UPSC CSE Exam 2024: A Comprehensive Guide



07 September, 2023

UPSC CSE Exam 2024: A Comprehensive Guide

What is the UPSC CSE Exam?

The Union Public Service Commission is India’s most prestigious exam-conducting body, which conducts several examinations to recruit the most eligible candidates for the Government of India. The Civil Services Exam (CSE) conducted by UPSC is popularly known as the ‘IAS exam’ and is considered as the toughest exam in India. Through this exam, UPSC recruits candidates for various posts, including IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS, etc.

The UPSC CSE exam is conducted in three stages: Preliminary exam (objective), Mains (written), and Personality Test (Interview). It takes around 10-12 months to complete the entire exam process. This exam is conducted annually across the country.

Highlights & Exam Pattern of the UPSC CSE

Name of the Exam  UPSC CSE 2024
Conducting Body  Union Public Service Commission (UPSC)
Exam Level  National
Exam Frequency  Annually
Duration Preliminary – 2 hours per paper
Mains – 3 hours per paper
Mode of Exam  Offline (Pen & Paper)
Sections  3 Stages:
– Preliminary Test
– Mains
– Personality Test
Types of Questions  Prelims – MCQs (Objective)
Main – Descriptive
Marking Scheme  Prelims 
– Paper 1 – 2 marks for right answer
– Paper 2 (CSAT) – 2.5 marks for right answer
Note: One-third of the marks will be deducted for every wrong answer
– Paper A & B – 300 each (qualifying in nature)
– Paper I to VII – 250 each (to be counted for merit)
Total Questions  Prelims 
– GS – 100
– CSAT – 80
– 20 Questions in each paper (subject to variation)
Medium of Exam  Bilingual (Hindi/English)
Official Website

Eligibility Criteria for the UPSC CSE Exam

Age Limit  A candidate must be between 21 and 32 years as of August 1 of the examination year.
Age Relaxation  This varies as per the different reserved categories as prescribed by the UPSC in the official notification.
Educational Qualification A candidate must be a graduate of a recognised university in any discipline. The ones who are in the final year of their bachelor’s can also apply, but they must submit proof of passing the degree before the specified date.
Nationality  – Indian citizen.
– A subject of Nepal or Bhutan.
– A Tibetan refugee who came to India prior to January 1, 1962, with the intent to settle in India permanently.
– An Indian-origin person who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, East African countries of Kenya, Sri Lanka, the United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, Vietnam, or Ethiopia with the intent to settle in India permanently.

Note: This is a general eligibility criteria; for more specifications, read the official notification.

UPSC CSE Exam Date 2024

Date of Release of Notification  14 February 2024
Date of Commencement of Examination Prelims – 26 May 2024, Mains – 20 September 2024
Last Date to Apply  5 March 2024
Fictitious Fee Payment Last Date  Yet to be updated
Duration of Exam Prelims – 1 day, Mains – 5 Days
e-Admit Card Release Date  Yet to be released

Note: All the dates are subject to alteration as per the circumstances. Keep track of the official notification.

Registration Process & Fee

All interested candidates must register first at the One Time Registration (OTR) platform on the official website and then proceed with the application process. The OTR has to be registered once in a lifetime, which can be done anytime in a year.

For Prelims

(Part I) 

  1. On the official UPSC website, click on the Apply Online tab on the right panel of the home page and select Online Application for Various Examinations. Then choose ‘online application for various examinations of UPSC’.
  2. Click on the registration link for part 1. After this, important guidelines to fill out the application will be displayed, and the applicants are advised to read them carefully.
  3. Once you are done reading the instructions, click yes, and the part I form will be displayed. Fill in all the personal details, educational details, and contact details.
  4. After all the asked details are filled in, you can preview the details and edit them if required.
  5. Submit the form. Then, you will be given a registration ID, which you must note down for future reference.

(Part II)

  1. Using the registration ID, proceed with part II of the application process.
  2. In this section, you have to pay the application fee via online/offline mode or pay by cash through SBI challan.
  3. Choose the exam centre.
  4. Upload all the required documents (photograph, signature, and photo ID).
  5. Once done with all the submissions, a final declaration is displayed on the screen. Check the box and submit the application.

For Mains

Once the result for the UPSC CSE prelims is out, all the qualified candidates need to fill out the Detailed Application Form (DAF) to appear for the mains exam. To complete the DAF procedure, visit the official website and click on the ‘DAF for Various Examinations of UPSC.’ Choose your respective exam and complete the application form.

Application Fee

Category  Fee
General/OBC/EWS INR 100
SC/ST/Ex-Serviceman/PWD/Female  Nil

UPSC CSE Admit Card

  • For UPSC CSE 2024, the commission will release the admit card 3 weeks prior to the exam. The applicants can download their e-admit card from the official website for a prescribed period of time mentioned in the notification.
  • Moving further, the Mains hall ticket shall be released a couple of weeks prior to the exam.
  • Candidates who are able to qualify in the mains exam will be called for the personality test. The interview call letter for them will be released accordingly on the official website.

