June 18th, 2019       Civil Services Preparation

The UPSC CSE is conducted in three stages i.e, the preliminary examination, the mains examination and the personality test examination. The Preliminary exam serves as a screening test to filter out few thousand aspirants from lakhs of candidates for the mains examination. The prelims exam consists of two papers.

The pattern of the same is as follows:

1. PAPER 1– General Studies containing 100 questions on General Awareness carrying a total of 200 marks
2. PAPER 2– CSAT containing 80 questions on aptitude carrying a total of 200 marks

**Paper 2 is of qualifying nature and the aspirants need to get a minimum of 33% marks in order to qualify for the evaluation of the GS Paper 1. The prelims merit list is then prepared on the basis of the marks obtained in Paper 1.

Every serious and sincere aspirant to see his or her name in the Prelims merit list has the worry of avoiding negative marking to increase the chances of crossing the cut off mark. The purpose of this article is to focus on how to avoid/reduce negative marking in both the papers of CSE Prelims.

Some basics about the exam:

  • The prelims papers are of two hours duration each.
  • The questions are MCQ based having 4 choices out of which only 1 is correct.
  • For each wrong answer, the aspirant is penalized 1/3rd of the total mark allotted to the question. To understand this further, if an aspirant marks one wrong answer in Paper 1 he/she will lose 2/3 or 0.66 marks and if he/she marks one wrong answer in paper 2, 5/6 or 0.866 marks will be deducted.
  • Further, if a candidate gives more than one answer (even by mistake) to a question, it will be treated as a wrong answer and negative marking will take place.
  • If a question is left unanswered, there will be no penalty for the same.

After getting an overview on how marks are allotted in the prelims papers, below are a few rules/strategies that might help an aspirant to minimize negative marking and maximize the score to the potential.

Tips for paper 1

  • The first step in paper 1 is to start attempting the questions in the given order and mark the answers for the questions whose answers you are 100% sure of in the OMR sheet.
  • Simultaneously cross the question number of such questions in the question booklet so that you know that this question is done and dusted. Such questions will give you a lot of confidence for the remaining questions. Also be very cautious to correctly mark the answers of these questions in the OMR sheet.
  • The next step is to start the question paper in the given order again and start attempting the questions which have not been crossed. While attempting you might come across three categories of questions now-
    i. You are able to eliminate two answer choices
    ii. You are able to eliminate only one answer choice
    iii. You have never read about the topic
  • For the i. category questions if suppose you have eliminated choices a) and b) but are unsure about c) and d) choices. Then choose the choice you are more inclined towards. Say that is choice d). Mark a circle on that choice in the question booklet and proceed to the next question. For the ii) and iii) category questions do not waste time and move on.
  • The next step is to go through the questions on which you have circled the inclined choices. Analyse again and if still confused over the correct answer, mark the choice which you circled in the OMR sheet and cross the question number in the question booklet. Please note that you are not guessing blindly in this case but are taking a calculated risk.
  • After again completing the paper in this way, if you still have time left then again go through all the uncrossed questions. If you are able to eliminate two choices now, employ the strategy mentioned in last point. However, if you are not able to brainstorm to the same, the last resort is to make a wild guess.
  • Please ensure that you do not wild guess a lot of questions. Try to keep the number of such questions in single digits.

Tips for paper 2

  • The first step is to attempt the questions in order and marking the answers to the questions in the OMR sheet whose answers you are 100% sure of. Simultaneously cross these questions in the question booklet.
  • Next step is to attempt the uncrossed questions. These questions will fall into three categories- i) you are able to eliminate two choices(in English based questions), ii) you know the approach but are taking time to solve(mathematics based questions), iii) you do not recall the approach/formula, are not able to solve a passage or have no clue of the question.
  • For category 1) questions, mark the inclined choice in the OMR sheet and cross the question in the question booklet.
  • For category ii) questions, if time is available, try to attempt passage based questions over single based questions. This is because if you are able to solve a passage, in most of the cases you are able to attempt 3-4 questions in one go. However, do not try to take a calculated risk in the passage based questions because they are inter-related and can be marked wrong in one trot.
  • For category iii) questions, if time permits and if you feel you are not reaching the 33% qualifying mark in the attempted questions, then you can guess only the English based questions.

Avoid UPSC CSE Prelims Negative Marking

Keep in mind:

The rationale behind negative marking is to reduce the effect of guess work so that only competent and serious candidates go through. However, it must be noted that educated guessing plays a very important role in the prelims paper and one should try to go for it rather than abstaining from the same. Further, wild guessing should be avoided to minimum. One should always remember that the basic mantra to success in any stage of the UPSC CSE is to prepare diligently, smartly with the best resources. For prelims, to maximize your score and to adapt to the above strategies, try to give as much mock tests as possible and try to simulate yourself in real type environments. This way you will surely excel and achieve your dream of being a civil servant.

REMEMBER HARD WORK ALWAYS PAYS. FURTHER IF THE EXAM IS DIFFICULT IT WILL BE FOR EVERYONE.

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