The Indian Foreign Service comes under the umbrella of the civil services of Group A and Group B. It These officials control and look after the mandatory parts of the international territory of the country along with foreign trades. Ministry of Foreign Affairs modifies the execution of work done by IFS officers. These officers are directly involved in foreign-related issues in India for better communication and understanding of needs.

Eligibility and criteria


There are some other eligibility criteria for the IFS officers. Some physical fitness criteria will be there before recruiting an officer.

  • Citizen of India
  • A subject of Nepal
  • A subject of Bhutan
  • A Tibetan Refugee in India as a permanent resident (until January 01, 1962)
  • Indian origin individual from Burma, Pakistan, East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire and Ethiopia, Sri Lanka or from Vietnam to permanently settle in India forever.
  • The candidates in B, C, D and E categories need to have a certificate proof of eligibility which should be issued by the GOI. An offer of appointment/recruitment will be issued only on the submission of the eligibility certificate copy.

Age Limit

Candidate’s age will be a minimum of 21 years and a maximum of 30 years(as in the year of the examination) of the year of examination.

The candidate should be 21 years old. The candidate will not be allowed to appear in the exam if above 29 years. This criterion is for General Category candidates. But SC and ST candidates have a relaxation of upper age up to 35 years. OBC candidates have a relaxation of upper age up to 33 years. The State of Jammu & Kashmir has special provisions for candidates as they have upper age relaxation for up to 35 years ( if they are staying from January 1980 to December 1989). 

Number of attempts of exam

  • General (category) candidates can attempt 6 attempts.
  • Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe(ST)  Candidates cam have unlimited attempts.
  • Other Backward Classes (OBC) candidates can avail 9 attempts.
  • Physically handicapped can also avail  9 attempts if a general category and OBC.
  • Physically handicapped  SC/ST gets unlimited attempts.
  • Attempts are counted from the time of appearing in the Prelims Exam.

Educational qualification

Candidate should have an educational qualification of a bachelor’s degree or any equivalent from a recognized institute or university.

Other required skills

  • Exceptional communication skills are required
  • Profound knowledge about foreign countries and current affairs are required
  • The candidate must have good leadership capability
  • The candidate is supposed to have excellent knowledge of foreign cultures.

Also Read: IFS vs IAS: Which One is Better & Why? How to Become an IAS/ IFS Officer?

Roles and Responsibilities 

  • IFS officers will have to be capable to deal with foreign affairs.
  • They will have to understand the decorum of embassy, consulates, high commissions, and other multilateral organizations.
  • IFS officers will have to communication-oriented workshops for promoting India’s value in other foreign countries.
  • An IFS  officer represents the country. So the officer will have to be well-equipped about every updated news around the world and the country.
  • IFS officers are liable to improve international relations.
  • India’s economy and GNP depend on the commitments by the IFS officers.

UPSC Prelims Exam Syllabus (IFS)

Preparation for the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) Prelims is not a cup of tea. This syllabus is vast, detailed and needs specification before studying. The success rate of the exam is 0.1% to 0.3 %. It is important to go through the syllabus before starting with any other procedure of collecting materials, books and previous years’ papers.  Follow the pattern of the syllabus and start preparing for the exam.

The commission of UPSC divides the selection process into three parts. These are:

  • Preliminary examination
  • Mains examination
  • Personality test (interview)

Here the syllabus, duration of exam along paper types will be discussed.

The UPSC Prelims Exam syllabus

The commission of UPSC has set two papers for the Prelims exam: Paper I and Paper-II.

Paper I (General Studies – I of 200 marks)- 

Duration: 2 hours

  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and The Indian National Movement.
  • Indian and World Geography-Physical, Social, Economic Geography of India and the World
  • Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.
  • Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector initiatives, etc.
  • General issues on Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity, and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization General Science.

Syllabus for Paper II (CSAT/General Studies – II of 200 marks)- 

Duration: 2 hours

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem-solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level) and data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. – Class X level)

*Note 1: The CSAT aptitude test or Paper-II of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination will be a qualifying paper only with a minimum of 33% to be secured to sit for the UPSC Mains exam.

*Note 2: The questions in both Paper-I (current affairs) and Paper-II (aptitude test) will be of multiple-choice, objective type for 200 marks each and the time allotted for each paper is two hours

*Note 3: The candidate must appear in both the papers of Civil Services (Prelims) examination for evaluation. Therefore a candidate will be disqualified in case he/she does not appear in both the papers of the (Prelims) exam.

