Disclaimer: What worked for me may not work for you.So kindly take my advice cautiously and modify them according to your strength/weaknesses.

Result of Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination,2016 is out.Some have made it while many have not.It’s quite disheartening to see people not clearing prelims in spite of their best effort.I have shared my suggestions regarding cracking prelims based on my experience.Though I invested a lot of time writing this article but to save your time,here is the SUMMARY (please read the whole article if you have time.I have shared some quality stuff as well):

  1. Target easy and medium level questions while preparation.So,focus on basics of static portion i.e; History,Geography,Polity,Economy.This year Current affairs was asked disproportionately high but this is an aberration rather than a norm.Nevertheless, you have to be prepared for surprises.So,don’t neglect anything entirely.
  2. Special attention on areas which are asked more often.
  3. Solve previous years papers of all UPSC exams very thoroughly.If you are giving Prelims on 2017,then solve all Objective papers of UPSC (like CDS,NDA,CAPF etc) of 2017,2016 and 2015.Since they have a different syllabus,look for questions relevant to you.I have discussed how to solve the paper later in the article.
  4. During the exam time:
    1. Stay totally calm and composed.It’s natural to feel nervous and tensed.Take deep breaths and focus on the present.
    2. Fill the bubbles very carefully,especially your paper code,roll number and answers.I know a friend whose one year was ruined because of filling answer responses wrongly even though he marked them correctly in his question paper.
    3. If your examiner is uncooperative,noisy and disturbing,express your displeasure politely.If your bench is broken or uncomfortable,don’t hesitate to ask for a replacement.Hence,it is essential to reach the centre well in time.

Not to brag but to give a background,I got 144 in GS Paper-1 last year and expecting 140+ this year.So,I wish to share my strategy with my fellow aspirants.I appreciate that there are much more blogs/web pages which will guide you much better than me,but still,allow me to give another perspective.The best guide that I have found so far is Reading Between The Lines:Preparing for the Civil Services Examination, a document prepared by 19 IAS officers of 2012 batch.


As written in “Reading between the lines”,” Preliminary is a test of recognition. It would be sufficient, most of the times, if you can recognise the correct answer(s) from the given choices,though it is not as easy as said.

So,in my opinion,while attempting an MCQ,rather than finding a correct answer,first eliminate the wrong answers.Most of the time some options are quite obviously wrong.This will boost your confidence which will, in turn, take you closer to the answer.

For example,in this lengthy (and seemingly tough) question of this year’s paper


See statement 2.Common sense says that since desertification is a global issue,why would a convention focus on South Asia and North Africa and that too allot more funds!So,statement 2 appears wrong.This means you can straight away eliminate options (b) and (d).Now, Statement 1 is common in both (a) and (c) ,so statement 3 will decide which is correct.If you read carefully,prima facie,statement 3 appears right.So preferably go for option (d).

If you use common sense and understanding based on general reading,you will approximately reach the correct answer in most of them.

Obviously, there will be some incorrect guesses as well but if you attempt a sufficient number of questions,you will sail through.Hence,attempt as many questions as you can.For example, if you attempt 4 questions with guess work and get 3 wrong and 1 right,you will get zero and if you don’t attempt all 4 questions,you still get a zero.With a little luck, you will surely get 2 right.

I have a thumb rule which says that if you can eliminate even one option,attempt that question.BUT,DO NOT make wild guesses if you DON’T KNOW anything about a question.

S this is about attempting when you don’t know the exact answer,however, you can’t rely totally on guess work.Here comes the importance of the static portion of the syllabus i.e; History,Geography,Polity,Economics.

Though this year’s paper was an aberration because Current Affairs was disproportionately high considered to previous years’ papers but no exam setter can neglect static portion completely.Hence it is quintessential to get absolutely strong with the basics of these subjects using NCERT and other basic books commonly referred by students.

Given the humongous syllabus,even getting done with basics can be tough.Hence it is essential to focus on areas which are asked more often.For this,you MUST solve previous 5 years’ papers of UPSC (especially last three years).I mean not just Civil services papers but all the Objective Type papers of UPSC having some syllabus of General studies like CDS,NDA,SCRA,CAPF etc.They are so many that you won’t need any coaching test papers.

I have shared my collection of Previous Years papers of UPSC with official answer keys using Google Drive.Please find it HERE.

Now,please don’t just solve these papers rather analyse them.Solve each question in entirety.See how I solved CDS (I) paper of 2016



This will consume a lot of time but I can assure you that it is worth it.This will have many advantages like:

  • You will know which areas to focus while studying.
  • For trivia type questions on National park,National highway,endangered species,monasteries etc,just focus on previous years papers.It doesn’t make sense to remember all the 100 or so National Highways when UPSC will ask only about first 10-15.In any case, you have to do the cost-benefit analysis and work hard smartly.
  • While solving so many UPSC papers,you will develop familiarity with the questions and when you see questions sitting in the exam hall,you won’t find them strange.This will boost your confidence.
  • With time,you will develop intuition to hit right answers.So it is my sincere advice to practice only UPSC papers a week before exam (and no coaching papers,though you can revise previously solved coaching papers)
  • Some questions will be copied verbatim from previous years papers.

If you don’t like working on PDFs,you can go to this website (I have no tie-up with this site).

Like any other exam,this exam has some easy questions,many with medium difficulty and some hard questions.You have to focus on easy and medium ones.This means focus on basics with a lot of revision.Do not look for a Utopian material which is perfect in every sense.For Current Affairs,go for maximum one or two sources and revise again and again.It is essential to read the newspaper regularly and be aware of important happenings.

Those finding Paper-II (CSAT) difficult need to practice a lot.You can go to this website to practice.(I have no tie-up with this site).

I hope you find my suggestions useful and sail through this exam with flying colours.Please feel free to share your doubts/suggestions/complaints using the comment box below.