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How to Choose Cadre or Do Services Preference in UPSC DAF?

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Services Preference in Detailed Application Form.

  • The Order of preference of services for Civil Service is asked when you have qualified for the mains. This list of services includes the All India Services, Group 'A', and Group 'B' services. Candidates should opt for the UPSC service preferences in order of their interest and popularity. This order of preferences is very important when the candidate gets qualified for the services. The candidate will be offered services according to the order of preferences mentioned. Though the order of preferences can be changed by selecting any lower option from the preference list but will not be allowed to select any higher option.

  • Some people underestimate themselves and list their preference first for lower or less desirable services so that they get it for sure. Why underestimate yourself when you have qualified for the mains? Start with the very first service that is All India Service then Group A and Group B Services. Make sure you do not leave out any service due to overconfidence. List all of them in descending order so that in case you do not get the service you think you will surely get, you still have some options left. The civil services results can be very unpredictable and even if you are a topper in your school and college, you may not get the best services on the list.

  • Get to know about the responsibilities and posting of all the services and their standing in society vis-a-vis other jobs you may take up. You may look down upon some services, to begin with, but most times these are better options than taking up private jobs or other technical jobs. Make sure you do your research and not regret it later as many do every year. You can see some basic information on the links above or also take some advice from the Civil Service Exam coaching experts too. You will then be aware of the best of the services which you can pursue and choose while applying for the mains.

  • Cadre and service allocation depends upon a candidate’s rank, preference, vacancies, and even category. Hence, one must be very careful with the choice of cadre and services they intend to join as it also plays a role in the allocation of services. So, it becomes one of the important factors in deciding the career of UPSC candidates. However, one should be aware that as per Supreme Court's judgment in the A. Shainamol case, posting to a chosen cadre is not a right of a civil servant Let us understand how to go about choosing the cadre as well as the service preferences.

What exactly is the cadre allocation system?

A cadre is a state or group of states/Union Territories from where officers of the All-India Services, like the IAS and IPS, IFoS, start their service.

What are the available cadres?

The joint cadres or states are divided into the following five zones:

  1. Zone-1 (AGMUT, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Punjab)
  2. Zone-2 (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha)
  3. Zone-3 (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh)
  4. Zone-4 (Manipur, Nagaland, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam-Meghalaya, and Tripura) and
  5. Zone-5 (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala)

Through the revised policy the government aims to ensure equal participation of officers from different categories: general, SC, ST, OBC in every cadre, and maintenance of national integration thus follows norms to allot two outside officers (whose home cadre is different from the assigned cadre) for every one officer who is assigned a home cadre.

What is the system of allocating cadre to the candidates?

  1. The power of cadre allocation is devised to Union Government in consultation with state governments under the All India Services Act- 1951. Under the act, the government revised cadre allocation norms in 2017 for all-India Services — Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Forest Service (IFS). Through this revised policy the states were categorized into 5 zones and 10% weightage is assigned to candidates' performance in the foundational course at LBSNAA.
  2. As per OFFICE MEMORANDUM of DoPT, the cadre controlling authorities, namely, The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT),/ Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA),/ Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) will determine the vacancies including the break-ups into Unreserved (UR)/SC/ST/OBC/PWD/Insider/Outsider vacancies for each of the cadres as per established procedures.

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How can a candidate choose their cadre preferences?

  1. The preference process takes place in the following manner:
    1. One must select the zone preference
    2. Then, the next step is to choose the cadre preference
    3. Further, the process is to be repeated for each Zone and Cadre in the order of preference. Also, one cannot choose the same cadre twice.
    4. In a case where candidates do not mark their cadre preference, it will be assumed that they do not have any preferred choice and hence the authorities will have the power to allot both accordingly.
  2. Physically disabled quota candidates get an additional option to select their preferences.

On a final note, it is important to note that the cadre allocation for civil servants is made before the foundation course at LBSNAA.

What are the services available for candidates to choose from?

Candidates are asked for their order of preference of services to the Civil Services when they qualify for the Mains exam. This list of services includes the All India Services, Group 'A', and Group 'B' services. From among these, you may choose the order of preference of services as per your choice.

  1. All India Service - Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Police Services (IPS), Indian Forest Services (IFoS)
  2. Group A services – Indian Foreign Services (IFS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS), etc.
  3. Group B services – DANICS, DANIPS, etc.

You can check the full list on the official website of UPSC

What should one do before filling service preference in DAF?

  1. First, you must decide for yourself the type of service you want to get into. Then, go through every service in detail so you understand the demands of those services. Doing this will help you sort out your priorities. You can also communicate to people serving in those job profiles to gain a new perspective.
  2. Shortlist the services that you think you are interested in. Also, you must think about the type of life that you will be leading if you get into that service. For example, you can opt for IAS if you want to deal with policy-making, administration, etc. You can go for IFS if you want to work in different countries. Further, you can opt for IPS if you have a keen interest in law and order. Decide the list based on the type of life you will get if you get into that service.
  3. If there is a confusion, you can list down what type of work interests you and what you are good at. There are many services under UPSC and you can tally your interests with them.
  4. You can also consult your friends and family. If you know somebody who is in the service that is a bonus because you can easily look into the reality. Also, experienced people will always be able to guide you in the right direction if you are clueless.
  5. Finally, do extensive research about the salary, perks, and benefits as these differ from service to service. But, always keep the priority of work first.

What should one avoid while choosing the services?

  1. Some people underestimate or overestimate themselves while listing their preference for services. This is what one should avoid while filling the DAF. If you are confident enough that you will score good marks, start with the very first service that is All India Service then Group A and Group B Services.
  2. Also, make sure you do not leave out any service due to overconfidence. List all of them in descending order so that in case you do not get the service you think you will surely get, you still have some options left. The civil services results can be very unpredictable. So, one must gear up to face the ups and downs which is a natural part of life.


Always keep visiting the official website for the latest updates on dates and exams.