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Indian Foreign Service Exam

A central service of Government of India, the Indian Foreign Service is a premier diplomatic service of the nation dealing with external affairs with foreign countries, trade relations and much more. IFS is directly responsible for the administration and activities of the Indian Government with countries abroad and also plays a role in framing the country’s foreign policy.

An IFS officer has the scope of getting placed in 160 Indian embassies across the globe. IFS officers are deputed to recognized institutions like United Nations, UNESCO, World Bank, SAARC and so on. If working within the country, IFS officers are usually placed in passport offices and visa centers.

The full form of IFS exam is Indian Foreign Service (IFS) Exam, conducted by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Those who qualify IFS exam are offered jobs under Indian Ministry of Forest and Environment Sciences.

IFS exam is counted as one of the all India Civil Service exam conducted by UPSC. The others are Indian Administrative exam (IAS) and Indian Police Service exam (IPS).

The limited opening standing in IFS every year is backed by huge number of applications. This makes the IFS exam tough and rigid in nature.

After clearing the IFS exam, IFS officers are stipulated training and thereafter designated with significant roles.

The IFS recruitment and training period is longest and takes almost 36-months (3 years) approximately. Right after clearing the IFS exam, the first training is usually scheduled at Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Academy of Administration in Mussoori. This follows to the next training session in Delhi. At the end, every IFS officer has to undergo compulsory foreign language (CFL) training.

The first posting of IFS officers happens in the  Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi, in an  Indian Diplomatic Mission abroad in the language applicants have taken the compulsory foreign language training.The Indian mission further trains the IFS applicants in the language and then gives exams to show his/her proficiency in the language.

Considering all the perks and allowances, the salary package of a junior IFS officer ranges around Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 70,000 per month (approximately).

The open entrance IFS exam is conducted by UPSC in the month of July/August. The exact date of IFS exam is confirmed by UPSC around March-April every year through their official website/employment newspapers.

Students belonging to SC/ST/PH category and female candidates do not need to pay fees for appearing in IFS exam.

The fees for General category students of IFS exam is Rs.100 INR. This can be paid by depositing in any State Bank of India (SBI) branch or by cash or by online banking facility of SBI or SBI associates banks.

The age limit for appearing for IFS exam is 21-32 years.

Only graduates or students with equivalent qualification can apply for the IFS exam.

As declared in 2015, the number of reattempts for IFS exam is 6 times for General category students, 9 times for OBC applicants and unlimited for SC/ST applicants.

Alike other UPSC exams, the IFS is also conducted in two stages namely:

a) Prelims

b) Mains exam

Paper I - General English (300 marks)

Paper II - General Knowledge (300 marks)

Paper III, IV, V & VI – Any two subjects to be selected from the list of optional subjects set out below. Each subject will have two papers. (200 marks each)

List of optional subjects for IFS exam(Subject to provisions below):

  • Agriculture
  • Agricultural Engineering
  • Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science
  • Botany
  • Chemistry
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Forestry
  • Geology
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physics
  • Statistics
  • Zoology

Provided that the candidates will not be allowed to offer the following combination of subjects:

  • Agricultural and Agricultural Engineering
  • Agricultural and Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science
  • Chemistry and Chemical Engg.
  • Mathematics and Statistics.
  • Engineering subjects (Agricultural Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering)

IFS Syllabus

The syllabus for UPSC IFS exam is exactly alike IAS, IPS or any other exam of UPSC. However for clear understanding here is explaining the syllabus and question pattern of IFS exam :

The IFS exam is conducted in three stages:

a) IFS Prelims

b) IFS Mains

c) IFS Interview

IFS/Civil Service Prelims

The Preliminary Examination for Civil Services is also referred to as CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test.

Paper Description Marks Time Type of questions
Paper I General Studies – This paper is considered for qualifying to write the Civil Services Mains exam. 200 Marks 2 Hours Objective type questions/ Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
Paper II (CSAT) Aptitude test – This paper is of qualifying nature, but candidate must score at least 33% marks in this paper. However, marks of this paper are not counted for writing the Mains examination. 200 Marks 2 Hours Objective type questions/Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)

The Prelims exam includes ‘negative marking’. For each wrong answers 1/3 marks of the allotted question is deducted from the total score. This makes the UPSC IFS exam more difficult in nature.

