How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims?

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims? Approximately 70-85 questions can be answered by the aspirants to be within a safer limit, though the entire paper consists of 100 questions and not all questions should be attempted. Since the Prelims paper has ⅓ negative marking, solving more and more questions would not be helpful. The General Studies paper includes 100 questions, and CSAT has 80 questions.

As per UPSC cut off 2022, the marks range between 90 to 120, so candidates must attempt questions according to these marks. Candidates need to take a calculative measure that would ensure their chances of acing for the Prelims exam. In this article, understand the total number of questions to attempt in UPSC Prelims, CSAT, and Prelims Paper 1, so that you can take a minimal risk.

How Many Questions to Attempt in UPSC Prelims?

To clear the UPSC Prelims, candidates must attempt 70-85 questions accurately. Since there is ⅓ negative marking, 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 Prelims exam, 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 between 105-120 for the Prelims Paper I (General Studies). It is hard to declare the exact number of questions that must 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 Prelims.

How Many Questions to Attempt in CSAT?

For the UPSC CSAT, one needs to score 33% marks out of the total marks, i.e., 200, around 66 is the CSAT qualifying marks. 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 1.

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 in UPSC Prelims Paper 1 Must be Attempted?

UPSC Prelims paper 1 or General Studies-1 is not qualifying, unlike the CSAT paper. So to crack Prelims, one has to clear the cut-off marks that change every year for each category. As per the UPSC 2021 Cut Off, the minimum qualifying marks usually range between 90 to 120, and to be on the safer side, candidates should 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 Questions 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 attentive reading of what the question is asking, whether to mark ‘correct’ or incorrect, or the statements to choose from, and then mark the answer 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 down the unnecessary self-talk in the exam. Train your mind to work under pressure.
  • Try to bubble simultaneously – Piling questions for the last minute may end in a blunder; if the sequence goes whole wrong, the series of questions 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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