CSE Prelims Exam Date: 28th May, 2023

Prelims is now approaching and this is certainly a very crucial stage in your entire preparation Journey. Qualifying this stage gives you the opportunity to write Mains exam. Those who have been analysing past year papers and cut off must be aware of the fact that Prelims exam has become dicier and need a smart strategy as compared to the Mains.

You all must have started to shift your gear towards prelims preparation and surely be following some or the other strategy. If not, please make a plan for the last 100 days based on your strength and follow the same.

In this write up, we have tried to answer some of the FAQs that we encounter on a regular basis. We hope that reading this will definitely give you clarity w.r.t. your preparation strategy & approach.

(Note: This write up has been prepared based on experts’ opinion, toppers’ input and is recommendatory in nature. You may always devise your own strategy or customise it as per your own preparation level, strength and weaknesses.)

Previous Years cut off:
Year Cut off
2021 87.54
2020 92.51
2019 98
2018 98

Let’s have a look at the previous years’ cut off which clearly shows that the cut off is not too high but you definitely need to have a clear and smart strategy to qualify prelims.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How long should we continue with the Mains preparation (i.e., covering optional paper, covering Mains specific topic etc)?

If you are a beginner: You can continue till 15th of February or maximum till 20th Feb. After that you must stop preparation from Mains perspective. You will need at least 3 months for Prelims specific preparation.
Experienced candidate: You can continue Mains preparation till 10th of March and thereafter shift your focus on Prelims preparation.
Beginner: Either appearing for the first time in 2023 or appeared once before but could not clear Prelims.
Experienced:Who is not a beginner

2. When should we stop Answer Writing practice or attempting Mains Test series?

Beginner: You should now stop Answer Writing Practice. However, if you have already planned one or two Mains test papers, you can attempt them in next ten 10 days.
Experienced: You can continue till 10th March.

3. While starting Prelims specific preparation, how should we manage Static and Current Affairs (CA)?

Ans: You should start with two static subjects along with Monthly Current Affairs. You may find it difficult to manage more than 2 static papers initially. After revising all static subjects once, you can take up more than two subjects along with Current Affairs.
If you analyse the prelims papers carefully, number of questions from Current Affairs have certainly increased. However, Current Affairs preparation should not be given undue weightage. Both Current Affairs and Static need to be balanced to take a competitive edge.
Reason: Static portion has defined syllabus and moreover, almost all the serious aspirants refer the same source. You cannot afford to lose on this. Let us understand this through a hypothetical scenario.
Generally, UPSC asks 40-50 questions from static syllabus and 50-60 questions from Current Affairs/unknown areas and suppose the same pattern repeats this year too. In this case, it has been observed that students who perform better in 40-50 questions from static or known areas, they get an edge over others.
In the rest 50-60 questions, you will find that most of questions are asked from the areas that you might not have read. So, all the serious aspirants would end up applying logic, guess etc based on their own smartness. No student can be assured of this area as syllabus is not defined and no preparation is enough for current affairs.
However, if you read any particular book 4-5 times for static portion, then the chances of answering static question right becomes very high. If you are able to mark most of the static questions correctly, your chances of crossing the cut off becomes higher.
Therefore, Current Affairs preparation should not be done at the cost of Static Portion. Make sure all the static portion are revised 4-5 times.

4. What should be the duration of Current Affairs coverage?

Ans: Generally, it is advisable to refer around 1.5 yrs. of current affairs. For e.g., for upcoming 2023 Prelims, Current Affairs from Jan 2022 should be covered. However, if you are falling short of time you can go for 1 yr. Current Affairs i.e., from May 2022 to April 2023.

5. What should be source of Current Affairs preparation?

Ans: Any reputed institute’s monthly magazine can be referred. You can complement the same with Yearly compilation.

6. Are there any specific areas in Current Affairs which should be emphasised more?

Ans: As suggested above, students need to cover current affairs of 1.5 yrs. thoroughly but yes, there are certain specific areas such as Science & Technology, Environment, International Relations which should be emphasised more as around 60-70 percent questions of current affairs are being asked from these areas. Further, students can refer previous years’ (say 1-2 yrs.) yearly compilation on these topics to get good command over these.

7. What if, we haven’t read monthly magazines yet?

Ans: No issue. You can cover Current Affairs from yearly compilation. You do not need to start reading monthly magazines now.

8. How to balance between Monthly magazines and Yearly compilation?

Ans: : If you have read and revised monthly magazines properly (say 3 times), you can open the index of yearly compilation and mark cross on all the news articles you have already covered in monthly magazines. Identify the ones which you have not and read & revise those articles. You will hardly find 10-15 percent such additional uncovered articles.

9. Should we refer more than one institute’s monthly Current Affairs / Yearly compilation?

Ans:Not advisable.
Reason:You will not have that much time. If you are referring magazines of more than one institute, you will be compromising with revising static portion. Moreover, more than 90 percent news articles are same in all the institutes’ Current Affairs magazines and, chances that UPSC will ask questions from those 10 percent uncovered areas is extremely low. Even if, questions come from those areas, it will not decide your cut off if you have a sound static preparation and have revised CA from one source well.

