How many Prelims mock tests should you give?

UPSC Preparation

And how many questions should you attempt?


Table of contents

Let's get straight to the point.

There is NO FIXED NUMBER. Nor is there any guarantee that if you give a 100 mock tests you will definitely clear Prelims.

Doesn’t mean you don’t give tests at all. There’s a base.

Minimum number of tests

The magic number is 15.

What is this magic number?

It’s a simple breakup.

  1. 2 section tests per subject - His, Pol, Eco, Env, Geo, S&T - for a total of 12.
  2. At least 3 full tests.

How many total tests you give will vary based on how you score on those 15 tests. But that’s the base line for you to start from.

You mean to tell me I can get by with just 15 tests?

NO. But by giving those 15 tests you will know how many more you need to give.

Not scoring well in the 15 tests? Review, revise and give more tests.

Reviewing Tests

That’s the important part. You review process is what will make the difference between getting 60-80 marks and crossing the 100 barrier.

Focus on learning from your mistakes, not on how many tests you should give or how often you should give them.

Which brings us to the next big Question.

How many questions should you attempt?

Like with the previous Q there is a base here.

These were the cutoffs for Prelims

Year | Cutoff | Min Q attempts


2017 | 105.34 | 53

2018 | 98 | 50

2019 | 98 | 50

2020 | 98 | 50

2021 | 92 +/- 2 | 47

That’s the absolute minimum number of Qs you needed to clear Prelims in each of those years. Assuming a 100% accuracy rate.

Beyond that the exact number depends on these factors:

  1. Your knowledge
  2. Your accuracy
  3. Difficulty of the exam

1 and 2 are in your control. You can always read/revise more and increase your knowledge and reduce errors by effective review.

But 3 is not in your control. Yet it’s an important factor in determining how many questions you should attempt. If the exam is difficult - reduce attempts. If the exam is easy - attempt more.

How do you know whether the exam is easy or hard?

Exercising your judgement.

This is where you judgement comes in.

You’ve given 5-10 mock tests already. You have a sense of whether a Q is easy or hard. If the paper is full of hard Qs then the paper is hard and if it’s full of easy Qs then it’s easy. If you been preparing seriously then you should be comfortable with what Qs you find easy/hard.

Because in the exam hall, no one will come to tell you whether it’s an easy paper or a hard paper. You will be by yourself.

That’s the point of this post, to help you build your judgement on the question of how many tests should you give. To help you understand that you can get lost in the numbers and lose sight of the larger goal.

Numbers are helpful only up to a point. Beyond that, it’s your judgement that matters.

Best of luck!

Conversation with an aspirant after reading the article.

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