IAS (UPSC CSE) 2021 Selection Process - Prelims, Mains and Interview

Updated On -

Mar 19, 2021

IAS (UPSC CSE) Exam is held in three different stages- Preliminary Exam, Mains Exam, and Interview Round. On the basis of marks obtained in the mains examination and Interview, a final merit list prepared with the name of the candidates who are eligible for recruitment provided their documents are also according to the requirement. As per the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) calendar for 2021, the IAS Prelims exam will be conducted on June 27, 2021.

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The selection of candidates is based on the UPSC CSE Cut-offs released by the commission after a preliminary examination and main examination. Candidates who qualify in the preliminary examination can sit for the UPSC main examination. Similarly, a cut-off is released according to which qualified candidates are called for the interview session hence, preparation of merit list takes place while excluding marks scored in the preliminary examination. 

IAS Selection Process

IAS (UPSC CSE) Selection Process 2021

IAS Prelims 2021 Exam is scheduled to be conducted on June 27, 2021. After that authorities will release IAS Result for the same. Candidates whose roll numbers are mentioned in the result PDF will proceed to the Main examination.

  • IAS Selection Process has three stages. First is the IAS prelims exam, those who qualify for this have to register again for IAS Main exam.
  • Marks scored in IAS Prelims are only considered to select candidates for the main exam and not for the final merit list.
  • Those who qualify the IAS Mains exam will be eligible for the IAS Interview Round.
  • IAS Interview round is conducted in the month of February to March. The final merit list is prepared based on the main exam and interview.
  • The IAS final Result is declared in the month of May each year for the joining of the candidates provided their documents are verified and factual.

A brief about each stage of the IAS selection process is discussed below in the article.

Check IAS Exam Pattern

IAS Prelims

IAS (UPSC CSE) Preliminary Exam 2021

There are two compulsory papers in Preliminary Exam, Paper I (General Studies) and Paper-II (Civil Services Aptitude Test). The IAS preliminary exam is held for two hours and the total marks for the same are 200 marks for each paper. IAS Question Paper of preliminary exam is set in both English and Hindi language.

Here is the exam pattern followed by UPSC for Preliminary examination:

IAS Exam Prelims (UPSC Prelims)
Duration of examination 2 hours or 120 minutes (extra time of 20 minutes for blind candidates) for each paper.
Total Number of Questions Paper I- 100 questions, Paper-II- 80 questions
Total Marks Maximum of 400 Marks
Types of Questions Objective Type Multiple Choice Questions
Marking scheme

Paper I- 200 marks

Paper-II- 200 marks

Negative marking 1/3rd of the marks allotted to the question will be deducted from every wrong answer
Mode of Examination Hindi and English

The criterion of evaluation in preliminary examination to determine cutoff will be on the basis of minimum qualifying marks of 33 % in General Studies Paper-II of Preliminary Examination and total qualifying marks of General Studies Paper-I of Preliminary Examination.

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IAS Mains

IAS Main Exam 2021

The main exam shall consist of 9 papers out of which 2 are qualifying language papers and 2 are optional papers. Each paper will be of 3 hours’ duration. Total marks for each paper will be 250 marks while the language papers will be 300 marks. Prepare for IAS Mains Exam

The following table elaborates the details regarding UPSC main examination pattern:

IAS Exam Mains Examination
Duration of examination Each paper will be of 3 hours duration
Total Marks Maximum of 1750 marks
Types of Questions Descriptive
Marking scheme 250 marks each for Paper I- Paper VII and 275 marks for Interview
Language used in question papers Hindi and English

Those who qualify for the mains examination as per the cut-off set by the commission shall be called for the interview session or personality test which will also be considered for merit calculation. Check IAS Mains Syllabus

The candidate will be selected on the basis of the career records and some general questions pertaining to the job profile will be asked to test a candidate’s knowledge and personality traits. Marks scored in the main examination and interview session will be determining factors of a selection of the candidate, no qualifying list or cut-off will be released after this.

Also, Check IAS Optional Papers Syllabus

IAS Personality Test

IAS Personality Test

The most important stage that must be cleared in order to get recruited in All India Services is the Personality test. Candidates who qualify for the main examination are called to face a board of judges from the Union Public Services Commission who judge them on the basis of several factors.

These factors include mental alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, the balance of judgment, variety, and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity along with some technical skills required in the job profile that has been selected by the candidate. Prepare for IAS Interview 

The technique of the interview is not that of a strict cross‐examination but of natural, directed, and purposive conversation which intends to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate. The interview session is conducted for 275 marks and no qualifying marks have been enlisted to clear it by the commission. 

The skills presented in the career profile must be shown while in front of the board members to secure good marks in the personality test. The final selection will be based on the main examination and Interview session marks combined together.

