Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on UPSC Civil Services Exam

Clear IAS Team wishes to personally respond to the hundreds of queries we get via comments, emails, Facebook messages etc every day but due to time constraints this can never be practical. Hence, we decided to compile the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on UPSC Civil Services Exam in this article so that aspirants can look at a comprehensive source to clarify the common queries. Most of the repeated queries regarding all stages of the exam – Prelims, Mains and Interview – are clarified here.

About Civil Services:

Qn: What are the civil services? How to get into civil services of India?

Civil Services are jobs like  IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS etc. directly related with public service and are widely considered prestigious in India. UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) conducts Civil Service Exams for Central Government job vacancies. Click to know more about Civil Services Exam.

About IAS:

IAS officer

Qn: What is IAS? How To Clear IAS Exam and Become an IAS Officer?

IAS is the short form of Indian Administrative Service. Click to know more about IAS.

Qn: What is the salary of an IAS officer?

IAS salary structure consists of different Pay Scales: Junior Scale, Senior Scales, Super Time Scale, Above Super Time Scales etc. Each of the pay scales further consists of different pay bands. Click to know more about the salary of an IAS officer.

Eligibility Criteria:

Qn: What is the educational qualification needed to appear in IAS exam?

Any degree (graduation).  It may be regular or distant. The candidate must hold a degree of any of Universities incorporated by an Act of the Central or State Legislature in India or other educational institutions established by an Act of Parliament or declared to be deemed as a University Under Section-3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956, or possess an equivalent qualification. For details refer: Educational Qualification Requirement for IAS Exam.

Qn: What are the age limit and number of attempts permitted to write UPSC Civil Services Exam?

Click to know about the eligibility criteria for IAS exam. Details about the number of attempts and age limits in UPSC Civil Services Exam is available in the link given.

Exam syllabus:

Qn: What is the latest syllabus for IAS exam?

Click to read the revised syllabus for IAS exam.

Exam preparation:

Qn: I am just about to begin UPSC Civil Services Exam preparation. How should a fresher begin IAS exam preparation?

If you are a beginner, then the best place to start should be the article ‘UPSC Exam Guidance for beginners: How to start IAS preparation?’.

Qn: What are the books to read for each subject in Prelims and Mains?

You can buy online the ‘Recommended list of IAS Books: Prelims+Mains‘ from the links given in this website.

Qn: Does offer free study materials?

Yes, we offer free online study materials, mock tests, toppers interview etc. in addition to the numerous articles on guidance. Clear IAS™ was started with a vision of quality, but affordable online education, giving stress to self-study. Click to browse our free ias study materials.

Qn: Can I clear IAS exam without attending classroom coaching?

Yes. You can, particularly if you are good at self-study. We are not against classroom coaching. There are good institutes and teachers who help aspirants save a lot of time and effort. But not all coaching institutes provide quality service, so if you wish to join one, do that after proper research. It should also be noted that with the advent of technology, guidance and study materials can be sought online. Our website ( and mobile app (Clear IAS) provides free guidance and study materials to lakhs of aspirants who can’t afford classroom coaching. You can also learn and compete with thousands of aspirants across India by attempting ClearIAS full length timed online mock test series with negative marking for UPSC PrelimsRead our article ‘Can I Clear IAS Exam Without Coaching Classes?‘ to get an overall idea.

Qn: What are the useful websites for IAS exam preparation?

Check the list of ‘Useful Websites for IAS Preparation‘.

Qn: Can I get previous year UPSC question papers online?

Yes. Check the link UPSC Previous Year Question Papers.


Qn: What is the structure of UPSC Civil Service Prelims Exam? (2015 Pattern)

Prelims exam is objective in nature. There will be two papers – 200 marks each. Paper 1 is related to General Studies and Paper 2 is related to Mental Ability and Aptitude. For selection to the main exam, only marks of Paper 1 will be counted, provided the candidate has 33 percent marks in Paper 2.

