Negative marks were introduced in the UPSC Prelims for the first time in 2007. Even after the exam pattern change, negative marking has been retained. The pattern of the UPSC Civil Services Prelims is given below:
- General Studies Paper I(General Awareness): 100 Questions carrying 200 marks
- General Studies Paper II(CSAT): 80 Question carrying 200 marks
IAS aspirants need to secure a minimum of 33% in the CSAT paper. Only then will the GS paper I be evaluated. Here the qualifying mark is based on a cut-off mark declared by the UPSC.
Avoiding negative marking is something that every UPSC aspirant worries about. To be able to score well in Prelims, we need to understand the marks distribution of UPSC Prelims. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on how the questions are evaluated and how to maximise the score in the Civil Services Exam.
Negative marking in UPSC Prelims
In this section, we will focus on how negative marking works in the Prelims exam.
Each paper is of two hours duration. Both contain multiple-choice questions(MCQs). You have four choices out of which only one is the correct answer. For each incorrect answer, you will be penalised 1/3rd of the marks in UPSC Prelims.
This means, if you mark one right answer and three wrong answers, you get zero marks. Out of 4 questions, if you get 1 correct and 3 incorrect, you will not lose marks although you will not gain either.
The reason for the change in the UPSC marking pattern is to negate the effects of guesswork in the Civil Services Exam.
I. There are four alternatives for the answer to every question. For each question for which a wrong answer has been given by the candidate, one-third of the marks assigned to that question will be deducted as penalty. (i.e., 0.66 marks deducted for every wrong answer as every question carries 2 marks)
II. If a candidate gives more than one answer, it will be treated as a wrong answer even if one of the given answers happens to be correct and there will be the same penalty as above to that question.
III. If a question is left blank, i.e., no answer is given by the candidate, there will be no penalty for that question.
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Now that we have understood how to calculate negative marking in UPSC, here are a few tips to maximise your score in the IAS Prelims exam.
Tips to beat negative marks
- First, finish off all the questions whose answers you are 100% sure of.
- Next, come to those questions where you can eliminate 2 wrong choices. This way, your chances of getting the right answer is 50% in each of these questions. Suppose, for a question, you know that the correct answer is either (a) or (b). If your thinking inclines more towards (a), then mark with a pencil lightly ‘1’ next to (a). And mark ‘2’ next to (b). If you think you are dwelling more on this question, leave it after marking ‘1’ and ‘2’.
- Thirdly, leave all those questions where you have no inkling as to the right answer. Now, come to the questions where you marked ‘1’ and ‘2’ beside them. If you don’t have sufficient time, mark the final answer as the choice beside which you marked ‘1’. Don’t forget to erase ‘2’. And if you have the time, think and analyse your answer choice and mark the answer. Remember you are not wildly guessing in this case, you are taking a calculated risk.
- After all this, if you still have time left, re-read all those questions whose answers you had no idea about. If you get an idea, employ step 2. If you don’t get any brainwave as to the right answer, your last resort is making a guess. But ensure that the number of questions for which you are sure of the answer far exceeds the number of questions that you don’t know. This is a qualifying paper and you can take a bit of a chance.
Things to remember
- Mark your answers properly. Make sure to erase any pencil marks completely.
- If you mark two answers and one of them is the correct choice, you will still be awarded negative marks for wrong answers.
- If you do not mark any answer, you will not be penalised any marks in UPSC Prelims.
Remember that nothing beats correct preparation for the Civil Services Exam. If you prepare with a clear plan and purpose, with the right material, you need not worry too much about negative marking in UPSC Prelims. Understand the syllabus of Prelims and study accordingly to maximise your score and become an IAS officer.
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