Topics : IFS Preliminary Exams for Paper-I:

  • Current events of national and international importance.
  • History of India and 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
  • General Science

Topics : IFS Preliminary Exams for Paper-II:

  • 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), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)

IFS/ Civil Service Mains Exam

All papers of the mains exam are descriptive in nature. There are in total 7+2 = 9 papers in the mains exam.

There are two qualifying papers whose marks are not added to the cumulative score a student bags; yet they have to mandatorily clear each of the paper. The two papers are 1) any modern Indian language and 2) English, each of 300 marks.

 For the modern Indian language paper, students can pick from the following:

Language Script to use
Oriya Oriya
Nepali Devanagari
Sindhi Arabic or Devanagari
Sanskrit Devanagari
Manipuri Bengali
Telugu Telugu
Punjabi Gurumukhi
Bodo Devanagari
Gujarati Gujarati
Konkani Devanagari
Malayalam Malayalam
Marathi Devanagari
Tamil Tamil
Santali Olchiki or Devanagari
Urdu Persian
Bengali Bengali
Dogri Devanagari
Hindi Devanagari
Kashmiri Persian
Maithili Devanagari
Kannada Kanada
Assamese Assamese

The question pattern of Indian Language Paper are as follows: 

  • Comprehensive type of questions related to the Given Passage
  • Short Essay
  • Vocabulary & Usage
  • Precise Writing (making a summary)
  • Translation from English to the Selected Indian Language and vice versa

The question pattern of English Paper are as follows:

  • Comprehensive type of questions related to the given passage
  • Short Essay
  • Vocabulary & Usage
  • Precise Writing (like making a summary)
  •  With the introduction of new syllabus, in each Civil Service exam conducted by UPSC (including IFS) there are 4 General studies paper of 250 marks each. The syllabus level for General studies is upto degree level.

The table below explains the 9 mains exam paper of any civil service exam (including IFS):

Paper Subject Marks Time Duration
Paper A Indian Languages 300 3 Hours
Paper B English 300 3 Hours
Paper I Essay 250 3 Hours
Paper II General Studies I 250 3 Hours
Paper III General Studies II 250 3 Hours
Paper IV General Studies III 250 3 Hours
Paper V General Studies IV 250 3 Hours
Paper VI Optional Subject (Paper I) 250 3 Hours
Paper VII Optional Subject (Paper II) 250 3 Hours

For detailed syllabus of Civil Service Exams click here.

The total score of IFS Mains exam is 1750.

For the interview, the score is 275.

The grand score of IFS exam is 2025.

For detailed syllabus of Civil Service Exam click here.

Eligibility Criteria for IFS exam


A candidate must be either:-

(a) A citizen of India, or

(b) a subject of Nepal, or

(c) a subject of Bhutan, or

(d) a Tibetan refugee who came over to India before 1st January, 1962 with the intention of permanently settling in India.


(e) a person of Indian origin (PIO) who has migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Srilanka, East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia and Vietnam with the intention of permanently settling in India. Provided that a candidate belonging to categories (b), (c), (d) and (e) shall be a person in whose favour a certificate of eligibility has been issued by the Government of India.

Academic Qualification for IFS exam

The candidate must hold a Bachelor’s degree with at least one of the subjects following:

Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Science, Botany, Chemistry, Geology, Mathematics, Physics, Statistics and Zoology or a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture, Forestry or in Engineering of any of Universities incorporated by an Act of the Central or State Legislature in India or possessing an equivalent qualification.

Age limit for IFS exam 

Candidate must have attained the age of 21 years and must not have attained the age of 32 years.

Up to a maximum of five years if a candidate belongs to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe.

Up to a maximum of three years in the case of candidates belonging to OBC class who are eligible to avail of reservation applicable to such candidates.

Tips for IFS exam

The wish to see your name on the UPSC final list is a dream and to make it true, IFS exam aspirants can note the following tips. They are easy to do and should be followed from the very initial stage of IFS exam preparation:

a) While study materials and notes are available in plenty for IFS exam preparation, students should not miss the elementary NCERT series.

b) A coaching/ mentor is important for strategic preparation of IFS exam. If you are still confident take up the mock tests to review the standard of your IFS exam preparation.

c) Reading newspaper adds to ones IFS exam preparation. This should not happen one fine morning, but its a gradual practice that should be nurtured.

d) As the IPS exam preparation is vast a

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