How tough is it to get into Civil Services like IAS, IPS, IFS etc? How many vacancies were there for Civil Services Posts in India?
In films, TV, 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 it 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 the general category, you need to be at 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 plans 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 realize later that they lost 1 valuable attempt!
From my experience, I feel 4 out of 5 candidates who appear for the 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 includes 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-emphasize or under-estimate it.
Most candidates find a place in the UPSC rank list on 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 an 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 on 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 the Civil Services Examination, 2019 held by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in September 2019 and the interviews for the Personality Test held in February-August, 2020, the 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% of candidates are recruited from the General Merit category (397). Reservation is given for 59.5% of vacancies – for Economically Weaker Sections (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 number of vacancies for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) this year is 180. Out of this, only 72 seats come under General Category. There are 150 seats for the Indian Police Service (IPS) and 24 seats for the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).
A total number of 829 candidates have been recommended for appointment as per the 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 the 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 the rank secured by the candidate, the category he/she belongs to, and his/her service preference.
If you are wondering up to which rank a candidate went IAS, IPS, or IFS in previous years, you can refer this post to see the allocation details.
How tough is it to clear the UPSC Civil Services Exam?
In the last 5 years, the highest marks secured by All-India Rank 1 in the UPSC Civil Services Examination is only around 55%.
Yes, you heard that right – by scoring 55 percent 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 the 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 underestimation 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 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!
Also read: Top 10 Myths About UPSC IAS Exam Busted