IAS Final Merit List

IAS (UPSC CSE) 2021 Exam Final Merit List

The final merit list will be prepared on the basis of marks obtained in the main examination and personality test. Candidates will be allotted to the various Services according to their merit and preferences. The IAS final merit list will be out in the month of May 2021. Marks scored in the Preliminary examination will be excluded while preparing the Final Merit List. 



Ques. What is the selection process for IAS Officers?

Ans. The IAS officers are selected through several levels of the exam- Prelims, Mains and Interview. There are two papers in Prelims and nine papers in Mains.

Ques. How many IAS officers are selected every year?

Ans. The number of IAS officers selected every year depends on the number of vacancies declared for that specific year.

Ques. What is the training period of the IAS officers?

Ans. Training period of the IAS Officer is 2 years.

Ques. Is there any specific topic for Interview process?

Ans. There is no specific syllabus for the IAS interview process. However, the questions majorly revolve around current affairs, polity, and your choice of optional subject.

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*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.


nafisa khatoon
How can I prepare for the IAS Interview?
jaya garg

Hi. There is not fixed technique of the interview, and its not any kind of cross?examination but of natural, directed, and purposive conversation that showcase the candidates’ mental qualities. Prepare well for this round as the final selection will be based on the main examination and Interview session marks combined together.

rohan bharti
Is appearing in the IAS Personality Test compulsory?
jaya garg

Hi. Yes, the most important stage that needs to be cleared by all the candidates in order to get recruited in All India Services is the Personality test. Candidates qualifying the main examination will be called to face a board of judges from the Union Public Services Commission who judge them on the basis of several factors.

ammar zaheer ahmed
I am planning to apply for the IAS prelims, can you tell me the date for the same?
jaya garg

Hi. IAS Prelims 2021 Exam will be held on June 27, 2021. After that the exam conducting authorities will announce the IAS Result for the same. Candidates whose roll numbers are mentioned in the result PDF will proceed to the Main examination.

What will be asked in the Interview round?
jaya garg

The main objective of conducting interviews is to judge an individual’s personal suitability for the post for which they have been called for interview. During the interview round, candidates are judged based on their overall records (educational qualifications, knowledge, experience, interests, etc.) etc.

sunny pandey
Is mobile, laptop or any other communication devices, allowed while giving the Interview or Recruitment Test?
jaya garg

No, all these kinds of gadgets are strictly prohibited during interviews or for Recruitment Tests.

sunny pandey
How I will made informed about the interview round?
jaya garg

In case you get shortlisted, you will get the call letter which will be sent on your e-mail provided in the Online application. No interview call letters will be send by post. Thus all the candidates expecting an interview call are advised to check their e-mails regularly. An indicative SMS is also sent on the registered mobile number of the candidate. For More details, refer here.

kashish tomar
I have given the IAS exam, how will I get shortlisted for being called for interview for a Particular post?
jaya garg

Candidates first of all need to meet the minimum essential qualifications required for a particular post to get shortlisted. In case there are more applications, the commission adopts a shortlisting criteria to restrict the number of candidates to be called for interview to a reasonable number based on the methods mentioned in the detailed advertisement. Further details are here.

sandesh kumar
Which are the Universities, Courses and Degrees recognized by the UPSC?
jaya garg

Recognition of Universities, Courses or Degrees don’t fall within the purview of the UPSC. This matter lies within the domain of the respective authorities mandated for the purpose e.g. University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), etc.Further details are here.

sadim ansari
If the overall marks of two or more candidates are equal, how is relative merit between such candidates decided?
jaya garg

Hi Sadim. If the overall marks of two or more candidates are equal, then the UPSC will apply the Tie-breaking principles. The UPSC Tie-breaking will decide inter se merit among candidates having equal overall marks.

Is it likely that my evaluated performance suffers because my answer books were evaluated by a ‘strict’ examiner, while another candidate benefits as his answer books were evaluated by a ‘liberal’ examiner?
jaya garg

Hi Pradeepraj. The aspect of inter examiner variation in standards of evaluation in a Paper affecting candidates’ performance is taken care accurately. So don’t worry.

kashish tomar
Can a candidate write the Civil Service (Main) Examination in English and take the interview in Hindi or any other Indian language?
jaya garg

Hi Kashish. Candidates can opt for English, Hindi or any other regional language when facing the UPSC panel.

payal chaudhary
law is helpful and marksgaining subject for upsc mains (optional).
akankshya pattanaik


LAW is one of the best scoring subjects for UPSC mains. 

does the ias aspirant need coaching
akansha expert
Hi Sir, Yes you need coaching or self-study to crack the exam at a good level.