The number of applicants gives a strong indication of the great interest shown by our youngsters in joining the civil services, in spite of more lucrative job opportunities in the private sector, especially in the domain of information technology.

The Civil Services examination comprises two successive stages: a preliminary examination with objective questions

and a main examination with nine descriptive written papers. An interview or personality test is also considered as part of the main examination. For the sake of convenience in discussion, we will divide the whole process into three parts— preliminary, main, and interview.

The prelims

The objective of this test is to select candidates for the main examination. The preliminary examination is only a screening test, in the sense that the marks scored in this will not be counted for the final ranking. However, you should not forget that if you fail in this, you cannot appear in the main examination. The duration of each question paper is two hours. The questions match the standard of a university degree. They are set in English and Hindi. The detailed syllabus of the examination will be given as part of the notification.

All the questions will be of the multiple-choice objective type. There will be penalty in the form of negative marks for wrong answers. No question will demand a descriptive answer.

There are two papers—general studies (150 marks) and one optional subject (300 marks)

The candidate has the option to choose this from the 23 subjects that include agriculture, animal husbandry and veterinary science, botany, chemistry, civil engineering, commerce, economics, electrical engineering, geography, geology, Indian history, law, mathematics, mechanical engineering, medical science, philosophy, physics, political science, psychology, public administration, sociology, statistics and zoology. The eligibility gained for appearing in the main examination is valid only for the concerned year; it cannot be carried forward to another year in the future.

Main examination

The written examination consists of nine papers, each of three hours. All the questions are of the conventional essay type. The question papers other than language papers will be set both in English and Hindi.

Paper I is Indian language. You can select it from the languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. The questions will be of Matriculation standards. The marks scored will not be counted for ranking.

Paper II: English. The questions will be of Matriculation standards. The marks scored will not be counted for ranking

Paper III: Essay (200 marks)

Papers IV and V: General Studies (300 x 2 = 600 marks)

Papers V, VII, VIII, & IX: two subjects (two papers each, 300 x 4 = 1,200 marks)

Total marks of seven papers= 2,000 marks

Interview (personality test)= 300 marks

Grand total marks for ranking = 2300 marks

Optional subjects

Optional subjects for the main examination can be chosen from 25 subjects, and the literature of one of the 30 specified languages. The subjects you choose need not be from what you have studied in the college. The subjects include agriculture,

animal husbandry and veterinary science, anthropology, botany, chemistry, civil engineering, commerce and accountancy, economics, electrical engineering, geography, geology, history, law management, mathematics, mechanical engineering, medical science, philosophy, physics, political science and international relations, psychology and public administration, sociology, statistics and zoology.

Literature of one of the following languages: Arabic, Assamese, Bodo, Bengali, Dogri, Chinese, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Pali, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

The following combinations of subjects will not be allowed, since there are areas of overlap in the syllabi.

Public administration and political science and international relations

Commerce and accountancy and management

Anthropology and sociology

Mathematics and statistics

Agriculture and animal husbandry and veterinary science

Management and public administration

Medical science and animal husbandry and veterinary science

Of the Engineering subjects, viz., civil engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering–not more than one subject.

You can answer the questions in papers III to IX in English or in any language listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. While doing so, you may give the English version of technical terms within brackets. But, if you misuse this rule, a deduction will be made from your total marks. The first two papers, Indian Language and English, should however be answered in the respective languages. In the question papers, SI units will be used, wherever required.

Marks will not be allotted for mere superficial knowledge. Credit will be given for orderly, effective, and exact expression combined with due economy of words in all subjects of the examination. UPSC may fix qualifying marks in any or all the subjects of the examination. If your handwriting is not legible, a deduction may be made from your total marks.

You will be allowed the use of scientific (non-programmable type) calculators in the essay type examinations. You cannot interchange calculators with other candidates in the examination hall. Calculators are not allowed for the preliminary examination. Please note that these regulations give a hint on the style of preparation you make for the examination.

The interview

This part carries 300 marks making the total significant marks of the main examination 2,300, for determining the final merit and ranking.

Timing

The CSE generally follows the following schedule:

Notification inviting applications: December

Preliminary examination: May

Results of preliminary examination: July/ August

Main examination: October/ November

Interview/ personality test: April/ May

Usually there would be around three lakh applicants at the initial stage. But in 2009, there was a sudden jump to 4.09 lakh from 3.25 lakh in 2008. Nearly half the applicants would actually appear for the preliminary examination. The number of serious candidates may be over a half of those who appear. Still, the competition is tough. The number of candidates to be admitted to the main examination will be about 12-13 times the total number of vacancies in the various services. The number of candidates to be summoned for the interview will be around twice the number of vacancies. Approximately 965 vacancies would be filled from the rank list of the 2010 examination.

The number of applicants gives a strong indication of the great interest shown by our youngsters in joining the civil services, in spite of more lucrative job opportunities in the private sector, especially in the domain of information technology. Graduates and postgraduates who have come out with flying colours from centres of excellence in engineering and management are in the fray. A casual approach based on the presumption that our intelligence will easily carry us above the civil service exam hurdle may not prove to be true.

There is an interesting instance of a medical doctor, Adapa Karthik, who stood first in the Civil Services Examination 2007. He had completed a Ph.D. fellowship from Harvard Medical School, but preferred to join the IAS.