How to THINK for UPSC Prelims? (UPSC-IFS Exam Preparation ) – S2

After 2018 prelims there is a lot of confusion among candidates on “how to prepare for Prelims  2019”. Does one need to change books?  shift institutes ? or even to quit preparation ?. For those souls,  just have a read and decide on yourself.

A small intro about myself – Vejayanantham TR – IFS – AIR 50.  My eligibility to write to this article :

  • I have written prelims thrice – Qualified in All the three times with comfortable margin.
  • Cleared prelims with IFS cutoff twice

1st attempt: 2015 -> 117 ( 6 months of mains and prelims preparation) – Missed IFS cutoff by 2 mark

2nd attempt: 2016 – 142 ( 3 months prelims preparation) – Crossed IFS cutoff

3rd attempt: 2017 –  126 ( 10 days of preparation – as I went till interview during my second attempt and I hardly had 10 days to prepare for prelims). – Crossed IFS cutoff.


This article is strictly for those people who have prepared religiously but couldn’t sail through prelims or not in the comfortable margin with respect to expected cutoff. There is no shortcut to clear prelims. This tips will just help in few questions so that your score can be supplemented. You shouldn’t solely depend on this tricks. So thorough with your basics first.

Disclaimer: Don’t fight with me on how you can apply these logics. My reply is “It’s risky but worth a try. It’s up to your wish to apply it or not.”

Now jumping into the topic.

1.Strong basics :

NCERT is the must. There is no shortcut for NCERT. Many of the prelims questions (Implicitly) comes from NCERT, especially polity and economics question.

For example:

Which of the following are regarded as the main features of the “Rule of Law” ?

1. Limitation of powers

2. Equality before law

3. People’s responsibility to the Government

4. Liberty and civil rights

Select the correct answer using the code given below :

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 4 only

(c) 1, 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Many had struck on the point of “People’s responsibility towards the government.” Many confused with Fundamental duties with this option. Do check 11th Std NCERT  – chapter 2. There is a point that “Regardless of duties- people enjoy all the rights.” So the option is C.

Another example: UPSC Prelims 2016:

  1. India is an important member of the ‘International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor’. If this experiment succeeds, what is the immediate advantage for India?

(a) It can use thorium in place of uranium for power generation

(b) It can attain a global role in satellite navigation

(c) It can drastically improve the efficiency of its fission reactors in power generation

(d) It can build fusion reactors for power generation

You no need to know anything about this question except the basics. In NCERT one can find that other name of Thermonuclear reactions is Fusion reaction. See option D. “Fusion reactors”. One can take a risk of attending this question as logic suits only this option. Option C-> Fission (not possible). It’s risky but logical.

Especially in NCERTs you could find basics and philosophical background of the Indian constitution. Once your basics are strong, you can attend prelims and clear with a decent score even with minimal preparation.

2. Intelligent Guesses:

One cannot attend 70+ questions with absolute correctness. Even toppers know only 50 to 60 questions with 80% accuracy. To reach IFS cutoff, one need to use intelligent guesses and not just bookish knowledge.

Example: UPSC 2016 Question.

47: In which of the following regions of India are you most likely to come across the ‘Great Indian Hornbill’ in its nature habitat?

  1. Sand deserts of northwest India

  2. Higher Himalayas of Jammu and Kashmir

  3. Salt marshes of western Gujarat.

  4. Western Ghats

Just use your common sense. You know hornbill is a bird that eats fruits. (Even if you have accidentally crossed discovery channel you could have seen hornbills in the greeny forest). The first option is a desert, Second Higher Himalayas – A cold desert. Salt marshes -No way. So obviously it’s Option 4. You no need to know facts. You just need logic to eliminate options.

3. Using Cross knowledge:

You no need to know every option to circle in the correct option. Just eliminate wrong options with Logics. Remeber, “LOGIC” (Not your faded memory like -Engayo padicha mari irukku !!!!). Don’t ever trust your faded memory. It will end up in disaster. Always go for logic else don’t touch the question.

Ex: UPSC -2018

25) With reference to the provisions made under the National Food Security Act, 2013, consider the following statements:

  1. The families coming under the category of ‘below poverty line (BPL)’ only are eligible to receive subsidised food grains.
  2. The eldest woman in a household, of age 18 years or above, shall be the head of the household for the purpose of issuance of a ration card.
  3. Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to a ‘take-home ration’ of 1600 calories per day during pregnancy and for six months thereafter.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 and 2

  2. 2 only

  3. 1and 3

  4. 3 only

Here, think that you do not know anything about the particular act. You need to attend this question. Go and search for logic, use your knowledge of other subjects. When you think – you could catch this “1600” calories. Even in Suresh Tendulkar’s  Poverty line -minimum is 2100 calories. How come 1600 calories will be enough for pregnant women?. So, it’s wrong. Now you have successfully eliminated Option 3 & 4. Now only 1 and 2 are remaining. Now you can use your factual or subject knowledge to eliminate this if you can.

Another example: UPSC 2018.

 He wrote biographies of Mazzini, Garibaldi, Shivaji and Shrikrishna; stayed in America for some time; and was also elected to the Central Assembly. He was

  1. Aurobindo Ghosh

  2. Bipin Chandra Pal

  3. Lala Lajpat Rai

  4. Motilal Nehru


Obviously, Mazzini, Garibaldi are extremist kind of persons who promoted revolutions.
Since, Motilal nehru and Bipin Chandra Pal  are moderates surely there is lesser chance of them writing about extremists. So let us stick to option 1 and 3.

