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Amid the chaotic din and bustle, the Preliminary Examination for the CSE 2014 was held on 24th August. With this the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has started its mission of  talent hunt  for the most prestigious and coveted posts of the country, the desire for which attracts candidates from various educational backgrounds, who by leaving their home, friends and enjoyment, put hard effort for an entire year before they crack this examination. The result of Prelims examination was declared on 14th October. More than 16000 candidates are qualified for the mains examination, the next and the toughest part of CSE. Those who qualified are preparing for the mains while those not, are introspecting their strategy, so that they might make it in their next attempt.

Among all these, an analysis of pre-exam is an imperative for those who are reviewing their strategy and for the newcomers as well. In order to help such aspirants, we have made an attempt to analyse the pattern and trend of Prelims examination 2014. Here we skip the question by question analysis as the intention is to acquaint the candidates with overall trend of the examination.

Officially known as Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT), the preliminary examination of CSE comprises two papers. Paper I (General Studies) and Paper II (Aptitude) of 200 marks each. The first and foremost difference which has been witnessed in the exam was in total marks. Due to protests of candidates related to alleged biasness in CSAT, the English Language Comprehension was not to be attempted in the paper. This has reduced the examination to a total of 385 marks. The paper-wise analysis is given as follows.

Paper I consists of questions related to General Studies which covers the entire gamut of History, Geography, Polity, Science among other topics of day-today relevance. The questions of Paper I asked in the examination of 2014 have shown a remarkable departure from the previous year s papers, especially since 2011, when the new pattern of CSE prelims (CSAT) was introduced. Since 2011, the questions of Paper I were more focused on concepts and basic knowledge of the candidates. Though the factual questions were not completely absent, the overall intention, till now, seemed to be testing the fundamentals of candidates. The paper of 2014, in this arena has shown a significant difference, with a huge number of factual questions being asked in the examination. Although, very few candidates were actually prepared to tackle this change, those who were thorough with their studies had performed well.

Trend Analysis:

Around 40 per cent of the questions asked belong to environment, ecology and agriculture. The trend is not uncommon in the sense, as the increasing stress on environment in CSAT Paper I has been witnessed for previous three years. What brought the new trend was the type of questions asked. In earlier paper, the questions were much related to the traditional topics. While in this year, although the questions were from traditional area but the topics touched were in news due to one or other reason. For instance consider the following question;

“Q. With reference to  Eco-Sensitive Zones , which of the following statements is/are correct?”
1. Eco-Sensitive Zones are the areas that are declared under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
2. The purpose of the declaration of Eco-Sensitive Zones is to prohibit all kinds of human activities, in those zones except agriculture.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both 1 and 2
D. Neither 1 nor 2

The eco-sensitive zones were continuously in news due to the report of Kasturirangan Panel on Western Ghats. Similarly there were other questions also based on the same pattern.

Coming to the History, after a very long time, almost 4-5 years, UPSC has focused its attention on the factual questions, rather than concept based. While earlier questions asked in History can be answered even if the student have an overall insights of the happenings of past. The bottom line is it doesn t require memorization of each and every fact and a student can answer the questions by either eliminating one or two answers and by correlating the facts. However, the question of this year, thrown an open challenge to memorizing ability of candidates by asking the direct meaning of infamous terms like  Pattalika ,  Mahattar , Kalaripayatum, Ibadatkhana etc. Clearly, a comprehensive study with continuous revision is required to tackle such question.

Another remarkable change was the less questions (only 3) being asked from Modern history. This is a significant change as till last year, modern history, especially the incidents from Indian national movement, used to be the favorite of UPSC. However, this year the Commission chose to delve into the realm of ancient and medieval history. The questions of the polity were quite confusing, as the options given were too close. However, a thorough revision was enough to tackle the questions in this part.  While not many changes were observed in the pattern of geography and current affairs, the focus area under these parts were again the topics which were in news during last one year. Take, for instance, the location of Turkey, which was in news due to turmoil caused in neighbouring nations or the arrangement of city of South-East Asia, which was hitting the headlines due to tensions in South-China Sea.

