Preparing For UPSC: A Roadmap To One Of India’s Toughest Exams

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The news of UPSC toppers makes it to the headlines on national television every year. These headlines become a part of an important conversation among many. It is because UPSC’s Civil Service Examinations are one of the most prestigious and challenging examinations in the country. 

Over 900,000 to 1,000,000 candidates apply for the examination every year. Out of these, only 750 to 900 candidates are selected. This itself speaks of the importance of this examination. 

The Civil Service Examination is conducted by UPSC or Union Public Service Commission. UPSC is a central agency of the Government of India that is responsible for conducting exams like the Civil Services Exam (CSE). Based on the results of this exam, UPSC recruits candidates into top government services like IAS, IPS, IFS etc. 

Acquiring a top rank in the CSE guarantees aspirants recruitment to high official ranks in All India Services, Group A Civil Services, and Group B Civil Services. 

The examination is a process involving three stages. 

  1. Preliminary Exam (objective)
  2. Main Exam (written)
  3. Interview (personality test)

The entire exam process takes about 10-12 months to complete. (Usually from June of a year to June of the next year till the results are announced).

The Preliminary exam consists of two mandatory papers of 200 marks each (General Studies Paper-I and General Studies Paper-II). The questions will be set in the format of multiple-choice, objective type. The marks scored in the prelims are not counted for final ranking, but just for qualifying for the main exam.

The Main written examination consists of nine papers. Out of these only 7 papers are counted for the final merit ranking. For the remaining two papers, candidates are required to secure minimum marks prescribed by the commission each year.

The interview follows after clearing the mains. Qualified candidates are interviewed by a Board recording their career. The candidates will be asked questions on matters of general interest.

It is important to note that the candidates’ rank of CSE scored during the main exam and the interview are only taken into consideration. The main exam holds 1750 marks while the interview has 275 marks. Total marks are calculated out of 2025.

To be able to crack the prelim exam and qualify for the mains, applicants must invest a sufficient amount of time and effort. It is advisable to start preparing for the prelims a year before the exam date. While the success rate depends from person to person, if you feel you are capable enough to appear for the exam with just 6 months of preparation, you can do so as well. One must however keep in mind that, clearing the Preliminary exam isn’t a cakewalk.  

The examinations are held annually and begin around June with the Preliminary exams. The Main Exam is then conducted in the month of September. This is then followed by the Personality Test which the UPSC conducts for almost three months long between February to April.

The dates for UPSC 2023 will be published on February 01, 2023. You can apply for the same between February 01, 2023, and February 21, 2023. To understand how to apply for the examination, you must visit the official website of UPSC – Here you can apply online – The application window for exams open usually in Feb for UPSC CSE.

Any graduate from any stream falling between the age group of 21 to 32 in the ope category years can attempt the UPSC examinations. The maximum age limit for Other Backward Classes (OBC) is 35 and 37 for Scheduled Classes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). 

Those applicants from the general category have a total of 6 attempts till 32 years of age. Those applying through the OBC category have 9 attempts till 35 years of age. Those under SC/ST have unlimited attempts till 37 years of age.

The syllabus of UPSC is vast and takes a long time for completing the preparation. The papers are set in such a way that thoroughly tests the candidates’ aptitude, reasoning, reading, comprehension, and writing skills. These papers enable the agency to scrutinise the candidates’ understanding of various disciplines, issues, and challenges faced by the country and the world at large and whether are they really capable of holding public administration posts or not. 

The essential key to cracking UPSC is undivided, devoted attention, a year and a half of toiling, thorough reading of newspapers, and a general understanding and interest in the governance of the society in India and the world at large. 


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