IFS Exam Syllabus: In-depth Analysis

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IFS Exam Syllabus

To be a diplomat under the Indian Government is a dream of many and the Indian Foreign Services is one such route through which you can start your career in this field. To pursue this line, you have to qualify and secure a good rank in the Civil Services Exam. Counted amongst the toughest exams in the world, Civil Services is a national level test conducted by the Union Public Service Commission(UPSC) to recruit candidates for various central government posts. Getting selected in IFS offers an opportunity to perform many tasks and special services related to the external affairs of the country both in India and abroad. From working at embassies and renowned organizations like the UN, the officers also get to handle various tasks abroad or at the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs). Since the officers will be representing India on international platforms, it will be important to work with the utmost sincerity and intelligence after getting selected. To appear for the examination, the candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree in any field from a government recognized university, must be between 21-30 years of age, and should be a citizen of India. This blog will help you understand the IFS exam syllabus in detail. 


The preliminary exam consists of two papers namely, Paper-1 and Paper-2 of 200 marks each. While the paper-2 is qualifying in nature with 33% as minimum marks, the applicants have to clear the cut-off for the Paper-1. The IFS exam syllabus for this stage has been tabulated below: 

Papers  Syllabus  Duration  Marks 
Paper I Indian National Movements, History of India, National and International current events, Indian Polity and Constitution, Panchayati Raj, Political System, Indian and World Geography including the social, physical, economic geography of India, Economic and Social Development, Poverty, Demographics, National level issues regarding Bio-Diversity and Climate Change, General Science   2 hours  200
Paper II Intrapersonal skills including communication skills, analytical abilities and logical reasoning, problem-solving and decision making, comprehension, general mental abilities, basic numeracy  and data interpretation (up to class 10th) 2 hours  200

IFS Exam Syllabus: Mains

Considered the most difficult stage of the exam, the mains consist of 9 papers that assess the candidate’s knowledge on a multitude of topics. Out of 9, two papers are qualifying in nature while marks of the rest are added to compute the result. Given below are the details of the papers and the IFS exam syllabus of this level in detail: 

Qualifying Papers

Paper A- Modern Language 

This paper under the IFS exam syllabus is of 300 marks. Although marks obtained in this will not be counted in the final merit but qualifying the paper is mandatory.

  • Precise writing 
  • Short Essay 
  • Comprehension passages
  • Translation from English to the Indian language and Vice Versa

Paper B- English

The total marks of this paper are 300 Marks and the aim is to gauge the English language skills of the candidates and how well they can express their ideas in the same. The marks of this component of the IFS exam syllabus will not be counted but passing it is compulsory.

  • Precise writing
  • Use of Vocabulary
  • Short Essay
  • Comprehension Passages

Papers of Which Marks are Counted

Apart from the above-mentioned papers, there are 7 other papers, the syllabus of which examines the candidate’s knowledge on an array of topics. Carrying 250 marks each, the below-mentioned papers have to be completed within 3 hours, the marks of which are added to the final list: 

Paper 1- Essay 

Candidates have to write a descriptive essay from a given list of topics in this paper of the IFS exam syllabus. 

  • There will be a specific topic for the essay
  • The choice of subject will be given
  • Marking would be on the basis of exact and effective expression 

Paper-2 (General Studies-I)

History and Geography of the World and Society and Indian Heritage and Culture constitute an important part of the IFS exam syllabus. Questions from the below-mentioned topics are asked in detail in this paper: 

  • Salient features of Art Forms, Architecture, and Literature from modern and ancient times
  • Various struggle stages from Freedom Struggle along with its important contributor
  • Modern history from the eighteenth century till present 
  • Diversity of India along with the Salient Features of Indian Society 
  • Effect of globalization on Indian Society  
  • Reorganization within the country and Post-Independence consolidation
  • In the history of the world, there will topics like the Industrial Revolution, World wars, Colonization, Political Philosophies, etc
  • Poverty and developmental issues, population, urbanization, and condition of women
  • Notable features of world’s physical geography 
  • Globalization, Communalism, Secularism and Regionalism 

Paper-3 (General Studies-II) 

With a focus on Constitution, Governance, Social Justice and International Relation, this paper examines the applicants knowledge on the following pointers of the IFS exam syllabus: 

