How To Calculate Score in UPSC Prelims After Negative Marking

Every year, the UPSC hosts the Civil Services Exam. It’s your gateway to a distinguished career in public services. The exam unfolds in three phases: Prelims, Mains, and the Interview stage, also known as the Personality Test. At each stage, failing to meet the required mark results in elimination. From the initial pool of several lakh candidates, only about 10,000 manage to reach the final stage i.e. interview stage.

Here you will find analysis of Prelims exam from top IAS coaching in Delhi. This page provides a detailed breakdown of the marks for the UPSC Prelims. The preliminary exam serves primarily as a filter to shortlist candidates for further evaluation. Those who clear this initial hurdle must then sit for the IAS Main exam, which acts as a more rigorous selection process. Successful candidates from the Mains are subsequently called for the personal interview, marking the exam’s ultimate phase.

Table of Content

  • Overview of the Preliminary Examination
  • Key Details on Scoring for the UPSC Prelims
  • How to Calculate Marks in UPSC Prelims for Both Papers
  • Top Tactics for UPSC Prelims Preparation for Candidates
  • Final Thoughts
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Overview of the Preliminary Examination

  • Qualifying Nature of the Exam 

The exam serves as a qualifier. The scores obtained typically do not influence the candidate’s overall ranking.

  • Negative Marking Explained 

The UPSC Prelims include multiple-choice questions. For every wrong answer, there’s a penalty. Specifically, a third of the marks designated for a question are deducted for each mistake.

  • Languages Offered 

Candidates can opt for question papers in Hindi or English.

  • The CSAT Requirement 

Paper-II, known as the CSAT, requires a minimum of 33% to pass. This score is essential for advancing to the subsequent stages of the examination.

The UPSC examination is renowned for its difficulty. Adding to the challenge is the negative marking system introduced in 2007. Since its implementation, each incorrect answer results in a deduction of points, further intensifying the examination’s rigor.

Important Insights on UPSC Prelims Scores

Many candidates find the marking system of the prelims a bit confusing. It’s crucial to remember that this phase just serves to qualify. Marks from the UPSC prelims don’t count towards the final merit list. Specifically, the CSAT paper acts as a qualifier in the IAS examination process.

To move forward to the UPSC Mains, two criteria must be met:

  1. Securing at least 33% in the CSAT.
  2. Achieving or surpassing the UPSC’s specified cut-off marks.

Below, you’ll find a concise overview of the structure and marking scheme for the UPSC preliminary examinations:

ExamNatureNo. of questionsTotal marksDurationNegative markingMinimum required
GS 1Ranking1002002 hoursYesPrescribed cut-off
CSATQualifying802002 hoursYes33%

The UPSC Prelims are valued at a total of 400 marks. It’s beneficial for candidates to engage in practice by utilizing past UPSC question papers. This approach helps in grasping the pattern of the IAS exam. It also aids in assessing one’s grasp of the Civil Services syllabus.

Method of Calculation for The UPSC Prelims Paper-I and Paper-II Marking

In the UPSC Prelims, candidates face two distinct papers: the General Studies Paper I and the CSAT Paper II. The General Studies Paper spans two hours, comprising 100 questions, each valued at 2 points, culminating in a total of 200 points.

Consider a scenario where, from these 100 questions, 75 are answered correctly and 25 incorrectly.

  • The calculation for Paper I is straightforward: For correct responses, 75 questions times 2 points each yield 150 points. An incorrect answer attracts a deduction of 0.33%, translating to a 0.66 point reduction per wrong answer. Hence, for 25 incorrect responses, the deduction is 25 times 0.66, amounting to 16.5 points. This deduction from the score for correct answers means a final tally of 133.5 points for Paper I.

Turning our attention to Paper II:

  • The CSAT Paper II includes 80 questions, with a total score of 200, where each question is worth 2.5 points. Assuming 65 correct answers out of 80, with 15 mistakes, the calculation unfolds as follows: Correctly answered questions give 50 times 2.5, equating to 137.5 points. For incorrect responses (15), with a penalty of 0.83 per mistake, the total deduction is 12.45 points. Thus, the net score for CSAT Paper II stands at 125.05 points.

