Strategy for Civil Services Examination

The Civil Services Examination consists of two stages - an objective type examination called as CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) to be held in May / June which is used to screen the candidates and bring them to a manageable number. There is a negative marking in this examination. About 4 lakh candidates are expected to apply for the examination (however, not more than 2 lakhs would appear at the examination). Out of these aspirants about 12,000 will be selected for the Main examination. The Main examination is of a descriptive type held in October and comprises 9 papers. About 1800 candidates are selected from the 12,000 who appear in March of the following year for the Interview. The Interviews are held in Delhi and the marks scored by in the Main examination are added to the Interview marks to determine the Final merit list. About 650 + candidates are finally selected for all the services. Service allocation is based on ranking and preference.

The nature of the examination can be analysed through these points:

1. A comprehensive reading of the notification that would appear in detail in the Employment News and the website of UPSC (
2. An analysis of the previous years papers and the recent trends – which are available in a few books and websites.
3. Discussing elaborately with successful candidates, seniors, and professionals.

Having known about the examination and the pattern it is time to evolve a proper strategy for the examination.

The first and important step is to decide the optional subjects for Main examination. It is always advisable to take proper advise from seniors or professionals about choosing the optional. The choice regarding optional should be made based on the following factors:

A). Whether you have a general interest in the subject and whether you can sustain the interest for a long period.
B). Availability of guidance - in the form of books, coaching etc.
C). Performance of the optionals in the last few years.

There are a few optionals such as Public Administration, Geography, Sociology, Anthropology and Psychology, have an advantage over others. The important advantages are the availability of coaching and guidance, the specificity of the syllabus and relevant to the day- to -day events.

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