How to crack Civil Service Examination in first attempt?

Civil service Examination is conducted to recruit aspirants for various officer categories like IAS, IPS, IFS and so on. The selection process includes a Preliminary examination, the main examination, and an interview. This article gives you an idea about the exam eligibility, how to apply, what to prepare, how to crack the Civil Service Exam etc.


Civil Service examination is conducted by Union Public Service Commission for the recruitment of group-1 and group-2 officers in various streams Aspirants clearing the civil service examination will be allotted IAS, IPS, IRS etc., on merit basis. There are 3 steps for the selection process. They are :
Civil Service Preliminary examination / Civil Service Aptitude test
Civil Service Main Examination

Civil service Preliminary examination / Civil Service Aptitude test is conducted in the last week of May every year . The results of this will be declared in the month of August-September and the main examination will be in October. Candidates passing the main examination will attend the interview and the final results will be declared by April next year.

Eligibility for Civil Service Examination

A graduate from a recognized institution is eligible to appear for the civil service examination. There is no minimum percentage and a mere pass is sufficient to apply for the exam. The candidate can be from any stream of specialization. Age limit is 30 for general candidates, 33 for OBC and 35 for SC/ST candidates. A general candidate can appear for 4 times in total, the same is 7 times for OBC candidate and unlimited attempts within the age limit for SC/ST candidates.

Civil Service Examination – Broad Outline

Civil Service Examination (CSE) has three rounds of examination in total. The first round of examination is called the Preliminary examination which is now called the Civil Service Aptitude test (CSAT). This is just a filtration examination and usually the number of students who move the next round of examination will be approximately 12 times of the number of posts. Students passing the CSAT have to take the main examination which is of descriptive type and finally the selected aspirants from the main examination have to take the interview to get selected for the high profile job.

How to prepare for Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT)?

The old pattern of preliminary examination which consisted of a general studies paper and an optional subject is now replaced with CSAT with two common papers. The first paper will be general studies and the second paper will be the CSAT paper consisting of aptitude and English in general.

General Studies for CSAT
Aspirants should keep in mind that this is general studies and not general knowledge. General knowledge will be a part of the general studies paper. The General studies paper consist of the following subjects,
  1. History

  2. Indian National Movement

  3. Geography

  4. Indian Polity

  5. Economics

  6. General Sciences – Physics, Chemistry and Biology

  7. Current Affairs

  8. Environmental Ecology, Bio-Diversity, Climate change

Apart from the last topic rest of the subjects were almost the same as the previous pattern. Now the environment and ecology field has been given importance and has been included in the syllabus.

CSAT Paper – 2
  1. Interpersonal Skills

  2. Logical reasoning and Analytical ability

  3. Decision Making and problem solving

  4. General Mental ability

  5. Basic Mathematics

  6. English Comprehension.

Suggested Books for CSAT

General Studies
  • History - NCERT 6th to 12th books, Spectrum Modern India guide. (Note: Indian National Movement comes in modern India)

  • Geography- NCERT 6th to 12th books, Certificate of physical geography by Goh Cheng Leong, TTK atlas, Orient Longman atlas.

  • Economics – NCERT 9th to 12th books, Pratoyogita darpan issue for Economics.

  • Indian Polity – Book by DD Basu or Lakshimikanth.

  • General Sciences – NCERT 6th to 12th.

  • Current Affairs – Daily newspaper preferably HINDU, weekly magazines like Frontline, Civil service examination monthly magazines like Wizard, Pratyogita darpan and India year book.

  • CSAT Paper-2
    For aptitude, logical reasoning, non-verbal reasoning R.S Agarwal is more than sufficient. CSAT issues are available in market with which comprehension can be practiced.

    Points remember while preparing for CSAT

  • A candidate need to prepare intensively for 5 to 6 hours or more depending on individual and his capability per day and this should be followed continuously.

  • Prepare your time table accordingly so that you cover all subjects within few months. If you are preparing for Indian polity today, then you can switch over to History or Economics the next day.

