How to Analyse UPSC Prelims Test Series

How to analyse UPSC Prelims tests?

Testing Basics

First things first.

Practice tests assess:

  1. Your knowledge of the subject.
  2. Where you stand in the competition. (marks)

Focusing on marks in tests is like trying to score a century in net practice. In tests focus on knowledge, marks will increase by themselves.

Knowledge of the Subject

After any test, ask yourself:

  1. Did I make conceptual errors?
  2. Did I make factual errors?

If you’ve made conceptual errors, spend time on the basics. This is your 1st priority. If you’ve made factual errors, then revise more. But this MUST be your 2nd priority.

Revise you must, but first understand.

Types of Errors

In tests, identify YOUR ERROR TYPE(s).

Various types of errors with solutions:

  1. Lack of info - read more
  2. Unable to recall info - revise more
  3. Lack of focus/fear - meditate
  4. Taking excess risk - analyse risk

Then use this two step process.

Step 1: identify error

Step 2: apply solution

It’s that simple.

Post Review Reading

If you just re-read the test solutions that will make you good at THAT test, not the subject. Keep revisiting the basic sources. That’s what will help you improve the most.

How many Qs should you attempt?

There is no right answer here.

Based on your accuracy & difficulty of the test, anything from 60-90 questions can work. For example: I attempted 76 Qs in Prelims 2020, while I'd always done ~90 Qs in Prelims 2016/17/18.

Taking risks

When you look at a Q, don't look at the subject. Look at whether a Q is factual or conceptual.

Take more risk in conceptual Qs and less in factual questions.

You might ask which subject is which, worry not.

Factual subjects:

  1. Ancient history
  2. Medieval history
  3. Environment
  4. Science & tech

Conceptual subjects:

  1. Polity
  2. Economy
  3. Geography
  4. Environment

NOTE I: Risk should be proportional to your comfort in a subject.

NOTE II: Each subject has both concepts and facts. This distinction is based on PYQs (2019-23).

When choosing between two options I always choose the wrong one!

This is a common problem that a lot of aspirants face. The issue is not that you're always choosing the wrong one, the issue is expecting to always choose the right one - by chance.

You have to get used to the idea that when you take risks, you will get some of questions wrong. The problem to be solved is to limit the amount of questions that you get wrong vs questions you get right.

This will require some experimentation. In the next 3 tests - try to attempt fewer questions in one, try to attempt more questions in the 2nd, and finally only attempt the questions that you know in the 3rd. Figure out what is the most viable strategy for you to maximise your score in UPSC Prelims.

Facing a problem? Don't stop there, experiment. Because there is no RIGHT answer.

Game of Nerves

Telling you to take the shot is one thing, but taking the shot is another. Sitting in the exam, marking a question when you don't know the right answer and knowing that a year could hang in the balance can be hard.

But then, that's what is expected from someone who is looking to become an IAS officer. Use mock tests to develop nerves of steel.

Best of luck!

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