  • Features,  Amendments, evolutions related to Indian Constitution 
  • Separation of powers between different organs of the Indian Government
  • Organization, Structure and functioning judiciary and the executive ministries of the government
  • Government’s policies and intervention for the development in several sectors along with their implementation
  • Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act
  • India’s relation withy democracy 
  • Development and management related to the social sector involving health, human resources, education
  • Comparison of Indian Constitution with other countries 

Paper-4 (General Studies-III)

The primary objective of this paper is to test the candidate’s knowledge of areas like Economic Development, Technology, Bio-Diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management. Below mentioned are some of the topics forming the part of the IFS exam syllabus:

  • Issues related to Indian Economy, growth, development, employment, and planning.
  • Biodiversity, Environment, Security, Disaster Management and Development.
  • Government Budgeting 
  • Indian Land Reforms
  • Different types of cropping patterns, irrigation, marketing and transportation related to agricultural produce.
  • Changes in the industrial policies, Effects of Liberalization and its effect on industrial growth.
  • Different types of disaster and its management  
  • Life achievement of the Indians in science and technology; development of new technology and indigenization of technology. 
  • Significant developments and applications in the field of science and technology. 
  • The security forces and agencies along with their authorization

Paper-5 (General Studies-IV)

A civil servant is expected to have integrity, ethics, and aptitude and through this component of the IFS exam syllabus, the candidate’s work-related ethics are tested. The candidates have to write answers based on various case studies. Listed below are the areas where you will be required to place emphasis on: 

  • Determinant, Essence and Consequences of the Ethics in human actions as well as several dimensions of ethics. 
  • Human Values- great lessons from the lives of the leaders, administrators, and reformers; the role of family along with the educational institutions.
  • Foundational values and aptitude for Civil Services, impartiality, and non-partisanship, dedication to public service and empathy.
  • Emotional Intelligence concept and its application governance and administration. 
  • Contribution of philosophers and thinkers from India and around the world.
  • Probity in Governance: Philosophical Basis of Probity and governance, Right to information.  

Paper 6 & 7 (Optional Subjects – I & II)

Another important component of the IFS exam syllabus is the optional subjects. With the syllabus bifurcated into two papers of 250 Marks each, the candidates appearing for the exam can opt for one optional from the list of subjects tabulated below: 

Economics  Chemistry
Indian History  Forestry 
Anthropology  Law 
Public Administration Arabic 
Philosophy  Mathematics 
Civil Engineering Political Science 
Geology  Mechanical Engineering
Management  Sociology 
Political Science  Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science 
Mechanical Engineering Statistics 
Chemical Engineering Commerce& Accountancy  
Agricultural Engineering  Medical Science  
Psychology  Physics 

Personal Interview

The interview for IFS is the final stage of the IFS selection procedure. The candidate who clears the written examination will be called for an interview by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

The interview or the personality test will carry 300 marks. It is a comprehensive evaluation of the candidates, who have cleared the written exam.

The interview will be conducted by a board of competent and unbiased observers who will have before them a record of his/her career.

The technique of assessing personality has been evolving and has become more objective over the years. Today, most organizations have adopted scientific methods in selection and training by using psychological tests or interviews based on projective techniques, all aimed at discovering inner drives and motives of an individual.

The Interview Test aims at a comprehensive assessment of the personal qualities of a candidate. The candidate’s alertness, critical powers of assimilation, clear and logical exposition, balance of judgment, variety and depth of interest, ability for social cohesion and leadership, intellectual and moral integrity, and other qualities make up his/her personality. These aspects will be examined by the Board with special reference to following factors:

(a) Mental alertness

(b) Critical powers of assimilation

(c) Clear and logical exposition

(d) Balance of judgment

(e) Variety and depth of interest

(f) Ability for social cohesion and leadership

(g) Intellectual and moral integrity

The technique adopted in assessing candidates is that of a natural conversation that is intended to reveal the mental qualities of the candidate.

Also Read: Government exams after 12th Science

Hopefully, with this blog, you are now aware of the topics that constitute an important part of the IFS exam syllabus. If you are preparing for competitive exams like this but are not sure about how to get started with it then the experts at Leverage Edu will provide you with the best guidance and will assist in creating a plan that covers your weaknesses and strengths comprehensively. Further, if you are planning to pursue International Relations courses from universities abroad then the counselors will also help you select the best institute using our AI-enabled tool. 

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