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“Know your Opponent and you will never loose, Know yourself and you will always win”
– Sun Tzu

Dear aspirants,

I am constantly bombarded with the question on what is the right way/ Strategy to crack the Civil services exam. The Aspirant community in riddled with many wrongful notions on what is the right way to get through this exam. So in these series of articles I will try to explain the right thing that needs to be done in the exam which will take you through into that dream list of selected candidates. Also I cannot emphasise enough on the fact that the strategy I will share is not the only way to find success in this exam but I can assure you that this will maximize your chances to crack the exam.

As you already know that there are III stages/Phases in the exam. Today I will be taking up the Preliminary exam which is stage I and is generally considered as the make it or break it phase of the exam. If you go by the words of senior players out there, trust me they are more scared of the prelims than any other stage of the exam.

In this article I m not going to discuss what is the right thing to do, rather I would like to analyze the this years UPSC prelims questions to give you an insight on what is the nature of questions being asked and the broad pattern that has emerged from past few years. Many might think, what is the need for doing is such as painstaking task is. The answer to this lies in the quote I mentioned in the starting of this article. Let us know our opponent first.

  • After analysing the general study paper we can see that the exam this year was more difficult than previous year. The options were tricky and there are high chances that if not taken care, it will cause a lot of negative marking.
  • As far as UPSC is concerned, it lives up to its expectations of being unpredictable and maintaining the standard of questions.
  • The key surprise in this year paper was the revival of Polity questions. There are about 22 questions asked from the polity and all of them being conceptual and core questions.
  • Current affairs again came out as the dominant aspect of the Preliminary exam.  With around 17 recent news questions and around 40 questions from various subjects which were in news for instance of 4 questions from Science and technology and 9 questions of Ecology and environment. This shows the importance of current affairs for any UPSC exam.
  • Ecology and Environment continues to be an important part of the exam with around 14 questions, forming a core part of the UPSC pre. If we see the nature of questions than it gives a balanced approach for instance questions were both factual current based as well as conceptual like Bioremediation. my take, Ecology is a core part of the exam one cannot miss.
  • Geography gets its fair share of questions which were both conceptual as well as from the current developments. There is continuance of Map based geographical questions this year also.
  • History overall gets 14 questions with 6 questions coming from modern India and 5 coming from Art and culture. This shows that importance of these two modules continues and we think that their importance is going to increase in future too. What was a surprise was that no question was asked from Medieval History.
  • Science and technology also makes its revival from just 5 questions last year to 10 questions this year. The questions ranged from a very broad spectrum including cyber security, Genomics, Stem cells, etc. Also the focus of the questions was on both conventional as well as current. This shows that UPSC is giving importance to the day-to-day developments in the field of science and technology. We predict that this trend is going to increase in the future too.
  • Economy has been an evergreen topic for UPSC preparation and this year’s exam give us the exact reason on why it is like that. Though the number of questions have been around 14 but the consistency of the economic questions have made it a safe bet to prepare for the UPSC for both prelims and mains. Our take, if you want to score good in this exam, you cannot ignore Economy.

Finally, let’s talk abaout the Cut-off.  Seeing the difficulty of the exam and the tricky nature of the questions I predict that the cut-off will be way lower than last year. From the sample space and the students selected I am  looking at the range of 107-110.  So to Sum up here, we require at least 60% in this paper (i.e. 120/200) to be safe side and make sure that we clear this stage with ease.  

The answer keys along with the explanation have been uploaded in the website. i have tried to be as meticulous and comprehensive as i can.

In the Next article I will discuss a tried and tested strategy to help you get the required marks in the prelims.

Kuldeep Singh
Civil service Mentor
O2 IAS Academy


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List of Best Institutes for Civil Service Exam in Chandigarh – Click Here
List of Best Institutes for Civil Service Exam in Delhi – Click Here
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