How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims Exam?

By Balaji

Updated on: February 17th, 2023

How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims? Well, there are a set of rules to decide how many questions to be attempted in UPSC Prelims. However, those candidates who want to take low risk in UPSC Exam due to negative marking often want to know How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims. As you know, in UPSC Prelims, there are two papers- General Studies-1 and CSAT. The general studies have 100 questions, and CSAT has 80 questions.

The maximum mark obtained in these two papers is 200, but there are ⅓ negative marks for wrong answers as well. That’s why candidates need to take a calculative measure that would ensure their chances of acing for the UPSC Prelims exam. In this article, we have mentioned How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims so that you can take the minimal risk.

Table of content

  • 1. How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims? (more)
  • 2. How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims for CSAT? (more)
  • 3. How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims for Paper 1? (more)
  • 4. Some Do’s and Don’ts while Attempting Question in UPSC Prelims (more)

How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims?

To clear the UPSC Prelims, the candidates must attempt a certain number of questions correctly. But there is ⅓ negative marking, so the candidates have to be very careful with attempting the right number of questions in order to clear the UPSC Prelims Cut-off for that particular year. To take minimal risk while attempting the UPSC Prelims, candidates need to adopt a strategic approach. Apart from a robust study plan and effective preparation stage, one must take a strategic approach to ace an exam like IAS Prelims.

As per the trend analysis, it is observed that the cut-off for Prelims keeps 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 questions to be attempted in a given year, as the level of difficulty varies. Below we have figured out the core to stay in the safe zone while attempting both papers in UPSC Prelims.

How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims for CSAT?

For the UPSC CSAT, one needs to score 33% marks out of the 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 questions to be attempted in the CSAT paper, one can come on to a conclusion by considering two instances- one, 100% accuracy, and the second, 50-90% accuracy.

Given the trend, the Quantitative segment of CSAT does not have a 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 the 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 maximize the score, guesswork is recommended, but that should be based on 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. So make sure to cover the UPSC CSAT Syllabus in the best possible way.

How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims for Paper 1?

UPSC Prelims paper 1 or General Studies-1 is not qualifying, unlike the CSAT paper. So to crack UPSC Prelims, one has to clear the UPSC Cut-Off that varies every year for each category. The cutoff marks usually vary from 90 to 120, and to be on the safer side, candidates target to score 120 marks. It is usually recommended that all the questions shouldn’t be attempted. So candidates should prepare in such a way that they will be able to answer 70-85 questions without taking any risk. In this way, the candidate can increase his/her chances of cracking the IAS Exam for Prelims.

Some Do’s and Don’ts while Attempting Question in UPSC Prelims

Here are some do’s and don’ts you need to follow while attempting the questions in UPSC Prelims,

  • Try to remain realistic! Very often, students panic if they find the initial 10-15 questions surprising while glimpsing through the Paper. Remember, the Paper is meant for aspirants of varied backgrounds, so it is equally tough for everyone. And some elements of surprise 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 reading what the question is asking whether to mark ‘correct’ or incorrect, the statements to choose from, and mark accordingly.
  • Do not lose your calm under the examination pressure. Focus on the task at hand, i.e., attempting the questions for 2 hours, and 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.
  • 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.
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