10. How many times should we revise static portion?

Ans: Generally, 4-5 times revision is sufficient. However, there is no specific number that can be recommended as it depends personal competence and level of knowledge.
You should make sure that you are not committing blunders while attempting sectional tests. Therefore, you can analyse your revision status from Sectional test analysis as well.
Please note, analysis of sectional tests does not mean that you should revise static portion until you get 200/200. Just you need to make sure that you are not leaving any area and you are able to mark most of the questions from read portions correctly.

11. What should be the minimum number of mocks that must be attempted?

Ans: No specific numbers. But it is strongly advised that you should practice more than 30 tests in a graded manner like some sectional tests to revise and consolidate the syllabus and thereafter Full length mock tests. However, if you are unable to practice such number of tests, do not stress yourself. Try to practice as many mocks as possible. But, make sure you do not enter the UPSC exam hall without practicing even 10 tests.
Note: Practicing more mocks does not guarantee Prelims success but it helps you to revise your syllabus, analyse & consolidate your preparation and increases logical guessing ability.

12.What should be the objective of practicing mock tests or attempting prelims test series?

Ans:You should practice mock tests with the following objectives-

  • 1. Firstly, to know your areas of strength and weakness. You should proceed in the final exam based on your strengths and weaknesses.
  • 2. Secondly, to have an idea of how many questions you will be going to attempt in the final exam (though it may depend on toughness of paper but you should have your hit ratio). Through practicing mocks, analyse by attempting how many questions your score is peaking, attempt accordingly in the UPSC exam. But based on current question pattern, attempting less than 80 questions is not advisable.
  • 3. Finally, to develop your attitude, mental strength and temperament for the final exam. In UPSC exam, students tend to get nervous that reduces decision making ability. Therefore, in the last 45 days, focus should be to practice Full Length mock tests and prepare yourself to the exam hall situation.
  • a) Nervousness cannot be eliminated but it can certainly be reduced or controlled
  • b) Marks should never be the core objective while attempting mock tests. Post test analysis is more important.

13. Post test analysis takes too much time, how to manage this?

Ans: True. But this is worth investing time. Test without Post test analysis is wastage of time. It gives you deeper insight about your attempt i.e., your mistakes, your preparation level, areas you need to focus etc.
If you do it for 4-5 test papers, you will certainly notice improvement in your problem-solving skill and thereafter it will become a regular affair after attempting mock tests. Although, with practice, you will be able to devise your own technique to save time in doing post test analysis, still you can follow the below guidelines:
Once you attempt any mock test paper, do not sit immediately for paper analysis. Take a time gap of 6-8 hrs or you can do it on the next day with a fresh mind.
While doing it, you can analyse by categorising your attempt in following sections-

  • 1. Was sure about this question and marked with full conviction, turned out correct – No analysis required.
  • 2. Was sure about this question and marked with full conviction, turned out incorrect – Restrict your analysis to that option/statement where your assumption went wrong.
  • 3. Was not sure about all the options and took risk, turned out correct – Read explanation only about those options which you were not sure of.
  • 4. Was not sure about any option and took risk, turned our correct or incorrect – Read full explanation.
  • 5. Did not attempt the question – Read full explanation
Note: After attempting few test papers and doing post test analysis, you can develop symbol for above categories and can use them while attempting the test itself.

14. Are the last three months enough for prelims specific preparation?

Ans: More than enough, if you have done serious integrated preparation before starting prelims specific preparation.
Reason:While doing integrated preparation, 70-80 percent syllabus are same for prelims and Mains. Hence, you must have covered all the areas at least once before starting Prelims specific preparation. In the last 3 months, you can cover them at least 3 more times along with the test series. Your productivity and efficiency increase with time. Therefore, what you have covered in the entire one year, you can easily cover them at least thrice in the last 3 months.

15. Can we go for selective study if we are unable to cover the entire syllabus?

Ans: Yes, you can. You need to ensure that you are covering those areas where UPSC emphasises. Also, while reading a specific subject, you can do selective reading of chapters.

16. Can we pick any new source for static portion at this stage?

Ans: Yes, you can. But you should not be picking any new source in the last 2 months or last 45 days. Just remember, do not read the same content from two or more sources.
We are sure that reading the above FAQs must have helped to clarify various doubts/queries w.r.t. your Prelims preparation strategy.

We are sure that reading the above FAQs must have helped to clarify various doubts/queries w.r.t. your Prelims preparation strategy.

Summarising the above, the key points which you need to focus upon:
  • Do not complicate things and overburden yourself. Keep you preparation strategy as simple as possible.
  • Cover syllabus one by one - Revise and consolidate with sectional tests – practice full length mock test to give final touch.
  • Keep your sources for static and current affairs as minimum as possible.
  • Restrict yourself to productive peer discussion forums only.
  • Avoid watching YouTube regularly for random content for strategy & guidance, solving MCQs randomly from internet, exploring multiple sources etc.
  • Do not keep on replanning or revisiting your strategy frequently.

Students, the time has come when you should be serious about your UPSC 2023 attempt. Now you cannot afford to waste any single day. Study hard, practice vigorously without over stressing yourself.

If you still have anything to discuss, you can go to the Home Page and book a mentoring session by clicking on ‘Discuss with Mentor’.

Keep Preparing!!!
Best Wishes…