Indian Foreign Service – Coveting the job and Training for it

The members of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) represent the country in global field. This service is deals with negotiation, trade and cultural relations of nation with others. One of the prime goals of the service is to frame foreign policies and supervision of Indian missions overseas.


The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is one of the most celebrated services in the country and only a small amount of people get a chance to enter it. Those who wish to be a part of this service and become a career diplomat need to clear the Civil Services Examination (CSE) first. After selection, candidates go through an arduous training period through which they are taught various aspects of diplomacy.

Selection Procedure: Steps that go into selecting IFS officers-
The officials of the IFS are selected by the Union Public Service Commission through a three-stage combined selection process called the Civil Services Examination, known for being extremely challenging, that recruits officers for other Group A services and Group B services

The Indian Foreign Service Examination consists of two successive stages:
1. Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination (Consisting of two objective type papers) GS paper-I & GS paper-II known as CSAT for the selection of candidates for the Indian Foreign Service (Main) Examination.
2. Main Exam -a written test and than an Interview.

Preparation strategy

  • Become familiar with the syllabus:Read over the topics on the syllabus for each part of the preliminary exam, Start with NCERT Textbooks Topic wise
  • Understand the nature of the exam:Each year 5-10 lakh aspirants register and sit for the exam. Less than 1% of the number of aspirants is chosen for the Civil Services.
  • Start your test preparation early:Check the current year’s schedule for the dates of the preliminary exams. Several months of preparation should be done to ensure that you are ready for the variety of questions that may be asked.
  • Choose optional subject judiciously:You will need to become thoroughly knowledgeable about your optional subject choose you’re optional for which you have passion and familiarity. Begin studying early, and continue to keep up with in order through the end of the mains and interview.
  • Read the newspaper every day:Stay informed about current events from the local to the global stage. Focus on the economic and political sections.
  • Review previous years’ question papers:Read over questions from old tests and familiarize yourself with the types of questions being asked. The content and distribution of questions will change from year to year, but the general format remains largely the same.

Syllabus for General Studies Paper I: (200 marks) Duration: Two hours (Counted for the merit rank in the Prelims) History of India and Indian National Movement, Indian and World Geography, Indian Polity and Governance, Economic and Social Development, Environmental Ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change, General Science, and General Knowledge and Current Events.

UPSC Syllabus for Paper II: (200 marks) Duration: Two hours (Not counted for the merit rank in Prelims but a qualifying Paper, you just needs to score 33% of the marks)

  • 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)

Getting Ready for the Mains Exam

The syllabus of Main examination of Union public service commission is designed to test a candidate’s academic expertise and ability to present his/her knowledge in a consistent manner.

How to prepare for Mains?

Preparation for mains is preferably done as an integrated process, wherein you prepare for both prelims and mains in tandem. The syllabus for both is similar. If one prepares for mains, they can easily tackle the GS paper of prelims.


Subsequently you need to collect your books.

Never skip the NCERTs because you don’t know what important topic or point you might miss. Read NCERTs of class 6th-12th        

  1. History of Modern India – Bipan Chandra (History)
  2. Modern India –B.L Grover
  3. India’s Ancient Past – R.S. Sharma (History)
  4. History of Medieval India – Satish Chandra (History)
  5. Indian Art and Culture – Nitin Singhania (Culture)
  6. Geography of India – Majid Husain (Geography)
  7. Certificate Physical and Human Geography – Goh Cheng Leong or GC Leong (Geography)
  8. Indian Polity for Civil Services Examinations – M. Laxmikanth (Polity)
  9. Indian Economy – Ramesh Singh (Economy)
  10. Economic Survey (Govt. of India)
  11. Science and Technology in India – TMH (Science and Technology)
  12. Environment for Civil Services Prelims and Mains – Khuller & Shankar (Environment)
  13. India Year Book (Current Affairs)

14          Budget Document of Ministry of Finance

15          Three years Action Agenda of NITI Ayog

 Interview: In this stage, candidate will be interviewed by a Board. He/she will be asked questions on matters of general interest. The object of the interview is to assess the personal suitability of the candidate for a career in public service.

Follow the following guidelines in interview:

  • Good First Impression
  • Be a Good Listener
  • Communicate Effectively
  • Ask for a clarification (If an interviewer has asked a question which you could not hear properly, it is better that you ask gently to the interviewer to repeat his question again)
  • Discuss but don’t argue
  • Admit Your Mistake
  • Be Polite
  • Create Good Last Impression

Training for 

Once the aspirants get selected into the Indian Foreign Service through the combined Civil Services examination, then the new entrants go through a multi-faceted and training programme projected to give them an organized training in diplomatic perceptive, diplomatic behavior and diplomatic proficiency.Training to diplomats is provided for 2 years at a fanatical well equipped Institute. It is comprehensive, covering areas related to diplomacy today. Basic knowledge about country, its government and governance, its political and economical affairs, history, Art culture and others. A district assignment gives a firsthand exposure to realities at grass roots level. Programme at the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) provides training in foreign trade and international business. There are modules on contemporary international relations topics, diplomatic practice, interactions, direction, and study tours abroad. It includes compulsory study of one foreign language. The probationers begin their training, together with their colleagues from the other All India Services like IAS, at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LABSNA)Mussourie. The last stage of Institutional training to probationers is provided in the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi, and here they  go through focused training  in the a variety of disciplines that a diplomat needs to familiarize himself with.

Career in Indian Foreign Service

A Foreign Service Officer starts his career overseas as a 3rdSecretary and is promoted to 2ndSecretary as soon as he is established in service. Successive promotions are to the levels of 1stSecretary, Counselor, Minister and Ambassador/High Commissioner/Permanent Representative. Officers can also be posted to Indian Consulates in a foreign country where the pecking order (going upwards) is Vice-Consul, Consul and Consul General.

The pecking order at the Ministry of External Affairs (MoEF): Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Director, Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary and Secretary.

Role & Responsibility that form Indian Foreign Service

  • Represents country in its Embassies, High Commissions, Consulates, and Permanent Missions to multiparty organizations like UN.
  • Defending country’s state-run interests in the country of his/her posting.
  • Promoting cordial relations with the host country as also its people, including NRI / PIOs.
  • Reporting correctly on developments in the country of deployment which are likely to influence the formulation of India’s policies.
  • Special consideration and negotiation on various issues with the authorities of the receiving state.


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