UPSC Civil Services Exam - Age Limit, Application Process, Syllabus, Eligibility

by Vajiram & Ravi

The UPSC CSE, or Union Public Service Commission Civil Services Examination, is a highly competitive examination conducted by the UPSC in India. It is often considered one of the most prestigious and challenging competitive exams in the country. The UPSC CSE is the gateway to a career in the Indian Civil Services, which includes positions like the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service, Indian Foreign Service, and various other Group A and Group B services.

UPSC CSE Eligibility Criteria

The UPSC Notification lays down certain guidelines with respect to the eligibility criteria:


For the IAS, IFS, and IPS, candidates must be Indian citizens.

For all other services, candidates must be one of the following:

  • An Indian citizen
  • A citizen of Nepal
  • A citizen of Bhutan
  • A Tibetan refugee who came to India before January 1, 1962, with the intention of permanently settling in India
  • A person of Indian origin who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia, or Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India
  • Candidates in categories (b), (c), (d), and (e) must have a certificate of eligibility issued by the Government of India. Candidates who need a certificate of eligibility may be admitted to the examination, but they will not be offered a position until they have received the necessary certificate from the Government of India. 

Civil Services Exam Age Limit

Candidates must be at least 21 years old and not have reached 32 years old on August 1, 2024. This means that candidates must have been born no earlier than August 2, 1992, and no later than August 1, 2003.

The upper age limit is relaxed for the following categories:

  • Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST): 5 years
  • Other Backward Classes (OBC): 3 years
  • Defence Services Personnel disabled in operations during hostilities with any foreign country or in a disturbed area: 3 years

Minimum Education Qualification for UPSC CSE Exam

Candidates must hold a graduate degree from any of the following:

  • A university incorporated by an Act of the Central or State Legislature in India
  • An educational institution established by an Act of Parliament
  • An institution declared to be deemed as a university under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956
  • Candidates who have appeared at a qualifying examination but have not yet received their results, or who intend to appear at such an examination, are also eligible to apply. However, all candidates who are declared qualified by the Commission for the Civil Services (Main) Examination will be required to produce proof of passing the requisite qualifying examination along with their application for the Main Examination. Candidates who fail to do so will not be admitted to the Main Examination.
  • In exceptional cases, the Commission may treat a candidate who does not have any of the foregoing qualifications as eligible, provided that the candidate has passed an examination conducted by any other institution the standard of which in the opinion of the Commission justifies admission to the Civil Services Examination.
  • Candidates possessing professional and technical qualifications which are recognized by the Government as equivalent to professional and technical degrees are also eligible for admission to the Civil Services Examination.

To request a counselling call, please fill out this form:


How to Apply for Civil Service Exam?

To apply for the UPSC Civil Services Examination, visit the official UPSC website and look for the CSE notification. The notification is usually released in February each year. Once the notification is out, you can find the "Apply Online" link. Click on it to start the registration process.

  • Part I Registration: The registration process is divided into two parts. In Part I, you'll be required to provide your basic information, including your name, date of birth, gender, nationality, and contact details. You'll also need to choose your preferred exam centre.
  • Part II Registration: After completing Part I registration, you'll need to move on to Part II. In this section, you'll need to pay the examination fee, upload your photograph and signature, and select your preferred examination medium (English or any Indian language included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution).
  • Application Fee: You'll need to pay the application fee, which varies depending on your category (general, OBC, SC, ST, or female candidates). The fee can be paid online through debit/credit cards, net banking, or e-challan at designated bank branches.
  • Document Upload: Upload a scanned copy of your photograph and signature as per the specified dimensions and format. Make sure the images are clear and within the prescribed size limits.
  • Final Submission: After completing both parts of the registration and making the payment, carefully review your application form. Make sure all the information is accurate and all required documents are uploaded. Once you are satisfied, submit the application form.
  • Print Application: After submitting your application, you can print a copy of the confirmation page for your records. Keep this printout safe for future reference.
  • Admit Card: The UPSC will release the admit card a few weeks before the Preliminary Examination. You can download it from the UPSC website by logging in with your registration details.

UPSC Exam 2024 Important Dates

The Official UPSC Calendar consists of all the important UPSC Exam dates that you need to know before applying for the examination.

