What is the IAS Exam?

The Indian Administrative Services (IAS) (more correctly the Civil Services) exam is considered by many as the premier civil service job or, more correctly, career in India.  As an IAS officer you will become a part of the esteemed Indian bureaucracy often called the steel frame of the country. You will deal with huge responsibilities, have a say in decision making at the top levels of the government, enjoy unmatched perks, power, and social status.

To be precise the IAS is part of the Civil Services Exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), a Constitutional body headquartered in New Delhi. Around 22 other services or posts are part of the Civil Services Exam which consists of 3 stages – Preliminary, Mains and Interview.

To qualify for the next round you have to clear the preceding stage. For instance to qualify for IAS Mains you have to clear the Preliminary stage (Prelims) first. You can know more about the Eligibility for IAS Exam. One IAS Exam cycle lasts about a year. The prelims is held usually in the second or third week of May followed by the Mains in October and it continues right through November. The Mains exam results are then declared in March and the Personality Test or IAS Interviews start in the last week of March and continue right through April. The final result is then announced in the first week of May which completes one cycle of the IAS exam.

what is IAS exam
The IAS Exam Cycle

 How to Apply for the IAS Exam?

After ensuring you meet the eligibility criteria for IAS exam you can apply online (only) at http://upsc.gov.in The application form is only available online after publishing of the exam notification by UPSC and is available for 20-25 days since issue of the notification. The civil services exam notification is available in PDF format online as well as in the Employment News. For instance the 2012 IAS exam notification is available here.

Remember starting 2012 onwards, you have to apply for the IAS exam through online mode only and postal forms have been discontinued by UPSC.

A Brief Overview of the Preliminary Exam

At this point it would be worthwhile to explain the Prelims stage briefly. The Preliminary exam consists of two papers common to all candidates. Each question carries a negative penalty of 0.33 marks. Each paper consists of 200 marks each and is of 2 hour duration each. Both the papers are of objective type and test the knowledge, alertness, language skills, mathematical ability, decision making prowess besides other things.

You can go through the Prelims syllabus to know about it in detail. Each question usually carries 4 choices of which you have to select one. In case of a wrong answer 1/3 x total marks of that question will be deducted from your score.

About 13 times the total number of vacancies for that year qualify the prelims. So if in the notification for the IAS exam 800 total posts are anoounces, 800 x 13 =  10400 candidates will clear the Prelims and appear for the Mains. Finally about 2.5 times the vacancy clear the Mains exam and appear for the Interviews. So in this case about 2000 candidates will be interviewed by the UPSC board comprising of subject experts and UPSC members.

Know More About the IAS Exam

The IAS exam is a vast ocean. The more you explore the more you will discover. Before starting your prelims preparation you should go through these Books for Prelims consisting of the must-read books for Prelims with detailed reviews. I also suggest you visit the IAS Kracker Blog to get latest updates and tips on IAS exam preparation.