Cracking IES - A stable career, assured growth trajectory
Anangsha Patra, 11 Sep 2017

You want to become India’s next ‘Metro Man’ and change the way we travel on rail or solve our water woes for ever? Cracking IES could be the first step. Careers360 brings to you an article detailing about the exam and the selection process.

Anuj Gupta (name changed for anonymity) from West Bengal’s remote Medinapur village cherished a dream, which he thought he would never achieve. His humble goal was to provide small luxuries that matter to his parents who broke their back on a farm to fund his studies to graduate in Mechanical Engineering. He did get a job, but quit it to travel 60 kilometers daily to get some free coaching to crack Engineering Services Examination, one of the toughest competitive exams that ensure a coveted job with great career progression and recognition in the society. Anuj is set to join the Indian Railways as an Assistant Engineer. There are others who also quit well-paying jobs to enter Indian Engineering Services (IES). “I was working as a Pipeline executive in Oil India. I left my job to prepare for IES exam,” says Idul Ahmed, IES Topper 2016, AIR 1 (ME).  


Why do engineers opt for IES?

IES is the gateway to a stable career in the government sector. Through IES, a candidate gets a job in reputed government departments like Indian Railways, Military Engineering Services, Telecommunication Department, Central Water Services in group A and B posts.


The entry-level job is that of an Assistant Engineer, a secure and gazetted post, with a starting salary of around Rs. 60,000 plus other benefits like house rent allowance, medical facility etc.

It offers an assured career progression and timely revision of pay scales as per central government norms. An engineer gets an opportunity to handle technically challenging roles and tasks which have a direct bearing on the building up of infrastructure and services for the nation. 



Aspirants will have to appear in the Engineering Services Examination conducted annually in January by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The application forms are made available in September. Graduates in engineering/technology in the age group of 21 to 30 years can apply for the examination.


Three-stage process

The selection procedure of IES is a three-stage process – Preliminary, Mains and Interview/Personality Test. Only those candidates who are declared by UPSC to have qualified in the Preliminary will be eligible for admission to the Mains Examination. Selection of candidates for the mains exam will be done about six to seven times the approximate number of vacancies. On the basis of the performance in the Prelims and Mains, candidates twice the number of vacancies will be called for the Interview. Marks obtained by the candidates in Preliminary, Mains and Interview will determine their final ranking. Candidates will be allotted to various services based on their ranks in the examination. The preference expressed by the candidates for the various services or posts during application will also play apart..

Exam details

The Engineering Services Exam is a combined competitive examination conducted in four categories (I) Civil Engineering (II) Electrical Engineering (III) Electronics and Telecommunication and (IV) Mechanical Engineering.


The Preliminary Examination comprises two objective type papers - first, the General Studies and Engineering Aptitude Paper (Paper-I) and second, the Engineering Discipline specific paper (Paper-II). The maximum marks allotted for the Preliminary Examination is 500 marks. The duration of Paper I is 2 hours while that of Paper II is 3 hours.


After Preliminary exam comes the Main examination. The Engineering Services Main exam comprises two conventional type papers of 300 marks each in engineering disciplines with a duration of three hours.


Candidates who obtain the minimum qualifying marks in Preliminary and Mains exam will be selected for the personality test. The Personality Test carries 200 marks.


To obtain success in IES, a candidate is required to have an excellent grip on fundamentals in core subjects with thorough update on general awareness and current affairs. The syllabus of ES exam covers the entire degree syllabus of the relevant engineering discipline.


How to crack ES exam?

ES exam is considered as one of the toughest competitive examinations in India, with just a miniscule percentage of the test-takers finally bagging a post (See Graph). To clear it, aspirants will have to go through a thorough preparation process. Candidates will have to deliberate well and prepare a strategy for cracking the exam. Execute strategy meticulously and distribute time appropriately for different subjects. “Cracking ES exam in the first attempt is not that tough if a candidate is determined and focused towards his goal.  I focused more on the conventional section of the syllabus. I did not join any coaching institute to prepare for ES. I relied on the online test series and postal study materials provided by institutes such as Made Easy and IES Master. One-year preparation with full dedication is sufficient to clear this exam in one attempt,” says Ahmed.


Another ES exam topper from the batch IES-2014, Shubham Kumar Singh (AIR 24) believes that consistency and perseverance are the key factors to succeed. “IES preparation requires consistent and dedicated study during the B.Tech programme. If you study regularly and seriously, no coaching is required,” he said.


IES - Personality Test

Personality test is conducted to assess your leadership qualities, social skills and mental fitness. Special attention will be paid to assess the candidate’s capacity for leadership, initiative and intellectual curiosity, tact and other social qualities, mental and physical energy, powers of practical application and integrity of character. The marks obtained by the candidates in the Personality Test will be added in the final merit list. The questions asked in the personality test can be broadly classified into personality introductory questions; general knowledge questions; fact-based or knowledge-based technical questions; intuition-based technical questions; and random questions regarding leadership and team playing abilities. Candidates who obtain the minimum qualifying marks in the mains exam will be called for the personality test. However, due weightage will also be given to marks secured by the candidates in the prelims exam for selection in the personality test.


Career trajectory

In the starting of the career after selection, the candidates are designated as Assistant Executive Engineer or Assistant Director across different departments of the Central Government. After experience of 3 to 4 years, candidates are promoted to executive engineer, director or work manager. On completion of 8 years of services, they become deputy general manager or joint director.


After almost 13 years of experience, they are promoted as joint general manager or chief engineer of level 2. 20 years of experience is enough to become chief engineer or additional general manager.


Thereafter, 30 years of service to the government of India takes them to the position of senior general manager or engineer-in-chief. The best performing of the IES officers with experience of 34 years helps them to become chairman or managing director of governmental organizations.


The Indian Engineering Services was initiated to recruit engineers to fulfill the technical and managerial functions of the Union government. The examination is,  no doubt difficult, but it retains the tag of being the most prestigious and sought-after examination for engineering graduates in the government sector. 


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