UPSC Prelims is, arguably, the most difficult of all the phases of the UPSC Civil Services Examination. The vastness of the syllabus, uncertainty of the question paper and the pressure of the 2-hour performance makes the paper, unquestionably, arduous.
This nature of UPSC Prelims makes the previous year question papers a panacea for all the issues revolving around it. While previous year papers do play a cardinal role in understanding the nature of the examination, its analysis is not easy. It, however, should not hinder your preparation as we are here to declutter all the nuanced knots of Prelims so that you reap the fruits of the seeds you have just sown!
Now, see the following graph and try to gauge the importance of each section.
Now, let’s understand the trend in a more detailed manner, section wise.
As you can see, history forms one of the core sections of UPSC and aspirants need to prepare this section well. The question of History revolves around the modern history and the art and culture section of History. It is to be noted that, unlike state PCS examination, UPSC does not ask questions dealing with political conquest and other trivial information, which are otherwise important in the PCS examination.
Even in the modern history section, the focus, till now, has been more on the period after 1905—the period when the national movement started.
This section is regarded as one of the most scoring sections in the question paper. As you can see, the number of questions in 2017 was the highest from this section and just after that in 2018, the number of questions was drastically reduced. You can expect around 15 questions from this section every year. Aspirants, usually mark 90% of the question correct here and you too need to come at par with them. With every passing year, UPSC has been focussing more on the conceptual clarity of the topics. So, you too need to prepare accordingly.
Indian geography and geographical locations form the core areas from where UPSC generally asks questions in prelims. As you can see from the above graph, the questions from this section have been relatively less than the earlier two sections. Though it does not oblige UPSC to follow the same pattern, generally, you can expect around 10 questions from this section. The good point about the section is that it is not as vague as the earlier two sections and the probability of your answer being correct is comparatively higher. Needless to say, the probability does not work in a blind guess.
The questions from this section are more concept-based. You do not need to dig deep into the core of economics but whatever you read make sure you understand it well. For example- if after completing the chapter on GDP you cannot differentiate between GDP and GNP, then read the topic again, without wasting a minute. As you can see from the above graph, the relevance of this section has increased from 2016. Focus on the concept, solve previous year papers and feel the confidence rushing through your veins!
Science and Technology
Here, you need to know that the section is ‘science & technology and not ‘general science’. The difference between the two is that the latter focuses on static topics like Physics, Chemistry, Biology while the former is more technology-based. Most of the questions from this section are application-based and related to current affairs. You don’t need to know everything about the technology you read, but you must know the basic features of it.
By looking at the table, it can be inferred that the number of questions asked from this section has been consistently decreasing lately. Though prelims of both—civil services and forest services are conducted through the same paper, the weightage of the environment has decreased. UPSC, however, can fillip this trend any year and, you must not show complacency while dealing with this section. The questions from this section are both factual and conceptual so, you need to both memorize and understand the topics.
2016 was a watershed year for current affairs in prelims. Since then, it has not followed any trend but what you can see from the graph is that you cannot risk ignoring it. The question can be anything between 10-20 and it can be a reason for surprise in the question paper. To have a grasp over this section, follow one year of current affairs religiously. Cover every issue relevant for UPSC and do prepare this section holistically— the way you will do for the mains examination.
Prima facie, it does looks like a herculean task. But, with a judicious mix of efforts and guidance, you will definitely sail through this phase. Efforts are your domain. You can leave the guidance part to us. We, at Adda 247, will ensure that your efforts get the requisite direction and you end the journey with a grand success.