The Indian Administrative Services, or IAS henceforth, is the topmost civil service post of India. The Indian Administrative Service, The Indian Police Service, and the Indian Forest Service make up the top 3 civil services in India. It is also considered one of the toughest exams in the world.

The exam is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

The exam itself is conducted in three stages:

  • Preliminary
  • Main
  • Interview

There are a total of 9 question papers in the IAS main examination. Out of the 9 papers, 2 papers are of qualifying in nature. The qualifying IAS question papers are General English and General Language papers. There are 4 general studies papers, 1 essay paper, and 2 optional subject papers.  

Before getting to the main topic, which is the IAS eligibility criteria, and IAS qualification, let us take a look at some common facts about the exam.

Facts About the Exam

  • The basic pay of an IAS officer starts at ₹56,100/month. It goes on till it reaches around ₹250,000/month.
  • The highest post of an IAS officer is the Cabinet Secretary, where the officer is the top-most executive official and acts as the chief coordinator of the central government. 
  • The selection percentage in the IAS exams is 0.01%, as only 180 candidates out of 1 million are picked by the President of India himself.
  • The IAS exams started in the year 1922.
  • It is the highest sought-out job in India. 
  • An IAS officer is one of the most respected people and is forever part of the nations’ government.
  • IAS officers get a lot of perks like free or highly subsidized basic needs (i.e. electricity, water, gas, and phone connections. In addition, an IAS officer can accommodate a government guest house. An IAS officer is provided with bodyguards, and a car too. 
  • Along with IAS, there are a total of 24 services that one can serve after giving the IAS exam. There are a total of 720 vacancies for civil services. The admit card is provided online to the candidates.
  • Finally, an IAS officer retires at the age of 60. An IAS officer is given a lifetime pension after retirement.

IAS Eligibility Criteria

General32 years6
Other backward class35 years9
Scheduled caste/ scheduled tribe37 yearsUnlimited (till age limit)
Disabled Defense Services Personnel 35 years9
Ex-Servicemen37 years9
People with benchmark disability – EWS42 years9


The first and foremost, and the most basic eligibility for any candidate is that he/she should be an Indian. This should come as no shock. Along with this, a person of Indian origin can also write the exam, i.e. the candidate (who is of Indian origin) can be from Ethiopia, Malawi, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Vietnam, Zaire, or Zambia with an intention of permanently settling in India.
A candidate can be a subject of Nepal or Bhutan. A candidate who is from Tibet settled in India before January 1st,1962 may appear for the IAS exam.

2. AGE

Following are the provided age brackets and number of attempts, according to different categories. These are the age-based IAS eligibility criteria

Furthermore, People with Benchmark Disability include (1) blindness and low vision; (2) deaf and not of sound hearing, (3) locomotor disability including leprosy, dwarfism, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and acid attack victims; (4) intellectual disability, autism, mental disability, and specific learning disability; (5) multiple disabilities through clauses (1)-(4).  

Candidates who are from Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe or Other Backward Class and come under the category of People with Benchmark Disability are granted the cumulative relaxation of both the categories.

The people disabled in operations during hostilities with any foreign country or in a disturbed area and released as a consequence thereof have special Civil Services age limit relaxation. (For the Disabled Defense Services Personnel)


Educational eligibilities for a candidate appearing for the IAS exam:

1) Candidate must be a  graduate from a college or a university that is recognized by the government of India or possess a qualification that is considered equal to it.

2) Candidates that have the professional and technical qualities that are equal to the professional and technical degrees, and are acknowledged by the government.

3) Candidates in their final years of college can write the IAS exam, provided that they can produce a positive result of the final year’s exam along with the application for the main IAS examination.

4) MBBS final year students who haven’t completed their interview can write the exams too, provided that they produce the main exam application, along with a certificate of course completion (including internship) from the concerned university.

These are the required educational criteria for IAS qualification.

Specific Restrictions and Important Points

If a candidate is appointed to the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) or the Indian Foreign Services (IFS) and he/she continues to be a member of that service they will not be allowed to participate in the IAS examinations again. In order to give the IAS exam again, an officer will have to resign from his/her current post.

An existing Indian Police Service officer (IPS), can however, participate in the IAS examinations, but he cannot choose IPS again. 

A candidate showing up to give the exam will be counted as an attempt. This is the reason why there is a high rate of absenteeism in the IAS exams. About 50% of the total applicants actually attempt to give the exam. And this is not even the mains, I am talking about the preliminary exam. This way the candidates keep the number of attempts safe. 

Anyways, UPSC introduced the IAS application withdrawal facility, which enables a candidate to withdraw from the exam without exhausting an attempt.

A candidate must obviously be fit – both physically and mentally. The selected candidates (after the interview) are needed to take a compulsory medical test at the respective assigned medical centre. The selected candidates need to clear this test in order to qualify for their further posting.

Candidates that belong to categories that have extra years and/or the number of attempts in the IAS eligibility criteria, need to produce the required certificates before the IAS exams announcement in order to avail those relaxations.

Daily-Life of an IAS Officer

Once an IAS officer is selected and fits all the IAS eligibility criteria, he/she is trained. There is a fixed timetable for IAS officers who are being trained. That is, the candidates that become IAS officers have to go through a very strict and disciplined routine at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA).

The events of a typical day at the LBSNAA are:

1. 6 AM: Morning exercise/horse riding training for an hour.

2. 7 AM to 9 AM: Free time for morning activities.

3. 9:30 AM onwards: 8-10 hours of academic activity including lectures, sports, and extracurricular activities.

Officer trainees are allowed to leave before and after dinner to socialize and prepare for the following day. They are exposed to outdoor activities like trekking and trips to nearby rural areas in order to learn about the adversity and understand the hardships and life of the people there. The training also includes Bharat Darshan.

After they are posted as functioning IAS officers, their routines and agendas change according to the place where they are posted. A usual day for a functioning IAS officer starts at 9 AM, where he/she go through daily reports, supervising multiple daily tasks of the department, visiting various areas to check the implementation of developmental activities and meetings. This can go up till 9 PM.

In times of emergencies, the usual timings may be exceeded and the officer may have to work beyond hours.
An IAS officer gets 8 casual leaves, 20 gazette leaves, 20 half-paid leaves (10 full-paid in case of emergencies), weekends, 30 earned leaves, and 2 restricted leaves.

What does an IAS officer do?

In case you don’t know, an IAS officer’s job is to make policies, advise ministers on issues, maintain law and order, check that the made policies are implemented correctly, collect the revenues and act as a court in such matters, and supervise the expenditure of the public fund.

Not every IAS officer gets to be the Chief Secretary (currently Rajiv Gauba), but there are a lot of other powers and posts that an IAS officer gets to work at. There are 8 grades in the career of an IAS officer. Here are the posts according to the grades:

  • Junior Scale: Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDMs), Sub-Divisional Officers (SDOs), and Sub-Collector
  • Senior-Time Scale: District Magistrate (DM), Collector, Joint Secretary of a Government Ministry
  • Junior Administrative Grade: Special Secretary to the Government of India, Head of Various Government Departments in the state government
  • Selection Grade: Secretary to a Ministry, Director in a field organization
  • Super Time Scale: Principal Secretary
  • Above Super Time Scale: The post depends on the will of the government.
  • Apex Scale: Chief Secretary of States, Union Secretaries in charge of various ministries.
  • Cabinet Secretary Grade: Cabinet Secretary

In case you decide to appear for the IAS examinations, I suggest you take up coaching. For example – The Thought tree (T3) provides one of the best IAS examination coachings in the country.

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