UPSC Civil Services preliminary examination was held today. Since the past few years UPSC has been moving towards factual instead of conceptual questions and towards more and more current affairs than static portion in the preliminary examination. Although that trend is there to stay, but unlike last year, there were no more disproportionately large number of current affairs and factual questions.
UPSC has renewed its focus on conceptual and applied questions this year. Also, the questions were such that they tested one’s knowledge across varied dimensions and asked one to dig in one’s memory to cull out relevant information. As per Atul Roy of Gradeup (online tutorials), the paper was significantly more difficult than last year and that is going to affect the cut-off too.
As usual the UPSC preliminary threw many surprises and many people who went in the exam hall expecting a set pattern were in for a shock. The paper seemed very easy at first glance, but options were very close plus in some questions and in some questions very specific details were asked. As usual UPSC asked tricky questions which not only tested conceptual understanding but also factual information.
And that makes prelims a roll of dice for many. Many students who had mugged up current affairs modules were stumped as there were far fewer questions from current affairs as compared to last year. It also highlights the fact that clearing the UPSC CSE prelims requires not only extensive reading, but also an eye for detail.
UPSC also gave a cold shoulder to some of the sections like General Science.
Environment: The focus on environment is still there with 15 questions in total. Most of the questions revolved around current affairs especially those which have potential public health and environmental impact. So, environmental news becomes an important source of reference for aspirants.
History & Art & Culture: History was more on the usual lines. There were 6 questions from Modern History and 6 from Ancient History & Art & Culture. The history portion (ancient and modern) was largely factual and less of conceptual. In comparison to Modern History the ancient portion was not so difficult in general since they were mostly factual, however, art and culture was covered largely which has always been very diverse. Also, UPSC has a penchant for picking anything from anywhere in art and culture and that makes this section very difficult to prepare. The best bet is to read NCERTs well and understanding art and culture with an eye for facts.
Geography: In Geography, around 70 per cent of the questions revolve around maps. Hence, it is pretty easy for anyone who is well-cognisant with the world and India map. However, some of these questions are tricky and can fool aspirants if not thought out properly. The other miniscule number of questions from this section are from predictable and traditional geography topics like monsoon and irrigation in agriculture. Very little of physical geography was asked this time.
Economy: The questions on economy were mostly factual and related to current affairs. In all there were around 7-8 questions from economy. Also, the weightage has not changed from last year. Economics questions were not easy. Unlike previous years questions, this year’s questions were not conceptual but factual too. As expected, UPSC asked current affairs of 2012-2016 in economics.
Science & Technology: There were only 4 questions from General Science and they were application based. The questions from tech were mostly Current Affairs based and overlapped with Environment & Biodiversity. Overall this section has lost its favour with UPSC and we believe that there is no need to prepare for General Science separately anymore. For Technology, thorough grip on Current Affairs would save the day.
Polity: 22 Questions were asked from Polity. And this as the most scoring section because most of the questions were direct. Some of the questions which were conceptual were not that difficult if one understands the basics of Polity well. So here the NCERTs become important to understand the basic philosophy of the Indian Polity and Constitutional Structure. For anyone to have a decent chance at clearing this year’s prelims, this was the section to bank upon.
Current Affairs: Govt schemes, laws and policies have become a section in themselves, carrying at least 14 questions. If you combine CA questions this no goes up to 27. But this paper was a lot more balanced than last year in which CA dominated the whole paper. With this focus on govt schemes, PIB becomes an important source of preparation. The question on National Nutrition Mission was lifted straight from a press release of PIB.