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Preliminary Examination

Preliminary examination is intended to eliminate non serious candidates and provide an opportunity for the serious students to compete in the main examinations. Most of the aspirants think that preliminary examination is a tough nut to crack and they feel that it is the GS paper which makes their attempts miserable. It is a wrong perception. The truth is that GS is easy to score when it is prepared intelligently.

Every year coaching institutes fail to provide students with right guidance regarding GS (preliminary). Very few questions are asked from their material. Their model question papers are crap. Even magazines do the same when they provide huge lists of expected questions, unfortunately they are always excepted by the UPSC.

UPSC wants candidates laden with facts regarding current and past events related to India and the world. It is amply evident from the past ten years question papers. Questions regarding history, polity, geography are no more important from the viewpoint of their historical perspective but with the present.

If you are serious enough to devote 6 hours every day for seven months before prelims you must be able to clear prelims assuming you are good in your optionals.

I am giving you a strategy for cracking GS based on last 8 years question paper pattern. If you are able to fallow this I assure you can score more than 80 with ease.


A total of 3,27,683 candidates had applied for this year’s(2007) examination. While 1,61,469 candidates appeared for the preliminary examinations, 9,266 candidates qualified for the mains and of them 1,886 were selected for the personality test. Finally 734 were selected for various services. This shows that more than 50% applicants do not attempt prelims! Of those who attempt my guess is that 30-40 percent is not very serious with their preparation. Another 30 percent involve fresh candidates and remaining are repeaters. It means that the competition is very narrow and those who work hard are ultimately rewarded.

Number of Questions asked from different sections

1. Current Events – 40-45 questions (43 in 2008 )
2. Science & Technology – 30-35 questions (30 in 2008 )
3. Geography – 35 questions (35 in 2008 )
4. History – 15-18 questions (16 in 2008 )
5. Numerical Ability – 10-15 questions (12 in 2008 )
6. Government schemes, projects, committees – 5—8 questions (6 in 2008 )
7. Polity – 5-10 questions (8 in 2008 )

This clearly shows that focus is shifting more towards current events, science & technology and geography. Those who are strong in any two of these sections can easily score more than 60 in GS paper.


§ What to read for the above topics

1) For current events you must thoroughly read The Hindu, Economic Times, Frontline and any other competitive magazine (CS times, CS chronicle or Pratiyogita Darpan). Competitive magazines should act as supplements and ready reckoner’s only. While you read these always try to focus more on people, places and events (such as G-8 meeting, Climate change summits etc.)

2) At the end of every month revise important national and international events by making very short notes (one liners). Two months before prelims collect last 14 issues of competitive magazines and note down all important events in single lines and read them repeatedly. For places you must look at the atlas to store them in your long term memory. This will cost you only two weeks but earn you assured 40 marks.

3) Additionally collect a diary of events released by the Hindu every January. This will alone earn you around 6-10 marks for you!(click here to go there)

4) Every time you read current events be proud of your widening knowledge about the world around you; this will help you in sustaining interest in newspapers and magazines.

5) In the science and technology section UPSC is more interested in Space and space missions, nuclear energy, wildlife, human body, chemicals(currently debated- example, melamine), environmental issues(ex, marine pollution) , Nobel prizes and inventions. You do not have to read heaps of books for this. Read elementary science books first, watch Discovery, Nat Geo, BBC whenever you watch TV and be alert to science related news every day.

6) Geography has been given prominence in the last 5 years with more than 30 questions being asked consistently. Geography of India alone carries around 25 questions.

-to score maximum in this section focus should be more on:
- rivers, hydroelectric projects, lakes and dams (6 questions)
- agriculture, irrigation, crop productions (3-4 questions)
- wildlife sanctuaries, mountain ranges (4-5 questions)
- mineral resources – new discoveries, place and their states (2-3 questions)
- population, state boundaries, forest cover (4-5 questions)
- census 2001, literacy, density, health indicators (3 questions)
- power reactors-thermal, nuclear
- in world geography focus should be more on current events related place, straits, seas, oceans and important cities- like those where G-8, G-20 meeting are held.

Two books you must read for this are; Geography of India by Khullar and Certificate course in Human Geography by Goh Cheng Leong.

1. In history do not read ancient history if you have very less time (it is not in the syllabus too). Thoroughly read the modern history (1700 A.D. To 1947 A.D.), out of 16 questions in 2008, 13 were from modern history and rest were from post 1947 events. Most of the questions were related to important persons and their works. Therefore while you read history give importance to the personalities and their contributions. There will be a compulsory question on Mughals, Viceroys, Moderate freedom fighters, books written at that time, a newspaper of that time and important places of historical interest.

2. In Indian polity concentrate on judiciary, Directive Principles of State policies, Fundamental rights and Legislature (state & union).

3. At any cost do not forget to read about important schemes of the Govt. of India (refer India year book 2009 -don’t buy it, download it here for free!), PSUs, public institutes which have been newly setup, defence related issues such as new missile, air power technologies, and most recent economic indicators (referwww.epw.in).

4. If you want to realize your dream you must pass the prelims and here your optional plays a crucial role. You must solve last 15 years question papers in your optionals not once or twice but as many times as possible. This will definitely help you in getting more than 40-50 questions correct at least by intelligent guesses.

I have tried to give you a plan in a concise manner. If it is little use for you I will be very happy. Your comments will be valuable in improving this article.

8 Responses so far.

  1. Superb Abhi...!
    Really valuable info.
    !!Bunch Of Thanks!!

    Regards,
    Ravindra

  2. Hi Abhishek,

    I am dentist by profession and planning for UPSC.Can u plz help me in selecting an optional subject which will be gud for me.
    Thanks,
    Mitali

  3. it is really wonderful

    Mitali

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.
  5. nishu p says:

    abhi sir,
    I've IGNOU indian history material,so should i go through it's ancient history notes?
    thank you.

  6. Grateful to you Admin for offering such an intriguing and satisfying subject concerning UPSC CSAT. I may need to offer a trade discriminating site for UPSC CSAT and its associated arrangements, i.e http://www.dishapublication.com/

  7. The real picture is being described here in this piece...students don't get the relevant assistance from these institutes that don't cater to student's needs and are running only for business... anyway the tips here are really useful... thanks for sharing it with UPSC students

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