Similarly under the science, most of the questions were from the science and technology along with biotechnology. This was the area which covered more traditional topics that dynamic one. In the economy, there were also few changes. Till now questions related to economy, especially after 2011, used to be concept based e.g. effect of CRR hike or Disguise unemployment etc. this year some of the factual questions were also asked. For instance, the levying of Sales Tax, -and the purpose of keeping reserve requirements etc. What made the situation more complicated, were the closely given options which caused confusion among the candidates. Clearly, the change of trend in Paper I is significant and needed to be understood in a systematic manner. This is the only way to define the strategy to crack the paper with zeal and enthusiasm.

Paper II, since its introduction has been posing a tough challenge for the candidates, especially those who are from Arts or Literature background. This year also witnessed a widespread protest by thecandidates, which has resulted in the removal of 6 questions, of English Language Comprehension, from the paper. Consequently, Paper was conducted for 185 Marks. The number of questions to be attempted was 74 in place of 80. The less number of questions may sounds nice but the real challenge faced by the candidates this year was the lengthy and complicated paper.

Trend Analysis:

The paper II of this year witnessed a remarkable change from the last three years, when it was introduced in 2011. The most visible change was the removal of questions relating to  Ethical and Moral Decision Making . The questions from this part used to provide a cushion to candidates as they were having two correct options along with no negative marking. However, this year UPSC chose to stay away from this part. Inclusion of Paper IV (Ethics and Morality) in the new syllabus of Mains may be a reason for this shift as this paper tests the decision making ability of candidates. Irrespective of the reason, this was the most worrying matter of most of the candidates.

Another significant change was more number of questions asked from the section of  basic numerical ability . While the earlier papers were more tilted towards reasoning, the paper of this year consists of more questions from numerical and general mental ability. While the questions were easy, the time constraint faced by the candidates made their nature complicated. Added to it were the long passages with less number of questions per passage. The options given in the passage was too close with a lot of ambiguity in the passage itself. It seems that the entire arrangement of paper was designed to test the time management and smart question choice of the candidates as it was almost impossible for an average student to attempt all the questions, with accuracy, within given timeframe. So the best strategy would have been the choosing of questions, to be solved.


While it is difficult to predict exact cut-off at this moment, given the complicated nature of paper I and the lengthy questions of Paper II, the cut-off for this year would have been recorded a downfall. As against last year where the cut-off was 241, the cut-off for this year is expected to be around 210-15. This is due to a number of reasons:
• The total marks of examination were 385 (as against 400) which means, a decrease in cut-off by flat 15 marks. i.e. (241-15 = 226)
• Additionally the factual questions asked in Paper I posed a challenge for candidates as they were least prepared to tackle it.  In this paper they are expected to lag behind by 4-5 questions which means a further reduction by 8-10 Marks. (226 – 8 = 218).
• The lengthy nature of paper II coupled with a lot of ambiguity in passage is expected to decrease the cut-off by further 5-8 marks. So finally we arrive at a figure 210-15.


• Follow the changing trend of Prelims Exam and try to chalk out the areas to touch. Given the vast syllabus, it is impossible to prepare each and every topic in detail.
• Make a daily reading of newspaper and extract the key terms from it. For easing your effort we, in CSC Magazine, provide a special section for this under heading  In-Brief .
• Go through the traditional parts of topics covered in newspaper. For instance, if a report of CAG is in the news you should cover the Role, function and powers of CAG along with the committee to which it submits its report (Publics Accounts Committee).
• Make your strong areas stronger, so that you leave no questions from them. For the weak areas, prepare them to bring to a viable level. Be careful while attempting questions from weak areas.
• Do memorise the facts as the new trend demands for this. This is only possible by regular revision. So develop a habit of revising your notes once in a week.
• Give adequate stress on Paper II as it plays an important role and can act as a hedge against the changing trend of Paper I.
• After giving the prelims, start your preparation of mains as the time provided is very less (around 3 Months). It is futile to waste your time by discussing or mulling over the cut-off as you never know what is going to happen, especially when you are on the margin (somewhere around 205-210 in case of 2014 paper).
• While it is difficult to predict the exact nature of UPSC, barring few years, the trend has been that a marks of 55-60% is good enough to crack the Prelims. Again this may vary according to the difficulty level of paper, but if you are getting more that 250 marks out of 400, you can expect your result for sure.

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