How tough is to get into Civil Services like IAS, IPS, IFS etc? How many vacancies were there for Civil Services Posts in India?
All-India services like IAS and IPS are considered very prestigious in India.
In films, TVs, and newspapers, IAS officers are treated like celebrities.
However, have you ever wondered how difficult is to become an IAS officer?
Or rather, how easy is to get selected as a civil servant in India?
This post is a reality check for both beginners and veterans about the UPSC selection process.
1 in a million; really?
About 10 lakh candidates apply for the prestigious Civil Services every year.
Do you know the number of vacancies?
In 2019, there were 927 vacancies to be filled (for all the 24 services like IAS, IPS, IFS etc combined).
Do you know how many vacancies were there for IAS?
Out of that 180, 102 seats were reserved seats.
Only 72 seats come under general merit.
So, if you belong to general category, you need to be in the top of the rank list to secure IAS on merit.
Thus, the chance of getting into IAS is something like 1 in a million!
Wait! Competition is actually much less!
The intention of this post is not to discourage IAS aspirants!
My objective is to provide all aspirants ( and the public), a reality check.
Well, as I mentioned earlier, about 10 lakh candidates apply for the exam.
However, out of the 10 lakh candidates, usually only 5 lakh candidates actually sit for the Preliminary exam. Half of the candidates drop their plan even before attempting because they think that they are under-prepared to appear for the exam.
Thus the competition, even before the start of the exam is reduced to 5 lakh candidates.
Clearly, the UPSC Civil Services Exam (CSE) is a mind game!
You may still think that ‘5 lakh candidates and 900 vacancies’ is a tough deal.
Yes, it is a tough game.
But, the actual competition is only between the serious candidates.
How many candidates take the UPSC Civil Services Exam seriously?
By ‘serious candidates’ I mean those candidates who invest considerable time, effort, and money in his/her UPSC preparation with a strong desire that he/she should top the exam, that year.
You might know that there are a huge number of candidates who take this exam without much preparation. They appear for this exam just to try their ‘luck’ to realise later that they lost 1 valuable attempt!
From my experience, I feel 4 out of 5 candidates who appear for UPSC Civil Services Preliminary are under-prepared to face the real challenges of the exam.
Going by that logic, the number of serious candidates is around 1 lakh only. This figure, include those who prepare by attending classroom coaching, online classes, mock exams, or self-study.
This number is more or less ‘real competition’. There is no point to over-emphasise or under-estimate it.
Most candidates find a place in the UPSC rank list in their 3rd or 4th attempt
Leave the IAS, but to get into any service, most of the candidates try multiple times.
Your probability of success increases with increase in attempts.
In most of the previous years, the largest chunk of successful candidates belonged to the category of 3 or 4 attempts.
Yes, the UPSC Civil Services Examination is a game of veterans.
Only 1 out of 10 candidates clear this exam in his/her first chance. By ‘clearing this exam’ I mean a selection into any of the 24 services in the list and not just IAS.
1st chance and IAS
Of course, there are candidates who achieve this combination. However, this is ‘very very rare’ – particularly on general merit.
I think I have already explained the probability.
For those who are still in doubt, I shall explain the case with the results of the Civil Services Examination 2019.
UPSC Civil Services Exam Results 2019
Based on the result of the written part of Civil Services Examination, 2019 held by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in September 2019 and the interviews for Personality Test held in February-August, 2020, Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has recommended 829 candidates for appointment into various services like IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS etc.
As per the government, there were 927 vacancies to be filled (for all services like IAS, IPS, IFS etc combined). In the first list announced on 04-08-2020, UPSC recommended the names of 829 candidates. The remaining candidates are recommended from a reserve list – which is usually published a few months later.
Merit vs Reservation
Out of 927 candidates, only 40.5% candidates are recruited from the General Merit category (397). Reservation is given for 59.5% vacancies – for Economically Weaker Section (EWS), Other Backward Classes (OBC), Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Reservation is also provided for Persons With Benchmark Disability (PwBD).
Vacancies for various services like IAS, IPS, IFS etc
The total vacancies for Indian Administrative Service (IAS) this year is 180. Out of this, only 72 seats come under General Category. There are 150 seats for Indian Police Service (IPS) and 24 seats for Indian Foreign Service (IFS).
A total number of 829 candidates have been recommended for appointment as per following break-up: General – 304, EWS -78, OBC – 251, SC – 129 and ST – 67.
The role of UPSC is only to recommend suitable candidates based on UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE). Allocation to various services like IAS, IPS, IFS etc is done by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
Allocation is done after taking into consideration of the rank secured by the candidate, category he/she belongs, and his/her service preference.
If you are wondering up to which rank a candidate go IAS, IPS, or IFS in previous years, you can refer this post to see the allocation details.
How tough is to clear the UPSC Civil Services Exam?
In the last 5 years, the highest marks secured by All-India Rank 1 in UPSC Civil Services Examination is only around 55%.
Yes, you heard that right – by scoring 55 per cent marks you may become a UPSC Topper!
By scoring around 48 per cent marks you may find a place in the final UPSC rank list on general merit!
If you belong to any of the reserved categories, you need still fewer marks to clear the exam.
For example, in 2018, the cut-off marks on general merit were 982 out of 2025 (48.5%). The OBC cut off was 44 marks less than general cut off. SC and ST cut-off was less than 70 marks less than the general cut-off.
Don’t get fooled by over-exaggeration or under-estimation of the difficulty level in the UPSC Civil Services Exam.
