8 Tips to Help You Clear UPSC Prelims

The prelims exam is the first barrier to cross in your race towards the IAS goal. Only if you get the cut-off marks in the preliminary stage, you will be eligible to take the UPSC mains in October this year. This article gives you 8 tips to help you better your performance in the IAS prelims exam.

First of all, check out the format of the IAS prelims exam:


Total Marks

No. of Questions


Negative Marks




2 hours





2 hours



As you can see, both the prelims papers have negative marks for incorrect answers. So, it is important to have a strategy for attempting the prelims as you cannot take chances in it. Even one mark can make the difference between making it and losing an attempt. So, we give you a few tips that you can incorporate while answering the paper so as to maximise your chances.

Tip #1

Attempt a minimum of 80 questions. Otherwise, your chances of making it are almost nil.


Tip #2

Use your common sense! Out of the 100 questions, there would be around 50 questions that everybody can answer if prepared diligently. And, there would be around 20 that might be genuinely called difficult. The remaining around 30 questions are those where you will have to use your knowledge and more importantly, common sense. You must not carry any preconceived notions into the exam hall. The CSE is not a tough exam. It is an exam where you have to ‘apply’ yourselves.


Tip #3

Read the questions very carefully. Notice words like none, all, few, etc. Take care to understand the question and what is asked with extreme sharpness. Don’t skim the question. Read every word with caution. This can make the difference between winning and losing.


Tip #4

Read all the options carefully. A lot of candidates tend to avoid reading all the answers especially if he/she thinks that the first option is right. It is recommended that you read through all the options before fixing on an option.


Tip #5

Keep the question paper booklet at the right distance. Keeping it too far can lead to silly mistakes and keeping it too close can restrict your thought process and you may end up not being able to finish the paper.


Tip #6

You must learn how to eliminate the wrong answers. This is very important to increase your chances of getting high marks.


Tip #7

This tip should be used only as a ‘last resort’ in the prelims. Suppose towards the end of your attempt, there are around 10 questions which you have left because you are absolutely not sure of the answer. In this case, it is recommended that you mark the same option for all the ten questions. i.e., all A, all B, all C or all D. This will boost chances of your getting more marks. But remember this is only a last resort.


Tip #8

Be calm and composed in the exam hall. If you panic, you will not be able to recall even those things which you were very sure of. So, remain calm and focus only on the present. You will be able to do your best if you think with a peaceful mind.


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