How to improve Prelims scores

How to improve Prelims scores

UPSC Basics

Here's what you can do to break out of the 60-80 marks range


Table of contents

First, what was the average score of those tests where you were stuck in the 60-80 zone? You need to understand that the cutoffs change every year based on how tough the exam was because CSE is a COMPETITIVE EXAM.

For example these were the cutoffs for Prelims for the last 5 years.
2017: 105
2018: 98
2019: 98
2020: 92
2021: 87
2022: 85 +/- 2 (projected)

If the cutoff varies Y-o-Y then there’s as such no SAFE score, unless you’re scoring 130+ (such as those clearing the IFoS prelims) but then there are only a small minority of people who do that every year.

However, there are multiple areas where an analysis can help you improve your prelims score.

Test Analysis Playbook

Identifying weak spots

You first task is to identify what your weak spots are. This needs to be done at 2 levels.

L1 - which are your weak subjects.

L2 - which sections within each subject are weak for you.

Once you've filled your list for both L1 and L2, it's time to get started with some basic things.

Information

There is no alternative to this, till the time you haven’t covered the material sufficiently (2–3–4 or as many times as needed) you won’t be able to improve your score.

If you haven’t understood the concepts, go back to the books. Keep revisiting them till you do. If you're absolutely new to UPSC preparation you can check out our courses to help with this.


Want a mentor to make your UPSC journey easier?


Good recall and memory

If you’ve covered the material but forget the facts during the test, it’s as good as not having read. But if recall is the problem, check this out for some tips on how to improve.

One of the simplest: practice active recall. At the end of each chapter that you review, take 2 minutes and run the contents of that chapter through your head.

Intelligently Tackle MCQs

This is the most important part of improving your prelims score. Solving MCQs is a skill in itself and can mean the difference between getting a good score and failing by a few marks.

If you can eliminate even one of the 4 options, I’d recommend taking a chance with the question because you would have a 33% probability of getting it correct (instead of the 1/4 or 25% probability for a question you don’t know anything about).

For example over 10 questions a 33% probability means:

3 correct or +6 marks

7 incorrect or -4.67 marks.

In total, you would be up 1.33 marks from questions where you had only minimal information. Obviously doing this during the exam takes a certain amount of guts so I’d recommend testing this beforehand in practice tests and see how comfortable you are with taking this RISK.

However, you MUST ATTEMPT questions where you can eliminate two options. In such questions you have a 50% probability of getting things right. That necessarily means that you will get 50% of them wrong but the returns are outsized.

Over 10 questions a 50% probability means
5 correct or +10 marks
5 incorrect or -3.33 marks
In total you would be up 6.67 marks in such questions. Definitely a risk worth taking.

By intelligently guessing options and taking calculated risks you can definitely improve you score in MCQ papers.

Test review and improving accuracy

After you give a test, review it thoroughly. What’s causing the errors?

Did you think you knew something but it turns out you didn’t? If so, read the books.

Was it more a problem of recall? If so, practice active recall.

Did you take too many random guesses? If so, learn to take calculated risks.

Don't Rush

With UPSC preparation, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

You have enough time to resolve these issues. But if you try to do it all by tomorrow, you will fail. And feel absolutely miserable because it all seems to be getting out of hand.

Don't rush.

Being calm is one of the fundamental skills you need for your UPSC preparation journey as well life as an IAS or IPS officer.


Video Guide

Check out this video which talks about this topic with more examples.

Get 100+ in Prelims Tests | Prelims Test Analysis
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