Strategy:Prelims

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Prelims is the first stage of examination and is important qualification stage to even attempt Mains and get in the race to secure a rank in the final list. Prelims require not just knowledge, but also tactics and a knack for attempting the objective paper.

How many questions to attempt?

You need to find out your Hit Rate or Accuracy aka how many questions you can get right in an general test. Once you solve 50 to 60 tests you can get a rough estimate of it. If you have a high enough hit rate or accuracy you can attempt 65 to 70 questions and clear the prelims by crossing the threshold. However if your accuracy is low enough and you might have to solve more questions to balance out the negative marking. So on an average the consensus is to solve around 80 to 85 questions for GS paper and not more.

Do's and Don'ts

Here are certain Do's and Don'ts as recommended by CSE toppers.

Do's

  1. Fix your booklist and revise them multiple time. Do not get lured by new materials in the market.
  2. Create a revision schedule to ensure timely revision of your notes.
  3. Solve test series as much possible. This helps in fillings the knowledge gaps.
  4. Solve last few years question papers as well, they help you understand the way UPSC asks questions and give ample practice and revision for the static part.

Don'ts

  1. Do not attempt all 100 questions. Flukes (तुक्का) for the sake of attempting more and more question can end up reducing your marks.
  2. Do not leave any part of the syllabus. The number of questions from a subject changes drastically
  3. Do not ignore CSAT because you have an degree in Engineering. CSAT paper is a lengthy one and it difficulty level is increasing every year. So it requires practice.

Last 30 days to Prelims: How to deal with common issues ?

Prelims is just round the corner. There is no time to waste. This is the time to Revise all that you have studied, practice some tests and chart out the strategy for the final exam if you have not done that yet. Here, we discuss some common issues which are faced by the aspirants during the last lap to the prelims exam.

Issues faced by aspirants:

  1. Feeling of not being prepared enough
  2. Low scores in tests
  3. Some parts of syllabus still not covered
  4. Have I covered enough current affairs?

Feeling not being prepared enough:

Even after you have prepared a lot for the prelims, you may sometimes feel that you have not done enough. It happens with most of aspirants even those who are already selected candidates. Many a times, it is related to comparison with your friends or marks/rank in a tests series. The only thing that you should take away from this, is that there is still a scope of improvement for you. Nothing more.

Points to keep in mind:

  1. Focus on your progress and improvement in test papers by maximising marks in the subsequent papers
  2. Quickly cover the areas/subjects that are weak without giving too much time. This way you will able to answer easy questions from this area.
  3. Solve some Part test series of a particular subject in which you have good command to regain your confidence

Low scores in Prelims mock tests:

It is but obvious to get dejected with low scores in the mock tests. But, we have known people who have scored less marks in the Prelims mock test series of various institutes and still performed very well in the CSE Prelims Exam.

Action points:

  1. The key is not getting worried over low marks in a test and identify the areas in which you have not performed upto your mark to strengthen it.
  2. Check if you are making any silly mistakes by not reading questions/options clearly.
  3. Check whether some your calculated guesses are going wrong and improve accuracy in these areas.    

If you are getting low scores in a particular subject for eg. Economics, you can resort to following strateg

  1. Solve previous year questions related to the subject, if not already solved [It can give idea of type and depth of questions asked in that subject along with some important areas from which most questions are asked.]
  2. Solve 4-5 part Test Papers exclusively on the particular subject and identify types of questions asked, mistakes done and weak areas in theses subject
  3. Revise the basic fundamentals and current affairs related to the subject [for Economics: Revise monetary policy and Inflation, Forex, export-import etc., Macroeconomics concepts of GDP, National income etc. and important microeconomic concepts like demand-supply, elasticity etc.]

Some parts of syllabus still not covered:

Syllabus given by UPSC is quite broad and it encompasses many a topics in just a single line. It is bound to happen that one has not read some topics relating to a particular subject. Frankly speaking, it is not possible to cover each and everything that comes under the ambit of terms mentioned in the syllabus.

We should cover all that we can in the given amount of time with our maximum effort possible. We can prioritise topics which are important from point of view of the examination.

Even if you have not covered certain subjects well for eg. Ancient History, there is no need to panic at the last moment. If you look at the types of questions asked from Ancient India in previous years, you will questions related to:

  1. Some particular terms and their meanings eg. Samiti, visit etc.
  2. Important socio-political, cultural features of significant kingdoms like Mauryas, Guptas, Harsha, Vijayanagar
  3. Jainism and Budhhism
  4. Important Art and Architecture locations and features

In short amount of time, refer to some sources/notes which provide quick reference on these topics and cover them quickly. It will give you the confidence that you have covered that particular subject to the extent that you will be able to answer some easy-moderate questions.  

Have I covered enough current affairs?

It is very difficult for someone to say that one has read all current affairs. There will always be something or the other left out.

You should cover as much as you can in the given time without compromising other subjects. Most of the aspirants read current affairs from Prelims booklet of good Coaching Institutes, Notes from The Hindu, PIB etc.  

Action Points:

  1. In the last 30 days, you should first revise the sources from which you have read.
  2. If you read from current affairs booklet, you can refer to Prelims Booklet of some other Institutes apart from what you have read.
    1. You will see many overlaps in topics covered, just mark those which you have not read
    2. It can somewhat remove your doubt that you have not covered enough.
    3. It will cover some of the important topics which may have been left out in the booklet you have already read.
  3. Other remaining current affairs will also be covered by the test papers that you have solved.  

We hope this article help you to buckle up and go on with the revision and preparation for the Prelims with a renewed vigour and confidence.

Tips & Tricks for improving Guesswork

Why we need elimination techniques?

Before going into elimination techniques, I will explain some math of UPSC prelims.

Any serious candidate can only attempt 40 questions with surety. Lets say there are some silly mistakes and accuracy is 90% then candidate will receive 70 marks from these 40 questions.

Lets say in 36 questions she can eliminate 2 options. Here with 50% probability of getting correct answer she will get around 24 marks.

Now there will be around 15 questions where she can eliminate one option. Here with 33% probability of getting correct answer she will get around 3 marks.

Now total marks she is getting is around 97. Believe me most of the serious candidates who seriously studied for prelims will get marks around 94-97. Many will cry for missing prelims by one or two marks.

So what is the way to break this trap of 94-97? Answer is simple

  1. Not to make silly mistakes where there is surety. Say 95% accuracy in first 40 questions.
  2. Where you can eliminate two options, increase probability of getting correct answer to 60%.

In first part consciousness and calmness in exam is needed but in second part elimination techniques will help you.

Elimination Techniques helpful for UPSC

Elimination Technique Where it may work? Where it may not work?  (Take Precaution)
All of the above is correct in case there are 1 or 2 words In science and Technology it will probably work.


Example

In which of the following areas can GPS technology be used?

1. Mobile phone operations

2. Banking operations

3. Controlling the power grids

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer : d

    1. Map work and Geography
    2. Environment (Mostly in case of species, wild life sanctuaries)
    3. History Art and Culture
    4. Match the following
    5. In case of countries of organization
Authorities, boards, Tribunal, commissions are mostly statutory bodies 19. How is the National Green Tribunal (NGT) different from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)


1. The NGT has been established by an Act whereas the CPCB has been created by an executive order of the Government.

2. The NGT provides environmental justice and helps reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts whereas the CPCB promotes cleanliness of streams and wells, and aims to improve the quality of air in the country.

Which of the statements given above is/are  correct

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer.b

Here CPCB and NGT both are statutory.

However there can be exceptional cases. Commission with name for example Sarkaria commission might not be statutory.
Economics : Specific and continuous trend in graphs is mostly not possible With reference to the governance of public sector banking in India, consider the following statements


1. Capital infusion into public sector banks by the Government of India has steadily increased in the last decade.

2. To put the public sector banks in order, the merger of associate banks with the parent State Bank of India has been affected.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct ?

(a) 1 only

b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer. B

Between two time points it may not work.


For example

Forex reserve increased compared to level of 1991

Statements showing possibilities are mostly correct.

Or Question containing words mostly, some, can, may are mostly correct

Consider the following statements:


1. Some species of turtles are herbivores.

2. Some species of fish are herbivores.

3. Some species of marine mammals are herbivores.

4. Some species of snakes are viviparous.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2, 3 and 4 only

(e) 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Answer: d

There can be exceptions. If you are sure about the fact that this possibility is not possible then eliminate it.
Extreme statements are mostly wrong In humanities there is always gray area so this rule would work.


With reference to the ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’, consider the following statements :

  1. It is an agreement among all the Pacific Rim countries except China and Russia.
  2. It is a strategic alliance for the purpose of maritime security only.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer : D

With reference to ‘Bitcoins’, sometimes seen in the news, which of the following statements is/are correct?


  1. Bitcoins are tracked by the Central Banks of the countries
  2. Anyone with a Bitcoin address can send and receive Bitcoins from anyone else with a Bitcoin address.
  3. Online payments can be sent without either side knowing the identity of the other.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Answer : B

Second and third statements have extreme words so both should be wrong! But in fact both are right!

Option which contains similar words are given to confuse ushence one of them must be correct Among the following which were frequently mentioned in the news for the outbreak of Ebola virus recently?


  1. Syria and Jordan
  2. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia
  3. Philippines and Papua New Guinea
  4. Jamaica, Haiti and Surinam

Here Sierra Leone and Syria is confusing. Now again New Guinea and Guinea is confusing. Here answer is B where both of these confusing options are present.

Its usually used to confuse students so probably will work
Highly technical statement are usually correct This rule is usually correct in science and technology


Consider the following phenomena :

1. Light is affected by gravity.

2. The Universe is constantly expanding.

3. Matter warps its surrounding space-time.

Which of the above is/are the prediction/predictions of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, often discussed in media ?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer. d

Please dont use it in polity, economics and other humanities subjects
Questions involving chronological sequences can be attempted by thinking about technology available, culture or socio political condition Consider the following events:


1. The first democratically elected communist party government formed in a State in India.

2. India’s then largest bank, ‘Imperial Bank of India’, was renamed ‘State Bank of India’.

3. Air India was nationalised and became the national carrier.

4. Goa became a part of independent India.

Which of the following is the correct chronological sequence of the above events?

