Why and How to Maximize Your Score in UPSC Prelims? Though it’s a qualifying Exam

You might be taken by a great surprise! Why should you focus on scoring well in the Prelims for the Civil Services Exam? The first stage of the CSE requires you only to qualify and the marks are definitely not going to contribute, in any way to your final score. Thus your rank when UPSC declares the result of the Civil Services Exam is not going to be affected by what you score in the Prelims.

Why should you try scoring well in the qualifying Prelims?

Here are quite a few logically convincing reasons why you should think of scoring well in the qualifying Prelims:

  1. Look at the facts: Though the first stage of the Civil Services Exam as conducted by UPSC is only a qualifying one, the facts are far from being very encouraging. Huge multitudes of aspiring Civil Servants face the initial stage in the run up to join Indian bureaucracy. However, these are only a handful out of the Lakhs of the youths with great expectations who are able to make their way to LBSNAA, Mussorie where the successful candidates of the CSE receive the training.
  2.  Increasing Competition: A Civil Servant, specifically an IAS officer is looked upon by the Indian society in such great awe that with each passing year, there is a huge surge in the number of the candidates who compete fiercely to join the Indian Administrative Services. Needless to say, with a tremendous increase in the number of people seeking to join IAS, each passing year witnesses an upswing in the level of competition. 
  3. The Prelims is meant to SCRUTINIZE: It would not be improper to say that UPSC filters out the candidates when your performance in the Prelims is evaluated. Though Lakhs of the candidates face the Prelims every year, these are only a few thousands who qualify.

Thus UPSC employs the qualifying Prelims as a process to scrutinize the few thousands of the potential administrators out of the Lakhs of the candidates at the first stage of the IAS Exam itself.

Therefore, it’s only logical to say that though Prelims is a qualifying Exam, you cannot think of taking it lightly. Needless to say, you must aim at maximizing your score in the Prelims for it’s not easy to qualify the qualifying Exam!

How to push your score higher in the Prelims?

Here are quite a few methods and the relevant tips to push your score in the Prelims up to 120+:

  1. The First Thing First: Though the NCERT books are considered to be the standard study material, the approach required to read them in order to clear the IAS Exam is far different from how a school boy reads the NCERT text book. An IAS aspirant’s reading of the NCERT books should focus on:
  2.  co-relating the content(s) that he reads with his knowledge of various subjects/topics/Papers for the CSE, specifically the Current Affairs in the right perspective.
  3.  A crystal clear understanding of the content (including the basic ideas, of course) of what the NCERT describes, apart from what all can be co-related to it as per the requirements of the UPSC syllabus for the Civil services Exam.
  4. Practice: It’s an important word that must never ever be omitted from an IAS aspirant’s dictionary. Put your knowledge to test. Solve the Test series. And you must not ignore the past years’ CSE Papers.

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Remember, if you do not practice, all the knowledge that you have been gaining from the books would not be fruitful to the extent you want it to be when you actually face the Prelims in the IAS Exam. So, the golden rule is that you practice and keep practicing. Besides, do not forget that you have to compete fiercely, as fiercely as a soldier does to win the battle. And there is a famous saying, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” Thus, it’s better that you practice, and practice repeatedly and sweat now rather than getting unnerved and panicking when you actually face the Prelims.

  • Keep Your Great Expectations Under Check, Be Realistic: It’s good not to entertain the idea that some of the questions would be there in the CSE Prelims from the test series or even the past years’ question papers that you solve. It simply might or might not be so! So, it’s better to be realistic.
  • Make A Selective Reading: Some of your peers might claim to have been reading 10 or even 20 books for a single subject. They might be doing so! And let them go ahead!

But, again, it’s better being realistic. Select the best of the books as per the requirements of the CSE syllabus. And read those books repeatedly. It will help you get the facts quicker and retain them in the memory longer!

  • The more you revise, the better it is: It only makes sense when you revise regularly. The more you revise, the better it is because it will enhance your confidence considerably. By means of revising, you are always able to grasp better and retain the facts for longer periods of time in the memory.

Tips to Follow during the Prelims

Till now we have been focusing on why and how to maximize your score in the Prelims. And now, a few tips about facing the Prelims effectively:

  1. Stay Calm: Once you get the question paper, stay calm. Do not panic even if you feel that you would not be able to answer more than 30- 35%  questions correctly. Keep cool and calmly think of answering the question paper correctly. There is a great probability that most of the candidates go through the same phase after reading the questions once. But if you stay calm and logically apply your mind to answering the questions, there is a great probability that you might be able to score well for UPSC declares quite a few successful candidates when the result is announced.
  2. A systematic Approach: It’s logical to follow a systematic approach. Go step by step.Read the entire question paper carefully. Answer the questions that you are completely sure of.

It’s better to attempt 80-90 questions at least.

Now, repeat the process at least 3 or 4 times in the given 2 hours. However, do not forget that if you attempt at least 90 questions, there would be a higher probability to clear the Prelims. Thus, if you are sure of knowing the correct answer (with eliminating one option), it’s better to move ahead with answering the question.

  • Do not answer randomly: Do not answer randomly. If you are not at all sure of the correct answer even in the least, it’s advisable that you do not pick the answer at random. It may affect the score negatively.


Finally, the last, but not the least, it should always be kept in mind that scoring well in the Prelims requires more than mere knowledge. Apart from self-confidence, it would be in your own best interest if you cultivate the virtues of stress management, patience, determination, and presence of mind, apart from a logically analytical bent of mind. 

And do prepare the syllabus on time so that you may revise well. Besides, taking care of what all has been said above would be in the best of your interests while you strive to clear the Prelims.

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