How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims 2021 Exam?

By Saroj Singh|Updated : September 7th, 2021

There is no set rule as to how many questions to be attempted in the UPSC Prelims examination. There are many factors governing the attempt, such as speed, accuracy, and others. It is recommended that you try to assess while appearing for mock tests. It can be estimated based on the number of negative scores out of the questions attempted on the guesswork.

If it is seen previously that you remained in the negative scores after the guess works, then it is advisable not to do so. It may go against you. So, it depends from person to person.

How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims 2021?

As per the trend analysis, it is observed that the cut off for Prelims keep changing each year. Generally, cutoffs vary in 105-120 for the Prelims Paper I (General Studies). It is challenging to say the exact number of Qs to be attempted in a given year, as the level of difficulty varies. But we can surely figure out the core to stay in the safe zone.  

How to attempt UPSC Prelims Paper?

The maximum attempt for UPSC Prelims in Paper 1 (General Studies) varies between 75 – 85 Qs. It becomes dicey if you raise the number. As each negative marking deducts 1/3rd mark, it is not wise to raise a negative score.

Note: Here, the number Qs range is recommended considering the aspirants who are aiming to write Indian Forest Examination as UPSC Prelims is a common entrance for Civil Services as well as Forest Services. 

For Paper II (CSAT), one needs to score 33% marks out of total marks, i.e., 200, around 66. So, assess accordingly and scale up your preparation up to a score of 70-75 marks. To decode a number of Qs to be attempted in the CSAT paper, one can come on to the conclusion by considering two instances- one, 100% accuracy and second, 50-90% accuracy.

Given the trend, the Quantitative segment of CSAT does not have very high weightage; one needs to practice comprehension well. If the paper is inclined towards the quant segment, then going by 100% accuracy, one needs to attempt 27 Qs (27X2.5) and for 50-90%, attempt around 50-60 Qs. Be cautious while attempting, but more often, it is seen that intelligent guesswork pays well because correct answer gives 2.5 marks whereas incorrect deducts only 0.833 marks in CSAT and 0.66 in Paper I. 

Note: 100% accuracy is an ideal scenario, and it rarely happens, so to maximise the score, guesswork is recommended, but that should be based on the practicality, i.e., the level of difficulty and your ability to understand that in the examination hall.

And the ability of guesswork comes from a good level of preparation and regular practice through attempting mocks.

Reasons for committing mistakes in the examination contributing to negative score

  • Due to extensive coverage of the syllabus in the form of Multiple-Choice questions (MCQs), the syllabus allows wide coverage of the curriculum. It often becomes difficult for an aspirant to have knowledge about everything, and if he/she is aware, recalling amid the exam pressure becomes daunting. Hence, multiple revisions are recommended.
  • Emphasis on Paper I: As the CSAT paper is qualifying and marks are not counted for the final merit, aspirants tend to take this Paperless seriously while preparing for the UPSC Prelims. Therefore, one must constantly remind himself/herself that without qualifying CSAT, the marks of Paper I would not be considered. In the process of attempting the Paper I question in the morning shift, aspirants often get tempted to attempt more questions applying the guesswork. With past results, it is seen that even after attempting a significant number of correct questions many times, it is difficult to cross the cutoff marks. 
  • Therefore, sincere advice would be that an administrator develops the attitude of overcoming the temptation and be aware of when to stop. In the examination hall, do take diligent guesswork and some wild guesses.

Some Do’s and Don’ts

  • Try to remain realistic! Very often, students panic if they find the initial 10-15 Qs surprising while glimpsing through the Paper. Remember, the Paper is meant for the aspirants of varied backgrounds, so it is equally tough for everyone. And some elements of surprises are for the aspirant of every field, be it humanities or science, to quote a few.
  • Read the guidelines carefully. The same goes for keenly read what the question is asking whether to mark ‘correct’ or incorrect’, the statements to choose from and mark accordingly.
  • Do not lose your calm in the examination pressure. Focus on the task at hand, i.e., attempting the questions for 2 hours, shut the unnecessary self-talks in the exam. Train your mind to work under pressure.
  • Try to bubble simultaneously; piling them for the last circling, in the end, may end in a blunder; if the sequence goes whole wrong, series Qs might get wrongly attempted. Do not take such a risk. Do enough practice in the mocks.
  • Attempt as many mocks as possible in the exam like scenario so that time management can be assured.

Lastly, the most important advice is to ‘avoid’ discussing Paper I in the break. Stay calm, relax, and appear for CSAT with a fresh mind. Unnecessary speculations and discussions about the previous Paper would ruin the chances of qualifying the Paper at hand in the examination.   

We wish you all the best!


write a comment

NandhiniMar 19, 2021

Thanks alot Mam, being a fresher, its very useful for me 🙏🤓
Saroj Singh

Saroj SinghMar 19, 2021

You're most welcome! Let us know if you need any other assistance. All the best!

VarshaMar 29, 2021

Hindi me class

MandySep 8, 2021

IAS exam ki vacancy ka aya gi

MandySep 8, 2021

Ap ko pata ha

chethanlm Oct 4, 2021

Thanks alot  mam being a fresher

Mohan.mOct 9, 2021

Thank you

Follow us for latest updates