There are many non-serious candidates in the field, however, still, there are at least 1 lakh candidates who take this exam positively. They invest in themselves and learn from the recommended books and take reputed mock exams.
You need to equip and upgrade yourself with the latest requirements for the exam. However, there is no reason to be intimidated. Don’t think that this exam can be cracked only by the elite group. No! Never!
Many candidates like you cleared this exam in the past – that too by self-study!
As the vacancies are limited, it may take more than 1 attempt and multiple years for most candidates to get into the prestigious service. But that is worth the wait. This exam is not for those who get discouraged after a failure.
What matters in the UPSC Civil Services Examination is perseverance and passion.
With the right guidance and proper strategies, any hard-working candidate can clear this exam. All you need to have is self-belief.
All the best!
Thank u for positiveness about clearing exam.
@Reader: Great to know that you liked the article. Thank you for the feedback.
Sujit Pathak says
Please sir, give proper guidance for UPSC 2021
@Sujith: We recomend you to join ClearIAS Prelims Program for UPSC 2021. Registrations are now open for ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series 2021. More details are available on ClearIAS App and Website.
Atharva Talekar says
Thank you very much for clearing my doubt and for encouraging me.
@Atharva: Great to know that you liked the article. Thank you for the feedback.
Sir, Can’t IAS Exam be given in marathi language?
@Snehal – Yes, you can write the Main exam in Marathi language.
Divyanshu Gupta says
I passed out my 12th class . And now i am ready to give JEE MAIN engineering test.
I want to see myself as Civil Servant .
But first i will go for B.Tech .
Now My Question is Can i crack this exam by studying IAS syllabus in 4 years by diving it in parts ?
@Divyanshu – Appreicate your early interest. Ofcourse, that’s how you should approach it. As of now concentrate on your JEE Mains. Once that is over, take UPSC preparation side by side with your graduation.
Vivek yadav says
Yes u can but it depends how serious u r for preparation i would to advice u as u r going for b tech first 2 years u should focus on your b tech then remaining 2 years start with foundation like ncerts
Kalyan Varma says
As I was From local language medium I’m not that much fluent in speaking or presenting English. How can I overcome my communication problem. Please let me know.
@Kalyan – Don’t worry too much about English language skills. What matters in UPSC interview is your personality as a whole. However, you can surely improve your communication skills by constant practice of reading, speaking, and writing. Read “The Hindu” newspaper daily. Listen to English news. Try to speak out to small crowds.
Sunit Mandal says
Is it possible to crack upsc cse exam for average merit students?
@Sunil – UPSC Civil Services Exam demands good analytical skills. The candidate should be be able to understand and analyse issues/topics. These skills are present in most candidates – whatever their academic records are. There are many candidates with even 40 or 50 % graduation marks who cleared IAS exam. We suggest you to go through previous year question papers given in this website and see yourself your comfort level.
Sir,as I have knock knees,so am I able to be an civil servent
@Tapash – Yes, you can.
Shweta Sharma says
My daughter is in 7th standard ,kindly guide what we need to study for starting the preparation for upsc
@Shweta – NCERT books. At this age, don’t put too much pressure on her. Let her be in love with the NCERT books. Newspaper reading habit can be cultivated. Also, writing and public speaking skills can also be given importance.
H p jadeja says
Very nice and positive brief on civil service exam.
Thnk u very much.
@Jadeja: Glad you liked the article. Thank you for the feedback.
This article is really very helpful for me… such a good information which I don’t even know thankyou so much…
@Swathi – Great to know that the article was helpful. Thank you for the comment.
Thanks a lot for this direction
@Hriday – Great to know that the article was helpful. Thank you for the comment.
Sir, I am a post- graduation student in construction engineering and management. I am in the final year and I would like to appear for UPSC civil service exam 2021. Is it possible for me to complete the entire syllabus since I had started my preparation this year only and that too self study. I don’t know even to take notes properly that is considered as an essential part in preparation can u please help me out sir
@Mehna – You have 1 year time for advance preparation. You can ofcourse complete the topics. Recommend you to be a regular user of ClearIAS Learning App. Also, recommend you to join ClearIAS Prelims Test Series 2021.
I am a 12th standard student . I found the information very helpful . Could You Please suggest me what to do after 12th to focus better on the preparation ?
Do you have any courses for starting preparation right after 12th standard ??…
@Sridevi – Great to know that you found the article helpful. We suggest you take UPSC Civil Services Exam preparation side by side with your graduation. Get the recommended UPSC books mentioned in the website and start preparation. Recommend you to be a regular user of ClearIAS Learning App.
RISHAV RAJ says
It’s very helpful for me
Ishfaq ahmad rather says
Sir should i prepare myself bcz i m 30 and 32 is upper limit.i need ur suggestion i m frm kashmir.i have studied about 30 to 40 %sylbs of prelims.
@Ishfaq: There are many candidates who clear by self-study at your age. However, don’t hesitate to take guidance from whoever you trust. We recommend you to regularly use ClearIAS App and practice ClearIAS Mock Exams. Also, go through ClearIAS e-books and online study materials.
K aravind says
Thank you for the wonderful article . It encourages the beginneres
@K Aravind: Happy to know the article encourages beginners. Thank you for the feedback.
Could please let me know the online fee structure to join in the clearias .
Hi Swarna – You can access the details of our programs in the Menu section.
UPSC aspirant says
I am in class 9, can you tell me what preparations should I do from now onwards and also which is the best subject to choose after 10th?
My aim is to be an IAS officer.