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Posted at: Oct 9, 2019, 9:02 AM; last updated: Oct 9, 2019, 9:06 AM (IST)INDIAN ENGINEERING SERVICES EXAM

Engineer your way to the top

Gauri Chhabra

Government jobs in engineering are the most sought after today. And the road to them can be an arduous  one given the stiff competition. The top of the league exams for these jobs in India is the Indian Engineering Services Exam(IES).

Indian Engineering Services (IES) exam, also known as Engineering Services Examination (ESE), is a national- level recruitment exam organised by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC). The Engineering Services Examination is conducted for four main branches of engineering namely;

  • Civil Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering
Engineering officers for the Government of India are selected on the basis of the combined three-stage recruitment process — IES Preliminary, IES Main and Personality Test. On the basis of merit of candidates in the IES exam, they are recommended to the Union Government for the available posts. The nature of work for an engineering officer selected through the IES exam depends on the engineering branch and the cadre s/he is recruited for.

Who can apply

To be eligible to appear for the IES exam, a candidate must be either:

  • a citizen of India, or
  • a subject of Bhutan, or
  • a subject of Nepal, or 
  • a Tibetan refugee migrated to India before January 01, 1962 with the intention to settle permanently in India
  • A person of Indian origin who migrated from Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka or East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Ethiopia or from Vietnam with the intention of permanently setting in India.
  • The lower age limit for UPSC IES exam is 21 years and the upper age limit is 30 years. For those who have served in any government organisation there is an age relaxation of 5 years in the upper age limit. Also, SC, ST, OBC, PWD, Ex-servicemen and Jammu and Kashmir domiciled candidates receive an age relaxation of 5 years. There is no limit to the number of times you can take the exam.
IES educational qualification criteria as defined for the UPSC requires the applicant to have cleared one of the following criteria:

  • must possess a degree in engineering from a recognised institute with the minimum percentage required.
  • should have cleared sections A and B from the Institutions of Engineers (India).
  • obtained a degree/diploma in Engineering from such foreign University/ College/ Institution and the certificate is valued as equivalent to the degree received in India.
  • passed Graduate Membership Examination of the Institution of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers (India).
  • passed Associate Membership Examination Parts II and III/Sections A and B of the Aeronautical Society of India.
  • passed Graduate Membership Examination of the Institution of Electronics and Radio Engineers, London held after November 1959.

Pattern and Marking

The exam is conducted in offline mode in 3 stages- Preliminary, Main and Personal Interview carrying 1300 marks.

Stage I:  Stage I is a preliminary stage that is a pen and paper-based test. There are two papers in the prelims exam that have multiple-choice questions and will be conducted in different sessions.You would be provided OMR sheets for both the papers, wherein the correct answer needs to be coloured. Paper 1, of 2 hours duration tests General Studies & Engineering Aptitude has 100 questions of 200 marks. 

Paper 2, of 3 hours duration, tests Engineering discipline and has 150 questions carrying 300 marks. 

As far as marking is concerned, you will lose one-third mark for each incorrect answer in Prelims which is a qualifying exam for appearing in the Mains.

Stage II: IES Main Exam is conducted in offline mode i.e. it is a written examination. It has two descriptive papers of 300 marks each, with no negative marking. Both the papers will have questions from the opted engineering discipline (Civil Engineering/Mechanical Engineering/Electrical/Electronics & Telecommunication Engineering). There will be 8 questions as an option, out of which you will have to attempt 5 questions. Up to 5 per cent marks may be deducted in case of illegible handwriting. Credit will be given for exact, to the point answer.

Stage III: The final stage is the personal interview stage. Only candidates qualifying the written exams are called for the interview round which is of 200 marks. It tests skills like physical and mental alertness, leadership, intellectual curiosity besides an interest in current affairs.

To clear the prelims stage it is necessary to get at least 15 per cent marks in each paper, i.e., 30 marks and 45 marks respectively. 

The shortlisting ratio for Mains Examination is considerably higher depending on the vacancies and is generally around 1:6-7 i.e. 6-7 persons are shortlisted for 1 post. The minimum cut off marks to clear the Mains stage is 20 per cent in each paper, i.e., one needs to score at least 60 marks in each of the papers to be eligible for the Interview stage.

The calling ratio for personal interview is generally 1:2.5 i.e. not more than 3 candidates will be called for filling up 1 post.

Preparation strategy

The preliminary exam covers topics like logical  reasoning and analytical ability, engineering mathematics and numerical analysis, general  principles  of  design, drawing, importance of safety, standards and quality practices in production, construction, maintenance, and services,

Furthermore, you also need to be thorough with the basics of Energy and Environment: conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation, climate change, environmental impact assessment, project management, material science and engineering, information and communication technologies  (ICT) based  tools and their applications in Engineering  such as networking, e-governance and technology-based education, ethics and values in Engineering profession.  


If you are currently pursuing your BTech, then you have sufficient time, so I will advise you to read directly from standard textbooks and NPTEL. Discuss doubts with college faculties and friends. Please make use of your college time and get serious about your career goals from this point otherwise it might take you some extra years to achieve it.

If you have completed your graduation and don’t have clarity about the basics, then it is strongly advised to join a coaching institute or solve previous years’ papers. While preparing any subject or making notes of any subject you must keep in mind that you need to prepare the subject from both points of view i.e., objective as well as conventional. Try answering questions to depth, marks will not be allotted for mere superficial knowledge.

Where would you work?

After the final selection, you would be  posted in various Ministries and Departments of GOI such as Railways, Telecom, Border Roads, CPWD, CWC, CPES, NHAI, Naval Armaments, IDSE, MES, Ordnance Factories, etc., however can move to any cadre, organisation, agency, department, ministry or PSU of the Government of India. All these final selected candidates are designated as class-1 officers or class-II officers.

Important IES Exam Dates 2020

Events                Exam Dates
Notification        Sep 25, 2019
Applications         Sep 25 - Oct 15, 2019
Preliminary exam January 5, 2020
Main exam         June 28, 2020


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