Combining scores from both papers, the cumulative score for the UPSC Prelims would be 258.55 points.

Negative marking presents a significant hurdle in competitive exams for many. However, it’s important to note that this penalty applies solely to the prelims, not affecting the mains or interview stages.

Best Strategy for UPSC Aspirants for Prelims

When preparing for the UPSC CSE Prelims, candidates can adopt the following strategy for effective study:

  • Begin with the basics by delving into NCERT textbooks. While NCERTs alone won’t suffice, they lay a vital foundation. Start with class 10 to 12 textbooks in subjects like political science, geography, history, and economics. Once these are covered, move to NCERTs for classes 6 to 9 for a more comprehensive foundation.
  • Next, transition to standard UPSC CSE preparation materials. For a complete overview of necessary reading, candidates can refer to topic-wise guides for both Prelims and Mains. This step helps in covering the entire syllabus systematically.
  • Staying updated with current affairs is crucial. Instead of cramming just 3-4 months before the exam, integrate daily updates into your study routine. Reading articles on current events or watching daily news videos can keep you informed and prepared.
  • Developing a knack for eliminating incorrect options is key in the UPSC CSE. This strategy, more reliable than mere guessing, requires extensive practice. Engaging in multiple Prelims test series will enhance this skill, enabling candidates to tackle even the toughest questions with ease.
  • Practicing careful and attentive reading of questions is another crucial habit. Understanding the question fully leads to more accurate answers. It is essential to read each word of the question meticulously to grasp its full meaning.
  • Recording important data is beneficial. Make notes from the Economic Survey, Union Budget, Reports, and other significant sources. Keeping these notes updated and revisiting them regularly helps in retaining critical information.
  • Limit the number of study sources. Focusing on a few reliable resources thoroughly is more beneficial than skimming through a vast array. For the UPSC CSE Prelims, thorough revision is more impactful than the sheer volume of content covered.

To conclude, the structure of the scoring system has been detailed earlier. We encourage candidates to thoroughly review the UPSC Prelims Syllabus. This step is essential for gaining a deeper insight into the exam’s nature and the expected level of questions. You can even attend UPSC online coaching for prelims test series. Fees are very low or free but it will have positive impact on you prelims preparation. 

Now, with an understanding of how to calculate your UPSC Prelims score, you can make an estimate using the unofficial answer key if available. In case you feel you haven’t succeeded, don’t lose heart. The next opportunity is just around the corner. Take this moment to start preparing afresh, setting your sights on achieving your goal next time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How is the negative marking for prelims calculated?

Answer: To figure out the negative marking, you start by tallying up all the correct answers. Then, multiply the total number by the value of each question, applying the negative mark percentage. Subtract this from the total score. For example, if a person gets nine questions wrong, with each question valued at three marks and a negative marking rate of one-third, the calculation is as follows: (9 x 3) x 1/3 = 9. This amount is then deducted from the total score. If the candidate initially had 39 marks, after subtracting the 9 marks for errors, their final score comes to 30.

Q2: What scores are generally needed to pass the IAS prelims?

Answer: To clear the IAS prelims, the required scores are:

  • For UPSC Prelims Paper I, the cut-off is set by the UPSC and varies by the candidate’s category.
  • A minimum of 33%, or approximately 66 marks, is needed in UPSC Prelims Paper II.
  • Cut-off scores for the UPSC Prelims vary annually, typically ranging from 40-100 for various reserved categories and between 100 -125 for the General Category.

Q3: How can I significantly boost my scores in the UPSC prelims?

Answer: To enhance your prelims scores:

  • Limit your study materials to a few trusted sources rather than attempting to cover every available UPSC prep book. This strategy can lead to a higher score.
  • Consistently practicing and reviewing your performance helps increase efficiency.
  • Stay focused and composed during your studies. Rushing through or preparing in panic can be counterproductive.

Q4: Who achieved the highest marks in the UPSC?

Answer: Anudeep Durishetty topped the UPSC in 2017 with the highest scores. He earned 1126 out of a total of 2025 marks, which equals 55.60%. His score in the Mains was 950 out of 1750, and he secured 176 out of 275 in the personality test (UPSC Interview).

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