Official Notification Release Date14 February 2024
Application form Commencement Date14 February 2024
Last Date of Form Submission5 March 2024
UPSC CSE Exam Date - Preliminary Examination16 June 2024
UPSC CSE Main Examination20 September 2024 (7 Days)

UPSC Exam - Number of Attempts

The number of attempts for the UPSC Civil Services Examination varies depending on the candidate's category:

CategoryNumber of Attempts
General Category6 attempts
SC/ST CategoryUnlimited attempts
PwBD Category9 attempts
OBC Category9 attempts
EWS Category6 attempts

UPSC Exam - Service Allocation

The allocation of services to candidates who qualify for the UPSC Civil Services Exam is done on the basis of their rank, preference, and the number of vacancies available in each service. The services allocated under the UPSC CSE are divided under three categories: All India Services, Group A Central Services and Group B Central Services.

All India Central ServicesGroup A ServicesGroup B Services
  • Indian Administrative Service (IAS)
  • Indian Police Service (IPS)
  • Indian Forest Service (IFoS)
  • Indian Foreign Service (IFS)
  • Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS)
  • Indian Civil Accounts Service (ICAS)
  • Indian Corporate Law Service (ICLS)
  • Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS)
  • Indian Defence Estates Service (IDES)
  • Indian Information Service (IIS)
  • Indian Ordnance Factories Service (IOFS)
  • Indian Communication Finance Services (ICFS)
  • Indian Postal Service (IPoS)
  • Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS)
  • Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS)
  • Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS)
  • Indian Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Indian Trade Service (ITS)
  • Railway Protection Force (RPF)
  • Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service
  • Pondicherry Civil Service
  • Pondicherry Police Service

Stages of UPSC Civil Services Exam

The UPSC CSE is conducted in three stages:

  • Preliminary Examination (Prelims): It consists of two papers - General Studies (GS) Paper-I and General Studies Paper-II (Civil Services Aptitude Test or CSAT). The Prelims are of qualifying nature, and the marks scored in Paper-II are not counted for the Mains exam.
  • Mains Examination (Mains): It includes a written examination consisting of nine papers, including two qualifying language papers and seven merit-based papers.
  • Personality Test (Interview): Candidates who qualify the Mains examination are called for an interview, which is intended to assess their personality, knowledge, and suitability for a career in the civil services.

UPSC CSE Syllabus

The UPSC CSE syllabus is extensive and covers a wide range of subjects, including history, geography, polity, economics, science and technology, environment, ethics, and current affairs.

UPSC CSE Preliminary Syllabus

UPSC Civil Services Exam 2024 General Studies Paper-I Syllabus:

It has 100 questions broadly covering the following topics, carrying a maximum of 200 marks to be solved in 2 hours.

  • Current events of National & International importance.
  • History of India & Indian National Movement.
  • Indian & World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India & the World.
  • Indian Polity & Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic & Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental ecology, Biodiversity & climate change – that do not require subject specialisation.
  • General Science.

General Studies Paper-II ( CSAT) Syllabus:

General Studies Paper-II comprises 80 questions from the following topics carrying a maximum of 200 marks to be solved in 2 hours.

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

UPSC Mains Exam Pattern and Syllabus

Paper- AOne of the Indian Language has to be selected from the List of Languages included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution300
Paper- BEnglish300
Paper- 1Essay 250
Paper-2General Studies Paper-I ( Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society)250
Paper-3General Studies Paper-II ( Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations)250
Paper- 4General Studies Paper- III ( Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security, and Disaster Management)250
Paper-5General Studies Paper- IV ( Ethics, Integrity, and Aptitude)250
Paper-6Optional Subject Paper- 1250
Paper- 7Optional Subject Paper- 2250

UPSC CSE Preparation Strategy

Every year lakhs of students appear in the Civil Services Exam (CSE) and only around 750 to 900 candidates are selected (depending on the vacancy) in the final merit list. The selection rate dictates that the candidates need to be the very best of the best in order to qualify. It is thus advisable that candidates start preparing for the exam as early as possible.