4. Watching the words:

Always keep your finger on the question and choices you read. UPSC has the tendency to deviate you by playing with words. These words should alert you and make you more devilish on that question.

Example: UPSC 2018

10) Consider the following statements:

  1. The quantity of imported edible oils is more than the domestic production of edible oils in the last five years.
  2. The Government does not impose any customs duty on all the imported edible oils as a special case.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only

  2. 2 only

  3. Both 1 and 2

  4. Neither 1 nor 2


The catchword here is – More than, All. If you follow daily newspaper you can often find that edible oil import is higher than domestic production. The even Economic survey covers this. But next option “All”. Here the devil lies. There are a lot of edible oils (Avocado oil.
Mustard oil, Palm oil, Peanut oil, Rice bran oil, Safflower oil.). Only a few are used by poor. Others are used by affluent people. Why should government lose its tax money by subsidising rich ?. Risky but worth a try as logic caters to the question.So answer is Option 3.


Another example: UPSC 2018:

17) The identity platform ‘Aadhaar‘ provides open “Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)”. What does it imply?

  1. It can be integrated into any electronic device.
  2. Online authentication using iris is possible.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only

  2. 2 only

  3. Both 1 and 2

  4. Neither 1 nor 2


Here watch the words – Any / Possible. The option 1 is under scrutiny. Even institutes are not sure of this. But as for my opinion, any electronic device with Binary logic (the basic logic ) must accept Adhaar as Binary can give Yes(1) or No(0). So option 1 is correct.

Look out second option -> Many saying that only fingerprint is used now. They are asking “Possibility”. Since UIDAI collected Iris data -in future it is “Possible”.  So, do watch out words.

Words to watch for:

  • all
  • any
  • none of
  • correct
  • incorrect
  • any extreme words – drastic, absolutely etc….


5.Common Sense:

Apply your basic knowledge and common sense even if you don’t know factual data about what is asked.

Example: UPSC 2017:

Due to some reasons, if there is a huge fall in the population of species of butterflies, what could be its likely consequence/consequences?

1. Pollination of some plants could be adversely affected.
2. There could be a drastic increase in the fungal infections of some cultivated plants.
3. It could lead to a fall in the population of some species of wasps, spiders and birds.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

As I said previously “watch the words”.

  • In option 1: Some plants pollination may be affected. Yes, there is a chance. Butterfly -> pollination (connection is there).
  • In option 3: Some species like wasps, spider fall in population -> yes they prey on butterfly (simple schoolbook knowledge).
  • In option 2: “drastic”- what is a relationship between Fungus and Butterfly. No school books have taught us. Even remotely there is less chance because the fungus is not pollinating kind of species, non – green plants. So here is a check. So, I went by the logic and tick the option C- 1&3 only. Yes, it is correct.


6.Connecting the dots:

In some questions even if you do not know the question, you can answer by just connecting options.

Example: UPSC 2017

Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) are used to create digital display in many devices. What are the advantages of OLED displays over Liquid Crystal displays?

1. OLED displays can be fabricated on flexible plastic substrates.
2. Roll-up displays embedded in clothing can be made using OLEDs.
3. Transparent displays are possible using OLEDs.

Select the correct answer using the code given below
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 1, 2 and 3
(d) None of the above statements is correct

Here, if you did not know about OLED, just see the options. Watch the words.

  • Option 1: Flexible
  • Option 2: Roll-ups

IF it is flexible, it may be rollable (High possibility).

  • Option 3: Even if you do not know this you can answer it. The combination of 1 & 2 is not in choice. So answer is Option C- > 1,2,3.

7.The final 20:

Mostly Last 20 questions will be easy irrespective of series. So, if you find that starting questions are difficult then straight away turn the page and attend from last.



How can one apply these kinds of logic?

  • thorough basics
  • Wide reading – newspaper must
  • attend a lot of test series and apply logic there itself.
  • analysing UPSC previous year questions to watch the pattern.
  • Subscribe to  -Previous year questions available with separate topics. They will give statistics about your weaker areas so that you can improve upon it. They will analyze for you.

These tricks will work out only when you are calm and confident in the exam hall. And you should be thorough with your basics. Prelims is more of a mind game and solve the questions like riddles. Then only your mind could think of this kind of logic. Think that during our childhood we used to predict the answer for “Kodeeswaran show in Vijay TV”. Like that predict here too with logic.

Few Dont’s:

  • Don’t depend on your faded memory (unluck guys like me always go wrong when we go with faded memory – That engayo padicha mari irukku moment).
  • Don’t depend on the possibility – If I attend 10 question by probability 5 will be correct – Don’t ever try this. See the UPSC key – there is no pattern in Answers like (AA, BB, CC). Always go by logic and knowledge.
  • Above all, don’t think that UPSC is your life. If you take this to your head then it will affect your thinking capability, you will lose your coolness then you cannot apply logic.


Mains know-how soon………………….


12 Responses to “How to THINK for UPSC Prelims? (UPSC-IFS Exam Preparation ) – S2”
  1. S.Dhinesh says:

    It was a great message for people preparing for 2019 UPSC prelims…thank you bro

  2. KISHORE KUMAR K C says:

    Brother iam a computer science student . i havent gone through biology ( not for optional ) in 11th and 12th. whether this will affect my preparation for IFS?
    And another question is that iam studying for IAS , IPS exam. but if i want to prepare IFS parallel what are all the additional books that i should follow? if iam opting geology as one of my optionals whether the syllabus given for IPS and IAS exam will be same for IFS too?

  3. Sathya shalini says:

    Thank u so much sir!!
    Very useful!!
    Keep uploading!!

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