Interesting Statistics About the Civil Services Exam

While browsing the UPSC site, I came across their annual reports that contain a wealth of information on the functions and examinations conducted by UPSC. Even though we are only interested in the civil services examination, aspirants also interested in the IES, IFS, NDA and other examinations can have look at these reports as well.

I’ve compiled a list of facts and figures related to the IAS (civil services) exam to share with this blog’s followers. Hope you find it useful!

Prelims Applied333680325433409110497187*
Prelims Appeared161469167035193091NA
Mains Applied9158116691189411984
Mains Appeared88861133011516NA

* Approximate figure

As you can see from the above table every year more than 3 lac candidates apply for the civil services preliminary examination but less than 50 percent actually appear for the Prelims, the 2008 Prelims being the notable exception. This is due to the fact that merely applying for the Prelims is not counted as an attempt, rather you have to appear for at least one paper for the attempt to be counted. If UPSC were to count the application as an attempt, then we would witness much higher appearance figure and lower number of applications as those without any preparation or in two minds would opt out.

Another fact to note is that not all the candidates who’ve cleared the Prelims (Mains Applied) appear for the Mains due to various factors like illness, inadequate preparation, lack of confidence, busy job schedule etc. No wonder every year 300-400 candidates do not appear for the Mains even after clearing the Prelims.

About 19-20 percent (1:5) of the candidates who appear for the civil services main exam are called for interview and finally about 33-38 percent are recommended for appointment. So once a candidate clears the Preliminary stage his/her chances of getting selected increase with every passing stage.

Most Popular Optionals in the IAS Exam

I have written a post on selecting the right optionals for IAS, this information regarding the subjects opted by candidates in IAS Mains should help you further in choosing your optional subjects. The figures below are for the year 2008 and 2009 Mains and for reference purpose only. Nowhere am I suggesting you to opt for these subjects just because they are popular.

Hindi Litt.954925
Pali Litt.249306
Tamil Litt.224195
Pol. Science13061314
Pub. Admn.31653779

In this table I’ve listed the most popular Literature subjects opted in the IAS mains along with the most popular optionals overall. As you can see Hindi Litt. was opted by more than 900 candidates in 2008 as well as 2009 which isn’t surprising as a large number of candidates from the Hindi-speaking states appear for the IAS exam.

Pali is popular owing to its limited syllabus and coaching options available. No wonder its popularity is on the upswing with every Mains. Likewise Tamil Litt. is opted by candidates from Tamil Nadu.

Coming to the ‘conventional subjects’ Geography is the most preferred optional among IAS aspirants followed by History, Public Administration and Philosophy. While History and Pub Ad are popular choices among many aspirants, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Philosophy was opted by higher number of candidates than even Sociology and Psychology.

Also you can observe a big jump in Pub Ad’s popularity and by the time figures for 2010 and 2011 Mains are made public by UPSC, it could well have overtaken Geography to become the most popular optional in the Mains.

 Success Rate of Optionals in IAS Exam

Merely stating the popular optionals does not serve the purpose unless their success rate is also discussed. Success rate is based on the number of candidates who appeared for the mains taking a particular subject and those who were finally recommended for selection. While subjects like Assamese Litt. had the highest rate of 40 percent this is largely due to the fact that only 5 candidates opted for it in the Mains of which 2 were finally recommended. But such a small size does not reflect the real picture which can only be clear when comparing the most popular optionals which is what the following table does.

Note: The figures are for the 2008 Civil Services Exam.

Optional SubjectCandidates AppearedCandidates RecommendedSuccess Rate (Percent)
Assamese Litt.5240
Punjabi Litt.19526.3
Gujarati Litt.42716.7
Kannada Litt.841416.7
Marathi Litt.42716.7
Medical Science981616.3
English Litt.40615
Urdu Litt.29413.8
Tamil Litt.2252912.9
Animal Husb. & Veterinary Science65812.3
Public Administration320133710.5
Literature of Sanskrit Language122108.2
Literature of Malayalam Language6757.5
Literature of Pali Language255187.1
Political Science1320856.4
Literature of Telugu Language14796.1
Literature of Hindi Language974565.7
Commerce and Accountancy266155.6

One glance at the table and its clear that Literature subjects have the highest success rate in the Civil Services examination so candidates yet undecided on selecting the right optional for IAS should have a good look at Literature optionals provided they have a sound background in the subject.

Coming to the popular optionals Public Administration had a success rate of 10.5 percent as compared to just 5.8 percent of Geography in the 2008 IAS exam. No wonder 2009 Mains witnessed a big jump in the number of candidates opting for Pub Ad. This trend is continuing for the last two years, I can safely state. Psychology too had a very good success rate and its popularity is correspondingly on the rise.

