Pattern or Format of Civil Service Exam!

The Civil Service Examination has a complicated format! The complete exam stretches over a period of one year! So, before you go ahead, let us first try to understand the “format” of the exam.

First of all, in the month of May or June there are the “Preliminary examinations”. Now, in this examination, there are two papers. The papers are on:

1.    General Studies (150 marks)
2.    Some optional subject  (300 marks)

This exam is just to get you to the next round of the “main exam”. This is just to short list candidates. The score you get here is NOT added to your final score.

Now, you are probably wondering what “general studies” and “some optional subject” means, so let us clear that up!


General Studies Paper….

General Studies paper consists of questions on:

  1. Indian Polity & Economy
  2. History of India including Indian National Movement
  3. Indian and World Geography
  4. Current Affairs of National and International Importance
  5. General and day-to-day Science
  6. Mental Ability and Basics of Statistics etc.

Questions on planning, budgeting, developmental programs, latest issues of political and constitutional importance, panchayati raj, electoral reforms, natural resources, culture, growth of nationalism, Committees, Commission etc can be expected every year. 

Now-a-days, there is a lot of emphasis on “current affairs” in the general studies paper!

Basically, the syllabus is HUGE and vague. But, don’t worry we shall try to help you with what you need to do. How to prepare for these papers is given later on in the “How to prepare” section…


“Some optional subject” paper

Here you have to give a paper on a subject of your choice. You can choose from the following subjects:

  • 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
  • Zoology

As, you know, to give the exam you need to be a “graduate” in some field. People generally choose their optional subject as the same subject that they graduated in. However, there is no such compulsion. You can choose any subject and give your "optional subject paper" for that subject.

To get the syllabus for the optional subject you pick, you can check out this link!

Okay, now after you have given the prelims, you have to wait for the result and see if you got selected for the “Main Examination”! The results generally come out by July or August!

Once the results are out, you will know whether you are going to be appearing for the “Main Examination” or not!

Now, in the main examination, there are “9” papers that you have to give! These papers include:

  • 1 Essay type Indian Language Qualifying Paper (300 marks)
  • 1 English  Qualifying Paper (300 marks)
  • 1 General Essay type paper (200 marks)
  • 2 General Studies papers (300 marks each)
  • 4 Optional subjects papers (300 marks each)


You can find the syllabus for these papers here. Then finally, if you qualify after the “main examination” stage, you have to go for an interview. In the interview, you are tested on basis of your personality, mental ability etc. It is seen how suitable the job will be for you. And, if the interviewers like you, you are selected.

This complete process takes about one year. The preparation for this starts 4-5 yeas in advance. And out of the 2 lakh people that apply, only 400 to 500 are selected! To add to all this, if you are selected and only if you have a good enough score, you are free to choose what you want, whether IAS, IPS etc… IAS and IPS get filled out fastest. If you want to become an IAS officer, you will need a great score!

It’s hard, but we will try to guide you….Next, let us see how you should prepare for the prelims…..

Next - How to prepare for the "Preliminary Exam"? >>


<< Previous - Civil Service Exam FAQ

Other articles YOU may like...
How to become an IAS / IPS officer?
How to buy a laptop?
How to start a sole proprietorship?
How to manage time?
How to speak English fluently?

Table Of Contents

  1. How to become an IAS/IPS officer? - Introduction
  2. Civil Services Exam - FAQ
  3. Pattern of Civil Services Exam
  4. How to prepare for the "Preliminary Exam"?
  5. How to prepare for the "Mains Exam"? - Part 1
  6. How to prepare for the "Mains Exam"? - Part 2
  7. What to do in the Interview?
  8. Preparing a study schedule!