Special secretary-cum-director





Divisional commissioner


Joint Secretary




Divisional commissioner

Principal Secretary

Additional secretary




No Equivalent Rank

Additional Chief Secretary

No Equivalent Rank




No Equivalent Rank

Chief Secretary




37+ years

No Equivalent Rank

No Equivalent Rank

Cabinet Secretary of India

UPSC Civil Services Exam Selection Process:

The selection process of civil services examination takes place in three stages, which are described below:

  1. Preliminary Examination: Consists of two objective types papers on general studies and aptitude
  2. Mains Examination: Consists of eight written subjective type papers
  3. Interview

UPSC CSE 2021 Syllabus:

The detailed UPSC CSE 2021 syllabus is given in Annexure I below 

UPSC CSE Exam Pattern:

UPSC CSE preliminary exam consists of two objective type papers. One is based on General Studies, while the other is the Civil Services Aptitude Test. The CSAT is qualifying in nature and needs 33% marks for passing. More details are given below:


Total Questions

Maximum Marks


Marks for correct answers

Marks for incorrect answers

Paper I: General Studies


200 Marks

2 Hours



Paper II: CSAT


200 Marks

2 Hours



UPSC CSE Mains Pattern:

This stage of the exam consists of eight subjective papers. Following is the breakdown of the same.





Paper A

Compulsory Indian Language (One of the Indian Language to be selected by the candidate from the Languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution)

3 Hours

300 Marks

Paper B

Compulsory English

3 Hours

300 Marks

Paper I


3 Hours

250 Marks

Paper II

General Studies I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History, and Geography of the World and Society)

3 Hours

250 Marks

Paper III

General Studies II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations)

3 Hours

250 Marks

Paper IV

General Studies III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security

and Disaster Management)

3 Hours

250 Marks

Paper V

General Studies IV (Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)

3 Hours

250 Marks

Paper VI

Optional Paper (Candidates may choose any one of the optional subjects offered by UPSC)

3 Hours

250 Marks


Paper A and B are qualifying in nature and require 25% marks or 75 marks to pass. The marks of Paper I to VI are along with interview marks to determine the final selection list.

UPSC CSE Interview:

The UPSC CSE interview is conducted by UPSC panels in New Delhi. This is a personality test to gauge the suitability of the candidate for the services. Maximum marks allotted for the interview are 275.


Below is the UPSC CSE Cut Off for 2017:





















PH 1




PH 2




PH 3





Annexure- I

UPSC CSE Prelims Syllabus:

Syllabus for GS Paper (Paper I)

Current events of national and international importance | History of India and Indian National Movement | Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World |Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc | Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc | General issues on Environmental Ecology, Biodiversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization | General Science

Syllabus for CSAT Paper (Prelims Paper II)

Comprehension | Interpersonal skills including communication skills | Logical reasoning and analytical ability | Decision-making and problem solving | General mental ability | Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)

UPSC Mains Exam (1750 Marks)

Structure of the language papers:

  1. Essay: 100 marks
  2. Reading comprehension: 60 marks
  3. Precis Writing: 60 marks
  4. Translation:
  5. English to compulsory language (e.g. Hindi): 20 marks
  6. Compulsory language to English: 20 marks
  7. Grammar and basic language usage: 40 marks

UPSC Mains Syllabus

GS I - Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society:

  1. Indian culture covers the salient features of Literature, Art Forms, and Architecture from ancient to modern times

  1. Modern Indian history include the significant events, personalities, issues during the middle of the eighteenth century until the present

  1. Various stages and important contributors and contributions from different parts of the country in ‘The Freedom Struggle’

  1. Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country

  1. History of the world includes events, forms and effect on the society from 18th century like world wars, industrial revolution, colonization, redrawal of national boundaries, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc

  1. Salient aspects of Diversity of India and Indian Society

  1. Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and remedies

  1. Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism

  1. Distribution of key natural resources across the world including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent; factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world including India

  1. Effects of globalization on Indian society

  1. Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes

  1. Salient features of world’s physical geography

GS II - Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations:

  1. Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

  1. Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein

  1. Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
  2. Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions

  1. Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these

  1. Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

  1. Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity

  1. Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

  1. Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

  1. Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections

  1. Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders

  1. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

  1. Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures

  1. Issues relating to poverty and hunger

  1. Role of civil services in a democracy

  1. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

  1. India and its neighborhood- relations

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate

  1. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

GS III - Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management:

  1. Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

  1. Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.
  2. Government Budgeting.

  1. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

  1. Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers

  1. Economics of animal-rearing.

  1. Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.

  1. Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions

  1. Land reforms in India.

  1. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

  1. Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

  1. Investment models.

  1. Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology;

  1. Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

  1. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

  1. Disaster and disaster management.

  1. Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.

  1. Linkages between development and spread of extremism.

  1. Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention

  1. Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate

  1. Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism

GS IV - Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude: 

  1. Ethics and Human Interface- Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships

  1. Human Values- lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values

  1. Attitude- content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behaviour; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion

  1. Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service, integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections

  1. Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance

  1. Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and world

  1. Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration- Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance

  1. Probity in Governance- Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information; sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen’s Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption

  1. Case Studies on above issues

Hope this UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) Guide was helpful. Best of Luck!

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