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Preparing for Civils Prelims 2016 – A Complete Analysis

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The Count down started for this year Civils Prelims exam which will be held on 7th August 2016. Not even two months left for the preparation to this exam. Candidates will be revising their notes, materials they studied earlier, writing tests etc. But there are also so many candidates who will be of the feeling that their preparation is not up to the mark. They have not yet completed their actual preparation and hence there is no use of writing tests. In this context, let us understand this prelims exam in a comprehensive way and try to capture the trends in this exam. So that those who are serious in their preparation can form a strategy on how to crack this year exam.
1. A brief about competition:
Every year almost 9.5 lakh people apply for nearly 1100 posts including IAS, IPS, IRS etc. Almost 4.5 applicants actually appear for Prelims exam (Objective Questions) of which nearly 15000 will be selected to write Mains exam which is descriptive in nature.
A detailed comparison of different years is as follows:
Year No. of students applied for No. of students appeared No of students selected for Mains No of students selected for Interview Total students recommended for appointment
2015 9,45,908 4,65,882 15,008 2,797 1,078
2014 9,44,926 4,52,334 16,993 3,308 1,236
2013 7,76,604 3,24,279 14,800 3,003 1,122

2. Analysis of Previous year Question Papers gives trends in questioning:
Every year UPSC started asking more and more current related questions in each area of General Studies. In this context aspirants are advised to read their core contents vis-à-vis your current relevant issues. Do not just read textbooks as they are. Correlate each of the issues happening around you with the core content that you read in the textbooks. In 2015 alone there are almost 32 questions asked which are related to Current affairs.

Questions Asked Subject Wise(2015)

Subject Current Affairs Static Total
Polity & Governance 05 14 19
Economy & Policies 07 13 20
Geography 01 13 14
Ancient & Medieval India 00 08 08
Modern India 00 07 07
International Affairs 04 05 09
General Science & Technology 09 00 09
Environment 05 09 14
Total 32 68 100

Questions Asked Subject Wise (2014)
Subject Current Affairs Static Total
Polity & Governance 03 14 17
Economy & Policies 00 12 12
Geography 01 15 16
Ancient & Medieval India 00 17 17
Modern India 00 04 04
International Affairs 01 05 06
General Science & Technology 03 03 06
Environment 00 22 22
Total 08 92 100

Questions Asked Subject Wise (2013)
Subject Current Affairs Static Total
Polity & Governance 00 16 16
Economy & Policies 00 26 26
Geography 00 12 12
Ancient & Medieval India 00 11 11
Modern India 00 06 06
International Affairs 00 00 00
General Science & Technology 00 10 10
Environment 00 19 19
Total 00 100 100

3. Understanding Cut-off Marks:
Every year the base mark has been changing because of changes in the exam pattern. From 2015 Prelims onwards, CSAT paper has become only qualifying in nature. Hence your chances of clearing prelims solely depends on your performance in Paper – I which is General Studies. You are supposed to get certain net cut-off marks to clear this exam. Net cut-off mark is equal to Total marks for correct answers – One-third of Wrong answers. The net Cut-off marks for last three years are given in the following table.

Net Cut-off marks for last three years 2015, 2014 & 2013

Category 2015(out of 200 marks) 2014(out of 385 marks)* 2013(out of 400 marks)**
General 107.34 205 241
OBC 106.00 204 222
SC 94.00 182 207
ST 91.34 174 201
PH-1(Orthopedically Challenged people) 90.66 167 199
PH-2(Visually Challenged people) 76.66 113 184
PH-3(Hearing Impaired people) 40.00 115 163

*Subject to minimum of 40 marks in Paper-I and 70 marks in Paper-II
**Subject to minimum of 30 marks in Paper-I and 70 marks in Paper-II

It means that in 2015, the Net Correct questions shall be 54 questions for General category. Net Correct questions = Total correct questions – (one-third of wrong questions). For any expert in General studies, there will be only 20-25 questions for which he/she can say the exact answers 100% confidently. It means the remaining 29-34 questions one has to make logical guesses to clear the exam. Therefore, this Prelims exam now is all about making logical and smart guesses rather than test of your knowledge. In this context, an aspirant has to learn and practice on how to make effective guess rather than just reading books. Your knowledge will expand by reading books, which will be useful for making logical guesses. But, just by expanding your knowledge cannot fetch you good score in Prelims.

4. What to do now?
1. Make your Guesswork most effective: It is mandatory.
For this attending a genuine Test Series will be useful. In Test Series, start experimenting on making guess work on different topics like Polity, Economy, Geography, etc. Identify the areas where your guesswork may be effective and where they are not so effective.

2. Identify your core strengths i.e. topics of command:
Clearly since not much time is available at your disposal, try to identify the areas where you are already strong at like Polity or Economy or Geography. And try to see that their contribution is at least 65-70%. For example, Geography & Environment together itself contribute 30-35%. It means if you are good at this, you have already scored 30-35 questions out of 54 questions required for cut-off. Hence now identify topics of your command, which can fetch you remaining 20-25 questions. This way you can minimize your efforts and maximize returns by crossing your cut-off mark.

3. Do not neglect CSAT:
Most of thestudents neglect CSAT in the process of trying to maximize GS score. This has proved suicidal for some students in 2015 exam. CSAT though has become a qualifying paper, its toughness has increased from 2015. So, try attending some CSAT Grand tests to see whether you are able to clear cut-off marks of 66 in this one as well.

4. Practice Test Series only in OMR Sheets:
Tests have to be practiced only in OMR sheets without fail. There are different ways of filling OMR sheets. Every one has his/her own way of filling it. For example, fill in OMR for every answer you identified or after every 10 answers/questions or in the last 10 minutes etc. In the Test Series practice itself identify the method which suits to you. Do not change the method once you finalized the method.

5. Do NOT get Panic: Very Important
It is quite natural at this juncture that aspirants frequently get panicked. It is because of the feeling that they are required to read more material and that too in very less time. But just understand one thing that, none of the aspirants can have knowledge to clear cut-off marks merely by their knowledge. They clear the exam with their smart guesswork. So do not panic about your knowledge base. Just start practicing guesswork. Even this year topper Ms. Tina cleared Prelims with just cut-off mark only. Later she topped the list.

You did your BEST till now in widening the horizon of knowledge. But now, its time for smart work and not just hard work.Daily practice of Multiple Choice questions in a time bound manner is very important now.

Srikanth Vinnakota,
Analog IAS Institute

Published on 6/6/2016 3:24:00 PM

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