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Indian Foreign Service Exam

The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is one of the most prestigious careers in India. Lakhs of candidates appear for the exam every year out of which a very small fraction makes it to the IFS. It is a part of the Central Civil Services under the Government of India. IFS is a foreign diplomatic services under the Foreign Secretary of India. IFS was created in October 1946, by the Government of India, but originally introduced under the British Raj. IFS officers are recruited on the recommendations of the Union Public Service Commission. The High Commissioner, Ambassador, Consul General and Foreign Secretary, are some of the offices held by IFS officers.

Indian Foreign Service Officers

Image credit: sites.tufts.edu

IFS Eligibility

  • Must be a citizen of India
  • Should be between 21 – 32 years of age as on 1 August of each calendar year. For General Category maximum age limit is 32 years, OBCs up to 35 years and SC/STs up to 37 years.
  • Should be a graduate or equivalent degree from a recognized university in India.
  • A maximum of 6 attempts are allowed for GN, up to 9 for OBCs and unlimited number of attempts for SC/ST.

Exam Pattern

All IFS applicants need to appear for the Civil Services Exam – Prelims, Mains and Personality Test.

Prelims

The Civil Services Aptitude Test (Prelims) has objective type questions and carries a negative marking of 1/3 for each wrong answer. It consists of two papers of 200 marks for each paper. The Prelims is basically a screening test and its performance is not taken into consideration for ranking in the final selection. The Paper I tests a candidate’s knowledge of current affairs and general awareness, whereas the Paper II is more analytical in nature.

Mains

The Mains is the 2nd stage of the Civil Services Exam. It is designed to test the academic intelligence of a candidate and to gauge his ability to express critical thoughts clearly in written format. The Mains exam check the overall mental sharpness, ability to cope with situations and decision making capacity, of a candidate.

The nature of exam is of descriptive type with a total of 9 papers. Out of the 9 papers, two papers are of qualifying nature – 1) Modern Indian Language and 2) English (each of the qualifying papers are of 300 marks each). Under the new Civil Services Exam pattern, the Mains consist of two General Studies papers each carrying a total of 300 marks, making a total of 600 marks. Candidates are given the option to choose One Optional paper, which consists of two papers each carrying a total of 300 marks. The difficulty level of the Optional paper is higher than degree level and lower than the master’s level. There is also an Essay paper of 200 marks.

The final round is the Personality Test which tests a candidate’s personality whether he is suitable for a public office. Social cohesion, ability to analyze a situation critically, mental alertness, balance of judgement, and moral integrity, are key requisite skills in an Indian Foreign Service officer. The Interview carries a total of 300 marks.

Roles and responsibilities of IFS officers

The Indian Foreign Service officer is an Indian diplomat who needs to project India’s interests, within the country and abroad on a range of issues including bilateral & economic cooperation, trade & investment, press & media liaison, building cultural ties and a host of multilateral issues.

Following are the major roles & functions of IFS officers:

  • Representing India in its Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates, and Permanent Missions to multilateral organizations like UN
  • Protecting India’s national interests in the country of his/her posting
  • Promoting friendly relations with the receiving state as also its people, including NRI / PIOs
  • Reporting accurately on developments in the country of posting which are likely to influence the formulation of India’s policies
  • Negotiating agreements on various issues with the authorities of the receiving state and
  • Extending consular facilities to foreigners and Indian nationals abroad
  • At home: Ministry of External Affairs is responsible for all aspects of external relations. Territorial divisions deal with bilateral political and economic work while functional divisions look after policy planning, multilateral organizations, regional groupings, legal matters, disarmament, protocol, consular, Indian Diaspora, press and publicity, administration and other aspects

IFS Selection Procedures

Best of the best talents compete for this extremely tough exam, so becoming an IFS officer is not a piece of cake. Candidates need to appear for Civil Services Exam which has three phases – Prelims, Mains and an Interview. The competitive exam for aspiring IFS candidates are same as to that of IAS and IPS.

The selection duration of IFS officer is pretty long, from the time of appearing for the Prelims exam till the end of selection process, it takes almost 12 months. The total number of selected IFS officers ranges around 0 – 20 every year. The sure success rate of becoming an IFS is very low, even when you clear the Civil Services exam. At present, a total of 800 IFS officers are posted around the world and in various Indian missions and few are placed in the Ministry of External Affairs at home.