Points to be noted:

  • The questions are objective type (multiple choice questions) in the Prelims Examination.
  • There is a rule of ‘negative marking’ is there in the Prelims Exam. There is a rule of cutting 0.83 marks from every wrong answer marked. 
  • A separate 20 minute given for blind candidates.
  • Though it is mandatory to appear in the Prelims exam, the marks scored should be qualifying. This score will not be carried forward to the tally of the Main Exam and Interview.

UPSC mains syllabus (IFS)

The UPSC Mains Exam comprises nine theory papers. Mark of these papers is considered while tallying the final merit list. The other two papers, English and Indian Language are considered as qualifying papers. Candidates are instructed to score 25% or more in this section

The candidates who score above the cut-off in the first stage (Prelims) of the IAS exam will only be eligible for the Mains. While only objective-type or MCQs questions are asked in Prelims, the subjective Mains exam requires a deeper understanding of the topics. The upcoming  UPSC Mains Exams will start on September 20, 2019. 

The Mains Examination is schemed to test the skill of the eligible candidate with detailed knowledge, aptitude, and skill-based test. This is a written examination consisting of the following papers:

Paper A (consists of Modern Indian Languages) – 300 Marks

Duration: 3 hours

  • The candidates will have to take on the following areas as depicted:
  • Comprehension of given passages
  • Precise Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary
  • Short Essay
  • Translation from English to the Indian language and vice-versa
  • Note 1: The Papers on Indian Languages and English will be of Matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted for ranking. 
  • Note 2: The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where the translation is involved).

One can select one of the languages as enlisted below:

  • Assamese
  • Telugu
  • Sindhi
  • Marathi
  • Bengali
  • Urdu
  • Gujarati
  • Dogra
  • Bodo
  • Kashmiri
  • Hindi
  • Kannada
  • Malayalam
  • Konkani
  • Maithili
  • Nepali
  • Manipuri
  • Tamil
  • Punjabi
  • Oriya
  • Santali
  • Sanskrit

Paper B (English)– 300 Marks

Duration: 3 hours

A candidate’s eligibility for understanding, reading, and writing of the English language will be tested in this paper.

The parameters are depicted below:

  • Comprehension of given passages
  • Precise Writing
  • Usage and Vocabulary
  • Short Essay
  • Note 1: The Papers on Indian Languages and English will be of matriculation or equivalent standard and will be of qualifying nature only. The marks obtained in these papers will not be counted towards the final ranking.
  • Note 2: The candidates will have to answer the English and Indian Languages papers in English and the respective Indian language (except where the translation is involved).

The following table gives a breakdown of the papers that will be counted for merit and thus affect the final ranking of the candidate.

Paper I – (Essay) 250 marks: 

Duration: 3hours

Candidates will have to write two essays from a list of topics. The candidates are advised to present ideas in a strategic and advanced manner. The topic will be according to the subject matter. There is no such syllabus for this.

Also Read: What is the Difference Between the Indian Forest Service and Indian Foreign Service

Paper-II – (General Studies- I) 250 marks:

Duration: 3 hours

Modern Indian History

  • Important events, issues, persons of the middle of the eighteenth century (the 1750s) till the date.
  • Various stages and contributors and contributions from various parts of the country titled as the ‘The Freedom Struggle’.
  • Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.

History of the world

Series of events, forms and effect on society since the 18th century including world wars, the industrial revolution, colonization, redraw of national boundaries, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism and so on.


  • Indian society and diversity and salient aspects of these.
  • Role of women and women’s organizations, population and associated issues, poverty, and developmental issues, urbanization related problems, and remedies.
  • Communalism, social empowerment, regionalism & secularism.
  • Effects of globalization on Indian society in detail.


  • Distribution of natural resources across the world including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent; factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world including India in detail.
  • Earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone, etc – these geophysical phenomena.
  • Geographical features including their location, changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and polar ice caps) and, in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
  • Salient features of the world’s physical geography.