  • Read newspapers regularly. This will not only be helpful for preliminary exams, but also for main examination.

  • Allot time for revision periodically. Revision is mandatory to keep in touch with the wide range of subjects.

  • Practice the aptitude questions, comprehension etc., in paper 2 regularly and make it as a practice. Speed and accuracy plays a major role in CSAT paper 2.

  • Keep in mind that the preliminary examination is an objective paper and you need to prepare intensively. Have a look at the CSAT previous question paper to get a better idea of how the question paper is set. At present the trend is not focused on general knowledge in particular. For example, they are not worried to know about who got which prize or similar to this. Having a glance at the question paper will give you brief idea about the present trend of paper. Both the papers will be for 200 mark each and top scorers will clear the preliminary examination. The marks of preliminary are not revealed as of now and this is just a filtration round and has nothing to do with the score in main examination and interview which actually decides your cadre.

    Introduction to Civil Service Main Examination

    Aspirants clearing the preliminary examination (CSAT) will be given ticket to the main examination. There will be a four month gap between the preliminary and main examination. Actually this four month need to be utilized for revision of the subjects studied and I insist for parallel preparation for main examination along with preliminary examination. The main examination is usually a descriptive paper with the following papers,

  • General Studies paper 1 and 2

  • Two Optional papers – two papers in one optional subject

  • Language

  • English

  • Essay

  • The exam will be for 2000 marks. Language and English paper is for qualifying alone.

    Common doubts about optional paper

    The most common doubt for beginners is that can a student from science background in degree prefer arts paper as his option in main examination? The answer is yes. Your degree is just a token for the examination and you are given the choice to choose from any of the subjects is the list as your optional subject. So even if you are an engineering student you can choose geography as your optional subject.
    The second most common doubt is that how to choose the optional subject. There are few things ot keep in mind before choosing an optional paper.

    How to choose your optional paper in Civil Service Main Examination

  • Availability of resources – Subjects like Geography, History, Psychology, Public Administration, Political science have more number of resources than other science subjects or engineering subjects.

  • Availability of tutor or coaching centre – The above mentioned subjects have tutors in many coaching centers where as its difficult to find tutors for other subjects.

  • Time management and scoring – For example paper-1 in Geography has 60 marks in map. All you need to do is mark in the map and write few points about it. So it's scoring and at the same time will not consume more time. Where as the same 60 marks need to be written for many pages in few other subjects and also may not fetch you the same marks.

  • Finally it's your interest and of course this is the important of above all. If you are totally disinterested in these subjects then there is no use with availability of resources or tutors. Candidates clearing the main examination have to go for personal interview which is for 300 marks. Altogether a candidate will be evaluated for 2300 marks.

    How to choose coaching centres for Civil Service Exam preparation?

    There are plenty of coaching centres available today to guide you to clear the examination. But keep in mind wrong choice of coaching centre will clearly misguide you. Get opinion from your friends nearby or people who are preparing already to get a better idea about good coaching centre in your locality. Keep a watch at there track record, probably a good coaching centre will have a list of successful candidates from there institute. Mere joining the coaching centre alone doesn't guarantee you success. Follow the guidelines properly and attend frequent revision exams when conducted with utmost sincerity.

    Common Myths about Civil Service Examination

    Toppers only can clear: One of the myths is that aspirants assume or may be misguided by others that only toppers in school or college can only get through civil service examination. An average student cannot cope with the exam. This is absolutely non-sense, the past history of selected candidates is very clear that an aspirant who has given effort has cleared it easily. Percentages in schools or colleges have nothing to do except giving a strong foundation. This strong foundation which is missed by many can be made again within few months.
    Working aspirants cannot clear: It is assumed that an aspirant needs to resign his job and completely focus on the examination to clear. This may be good for students from well to do family, but for others it may not be possible. Many aspirants in the past have cleared the examination even by working parallel. These aspirants may even opt weekend coaching if they wish. There are students who cleared even without attending coaching centres.

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    Guest Author: Arun17 Aug 2013

    What does the civil service examination denote?

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