I hope these facts and figures about the IAS exam will be useful to you in selecting your optionals and for other reference purposes. To your success!

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  1. Hatttzzzzz offffff to your great work here sir, solving 1000 s of ques with so much patience.
    1. I dont like Science and Engg. but I shall definitely manage to score above 90% rather 95% above with PCM+Bio this year (10+2) . (I scored 98% in pre-board. and I did better in boards).

    2. My ultimate goal is being an civil service officer and that also an IAS.

    3. I am hoping to get admission in a reputed college of Delhi University. Now here I am confused. I want to make things smooth for ias and that is why I am thinking to take up “Pol. Sci. (Hons.)” or “Sociology” or “Pub Admin.”. But in case I fail to get into what I wish (IAS), these subjects will hardly make a Good career for me ( as an alternate for Civile Services).

    4. Taking such situation into consideration, should I go for Economics (hons.) ?? because this has good standing in Civil service (I suppose)…and can be good individual alternate career for me in today’s scenario of corporate world (after all its eco.(hons) from reputed DU college) . (I read into NCERT of Eco. XI and XII and found it interesting).

    5. I have decided History as my optional with economics (if I go wid eco hons.). Is this OK? Still you plz suggest me.

    6. Will Economics and history retain its usefullness after expected changes in Mains?
    ……….Sorry I made a long list of queries but plzzzzz sir help me out….cauz I have to decide it NOW.

  2. sir, i want to know ,how many candidates of hindi medium be selected %of hm aspirants.i m graduate in engineering and confused to choose the medium,i heard that eng midium is most favorabl it is true

  3. @anand—good question u asked,,,,but a/c to my knowledge english medium students has edge over hindi,,,hindi medium students never got a good marks in mains or in intrvw,,,plz sir explain these things

      1. Hello Lazylord, I would like to mention couple of points here.
        i)This is an awesome site, where one could get all the informations about the UPSC exam.It’s simply extraordinary portal.
        ii).It’s related to my main examination. I would like to appear the UPSC exam in the year of 2014. The question I would like to highlight here is,am bit confused about choosing my optional paper. Could you please shed your lights on it ?I am currently working and wanted to spend my career for my country.I am preparing on it and indeed would need your advice .

        Thanks in Advance.

        Karthick S

  4. sir, I am studying 11 commerce with maths, though i am good at pcm, my dad said commerce with maths is little closer to civils, and now i am doing good. My request is please suggest me what are the subjects to take up for civils.
    Since i am in the beginning it is easy to prepare based on your suggestions.
    Me and my dad are very regular and thoroughly visit your site and regular readers of your mail.

  5. hello sir i’m doin eco(hons) from bhu, but little confused for socoilogy or economics as opional………..want to know more about strategy for economics and its success rate .

    thank you!

  6. Hello Sir,

    I have completed my post graduation with Chemical Science. Now preparing for CSE but confused in opting optionals as humanities subjects give an edge for this competition.
    Sir looking forward for your suggestion.

  7. hi a quick reply needed…
    i am now confused between history…anthropology and psycology
    which one should i pick..which one can be covered in limited time….

  8. sir right now i am pursuing in electronics. i have interest in politics. what do u think will be apt choice for me as a subject in IAS exam????? and sir i have been recommended by SSB for indian air force. will that be helpfull if i reach the interview stage. i am in 1st year

  9. Sir, am a maths graduate n totally confused about which subjects should i choose. After seeing the % of maths students who r recomended i dont want to opt maths. Mine is a science background. Plz help me.

  10. don’t choose your subjects according to the statistical data showing no of selected candidates who opt for a particular subject. just believe in you and select the one which u can give your best. as success means doing the best we can… all the best !!!!

  11. Sir I have completed my 12th with commerce CBSE waiting for result and fully confused what to do….which subjects to take
    Plz help me

  12. sir i want which subject is better to select for engineering graduate

    i was thinking of either selecting physics or maths but after seeing the % above i’m again a bit confuse so sir plz help me

  13. sir, what are the types of jobs or posts available to a student who has taken physics chemistry or maths if he cracks the exam and i am from a science background plz help

  14. i am doing msc. statistics as i didnt read this subject in graduation i want can i give IAS exam related to my study statistics. is this a best option to make carrier in statistics or any other?

  15. what are the advantage and disadvantage of taking optional language in civil service mains examinations…?

    is there any administration issue can be create while facing personality test in upsc…?

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