How To Become An IPS Officer

Joining the Indian Police Service as an IPS officer is the dream of many Indian youngsters. Here's all your teen needs to know about how to become an IPS officer by clearing the Civil Services Exam.

By Susan Philip  • 19 min read

How To Become An IPS Officer

An elite branch of the All India Civil Services, officers of the Indian Police Service (IPS) help the governments enforce law and order and emergency management.

However, the IPS is not a police force on its own. Rather, it is a pool of specially-trained officials from which senior officers are recruited for various arms of the police force at the Central, State and, at times, international levels.

With a challenging role to play by keeping crime rates low through law enforcement, an IPS officer is looked upon as someone who is smart and capable, with the power to make a difference. Little wonder that an IPS officer's job is a coveted position.

A brief history of the IPS

The IPS came into being in 1948, after India gained independence. The newly set-up police force replaced the earlier Indian Imperial Police. Under the Constitution of India, the IPS is one of the three prestigious All India Services, the other two being the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Forest Service (IFS).

How to become an IPS officer

To become an IPS officer, a candidate has to pass the Civil Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC). The Civil Services Examination is also the qualifying exam for other services such as IAS, IRS and IFS. The UPSC conducts the Civil Services Examination every year. The dates and other details are notified on its website, usually in February.

Around 8 lakh candidates apply for the IPS each year, of which only around 150 are finally selected.

IPS eligibility

Given below is the UPSC eligibility criteria for Indian Police Service (IPS):

IPS age limit

Only Indian nationals between the ages of 21 and 32 years can apply for the Civil Services Examination. Relaxation in the IPS exam age limit is applicable to some categories.

IPS qualification

Candidates who are graduates from a recognised university, or in the final year of their course, are eligible to appear in the Civil Services Examination.

Physical standards

Since an IPS officer has to be fit and healthy, apart from meeting the age and educational criteria, IPS aspirants have to meet the physical standards too. Male candidates should not be shorter than 165 cm, while for women, the cut-off height is 150 cm (there is a relaxation of 5 cm for candidates belonging to the scheduled tribes and certain ethnic groups such as Gorkhas, Assamese and Kumaonis). Chest measurement for men is pegged at a minimum of 84 cm and it is 79 cm for women. Eyesight requirements are also specified. Candidates with corrective measures, including spectacles and Lasik surgery, are permitted. However, those who have undergone refractive surgery are referred to a special board of ophthalmologists for clearance.

Number of attempts

General Category candidates are allowed a total of six attempts to pass the Civil Services Examination. There is some relaxation in this regard for those belonging to categories eligible for reservation. However, irrespective of the category, failing in the Preliminary Examination is counted as one attempt.

IPS exam syllabus

The Civil Services Examination consists of three parts – a written Preliminary Examination, and a Main Examination followed by an Interview. Those who pass all the three stages become eligible for IPS recruitment provided they pass the medical test. This is conducted the day after the interview.

Preliminary Examination is usually scheduled for June, while the Main Examination is conducted in September.

How to apply for IPS

Application forms for the Civil Services Examination are available online.

The application process is divided into two stages. The first relates to filling in the application form, wherein details such as name, gender, date of birth, father’s and mother’s names, nationality, marital status, educational qualifications, address and other contact details have to be put in. Information such as photo identity card number, percentage of marks scored in the graduate course, the language in which the candidate would like to write the exam and the preferred optional subjects should also be provided.

The second stage relates to the payment of fees, selecting a centre for writing the examination, uploading the candidate’s photo, photocopies of the required documents and the image of his or her signature, and the signing of a declaration form.

Once this is done, a registration slip is generated, which should be printed and kept for future reference.

While filling in the application form, remember to complete both the stages before submitting the form. The application will not be considered if the form is submitted after completing just one stage. Also, double-check that the contact details, including e-mail IDs, provided are correct, as you wouldn't want to risk missing out on any communication from the UPSC.

After the application is accepted, the UPSC will issue admit cards for the Preliminary Examination. The admit cards can be downloaded from the UPSC website. Admit Cards for the Main Exams and Interview will be issued subsequently to only those candidates who clear the Preliminary Examination.

IPS examination pattern — what to study to become an IPS officer

The Preliminary Examination consists of two papers –

(1) the General Ability Test (GAT) and

(2) the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)

Both have multiple-choice questions that have to be answered in two hours. Each test is of 400 marks.

