How to Improve Accuracy in UPSC Prelims

I cleared UPSC Prelims 2016 only because I had a plan for how to improve accuracy in UPSC Prelims. In 2015 I had missed the cut-off because of making silly errors. So I developed a system through which high accuracy in UPSC Prelims paper can be achieved. The result was that I marked 60 out of 62 attempted questions correctly. I achieved 96.77% accuracy! I am listing out the ways to increase your accuracy below:

Ways to improve accuracy in UPSC Prelims

  1. When you are solving the Prelims GS paper, in the first round of solving the questions
    • ‘✓’ tick mark those which you are 100% sure to be correct
    • O‘ circle around those where you have eliminated 2 options confidently
    • X‘ cross the question where you have eliminated 1 option confidently
  2. Now see how many you have been able to do with 100% surety. For a well prepared student this number can vary from 45-60 questions, depending on the difficulty level.
  3. Now in the second round, go through the ‘O‘ marked questions.
  4. You must attempt all such ‘O‘ marked questions because the probability is in your favour. See below how:
    • Suppose you have 20 such questions where you have eliminated 2 options. So probability of marking correct answer is 10 out of 20.
    • So you will get 10×2 = 20 marks for correct answers but 10 x (-0.66) = -6.6 marks for incorrect ones.
    • So your net gain would still be positive, i.e. 13.6 marks.
  5. Now evaluate your position. If you feel that according to the difficulty level, you are in safe zone with these many attempts, you don’t need to attempt the third category, i.e. ‘X‘ marked questions.
  6. But if you feel that your attempts are too low, then you can also attempt this third category as the probability is again in your favour:
    • Suppose there are 12 such questions marked ‘X‘ where you have eliminated only 1 option. So probability of marking correct answer is 4 out of 12.
    • So you will get 4 x 2 = 8 marks for correct answers but 8 x (-0.66) = (-5.28) marks for incorrect ones.
    • So your net gain will be 3.34 marks.
    • You can see that the gains here are much smaller and the risks are higher. So attempt only if extremely necessary.
  7. Forget about the questions about which you do not have any clue at all. Do NOT attempt them.

The mental aspect of improving accuracy in Prelims

The previous paragraph was about how to strategically attempt questions to achieve higher accuracy. However, there is an equally important aspect that you should not ignore. And that is the mental aspect of how to improve accuracy in UPSC Prelims.

In 2015 Prelims, I had made very silly errors and missed out on the cut-off marks even though I was very well prepared within 8-9 months. This was because I neglected my health, both physical and mental. Unless you are physically and mentally sound, you will be prone to error. So I adopted the following habit from one week before Prelims:

  • Even though I was a night person, I changed my schedule to sleep early and wake up by 6-7 am.
  • I started doing meditation morning and evening for 10-10 minutes each. There are guided meditation videos available on YouTube. Plug into your ear and follow instructions.
  • I stopped thinking about the actual exam situation to reduce my anxiety levels.
  • I made sure that I slept for 7 hours even on the night before Prelims exam date. You wake up fresh, rejuvenated and at optimum level of your performance.

The UPSC Prelims 2020 is around. I hope my method will be adopted by you. You will definitely see great results.

9 thoughts on “How to Improve Accuracy in UPSC Prelims”

  1. Adarsh kant Shukla

    Thanks Sir! It worked out pretty well. Will try to replicate the same in every test from now on.
    Also, I have a doubt, I may be wrong though- I observed that This technique yields much more dividend when applied in UPSC papers, compared to mock tests of various coaching centres. Since the level and quality of prelims mocks is quite different from the actual paper, what score should I be targeting in prelims mocks to evaluate my preparation level?

  2. Sometimes,in some questions,it seems to be 100% correct answer but eventually turn out wrong. Also in 50-50 situation, most of the time, wrong option ticked up. So, how to work upon that?

    1. Somesh Upadhyay

      It means that your conceptual clarity is lacking. Read up those topics where you are making mistakes.

  3. Preeti Singh

    Sir, you said we should get 45-60 sure questions in the first reading. I have more questions in the two options eliminated category. How to improve?


    Aspects understood logically by considering the reality.No doubt whenever negative marking provisions given,above statrtegies is meaningful and practical…Thanks so much Sir

  5. Hi Sir, Pls add me to your WhatsApp group. Kindly let me know how can i contact you personally. My optional is also geography.

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