As any of the students plan to become an IAS or IPS, the first information they get is that the UPSC CSE is a tough exam. Is the civil service exam hard? If you believe in those who could not clear and guide you about the difficulties, it is a tough exam for you.

On the other hand, there are many who clear or even teach others to clear the exam. These are the ones who really understand the concept, and they always tell you that the exam being hard is a myth. So, why are there differences in perception, and why can’t most aspirant don’t become civil servants?

We would not be talking about the exam’s details and syllabus, but focus on the exam’s difficulty. Let us start.

The Difficult Part

How hard is the civil services exam? The difficulty in clearing the exam is not the questions but the competition. There are 3 stages in the exam, preliminary test, mains examination and the personality test (or the interview round).

Every year, more than 12 lakh aspirants appear for the preliminary exam. Out of these 12 lakh aspirants, 7-8 lakhs appear for the exam. 13,000-15,000 of the appearing candidates clear the preliminary round, and these are filtered to 2500-3000 candidates who reach the interview round.

The total vacancy in every department after the exam is limited to 150-200, making it 900-950 candidates clearing the interview round. So, the exam is not the difficult part, but the percentage of candidates filtered to reach the target, which is around 0.001%.

These stats are not to scare you. Calculating the passing percentage from the ones who are serious about the exam is around 0.03%. So, how hard is the UPSC exam?

Also Read: IAS Bharat Yadav Biography: A Popular and Determined Officer 

UPSC Exam is Easy or Tough?

Only the person who has the will to appear in the exam can decide if the exam is easy or tough. The hardest part about the exam is mentioned above, but now, let’s talk about the easy part.

The easy part is studying. The syllabus and question bank are abundant both online and offline. The syllabus is relevant to every student as the questions are mostly from the topics every student has been learning from class 6th. Basic History, Geography, Maths, English, Science and Polity are the major topics. Anyone who has put a good grasp on their studies in schools will find it very easy to clear the civil services exam.

Many would be worried that how difficult is UPSC? Or they might not remember the topics well. In that case, it is advisable to go through the syllabus and mark the books and topics right from the beginning.

Yes, you can take help of the already prepared books and notes by others, but if you prepare your notes, you will get more thorough with the topics. Recalling answers during the exam is easy when you can visualise the page where you read it or practised.

What many of the Other Students do?

Discouraged by society about the toughness of the exam, students tend to prepare for other exams like CAT, SSC, GMAT, GATE and GRE/IELTS. Due to the higher number of vacancies, people consider these exams as easier compared to CSE. But in actuality, these exams are way tougher than UPSC. The reason being, these are mostly study-focused.

If you are passed out from a commerce background, you are good to appear for banking exams. If you are good at science and physics, try for GATE or SSC. This means you need to achieve a level of study that you may not have achieved at your schooling level.


Mathematics is the core subject for these exams. Mathematics is not a favourite subject for many, and these students end up wasting years preparing for an exam with a lower value than UPSC CSE. How difficult is UPSC? Perhaps not as hard. This is not degrading the value of these exams. Still, practically, you can be more authoritative with a similar or even lesser struggle in studies by preparing for the UPSC CSE.

For clearing a UPSC Civil Services exam, you will need to learn subjects up to the level of 12th standard from your school. Subjects like History, Geography, Polity, Economics and so on till the +2 standard. These are subjects where you need to learn by heart and analyse and not calculate or find a solution.

Why Most of the Students Don’t Qualify UPSC?

As mentioned, the study in UPSC is not difficult, but why is the passing percentage only 0.001%? Is it hard to pass the Civil Services exam? The exam is not very difficult. It is the planning and execution that most of the students lag.

Also Read: IAS Navneet Mittal Biography: The Story of Overcoming all Odds to become an IAS Officer

Is IAS Exam Difficult?

There are mainly 24 subjects. Out of this, if you are thorough with 20, you will clear the exam in your first attempt. The ones who reappear in the exam 3-4-5 and even 6 times don’t plan their study or level up. Once the student understands the subject, they have to study the NCERT Books to get the basics. Secondly, they need to level up the learning by getting perfect with subjects.


The more you indulge in a topic, you will find new ways to explain it to others. In the examination, that is all you need to do. Explain your answers by showcasing your point of view. The viewpoint arises in your personality when you get thorough with a subject.

So, if you have any doubt, “is UPSC easy?” or “is UPSC hard?”, you can read this article. If your doubt persists, you can contact us at UPSC Pathshala. We can guide you with the right wisdom. Take our free demo class to get to know our teaching quality and get a hands-on mentorship experience.

Content Protection by
Is Civil Service Exam Hard? How Hard is the UPSC Exam?
Article Name
Is Civil Service Exam Hard? How Hard is the UPSC Exam?
Are you confused about if UPSC is easy or hard? If you don’t understand why many fail and how hard is the Civil Services exam, you can read this article
Publisher Name
UPSC Pathshala
Publisher Logo

About the Author


Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

View All Articles