The Main Examination has nine papers in all. The first two, English and Language (the candidate’s choice of any one language included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution) papers are again of a qualifying nature. So, marks secured in these are not added to the grand total.

The other papers are:

Essay (in the language of the candidate’s choice) – 250 Marks

General Studies I (Indian Heritage and Culture, History and Geography of the World and Society) – 250 Marks

General Studies II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International Relations) – 250 Marks

General Studies III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management) – 250 Marks

General Studies IV (Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude) – 250 Marks

Optional Subject - Paper I and II, each carrying 250 marks

All these seven papers together carry a maximum of 1750 marks.

IPS interview pattern

Candidates who qualify in the Mains are called for the Interview, which carries 275 points. It is meant to assess the personality and temperament of the candidate. Marks secured in the Interview are added to those scored in the written examination. A panel of usually six eminent personalities from different fields, headed by a Chairperson, ask the candidates a range of questions. As there is no fixed format for the interview, the questions could be of any type – straightforward or tricky – and on any topic.

However, the answers should demonstrate originality, alertness, honesty, patience, commitment and presence of mind of the candidate. A sense of humour is an added advantage. The interview could take anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour.

It should be noted here that depending on the candidate’s ranking and preference, he or she will be given the IPS allotment.

IPS training course

All the candidates selected to be IPS officers undergo training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie, together with candidates who have cleared the other UPSC examinations. This foundation course is three months long. It aims to give the Officer Trainees (OTs) an insight into the political, economic and cultural background of the country, and teach them discipline and the rules of interacting with the society.

The candidates later attend a separate 11-month IPS training course at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy, Hyderabad. This is the Basic Training Course, where the OTs are moulded into police officers. Subjects taught here include law, criminology, physical fitness, internal security and human rights. The OTs are also trained in armed and unarmed combat, and tactics of prosecution and law enforcement.

They are also sent to the Army, Air Force, Navy and other branches of the Armed Forces to understand the working of these entities. There’s also a two-week Bharat Darshan Tour, when the OTs are taken around the country to gain first-hand experience of India's diversities.

After completion of the Basic Training, the OTs are known as probationers.

The next phase of the training is conducted at the state police academies. Here, the candidates are taught about the State, including the basics of the regional language. There’s a practical training component where the probationers are posted as Station House Officers and given the responsibility of managing police stations, and are attached to District Police Headquarters for hands-on experience.

The duration of the IPS training course may extend up to two years.

IPS officer ranks

  • After passing out of training, an IPS officer is usually posted as a Deputy Superintendent of Police.
  • After about four years, the officer is promoted to the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police, also called Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police.
  • The next promotion is to the rank of Superintendent of Police or Deputy Commissioner of Police, after which the officer is promoted to Senior Superintendent of Police / Deputy Commissioner of Police.
  • The next posting is that of Deputy Inspector General of Police / Additional Commissioner of Police. Then comes the elevation to the rank of Inspector General of Police / Joint Commissioner of Police.
  • From here, an IPS officer gets promoted to the rank of Additional Director General of Police / Special Commissioner of Police.
  • Finally, the officer becomes the Director General of Police / Commissioner of Police.

IPS officer salary

According to the Seventh Pay Commission, the basic pay of a Deputy Superintendent of Police is fixed at Rs 56,100 per month. There is an increase in an IPS officer's salary and perks with every promotion. As a Director General of Police or Commissioner of Police, an IPS officer would draw a basic pay of Rs 2,25,000 per month.

How to prepare for IPS exam

Here's what you can advice your child to do, while preparing for the Civil Services Exam:

  • Start early. The sooner you start, the more time you’ll have to prepare
  • Be organised and disciplined. Prepare a reasonable timetable, giving yourself enough time to relax as well as study. Knowing yourself and your capabilities will help too. Allot more time to subjects and areas which need more attention. Figure out when you’re most productive, and earmark that time to do the most difficult studies.
  • Make notes and mind-maps as you go. This will help your revision.
  • Stay updated. Read a variety of newspapers and watch different television news channels. Pay attention to editorials and op-ed pages. Social issues are important too, so be up to date on developments in this regard.
  • Be culturally aware. Learn about art, heritage, entertainment and sports, with particular reference to India.
  • Practise well. Go over previous question papers, and work on your timing.
  • Ensure you revise. Take time to go over what you have studied each day, each week and each month, and finally do at least one full revision.
  • Polish your personality. Assess your body language and communication skills, and work on your weak areas. This will be particularly useful during the Interview stage.
  • Get coaching. Specialised coaching for the Civil Services Examination helps because of the practice papers provided, the discussions facilitated and the tips given by experts on how to tackle the papers as well as the interview. These classes will help you in your individual preparation.
"Coaching reduces the effort students must put in, and gives them a structured path to follow. But, ultimately, it’s up to the student who must work hard. A coach is like a cook who will tell you what is healthy and cook the food for you, but it’s up to the student to have the dedication and discipline to follow through.
Today, online coaching is very popular because it is easily accessible. The courses are affordable and the lectures can be watched any number of times as per the convenience of the student. If quality education can reach a student at his home, then there is nothing better than that."
— Akhand Swaroop Pandit, Ex IES Officer, TED Speaker, Educationist and Founder of The catalyst group. 

Physical fitness: Apart from academic preparation, IPS aspirants need to work on physical fitness also. A customised training programme is a good idea. If possible, the candidate can work with a fitness instructor as well as a doctor, understand his dietary and training needs, and draw up a programme that will help him steadily come up to the required standards. He should schedule activities such as doing push-ups, lifting weights, running, jogging, swimming and cycling, to increase stamina and remain fit.

Doing well in the Interview requires special preparation. Questions on current affairs are asked. But, a lot of questions will be based on the form the candidate fills after clearing the Preliminary stage. This form will have details of her native state, birthplace, family background, optional subjects she has chosen, education, extra-curricular activities, hobbies, interests and her job experience, if any. Candidates should be very careful while filling in this form and keep a copy as reference while preparing for the interview. They should anticipate questions on all the sections and prepare answers.

IPS officer roles and responsibilities

The foremost responsibility of IPS officers, irrespective of the posting, is law enforcement and safeguarding the public. The roles and responsibilities also involve investigating crimes including those relating to banned substances, ensuring national security, overseeing efficiency of traffic, seeing that prisons and penitentiaries are well managed, and economic offenders are brought to book and further offences prevented, keeping railway passengers safe, taking charge of the security of VIPs, and safeguarding the country’s borders. They also take part in disaster management.

IPS officer — career opportunities

In light of their roles and responsibilities, IPS officers can be chosen to head Intelligence Agencies like the CBI, Intelligence Bureau and Research & Analysis Wing, Federal Law Enforcement and Vigilance Agencies and various Civil and Armed Police Forces and paramilitary forces such as the BSF, CRPF, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the National Security Guards.

IPS officers can also be posted in various capacities in autonomous organisations, public sector units, and even international bodies including the United Nations. They can also serve as personal secretaries to Ministers in the Central Government.

Top IPS officers of India

Leadership, initiative, fearlessness, an abiding respect for mankind, and most importantly, selflessness – the ability to put the country and society before self – are some of the qualities of sterling IPS officers.

Everyone has heard of the fiery Ms Kiran Bedi, the first woman IPS officer, and her pioneering work in many arenas. There are many other distinguished IPS officers, who have also left their marks as men and women committed to a safe and peaceful India. Mahesh Muralidhar Bhagawat worked tirelessly to stop human trafficking and rescued hundreds of young women and girls. R Sreelekha, the first woman IPS officer from Kerala, trained in Scotland Yard and has authored several books on crime investigation. Ajit Kumar Doval won the epithet of ‘Sherlock Holmes of India’, and was the first police officer to be awarded the Kirti Chakra, a decoration usually reserved for the Armed Forces. He is currently the National Security Advisor to the Government of India. Dr Shankar Bidari, a highly decorated police officer of Karnataka, was the head of the task force set up to nab the notorious brigand Veerappan.

If your child is fired by a desire to make a difference to society, make India a safe place, and use his talents and training to help people in need, then he will shine as an IPS officer. ParentCircle wishes him all the very best!

About the author:

Written by Susan Philip on 1 July 2019; updated on 23 September 2019

Susan Philip, mother to a promising lawyer and an upcoming engineer, believes in empowering her children to be the best that they can be. In a career spanning more than two decades of both online and print-based writing and editing, she has worked for the PTI, UNDP and WAN-IFRA. She also functions as Editorial Coordinator for book projects.

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