Qn: Will there be individual cut-off for two papers in Civil Service Prelims?

The minimum cut off marks for Paper 2 is 33 percent. Commission may fix a minimum cut-off mark for Paper 1 too.

Qn: Will there be negative marks or different marks for Preliminary Questions?

There will be negative marking for incorrect answers for all questions except some of the questions where the negative marking will be inbuilt in the form of different marks being awarded to the most appropriate and not so appropriate answer for such questions.

Qn: Can you clarify some common doubts regarding UPSC Civil Services Prelims Application?

Most of the doubts aspirants raise while filing Prelims application is discussed here.


Qn: What is the structure of UPSC Civil Service Mains Exam? (Latest Pattern)

The Main Examination will consist of written examination and an interview test. The written examination will consist of 9 papers of the conventional essay type. Two papers (out of 9) will be of qualifying in nature. Marks obtained for all the compulsory papers (Paper–I to Paper-VII) and Marks obtained in Interview for Personality Test will be counted for ranking. Read UPSC Civil Services Exam syllabus to know more.

Qn: Which optional subject should I choose for UPSC Mains?

UPSC has given a list of around 50 optional subjects to choose from. Read our article ‘How to select IAS Mains optional subject?‘ for more details.

Qn: Which stream/subject should I choose for graduation to clear UPSC exam?

Most of the questions in the general studies paper in Prelims and Mains are related to Humanities background. But it is neither necessary nor advisable to take Humanities as your graduation stream just to clear UPSC exam. Graduation should be based upon your taste – it can be humanities, science, engineering, literature or management. For graduation, select any stream you like to study for 3-4 years. You are free to choose any optional subject for UPSC Mains and it may not be the one you studied for graduation.

Qn: Will there be minimum qualifying marks for UPSC Mains Compulsory Papers?

The Commission has the discretion to fix qualifying marks in any or all the subjects of the examination. For 2015, the minimum mark is 25% for Indian language and English language. For GS1, GS2, GS3 and GS4 the minimum mark expected is 10%.

Qn: Will UPSC deduct marks for bad handwriting?

If a candidate’s handwriting is not easily legible, a deduction will be made on this account from the total marks otherwise accruing to him.

Qn: Can you clarify some common doubts regarding UPSC Civil Services Mains Application (Detailed Application Form)?

Civil Service Mains Application Form (DAF) Checklist is given here.

Qn: What are the check-list items for Mains Exam hall?

Main exam hall check-list is given here.


Qn: Can you provide a check-list for the candidates attending UPSC interview?

Please read the article: Check List For The Candidates Attending UPSC Interview.

Qn: Will there be minimum qualifying marks for UPSC Interview?

The interview will carry 275 marks (with no minimum qualifying marks).


Qn: If the overall marks of two or more candidates are equal, how is relative merit between such candidates decided?

The principles for tie-breaking in various exams conducted by UPSC is explained in the linked post. PS: You may also browse the whole FAQ in UPSC website by clicking on the link.

General Queries:

Qn: Can candidates use calculators in UPSC Civil Services Exam?

Not for UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam. But candidates will be allowed the use of Scientific (Non-Programmable type) Calculators at the conventional (Essay) type examination of UPSC, ie Mains Exam. Programmable type calculators will however not be allowed and the use of such calculators shall tantamount to resorting to unfair means by the candidates. Loaning or interchanging of calculators in the Examination Hall is not permitted. It is also important to note that candidates are not permitted to use calculators for answering objective type papers (Test Booklets). They should not therefore bring the same inside the Examination Hall.

Qn: Can you brief about the other exams conducted by UPSC apart from Civil Services Exam? What are the exam dates?

Check our article on UPSC.

Disclaimer: Though every effort is made from our end to keep the details upto date, due to frequent changes in syllabus or pattern, the actual data might be different. Candidates are always advised to cross-check the information given in this website with the official UPSC website, ie

Last modified on October 12th, 2016 at 3:06 pm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *