Importance of GS in Prelims

  • IASbaba
  • June 18, 2015
  • 8
Prelims 2015, UPSC
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As per the 2015 notification issued by UPSC, your entry into Mains examination essentially boils down to GS Paper-1. Before we tell you how to approach it, here are a few things that you need to know about the nature of GS Paper -1 based on recent trends:

 Why is it becoming a tough nut to crack?

  • Number of questions from current events are finding a greater weightage (around 20-30 questions in 2014 GS prelims were directly or indirectly based on current events). And these are not based on news entirely, but often on the background of the news. For e.g. if NGT has banned old diesel vehicles in Delhi recently, UPSC won’t ask this directly. It may ask you a comparison between harmful pollutants emitted from Petrol and Diesel vehicle OR it can ask you what pollutants are NOT emitted from Diesel engines OR why are new Diesel engines better than old diesel engines?
  • Then, Questions from Culture, Ancient, Medieval History, Environment, S&T etc. that have started to form a large chunk of the paper (e.g. around 40-50 questions in 2014), fall from the sky. Only if you are lucky enough to have read them by chance, can you tick the right options in the exam.
  •  A large number of questions are factual. So you either know or do not know. It is not necessarily conceptual that you can apply your logic and tick the right answer.
  • The strategy of smart elimination may not be very useful with UPSC giving very close and confusing options.

Way out? Yes.

You can study smartly. Divide the paper into two parts – predictable and unpredictable. Appreciating the limits of time, human intelligence and memory, it is rational enough to approach the predictable portion of the syllabus first.

Handling the Predictable

  • Since the facts in this ‘CORE’ portion are not twisted, and more of the portion is conceptual, your chances of making mistakes are greatly reduced.
  • Every year, no matter what, 40-45 questions will always come from these portions. In the years, when UPSC is more benevolent, more than 60 questions can be expected from these. For e.g. in 2013 Prelims more or less this was the situation.
  • It includes Polity, Modern History, Economy and Geography. These are what we call as the ‘CORE’ portion of GS.
  • The best thing about this portion is that questions will always come from some standard books like NCERTs, Laxmikanth etc. (all are mentioned in our Prelims-Books to Refer). Once you have have thoroughly read these portions, you can be rest assured that almost all of these questions can be solved. Also, refer to the detailed strategy for these portions.
  • So, make sure you have revised these standard books 3-4 times before going to the examination. Even if you can not answer some of the questions in this portion, you can still manage around 70-75 marks from this section only.

Handling the unpredictable

This includes Current affairs, S&T, Environment, Culture, Ancient/Medieval History.

Current affairs

Since GS is the key this year, UPSC would not like to ask a lot of questions from static portion. This is because more experienced candidates will be at an advantageous position (aspirants who wrote Prelims in 2011 are also being given an additional attempt with age/attempt relaxation).

And based on our experience, we also feel that UPSC will emphasize more on current events this year. So, expect a lot of questions from current events this year.

First you should go through how to take the maximum out of current affairs here. Then, follow these

  • Read newspaper daily. Questions from current events should (normally) come from March, 2015 onwards (Annual budget being a milestone). Start making notes of important issues, places, events, people, concepts, new schemes, policies etc.
  • While reading editorials, focus also on the mentioned bodies/schemes/ideas/ societies. For e.g. in 2014 GS Prelims, a question on Bombay Natural History Society came. Neha Sharma, a part of this society, used to contribute regularly to The Hindu Op-Ed columns.


  • More than the news, focus on the background of the news. For e.g. recently


“Union Government has decided to amend Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms for NRIs, Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) to increase capital flows into the country. Non-repatriable investments by them will be considered as FDI now.”

UPSC will not ask you directly about the government’s decision. It may instead ask you “What are non-repatriable investments?”. Because UPSC is not interested in candidates who go through the news superficially. So, spend some time with the newspaper and try doing some basic research on the internet to understand the background of the issue. In the Baba’s Daily News Analysis, we will also be doing the same – giving you background information as well as the understanding of key concepts and issues involved.

  • Go through the Annual Union Budget 2015-16. Few questions can be expected on new initiatives or on their background.
  • In Economic Survey 2014-15 (released recently) focus on all those Blue boxes, and read the first chapter of Volume 1 thoroughly. 2-3 questions can be expected.
  • Go through a few mock tests dedicated to current affairs. At the end of every month, we will also be regularly compiling and releasing current affairs Qs covered by us in one complete month. To ensure you are not missing on anything, you can solve all of them. You will gain a lot since explanations will also be given.
  • We will also be posting Daily GS Test (10 Qs from static, 5 current affairs) to cover up current affairs from March onwards. You can also go through our Yojana and PIB weekly gists to keep yourself updated. “DO YOU KNOW?” section of every Yojana (since January,2015 ) is very important.

Science & Tech and Environment

First go through the very important strategy for Science & Tech and Environment (separate). It will give you a lot of clarity. Then, try finishing all the books/sources mentioned in our Prelims- books to refer. They cover almost the entire static portion. So, you can be assured of answering the static part.

For the dynamic part, rely on current events and the . But, even after going through all the sources, it may be difficult to answer them. So, we would suggest you to keep your concepts clear. Some dynamic questions will be conceptual that can be handled by conceptual clarity. For e.g. last year UPSC asked on the declining population of Dolphins in  Ganges river which was a no-brainer if you knew about the general reasons for species loss in a habitat.

And, on the other hand, some questions are meant to be left in the paper. Blind attempts would cost you heavily. Do not hesitate to leave such questions.


Culture and Ancient/Medieval history

Cost/benefit ratio, as said by many toppers throughout the history of CSE, is very less for this section. Nevertheless, you should read it, because even if you know something or the other about that topic, you can use elimination to choose the correct option. For e.g. if you have a basic idea about Buddhism and Jainism, you can easily use elimination in questions related to them. Same goes for the Ancient/Medieval History section (but don’t worry a lot about this as hardly a few questions come) Sticking to basic sources for this will do.

Last year UPSC asked a lot of questions from CCRT’s website. For e.g. about Sattriya, Kalaripettu etc. You will not be able to remember the entire content. But, we suggest you to scan for important art forms, regional dances/festivals/music and Buddhist sculpture. Even if you have a brief idea, you may be able to answer those questions.

Go through the strategy and books to refer. Do not spend a lot of time on this portion. However, if you are running short of time, we would suggest you to cover this portion only when you are done with the others.

Final Word

If you stick to the above, you will be able to score 70-75 easily in the predictable; and 35-45 marks safely in the unpredictable portion – total around more than 100 marks in Paper-1. Prioritize your studies; focus on highly scoring areas; read and make notes of current events daily; and solve the GS daily test conducted here. If you are able to do all this sincerely, you should hopefully be making it to the Mains. Start with the little steps, the larger will take care of itself.

PS: You can also refer to our Prelims Plan- Click 

All the best! 🙂

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