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IAS Exam Trends - 2018
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Trend Analysis UPSC CSE Prelims 2018

Paper I

Introduction on the preliminary examination and evaluation:

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducted the Civil Services preliminary examination on 3rd June 2018. The preliminary examination is conducted in two sessions, Paper I on General Studies and Paper II is General Aptitude (commonly called as CSAT). Both the papers are for a duration of two hours and the questions are objective in nature. Paper I consists of 100 questions carrying 2 marks each. Paper II consists of 80 questions carrying 2.5 marks each.

Paper I has negative marking of 33% or 0.66 marks. Paper II has a negative marking of 33% or 0.83 marks. Decision making section doesn't have any negative marking. Paper II is only qualifying in nature with a minimum of 33% or 66 marks to be secured. There is no negative marking for the questions which are not attempted in both Paper I and Paper II.

Exam Trend Analysis:

This year, on a superficial level the paper seemed to have restored the balance between static and current affairs portion. But there is a catch here, the pattern is still unusual and different. Firstly, compared to previous year which had a peculiar focus on direct and recent current affairs, this year current affair questions were broader in terms of time frame and analytical. Secondly, the range of questions relating to current affairs could be better solved from more commonsensical and strong understanding of the issues. This means, candidates need to be aware about interrelatedness of current affairs to the core concepts and how it is connected to the logic of the policies of the government. Thirdly, candidates need to realise that each year preliminary examination is becoming challenging for obvious reasons such as low vacancies and brutal competition. This year, the UPSC has notified the lowest vacancies compared to many previous years. Therefore, they are deviating from historical pattern of questions which were conceptual and predictable.

Despite this shift in nature of exam pattern and difficulty level, one fundamental way to approach the exam is to trace the application based questions to basic portions in core subjects like History, Polity, Economics, Geography and Environmental Science which enables candidates to eliminate wrong options wisely. This is a skill which needs to be developed by many practice sessions and mock tests. Another well-known strategy to prepare for a preliminary examination will be to start simultaneous preparation on Mains Examination. These will give in-depth understanding and coverage of topics. This also gives confidence to attempt the preliminary exam.

Finally, with the advent of smart technology and internet availability there are many sources which are available for UPSC exam preparation. But, candidates need to be selective on one reliable source and strategy.Refer to more Government Sources like All India Radio and Press Information Bureau.

An overview of subject-wise topic coverage and question breakup is given as follows:


Topics Analysis

No. of Questions

History, Art and Culture

There is increase in questions on Modern History.

Those who have prepared well on Ancient and Medieval History can score well, as they were straight forward and chronology based questions.

Questions on Literature, Indian Religion, Festival, Dance, Painting, Crafts were tricky as usual, they are rare and difficult to answer.



Number of questions on Indian Economy has increased compared to last year.

Factual questions covered concepts like GNP, Human Capital and Savings Economy. Basics in Economics needs to be strong and must read everything concepts/schemes related to RBI – Very definite questions were asked on Public Sector Banking, Treasury bills, FRMB, Capital Adequacy Ratio

Current affairs questions related to NSSO, BHIM app, GST.



Direct questions on Rule of Law, Money Bill.

Analytical questions on Fundamental Rights, President Election, Speaker, Governor

Lok Sabha

Questions pertaining to Legislations - RTE Act, Food Security Act were asked.

These were not difficult and one cannot ignore supreme court judgements and new legislations


Environment Science, Agriculture

More focus on Current Conventions and Agreement on Environment such as GACSA, PAGE

Other biodiversity related questions were on Coral reefs, Carbon fertilization, NGT, identification of Wildlife Sanctuary

On Agriculture - Questions on MSP, Organic Farming, Conservation Agriculture and Soils, GM Mustard, FSSAI were asked. This was not difficult but confusing nevertheless



More questions on world geography compared to last year which were Identification based questions such as on locations (map specific) mentioned in daily  news

Indian Geography Minerals location is a must read


Science and Technology,

International Affairs, Trade and Organizations,


Application based questions: cyber-attacks, GPS, Internet of Things, 3D printing, schemes such - Aadhar, Digital India

International Organizations - ASEAN, NSG, IAEA, ILO. Daily newspaper read and treaty’s signed, official visits of the head of states to other countries and vice versa must be noted


Paper II

The number of questions in the Verbal (English) section were fewer as compared to the past few years. There was a total of only 26 English questions – all of which were Reading Comprehension questions. No Verbal Logic questions were asked in the exam.

A list of question breakup is given as follows:



Number of Questions


Analytical Reasoning



Directions, Coding Decoding, Cubes



Visual Reasoning






Numbers / Fractions



Averages / Percentages



Profit-Loss, Simple Interest, Compound Interest



Ratios, Mixtures



Time, Speed, Distance & Work






Geometry, Mensuration



Permutation & Combination, Problem Sets



Critical Reasoning / Single Question RC



Two/Three Question - RC ( Inference Based )



Three/Four Question RC ( 3 Passages )



Logical Consistency


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