The Civil Services Examination is based on the British era Imperial Civil Service tests, as well as the civil service tests conducted by old Indian empires such as the Maryann Empire and Mughal Empire. It is considered to be the most difficult competitive examination in India. A single attempt takes two complete years of preparation - one year before the prelims and one year from prelims to interview. In total, one sits in the actual exam for 32 hours from prelims until the interview. On average, 900,000 to 1,000,000 candidates apply every year and the number of candidates sitting in the preliminary examination is approximately 550,000. Results for the Prelims are published in mid-August, while the final result is published in May of the next year.
Stage I: Preliminary Examination - Held in June every year. The results are announced in August.
Examination - Held in October every year. The results are announced in January.
Personality Test (interview) - Held in March. The final results are usually announced in May.The training program for the selected candidates usually commences the following September.
The pattern of the Preliminary examination up to 2010 was based on the recommendations of the Kothari Commission (1979). It included two examinations, one on general studies worth 150 marks, and the second on one of 23 optional subjects worth 300 marks. Until 2011, when it was revamped, the preliminary pattern was sustained with only minor changes once every ten to fifteen years.
From 2011 onwards, the preliminary examination intends to focus on analytical abilities and understanding rather than the ability to memorize. The new pattern includes two papers of two hours’ duration and 200 marks each. Both papers have multiple choice objective type questions only. They are as follows:
Paper I tests the candidate's knowledge on current events, history of India and Indian national movement, Indian and world geography, Indian polity Panchayati Raj system and governance, economic and social development, environmental ecology, biodiversity, climate change, and general science, Art and culture.
Paper-II (also called CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test), tests the candidate's skills in comprehension, interpersonal skills, communication, logical reasoning, analytical ability, decision making, problem-solving, basic numeracy, data interpretation, English language comprehension skills and mental ability. It is qualifying in nature and the marks obtained in this paper are not counted for merit. However, the candidate must score a minimum of 33 percent in this paper to qualify for the Prelims exam.
In August 2014, the Centre announced that English marks in CSAT will not be included for gradation or merit and 2011 candidates may get a second chance to appear for the test next year.
In May 2015, the Government of India announced that Paper-II of the preliminary examination will be qualifying in nature i.e. it will not be graded for eligibility in Mains Examination and a candidate will need to score at least 33% to be eligible for grading based on marks of Paper I of the Preliminary Examination. Those who qualify in the Prelims become eligible for the Mains.
The Civil Services Mains Examination consists of a written examination and an interview.
The Civil Services Main written examination consists of nine papers, two qualifying, and seven rankings in nature. The range of questions may vary from just one mark to sixty marks, twenty words to 600 words answers. Each paper is of a duration of 3 hours. Candidates who pass qualifying papers are ranked according to marks and a selected number of candidates are called for interview or a personality test at the Commission's discretion. According to the new mark’s allocations in Civil Service Examination 2013, there are some changes made in the examination according to the suggestion of Prof. Arun. S. Nigavekar Committee. However, after some controversy, the qualifying papers for Indian languages and English were restored.
|Civil Services New Mains Format|
|Paper A||(One of the Indian languages listed below, to be selected by the candidate (from the languages listed in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India) (Qualifying)||300|
|Paper B||English (Qualifying)||300|
|Paper-II||General Studies I (Indian heritage and culture, history and geography of the world and society)||250|
|Paper III||General Studies II (Governance, constitution, polity, social justice, and international relations)||250|
|Paper IV||General Studies III (Technology, economic development, biodiversity, environment, security, and disaster management)||250|
|Paper V||General Studies IV (ethics, integrity, and aptitude)||250|
|Papers VI, VII||Two papers on one subject to be selected by the candidate from the list of optional subjects below (250 marks for each paper)||500|
|Sub Total (Written Test)||1750|
|Personality Test (Interview)||275|
Officially called the "Personality Test", the objective of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service by a board of competent and unbiased observers. The test is intended to evaluate the mental calibre of a candidate. In broad terms, this is an assessment of not only a candidate's intellectual qualities but also social traits and interest in current affairs. Some of the qualities to be judged are mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, the balance of judgement, variety, and depth of interest, the ability for social cohesion and leadership, and intellectual and moral integrity.
The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross-examination, but a natural, though directed and purposeful conversation that is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.
The interview is not intended to test either of the specialized or general knowledge of the candidate, which has been already tested through written papers. Candidates are expected to have taken an intelligent interest not only in their special subjects of academic study but also in the events which are happening around them both within and outside their state or country as well as in modern currents of thought and in discoveries which should arouse the curiosity of all well-educated youth. The interview standards are very high and require thorough preparation as well as commitment.