How Difficult is Cracking the UPSC Exam

How Difficult is Cracking the UPSC Exam?


The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam is considered one of the toughest and most competitive exams globally, with a success rate of under 1%. Yet every year, over 10 lakh candidates apply to become civil servants in India. What makes cracking the UPSC exam so challenging? In this post, we analyze UPSC’s own data on attempt patterns and success rates to gain perspective.

Exam Participation Statistics

UPSC has released data tracking the number of registrations, exam appearances, and final selections from 2013-2022. Some key observations:

  • Registrations increased from 7.76 lakhs in 2013 to 11.52 lakhs in 2022, showing rising aspirations.
  • However, nearly 50% registered candidates do not appear for prelims, indicating preparedness issues.
  • Only 2-3% of prelims takers clear mains – the toughest filtering stage.
  • Yet, the success rate keeps rising after mains – about 19.4% make it interviews and 36% of interviewees get selected.

UPSC how unpredictable

So while over 10 lakh aspirants sign up attracted by the civil services, the actual exam takers stand at around 5 lakhs due to filtration in desire versus preparedness. Out of those serious attempts, only around 23%, or 0.57 lakhs finally get selected after prelims, mains and interview.

Best Attempt Analysis

UPSC allows 6 attempts for general category with upper age limit of 32 years. The data on best success rate indicates:

  • Only 10.8% first-timers clear the exam.
  • Second and third attempts progressively improve success rates, peaking at 24.1% for third attempt.
  • Subsequently it declines with diminishing returns beyond fourth attempt.

This shows three solid attempts is key to succeed after accounting for a learning curve. Persistence pays as continuous preparation leading to peak performance in third attempt reaps highest dividends.

Strategic Approach is Key Since success rate drops after multiple attempts, serious aspirants must introspect and reconsider preparation strategies before each attempt rather than repeating same process expecting different results.

The first three attempts should focus on learning with an evolving strategic approach towards succeeding in third attempt, rather than as standalone repetitions.

Final Thoughts

Clearing UPSC requires perseverance, evolving strategy and timed peak performance. Rather than being daunted by low selection rates, the rise from first to third attempt marks the realistic possibility of entering civil services for targeted aspirants systematically improving performance. An integrated and stage-specific strategic preparation leading to peak readiness by third attempt is key to maximize odds of getting selected.

The post tries to be insightful based on UPSC’s data to provide perspective to serious aspirants on the difficulty level and attempt patterns for the exam. Please share your feedback to enhance coverage of this important topic.

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