IFS Training

Applicants who have successfully cleared the written round and face-to-face interview, will be hired and trained at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. Once training is completed in Mussoorie, the Probationers are sent to the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi for more training. The total training period is around 36 months during which probationers will require to travel within India and abroad.

After completion of training, probationers will be assigned a Compulsory Foreign Language (CFL). The probationers basically will be stationed under the Ministry of External Affairs for a short period then will be posted at a foreign country where the probationer’s CFL is the native language. All the probationers have to pass an exam on their selected CFL to continue to work as an Indian Foreign Service Officer.

Indian Foreign Service Designations & Rankings

Following are the designations & rankings of the IFS officers in the ascending order:

At an Embassy

  1. Third Secretary (entry level)
  2. Second Secretary (promotion upon being confirmed in service)
  3. First Secretary
  4. Counsellor
  5. Minister
  6. Deputy Chief of Mission/Deputy High Commissioner/Deputy Permanent Representative
  7. Ambassador/High Commissioner/Permanent Representative

At the Ministry of External Affairs

  1. Under Secretary
  2. Deputy Secretary
  3. Director
  4. Joint Secretary
  5. Additional Secretary
  6. Secretary
  7. Foreign Secretary of India

Indian Foreign Service Salary Range

Grade Pay scales   Designation in Field Designation in Headquarters
Junior time scale 8000-275-13500 Attaché / Third secretary Under secretary
Senior time scale 10650-325-15850 Second / First secretary Under secretary
Junior administrative grade 12000-375-16500 First secretary Deputy secretary
Selection grade IV 14300-400-18300 Director Counselor Director
Senior administrative grade 18400-500-22400 Minister/DCM Ambassador Joint secretary
22400-525-24500 Ambassador/high Commissioner Additional secretary
26000 (fixed) Ambassador/High Commissioner Secretary

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Comments

Share your thoughts with the community or ask a question

Chhaya 04/07/2018

Sir/ma'am i want to ask that whether we have to learn a foreign language from the beginning i.e during our preparation period or the language will be provided to us after we clear the main exam i.e during the training period??

Mithun 09/07/2017

Unlimited for SC/ST and only 6 attempts for GN! What kind of unfair system is this?

Samuel | 20/01/2018

Sir, it seems that you are GN but education has reached the ST/SC only after the late 19th Century when Rabindranath Tagore was known by the whole world. In the 90s the ST/SC were still living in caves. The starting point of a GN and ST/SC varies tremendously which is why when the Constitution was amended for the first time Dr BR Ambedkar, a Dalit OBC recommend the reservation for...  more»
Sir, it seems that you are GN but education has reached the ST/SC only after the late 19th Century when Rabindranath Tagore was known by the whole world. In the 90s the ST/SC were still living in caves. The starting point of a GN and ST/SC varies tremendously which is why when the Constitution was amended for the first time Dr BR Ambedkar, a Dalit OBC recommend the reservation for the less prestigious citizens of India «less
0 0

Arvind | 08/03/2018

Yes I agree for your explanation sir, but is the situation same currently. No now we have been matured and all of us have equal opportunities we respect each other and v recognise that all of us are humans but this is unfair as Mr. Mithun mentioned. There is Justice in equality, earlier it was true that people made castes and they were cruel at people who belong to lower caste...  more»

Yes I agree for your explanation sir, but is the situation same currently. No now we have been matured and all of us have equal opportunities we respect each other and v recognise that all of us are humans but this is unfair as Mr. Mithun mentioned. There is Justice in equality, earlier it was true that people made castes and they were cruel at people who belong to lower caste (as per their view).

«less
0 0

Vamshi 15/02/2017

What are the Books To be Refer for the Examination? And How much will be the Time span since the last conducted examination?

Geeta 08/11/2016

Is IAS and IFS have Prelims as the first step of the exam?

Geeta 08/11/2016

How to prepare for Indian Foreign Services Exam for Prelims?

Purvi | 26/02/2017

Read Hindu mainly international and editorial.
1 0

Preeti 26/08/2016

what is the strategy to prepare for Indian Foreign Services Exam Prelims and Mains??

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