  • Ideally, the UPSC CSE syllabus needs at least 10 months for completion, including preparation for Prelims and Mains. While the Prelims Paper is Objective-based covering both General Studies subjects and the CSAT syllabus, the Mains Exam requires candidates to write answers to some of the toughest questions – which include commentary on the most burning and challenging issues faced by society and administrations across the world.
  • A candidate should ideally start preparing the basics and develop the habit of reading newspapers and also start becoming aware of diverse national and international issues during the graduation period itself. Candidates should also familiarise themselves with the UPSC CSE pattern, and go through PYQs or talk to a Mentor for guidance. Remember, UPSC CSE preparation is as much about knowledge as it is about its creative and innovative application!
  • Further, the syllabus requires students to possess a general overview of various disciplines namely History, Geography, Polity, Science & Tech, Economics, Society, International Relations, Ethics, Public Administration, and Disaster Management. It, therefore, ensures that students from any background will encounter some sections that are completely new to them, thereby levelling the playing field.
  • After becoming familiar with the syllabus, students can follow it up by extensive practice of both objective-type questions for Prelims and answer-writing for Mains. Depending on an individual student's habits and abilities, it may take anywhere between 12 months to 18 months of dedicated study to master the complete syllabus and to properly attempt the exam.

Preparing for the UPSC Exam Optional Subject

UPSC demands general but accurate knowledge in General Studies papers from aspirants. However, it expects you to be a master of your Optional Subject. Good scores in the Optional Papers (I & II) significantly boosts the chances of getting selected in the UPSC Civil Services Exam.

  • It also adds to the score of the Main Exam’s cut off which is becoming increasingly competitive day by day. Therefore, you need to be confident about your Optional Subject of choice and make sure you can achieve a very good score.
  • The choice of the Optional Subject should align with an aspirant's personal strengths, interests, and overall aptitude. It is advisable to opt for a subject in which one has a genuine interest and some background knowledge. Additionally, considering the availability of study materials, guidance, and coaching for the chosen subject is essential. Analysing the previous year's success rates and scoring trends in various Optional Subjects can provide valuable insights. It is also beneficial to evaluate the syllabus and the nature of questions asked in the Optional paper to ensure compatibility with one's strengths and preparation style.

FAQs on UPSC Exam

How many times UPSC Exam is conducted in a year?

The UPSC Exam is conducted only once a year. The procedure to conduct one round of UPSC CSE Exam takes almost a year.

What is the qualification for UPSC exam?

The qualifications required to appear for the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) are as follows:

Nationality: You must be an Indian citizen to be eligible for the UPSC CSE.

Age Limit:

  • The minimum age to appear for the exam is 21 years.
  • The maximum age limit varies depending on the category of the candidate:
  • For General Category: The maximum age limit is usually 32 years.
  • For OBC (Other Backward Classes): The maximum age limit is typically 35 years.
  • For SC/ST (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes): The maximum age limit is generally 37 years.
  • There are also age relaxations for certain categories of candidates, such as ex-servicemen and persons with disabilities.

Educational Qualification:

  • You should have at least a bachelor's degree from a recognized university. The degree can be in any discipline.
  • It's important to note that meeting these eligibility criteria allows you to appear for the UPSC CSE, but the actual selection process is highly competitive, and the final selection depends on the candidate's performance in the Preliminary Exam, Mains Exam, and Personality Test (Interview).

Can 12th pass apply for UPSC?

No, candidates who have only passed their 12th standard (or equivalent) are not eligible to apply for the UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE). The minimum educational qualification required to be eligible for the UPSC CSE is a bachelor's degree from a recognized university.

The eligibility criteria for the UPSC CSE, in terms of education, mandate that candidates should have at least a bachelor's degree in any discipline. This means that you need to have completed your undergraduate education to be eligible to take the examination.

How many students give UPSC Exam every year?

The number of candidates who appear for the UPSC Civil Services Exam varies from year to year. In 2023, approximately 13 lakh students appeared for the UPSC Exam out of this only 14625 students were able to clear the UPSC Prelims cut-off.

How to prepare for the Civil Services Exam while working?

To prepare for the UPSC Civil Services Exam while working, you can either join an Online Batch of coaching or if you are well-acquainted with the UPSC Syllabus, you can either join a mentorship programme for guidance or a test series that can help you fill in the gaps of your preparation.