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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!

 Year/Details 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11
Prelims Applied 333680 325433 409110 497187*
Prelims Appeared 161469 167035 193091 NA
Mains Applied 9158 11669 11894 11984
Mains Appeared 8886 11330 11516 NA
Interviewed 1883 2136 2281 NA
Selected 638 791 875 920

* 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.

Year/Subject 2008 2009
Hindi Litt. 954 925
Pali Litt. 249 306
Tamil Litt. 224 195
Geography 4003 3901
History 3823 3822
Philosophy 2048 2025
Pol. Science 1306 1314
Psychology 1058 1017
Pub. Admn. 3165 3779
Sociology 1527 1581
Zoology 478 428

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 Subject Candidates Appeared Candidates Recommended Success Rate (Percent)
Assamese Litt. 5 2 40
Punjabi Litt. 19 5 26.3
Agriculture 220 41 18.6
Gujarati Litt. 42 7 16.7
Kannada Litt. 84 14 16.7
Marathi Litt. 42 7 16.7
Medical Science 98 16 16.3
English Litt. 40 6 15
Urdu Litt. 29 4 13.8
Tamil Litt. 225 29 12.9
Animal Husb. & Veterinary Science 65 8 12.3
Economics 326 37 11.3
Psychology 1061 116 10.9
Anthropology 345 37 10.7
Public Administration 3201 337 10.5
Literature of Sanskrit Language 122 10 8.2
Literature of Malayalam Language 67 5 7.5
Literature of Pali Language 255 18 7.1
Physics 239 16 6.7
Political Science 1320 85 6.4
Literature of Telugu Language 147 9 6.1
Geography 4049 236 5.8
Literature of Hindi Language 974 56 5.7
Sociology 1555 89 5.7
Chemistry 124 7 5.6
Commerce and Accountancy 266 15 5.6
History 3870 212 5.5
Law 365 19 5.2
Philosophy 2092 84 4
Zoology 484 18 3.7
Mathematics 277 8 2.9

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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