How to prepare and appear for Civil Services exams

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Civil Services Examination is the toughest and most competitive examination in India. It provides a gateway for the coveted services like Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service( IFS) and many others services which allow an individual to render his/her service directly to the nation. 

More than 10 lakh people register for this examination, and around 5 lakh people appear for the preliminary examination. The number of people appearing for the exam is increasing each year. 

Services included

  1. Indian Administrative Service
  2. Indian Foreign Service
  3. Indian Police Service
  4. Indian P & T Accounts & Finance Service, Group ‘A’
  5. Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
  6. Indian Revenue Service (Customs and Central Excise), Group ‘A’
  7. Indian Defence Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
  8. Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax), Group ‘A’
  9. Indian Ordnance Factories Service, Group ‘A’ (Assistant Works Manager, Administration)
  10. Indian Postal Service, Group ‘A’
  11. Indian Civil Accounts Service, Group ‘A’
  12. Indian Railway Traffic Service, Group ‘A’
  13. Indian Railway Accounts Service, Group ‘A’.
  14. Indian Railway Personnel Service, Group ‘A’
  15. Post of Assistant Security Commissioner in Railway Protection Force, Group ‘A’
  16. Indian Defence Estates Service, Group ‘A’
  17. Indian Information Service (Junior Grade), Group ‘A’
  18. Indian Trade Service, Group ‘A’ (Gr. III)
  19. Indian Corporate Law Service, Group “A”
  20. Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service, Group ‘B’ (Section Officer’s Grade)
  21. Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service, Group’ B’
  22. Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Police Service, Group’ B’
  23. Pondicherry Civil Service, Group’ B’
  24. Pondicherry Police Service, Group’ B’


Central Government services are divided into four categories, namely Group A, Group B, Group C and Group D apart from all India services like (IAS, IPS and IFS). They are grouped according to the skills required and responsibilities attributed

Examination Pattern


Civil Services Examination is conducted in three stages (preliminary, mains and interview), a year-long process.

The preliminary examination consists of two papers Paper-1 and Paper-2. Both papers consist of objective type questions. Marks obtained in the Paper-2 are qualifying in nature. The marks obtained in the Paper-1 are solely considered for the selection of candidates for Mains Examination.

The Mains Examination is a descriptive type consisting of nine papers. Out of those nine papers, two are qualifying in nature, and the marks obtained in those seven papers are considered for the merit. Candidates are selected for the interview based on marks obtained in the Mains.


Candidates can list out the services in the priority of interest, and based on the marks secured in Prelims and Mains, the candidate allocation is done. 


Any graduate can apply and appear for the examination without any restrictions. All it needs is a degree from any stream.

Key takeaways

  1. Any person who has a little more knowledge in history, economics, polity and geography has a slight advantage over others.
  2. The preparation is easy for any person who has a degree from the above subjects as they would have studied a lot of things regarding the same.
  3. If students opt for those above-said subjects in their high school and intermediate, it would be an added advantage. But that doesn’t mean others have a drawback. It is noteworthy to remember that many cracked civils without opting for these subjects. 
  4. Cultivate a habit of reading the newspaper daily. It will help a lot in understanding current affairs.
  5. It is better to have work experience in any field before writing civil services examinations. Though it is not mandatory, it is a good experience to have it before starting a service if you get selected. In a few instances, where people got selected in the first attempt could not make right decisions in their job. 
  6. Self-study is advisable. But it is better to have a group study as it helps with learning faster. 
  7. Many coaching institutes do provide coaching for civil services examination and some do online too. When choosing a coaching institute, research for the authenticity and credibility because some of them don’t have prior knowledge on the subjects like history, economics, polity and geography.
  8. The most important suggestion for students who are in school now is to just concentrate on the subjects which you have rather than buying any new books for civils. Your academic books are good enough until the completion of your schooling.
  9. The last thing is to ensure that you are ready to work anywhere in the country or outside the country as it is a highly transferable job. Moreover, it will have political pressure, high-level responsibilities despite having supreme powers and 24*7 emergencies for specific posts like IPS & IAS.
  10. These services need psychologically strong persons to overcome excess work and pressure from outsiders like politicians and antisocial elements.


People spend at least a year in preparation before appearing for the preliminary exam. And they continue the preparation for mains and interviews for another year after he/she successfully clears prelims. So, a minimum of two years of preparation is required. Sometimes, luck plays a considerable role in cracking this test as there is no perfect examination pattern. There are many people who prepared for many years but could not clear it.

If as a student, you identify that you want to pursue civils, then focus on subjects like history, geography, economics, polity and current affairs. In addition to this, if you start reading newspaper daily, then it will build your knowledge around current affairs. 

Spending an hour every day in gaining knowledge from these subjects can make you well versed and puts you in a better position compared to your peers.

Other opportunities

In February 2019, the Union Public Service Commission recommended the Central Government to consider those candidates who failed in the final interview round to recruit in other jobs of the government sector. As these candidates have already gone through the stringent screening process, the government and other institutions may consider them for jobs. It is a relief for many that prepared rigorously but failed in the interview stage. This recommendation is yet to be materialised, which would happen soon.


Everyone can attempt the civil services examination irrespective of their educational stream. But they only need relentless perseverance to crack the exam and become a perfect bureaucrat.

Go through the following quiz to assess your interest in the field of administrative services.

Citations :

Skillioma Home (March 1, 2024) How to prepare and appear for Civil Services exams. Retrieved from
"How to prepare and appear for Civil Services exams." Skillioma Home - March 1, 2024,
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"How to prepare and appear for Civil Services exams." Skillioma Home [Online]. Available: [Accessed: March 1, 2024]

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