What is the Strategy to solve any question on the CSE Prelims paper?

UPSC CSE Prelims Exam is one of the most competitive exams in the country primarily due to the huge number of aspirants that sit in the exam as well as due to the wide syllabus and the notoriously unpredictable nature of the exam.

However there are certain traits or strategy that can be adopted to increase the probability of improving marks in the examination.

  1. A good knowledge base

Aspirants must have gone through all the subjects in the syllabus thoroughly so as to know something about almost everything. It is rightly said that confidence comes from competence and hence to implement any strategy a good knowledge base is pre-requisite.

  1. Don’t be emotionally invested in any question

All the questions carry equal marks and no one question is more important than the other. Aspirants should not bring in their ego while solving the questions even when they are unable to solve something they have profoundly read about. This will be not productive and will end up discouraging the aspirant. Hence, it’s important to stay neutral in the exam.

  1. Taking calculated risks (Elimination method)

Taking blind risks is one of the big mistakes many commit during the exam. Hence it’s important to practice the art of smart guessing i.e. guessing the answer with some pre-existing knowledge. It becomes imperative to understand the efficiency of elimination method,

Options eliminated   (options out of 4 that one can eliminate with their pre-existing knowledge)            



Do not attempt the question as there is 75% probability that the answer would be incorrect.


Attempt when the number of sure-shot correct answers are very less. These questions should be looked at when you are reviewing your paper in the last few minutes of the exam.




Attempt the question as there is very high probability of it getting correct


  1. Importance of 100% focus during those 2 hours

Some practical problems in the exam hall that you may face will be insufficient light, improper air-cooling & ventilation, faulty furniture like uneven wobbly table, invigilators constantly talking to each other or asking you to complete the paper formalities, etc. This effectively leaves less than two hours for solving the paper in the examination hall. One must understand that these disturbances are not just experienced by them but by almost every person giving the exam. Not paying attention to these distractions and putting a 100% focus on solving the paper can do wonders for the aspirants.

  1. Time management

In a paper with 100 questions to be solved in 2 hours, the average time per question is 72 seconds or 1.2 minutes. Always try to be ahead of the average timeline, for ex: - one hour into the exam you should have gone through at least 65-70 questions (and not just the half mark of 50 questions).

In the first go the aspirant can attempt those questions about which he/she is confident and highlight those questions of which the aspirant has eliminated two or at least one option. In the second go these highlighted questions can be attempted.

  1. Refrain yourself from the futile exercise of predicting the difficulty level of the paper just by going through first 10-20 questions

Predicting the difficulty level of the paper may play against the aspirant as some initial tough question can make him/her under-confident which can have a damaging impact of the later questions.

  1. Filling the OMR sheet properly

Last but not the least, all your two hour mental and physical hardship boils down to how accurately you put the answers in the sheet. So utmost attention must be given while filling the OMR sheet.