Paper III –(General Studies – II)250 marks

Duration: 3 hours

Indian Constitution

  • Historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions, and basic structure 
  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues, and challenges about the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances (up to local levels and challenges therein).
  • Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries
  • Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions
  • Structure, organization, and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary
  • Parliament and State Legislatures structure, functioning conduct of business powers along with privileges and issues arising out of these
  • Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
  • Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions, and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.
  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act
  • Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
  • Government policies and interventions aimed at development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Development processes and the development industry – the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, institutional and other stakeholders.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and the States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions, and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
  • Issues relating to the development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
  • Issues relating to poverty and hunger
  • Important aspects of governance, transparency, and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures
  • Role of civil services in a democracy

International Relations

  • India and its neighborhood – International relations
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting the Indian interests
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
  • Important International institutions, agencies, their structure, and mandates

Paper IV – (General Studies – III) 250 marks: 

Duration: 3 hours


  • Indian Economy and issues related to planning, mobilization of resources, development, growth, and employment.
  • Government Budgeting.
  • Inclusive growth and associated issues/challenges
  • Effects of liberalization on the economy (post-1991 changes), changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
  • Infrastructure includes Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.
  • Investment models (PPP etc)


  • Major cropping patterns in various areas of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers

Economics of animal rearing.

  • Food processing and related industries in India include scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.
  • Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions
  • Land reforms in India.

Science and Technology

  • Recent developments and their applications and effects in everyday life
  • Significant achievements of Indians in science & technology.
  • Indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
  • General awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nanotechnology, bio-technology
  • Issues relating to intellectual property rights


  • Conservation,
  • Environmental pollution and degradation
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • Disaster Management includes laws and Acts etc.
  • Security challenges to internal security (external state and non-state actors)
  • Linkages between development and spread of extremism
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges,
  • Basics of cybersecurity and money-laundering and its prevention
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism

Paper V – (General Studies – IV) 250 marks: 

Duration: 3 hours

Ethics and Human Interface

  • The essence of Ethics, Determinants, and Consequences of Ethics in Human Interaction
  • Dimensions of Ethics
  • Ethics in private and public relationships
  • Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, administrators, and reformers
  • Role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating moral and ethical values


  • Structure, content, and function of attitude
  • Influence of attitude in thought and behaviour
  • Relation of attitude to thought and behaviour
  • Moral and Political attitudes
  • Social influence and persuasion


  • Aptitude and foundational values of Civil Service
  • Integrity
  • Impartiality and non-partisanship
  • Objectivity
  • Dedication to public service
  • Empathy, tolerance, and compassion towards the weaker sections of the society
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Concepts of emotional intelligence
  • Utility and application of emotional intelligence in administration and governance
  • Contributions of Thinkers and Philosophers
  • Contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world to the concepts of morality
  • Public/Civil Service Values and Ethics in Public Administration
  • Status and associated problems
  • Ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions
  • Laws, rules, regulations, and conscience as sources of ethical guidance
  • Accountability and ethical governance
  • Strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance
  • Ethical Issues in international relations and funding
  • Corporate governance
  • Probity in Governance
  • Concept of public service
  • The philosophical basis of governance and probity
  • Information sharing along with transparency in government
  • Right to Information
  • Codes of ethics
  • Codes of Conduct
  • Citizen’s Charters
  • Work culture
  • Quality of service delivery
  • Utilization of public funds
  • Challenges of corruption


Paper VI (Optional Paper – I) 250 marks

Duration: 3 hours

Topics will be decided according to the optional subject chosen by the candidate.

Paper VII (Optional Paper-II) 250 marks

Duration: 3Hours

Topics will be decided according to the optional subject chosen by the candidate.

Total marks: 1750

Choices of optional subjects:

For the Mains exam, candidates are allowed to choose out of the following optional subjects as enlisted: 

  • Agriculture
  • Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Anthropology
  • Chemistry
  • Botany
  • Commerce and Accountancy
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Economics
  • Geology
  • Geography
  • Law
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Management
  • Medical Science
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physics
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Political Science
  • Sociology
  • Public Administration
  • Zoology
  • Statistics

Candidates also allowed to select the literature of one of the following languages as the optional subject:

Assamese Hindi Manipuri Sanskrit Urdu
Bengali Kannada Marathi Santhali English
Bodo Konkani Nepali Sindhi  
Dogri Maithili Odia Tamil  
Gujarati Malayalam Punjabi Telegu


The syllabus of UPSC mains  for IFS is quite vast. In-depth knowledge is required for a successful result. If a candidate can clear the Mains Exam, he or she will be allowed to the next stage that is the UPSC personality test of 250 marks for final selection.

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About the Author

Akshay Palande

Akshay Palande is a passionate teacher helping hundreds of students in their UPSC preparation. With a degree in Mechanical Engineering and double masters in Public Administration and Economics, he has experience of teaching UPSC aspirants for 5 years. His subject of expertise are Geography, Polity, Economics and Environment and Ecology.

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