Tips to solve Reading Comprehension in English Compulsory Paper of IAS Exam

The UPSC civil services main exam constitutes 9 papers out of which the English language paper is compulsory. It is called Paper B and it is qualifying in nature which means that the marks obtained in it will not be counted in the final ranking but you must pass in it to get into the final stage i.e. the personality test/interview round. The compulsory English Paper in the UPSC Civil Service Main Exam is for 300 marks and one must at least score 75 to pass in this paper. Read on for more tips on how to solve comprehension in UPSC exam.

The Compulsory English Paper –B of the Civil Services Main Exam consists of an Essay, Reading Comprehension, Precis Writing, and Grammar. And, most of the candidates find it tough in the Comprehension part; hence, here we are with few tips and tricks on how to handle the Reading Comprehension part of the English paper in the civil services exam as well as in other competitive exams like CAT, GMAT, Bank PO and etc. that will break the hard into easy.

The Reading Comprehension part of the English paper consists of a passage with some questions based on the passage, which candidates should read and answer the questions. Many candidates feel it is time-consuming to read the entire passage and difficult to answer the questions.

An important question asked in the English paper is reading comprehension. In this, you would be given a passage out of which questions would be asked. Many students find this difficult and complain about not being able to understand the passage well. If you are one of those UPSC aspirants who struggle in this aspect, here are a few handy tips you can follow to score maximum in this question.

Understand the Reading Comprehension and focus on the keywords

Many candidates say that they find it difficult to understand the given reading comprehension but it is advised that you need not to understand each and every word of the comprehension and all you have to do is find the summary of the reading comprehension. One should eliminate the words, sentences from the reading comprehension and focus on the keywords. How to find the keywords?

Below given is an example of Reading Comprehension taken from UPSC 2015 English Compulsory Question Paper.

Reading Comprehension 12 Reading Comprehension

And, the questions on the Reading Comprehension passage are as given below.

Reading Comprehension

Read the questions carefully and mark the keywords in the Reading Comprehension Passage accordingly:

Here, what we advise the candidates is need not to go through the entire passage, the shortcut to cover this part is to read the questions first and mark the keyword in the passage based on the question asked.

For example:

The first question is about barren and dry land, which is the keyword, look for this keyword in the passage and read the entire sentence on “barren and dry land” answer accordingly. In the above passage, it is evidently clear that the barren area is a part of a region and is a wide classification of the regions that are called as dry land and then you can continue with the other explanation as given in the first para.

In the question ‘b’ the keyword is ‘rich habitat’

In the question ‘c’ the keyword is ‘animal’, ‘plants’, ‘adapted’, which you can look for in the passage and find the answer

For the question‘d’, the keyword is ‘desertification’

Question ‘e’, the keyword is ‘camel’

This is one of the easiest methods recommended to the candidates that will save their time as well as fetch them a complete score in Reading Comprehension part of the English Compulsory Paper.

Know that you don’t have to comprehend every single word of the passage. You only have to understand the gist of the passage. You should also figure out the keywords.

Practice Reading Comprehension

Improve your vocabulary by reading as much as possible. This is a sure-shot way to score better because you will understand the passage better.

There is no substitute for practice. Practice reading comprehension from previous year Question papers of UPSC to gain confidence and speed.

Click here to check UPSC Previous Years Question Paper to practice Reading Comprehension


When you read the passage, avoid getting distracted. If you concentrate, you can identify keywords that would help you in answering the questions.

Speed reading

To improve your speed while reading, avoid moving your lips. Speed reading also helps in improving memory.

Answer from the Reading Comprehension Passage and don’t apply your own knowledge

When you answer the questions, make sure you don’t infer your own conclusions. Take information from the passage given and limit your understanding within the passage boundary.

Don’t fear!

Finally, the comprehension passage can be one of the easiest things to score if you apply and focus. Follow the above-mentioned points and see the difference yourself.

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