The examination is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. It has three stages: a preliminary exam, a main exam, and an interview, and is known for being extremely challenging. Recently the preliminary exam pattern has changed. There used to be 23 optional subjects along with a general Studies paper. Now there will be no optional subjects in the preliminary examination. Instead there will be a second paper which will be common for all candidates. It covers aptitude, general mathematics, comprehensive English, social Studies etc.
Entry into the IAS is considered very difficult. Almost all of the applicants rank IAS as their top choice because of the high prestige and diversity of career it offers. For example, in the 2011 batch, of the 425 selected candidates, 390 indicated IAS as their first preference, 35 chose IRS, and just nine chose IPS. But when it came to second preference, 226 candidates marked IRS as their choice, while only 159 marked IPS as their second choice.
About 850 candidates are finally selected each year out of the nearly 550,000(2010 data) but only a rank in the top 80 guarantees an IAS selection — an acceptance rate of 0.025 percent, which makes it one of the most competitive selection processes in the world.
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