Arindum Soni

This month, on the 5th of June, UPSC again came out with a surprise for the candidates in the form of a Prelims Paper which was quite a mixture of moderately difficult and easy questions. Well, as anticipated it was a typical “UPSC SHOW”.

Economics, environment, science and technology, history & culture carried the most burden of difficulty in the paper. The cumulative weightage of the subjects was around 138 marks (69% of the paper).

While current affairs, polity, geography, and international relations were on the lighter side and were easily approachable. In my experience, if the candidates have done their basics in a disciplined manner than these sections of the paper could have been dealt competently.

Deciphering Polity and International relations

For polity, my sincerest advice to the candidates will be to go through their basics properly. Your focus should be on the in-depth understanding of constitutional underpinnings and surrounding themes igniting the headlines of newspapers.

For international relations, your daily reading of newspaper and current affairs magazine shall suffice. Keep a keen watch especially on environment related international affairs.

Deciphering Environment

Certain terms which bombarded this section – miyawaki method , biorock technology, golden masheer, ant as a cultivator of fungi, gucchi; were difficult to deal with during the exam hall pressure. And it’s a tough row to hoe to even prepare it.

Candidates must focus on these terms while reading the newspaper and current affairs magazines. Upsc has certainly shifted its focus from orthodox environment questions to a more applied knowledge and international environmental organizations and their initiatives.

Deciphering Geography

Questions in geography were mostly centered around map work and a few basics of climatology. This section was quite approachable if you are well rehearsed with your basic NCERTs and atlas locations.

Deciphering Economics

It is strongly advised to the candidates that they should center their focus on topics such as Inflation, monetary policy, fiscal policy, GDP, Money circulation RBI, and banking. Most of the questions were centered around these topics. Candidates must cover the static as well as a dynamic portion of current affairs in every depth they can. It is recommended to visit the websites of RBI and the Finance Ministry periodically, especially coverage from PIB.

Deciphering History

It is quite evident from question papers of the last 2-3 years that UPSC is now more inclined towards testing your knowledge of medieval and ancient history. Topics such as Indus valley civilization, Vedic civilization, Mauryan period, Gupta period, bhakti Sufi movement, Sangam period, Buddhism and Jainism, Mughal period, and art and architecture of India especially south India. Also, 2 questions were asked from the early medieval period i.e from the Mongol’s invasion and Sayyid dynasty.

Most questions surrounded architecture, art, culture, and the social and administrative setup of the era.Candidates should center their focus on the key terminology associated with the culture and administration of the aforementioned period.

The PAIR conundrum

UPSC with its typical and unique style of testing candidates’ knowledge has once again surprised the candidates with a new paradigm of questions, which demanded specific, objective, and precise knowledge. A unique and unorthodox match pair-type questions, which were at least 7 in number this year (2 in geography, 2 in international relations, 3 in history) These questions had approx 14% of the weightage in the paper, which made them unavoidable for the candidates to skip.

These questions were difficult to deal with as the common sense elimination technique failed in these cases. Candidates must remain prepared to face such questions and more in the following year.


Examining the UPSC trends and mindset of the examiner- candidates are advised to be holistic, integrated, and cumulative in their preparation, that is an approach integrating a prelims cum mains preparation.

With the reduced number of vacancies and an abrupt decline in several final selections this year, merely 685 candidates made it to the final list in 2021. Aspirants must remain proactively cautious in their approach while preparing for the UPSC IAS exam. One failed prelims account for one year of your life, and with it comes a cycle of the centrifugal pull of depression, self-doubt, and anxiety.

For candidates appearing in prelims for the first time, dedicate at least 90 days for your preparation. Focus on CSAT as well, basic arithmetic and reasoning skills shall help you sail through the CSAT paper. Keep your focus centered on attempting a diversity of questions from a variety of test series available in the market. Make sure that you keep your ” rectification” mode always on. Be a constant learner and self-motivated individual.

In an advertisement on television somewhere I heard, learned, and realized a crucial message which is relevant for every UPSC aspirant – To paraphrase it

“Do maximum mistakes you can, while you are preparing and practicing, it reduces the possibility of making blunders during the game”

Writter is Faculty for UPSC IAS exams in Jaipur

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