Civil Services exam conducted by UPSC is a Nationwide competitive exam for recruitment to various civil services posts in the Government of India. It  includes IAS, IPS, IFS, and other allied services. The UPSC preliminary exam 2021 which was scheduled to be held on June 27th,2021 was rescheduled and will be held on October 10th,2021 following the outbreak of the second wave of coronavirus. 

It is the most difficult competitive exam conducted in India and a single attempt takes two complete years of preparation i.e., one year before prelims and one year from prelims till the Interview. 

The exam is conducted in three successive stages-namely: 

  1. Preliminary: A screening test for selection for Mains exam ( conducted in June) 
  1. Mains Examination: for selection of various services and posts(conducted in October) 
  1. Personality Test: conducted during February – April 

Each round will be an elimination round to filter out candidates for successive levels. UPSC results will be announced on its official website upsc.gov.in.  

Click here to download UPSC previous year question papers.  

The Marks needed to qualify prelims have always been a topic of hot debate and speculation once the preliminary exam is over. In this blog let us analyze the Preliminary exam pattern, how preliminary exam cut-off marks are calculated, and analyze past trends. 

The preliminary exam comprises two compulsory papers namely General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper-II, popularly known as CSAT. 

 Marks Number of Questions Duration 
Paper I  200 100 2 hrs 
Paper II  200 80 2hrs 

How prelims marks are calculated? 

Both the papers consist of objective multiple-choice questions. Each question is given 4 choices and the candidate needs to choose one correct answer and indicate the same in the given OMR sheet. GS Paper I consists of 100 questions and each question carries 2 marks and GS paper II consists of 80 questions and each question here carries 2.5 marks. However, there is negative marking for every incorrect option marked by the candidate, and 1/3rd of the mark allotted to the question will be deducted as a penalty. Thus for every wrong answer in paper I, 0.66 marks will be deducted and in paper II 0.83 marks will be deducted as a penalty.  

The Examination is conducted for a duration of 2 hrs for each paper and both papers to be written on the same day. GS Paper II is just a qualifying paper wherein the candidate needs to score a minimum of 33% to clear the paper, i.e., if a candidate secures a score above 66, it can be assured that he/she has cleared paper II. Thus only the marks scored in Paper I shall be counted to be eligible to write the mains examination. 

How cut-off for the preliminary exam is calculated? 

Preliminary exam cut-off is declared by the commission along with the final UPSC result. However, UPSC releases a PDF containing the roll numbers and also names of the candidates qualified for the mains exam after one month of completion of the Preliminary exam. Only those who obtained the cut-off score get a chance to appear for Mains. Some of the eminent or Best IAS institutes in Bangalorerelease expected cut-off on the same day of the exam after analyzing the question paper. 

It is important to note the fact that whenever we talk about the cut-off marks, it is the minimum qualifying marks to be obtained in GS Paper I. Paper II is just a qualifying paper and a fixed score of 33% is needed to clear and this remains the same every year. 

In May 2015, the Government of India announced that Paper-II of the Preliminary exam will be only qualifying in nature and a minimum of 33% marks need to be scored and it is not graded for eligibility in the mains examination. Only the marks obtained in Paper I shall be considered as discussed above. 

UPSC cut-off is the minimum qualifying marks obtained by the last recommended candidate across different categories for that particular stage, be it Mains list, Interview list, or Final rank list. For a general category candidate, usually, the cut-off will be in the range of 95-110. To understand better, let us consider the following data, 

The total vacancy for UPSC 2021 for various posts is 712, out of which 22 seats are reserved for Persons with Benchmark Disability. The cut-off marks for this category would be the marks obtained by the last candidate who got shortlisted by the commission for that particular stage.  

The UPSC 2021 notification was released for 712 vacancies to be filled through the Civil Services exam. Every year vacancies are approximately 800-1000, but in recent years, it is declining. It is a reflection of requirements in various Civil services posts. 

Factors determining UPSC prelims cut-off: 

  • The number of candidates appearing for the UPSC exam. 
  • The difficulty level of the question paper. 
  • The number of vacancies to be filled. 
  • Reservation as prescribed for different categories of candidates. 
  • Past year cut-off tends to some extent. 

Let us analyze the preliminary exam cut-off marks in the past years and the following table provides the year-wise official cut-off of the civil services preliminary exam and a comparative analysis according to various categories from the year 2013 to 2019. 

 Categories  2013  2014  2015     2016    2017  2018  2019 
 General  241  205  107.34  116  105.34  98  98 
 SC  207  182  94  99.34  88.66  84  82 
 ST  201  174  91.34  96  88.66  83.34  77.34 
 OBC  222  204  106  110.66  102.66  96.66  95.34 
 PwD 1  199  167  90.66  75.34  85.34  73.34  53.34 
 PwD 2  184  113  76.66  72.66  61.34  50.34  44.66 
 PwD 3  163  115  40  40  40  40  61.34 
 PwD 5   _  _  _  _  _  45.34  61.34 
  EWS    _   _   _   _   _   _   90 

Thus, Cut-off depends on the vacancies in the category or community you are from like General Category, OBC, SC, ST, PwD, and so on and you must ensure that you score well within the prescribed category to qualify for mains examination.  

Around 9 – 10 lakh candidates apply for the preliminary exam and approximately 5.5-6 lakh sit for the exam. The number of candidates in mains will be 12 to 13 times the total approximate number of vacancies to be filled in the year through this exam and the cut-off will be decided accordingly. 

GS Paper I tests candidates’ knowledge on current events, History of India and Indian National Movement, Indian Polity and Governance, Indian and World Geography, Economic and Social Development, Environmental ecology, Biodiversity, and General Science. Whereas GS Paper II tests candidates’ knowledge on comprehension, interpersonal skills, logical reasoning, and analytical ability. 

Regular practice through test series, solving daily current affairs questions from Top 10 IAS coaching in Bangalore, analyzing the mistakes, and a consistent revision is what is needed to clear the preliminary exam. 

How UPSC breaks the tie when two or more candidates obtained the same marks? 

Every organization follows certain rules to decide the merit when two or more candidates secure equal marks in the exam. Likewise, for the Civil Services exam, the UPSC resolves ties based on scores or marks and the age of the candidate. 

UPSC has released tie-breaking rules for various exams it conducts and it said that these revised principles would be applicable for the examinations or tests notified after August 28, 2019. 

It is a two-filter tie-breaking rule in which the commission uses the scores first and age criteria next.  

Wherever two or more candidates have secured equal aggregate marks in CSE Exam the tie(s) have been resolved in accordance with the principles approved by the Commission, viz. 

(i) Candidate securing more marks in the Compulsory Papers and the Personality Test put together is to be ranked higher 

(ii) In case where the marks mentioned at (i) above are equal, the candidate senior in age is to be ranked higher 

(iii) In case where the (i) and (ii) above are same, then the candidate getting more marks in the compulsory papers is to be ranked higher. 

           To ensure that you clear the upcoming Prelims scheduled on Oct 10th, 2021, and be braced to face it confidently, kickstart your preparation and enrol in one of the Best IAS coaching centre in Bangalore for better guidance and help you to move ahead towards achieving your dream of becoming an Officer. 

Wishing you good luck for the upcoming Preliminary exam

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