(a) 4 – 1 – 2 – 3

(b) 3 – 2 – 1 – 4

(c) 4 – 2 – 1 – 3

(d) 3 – 1 -2 -4

Answer.b

If an MCQ-statement has name of parent organization, then it’s definitely wrong. And if it has two-three statements, then remaining statements are always right. With reference to ‘Financial Stability and Development Council’, consider the following statements :


  1. It is an organ of NITI Aayog. (PARENT DEPARTMENT will be wrong)
  2. It is headed by the Union Finance Minister.
  3. It monitors macroprudential supervision of the economy.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Answer : 3

In Indian government related schemes or organisations it usually works. But accuracy is low in international organisations.
If an MCQ-statement has name of some date or figure, then it might be wrong.And if it has two-three statements, then remaining statements are always rightunless they violate extreme word rule With reference to a grouping of countries known as BRICS, consider the following statements:


  1. The First Summit of BRICS was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2009.
  2. South Africa was the last to join the BRICS grouping.

Which of the statements given above is / are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer : B

Where there is approximation there this rule might not work.
This is my favorite technique called as frequency technique.

This trick is applicable when options has numbers like

1 and 3 only

2 and 3 only

1, 2 and 3 only

1 Only

Trick here is to find frequency of number , arrange them in increasing and order and choose numbers with highest frequency. Where they are present mark that option

Consider the following statements:


1. In the revenue administration of Delhi Sultanate, the in-charge of revenue collection was known as ‘Amil’.

2. The Iqta system of Sultans of Delhi was an ancient indigenous institution.

3. The office of ‘Mir Bakshi’ came into existence during the reign of Khalji Sultans of Delhi.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: a

Here Frequency of numbers are as follow

1 – Frequency 3

2 – Frequency 2

3 – Frequency 2

Thus 1 might be correct option as it has highest frequency.

It requires alot practice. It will help you to improve accuracy from 50% to 60%. But its frequent use might reduce accuracy as well. Use it only when all options are exhausted and you dont have any gut feeling about a option.  Also this technique wont work when all numbers have same frequency.
When all of the above is not option (d) and given option d is wrong. Then chance is that all of the above is correct option Which of the following leaf modifications occur(s) in the desert areas to inhibit water loss?


1. Hard and waxy leaves

2. Tiny leaves

3. Thorns instead of leaves

Select the correct answer using the code given below :

(a) 2 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

(c) 1 only

Answer : c

Note : It is made example. basic idea is misplacing of all of the above is to misguide aspirant so that she makes silly mistakes

Not a full proof method. Attempt only when you are confused between two options
Neither of the above has less probability of being a correct option Not a full proof method. Attempt only when you are confused between two options
Options where 70-80% information looks correct and it is hard to negate fact then option is right Coaching test papers usually plays with small words and facts. However UPSC usually expects general answer.


With reference to the election of the President of India, consider the following statements:

1. The value of the vote of each MLA varies from State to State.

2. The value of the vote of MPs of the Lok Sabha is more than the value of the vote of MPs of the Rajya Sabha.

Which of following statements given above is/are Correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 Or 2

It was said that answer is c but official answer given was a

Widely applicable scheme without any exclusion is likely to be incorrect unless scheme maker is Comrade or politician with populist agenda Government schemes are usually framed by keeping in Mind financial constraints. Thus there is always exclusion of rich class.
Dont be overconfident as well as conservative in elimination trick. There could be possibility that one statement Will look too vague and wrong but by elimination right. Go ahead with assuming vague statement as right if you are sure about eliminated statement With reference to educational institutes during colonial rule in India, consider the following pairs :


Institution – Founder

1.Sanskrit College at Benaras –  William Jones

2. Calcutta Madarsa  –        Warren Hastings

3. Fort William College  –  Arthur Wellesley

Which of the pairs given above is/are correct ?

(a) 1 and 2

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3

(d) 3 only

Answer : b

For Geography and Science , while elimination recall the definition of the specific word and then attempt the question
When there is no clue read each and every word and try to relate it with syllabus
Whenever there is word like parliament and each state stand on your toe we have Jammu Kasmhir, North east and Loksabha
When incorrect is asked Solve question like you are solving correct question (by elimination technique) And when you get correct answer apply elimination technique again [Psycology of paper setter is that candidate wont read incorrect and mark accordingly] Apply only when you are able to eliminate two options
Etymology The term M-STRIPES is sometimes seen in the news in the context of


  1. Captive breeding of Wild Fauna
  2. Maintenance of Tiger Reserves
  3. Indigenous Satellite Navigation System
  4. Security of National Highways

“Tigers” have “stripes”, so associate the words, and  you’ve the right answer

Another examples are

Dance having attam are from Kerala – Mohini attam, Tamilnadu

art having Kali is from Kerala – Kathakali

Last words on elimination techniques

These techniques are very risky. To increase accuracy one requires a lot of practice. It should not be seen as substitute to study and revision. These are only accuracy booster.

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