UPSC CSE Exam Centres

For Prelims

Aligarh Indore Port Blair
Almora Itanagar Puducherry
Ananthapuru Jabalpur Pune
Aurangabad Jaipur Raipur
Bengaluru Jammu Rajkot
Bareilly Jodhpur Ranchi
Bhopal Jorhat Sambalpur
Bilaspur Kochi Shillong
Chandigarh Kohima Shimla
Chennai Kolkata Siliguri
Coimbatore Kozhikode Srinagar
Cuttack Leh Srinagar (Uttarakhand)
Dehradun Lucknow Surat
Delhi Ludhiana Thane
Dharwar Madurai Thiruvananthapuram
Dispur Mysuru Tiruchirapalli
Faridabad Nagpur Tirupati
Gangtok Nasik Udaipur
Gautam Buddh Nagar Navi Mumbai Varanasi
Gaya Panaji (Goa) Vellore
Ghaziabad Patna Vijayawada
Mandi (new) Prayagraj Visakhapatnam

For Mains

Ahmedabad Delhi Patna
Aizawl Dispur Prayagraj
Bengaluru Hyderabad Raipur
Bhopal Jaipur Ranchi
Chandigarh Jammu Shillong
Chennai Kolkata Shimla
Cuttack Lucknow Thiruvananthapuram
Dehradun Mumbai Vijayawada

Note: The allotment of the centre is on a ‘first-apply-first-allot’ basis. Also, the centres are subject to change as per the decision of the commission.

UPSC CSE 2024 Exam Syllabus

The Civil Services Examination (CSE) consists of three stages: prelims, mains, and interviews. Both preliminary exams and mains have different papers; some of them are qualifying in nature, while others are considered for merit.

UPSC Syllabus for Prelims

Paper I: General Studies (GS)

  • Current affairs of national and international importance
  • Indian History and the Indian National Movement
  • Indian and world geography
  • Indian polity and governance
  • Economic and social development
  • General issues on environmental ecology, biodiversity and climate change
  • General Science

Paper II: Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills, communication skills
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and analytical ability
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (class 10th level)

UPSC Syllabus for Mains

  • Paper A: (qualifying in nature) Candidates can choose any one Indian language mentioned in the eighth schedule of the constitution.
  • Paper B: English (qualifying in nature)
  • Paper I: Essay
  • Paper II: GS I – (Indian Heritage, Culture, History and Geography)
  • Paper III: GS II – (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations)
  • Paper IV: GS III – (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)
  • Paper V: GS IV – (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude)
  • Paper VI: Optional Paper 1
  • Paper VII: Optional Paper 2 (anyone subject from the prescribed list by UPSC for both the optional papers)

Section-Wise Distribution of Question Paper

For Prelims

Paper  No. of Questions  Marks  Duration  Negative Marking 
General Studies I 100 200 2 hrs Yes
General Studies II (CSAT) 80 200 2 hrs Yes

For Mains

Paper  Marks 
Paper A (Qualifying) 300
Paper B (Qualifying) 300
Paper I: Essay 250
Paper II: GS I 250
Paper III: GS II 250
Paper IV: GS III 250
Paper V: GS IV 250
Paper VI: Optional Paper 1 250
Paper VII: Optional Paper 2 250

Note: Generally, in each paper of UPSC CSE Mains, there are 20 questions and each paper is of 3 hours duration.

UPSC CSE 2023: Number of Attempts

Category  Number of Attempts 
General  6
SC/ST  No limit until the upper age limit is achieved

UPSC CSE Preparation Tips

  • Before starting your preparation, understand your syllabus properly. This will help in planning and making an effective study plan.
  • Start by reading the NCERT. Do remember extremely important points and avoid highlighting the entire book. It is just to create a base.
  • Make it a habit to read one national newspaper daily. Most of the aspirants prefer reading The Hindu or The Indian Express.
  • Regularly practise your answer writing skills. Once it becomes a habit, you will be able to structure your answer swiftly without a hassle.
  • Join a test series. This will help you analyse your progress.
  • For UPSC, revision is the key. The more you revise, the better it is. That is why it is advised to revise daily and keep weekends completely for revision.

Previous Year Question Papers

You can download the previous year’s question paper for all the exams conducted by UPSC from the official website of the commission.


Q1. What is the UPSC exam?

The UPSC CSE exam is conducted every year for recruiting the most suitable candidates for the most reputable services in the Government of India such as IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS, etc.

Q2. What are the different examinations conducted by UPSC?

The UPSC conducts various examinations. Some of the most prestigious examinations governed by UPSC include:

  • Civil Services Examination
  • Indian Forestry Services Examination (IFoS)
  • Central Armed Police Forces Examination (CAPF)
  • Engineering Services Examination (ESE)
  • Combined Medical Services (CMS)
  • limited Departmental Competitive Examination for selection of Assistant Commandant (Executive) in CISF
  • Combined Geo-Scientist and Geologist Examination
  • Special Class Railway Apprentices Exam (SCRA)
  • Indian Economic Service and Indian Statistical Service (IES/ISS)

Q3. What is the qualification for the UPSC exam?

Any graduate can appear for the UPSC CSE examination.

Q4. How many attempts are there for the UPSC exam?

General category candidates can take the exam a total of 6 times before attaining the age of 32 years, OBC category candidates can take the exam 9 times before attaining the age of 35 years and there is no limit to the number of attempts for SC/ST candidates.

Q5. Is there negative marking in the UPSC Prelims exam?

Yes, there is negative marking in the UPSC CSE preliminary examination. For each wrong answer, one-third of the marks allotted to that question will be deducted.

Q6. What is the age limit for UPSC exams?

  • General Category- 32 Years
  • OBC- 35 Years
  • SC/ST- 35 Years

Q7. What are the career prospects after clearing the UPSC Exam?

After qualifying the UPSC examination, a student can seek employment in any grade A services of the Government of India such as IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS, etc., subject to their rank.

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