Six Tips to Minimise Negative Marking in UPSC Prelims Exam

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The UPSC Civil Services Exam is considered one of the most prestigious and toughest exams in India. It is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and every lakhs of aspirants appear for this exam across the country. However, only a handful are able to fulfill their dreams of cracking the exam to be recruited as an officer in premier civil services of India such as Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Revenue Services (IRS) and more.

The Civil Services Prelims Exam comprises two papers ie., General Studies-I and General Studies-II (UPSC CSAT) with both papers consisting of objective-type questions. On one hand, General Studies-I contains 100 questions, each carrying 2 marks. On the other hand, the CSAT exam contains 80 questions, each question carrying 2.5 marks.


Furthermore, one-third or 0.33 marks is dedicated as a penalty for every incorrect answer in both papers. This can drastically lower your overall score if you are not sensible enough while attempting questions in the exam.


On that note, let’s talk about some of the most crucial tips that will help you minimise negative marking to maximise your score in the UPSC Prelims exam.

Attempt Simple and Familiar Questions First

First, skim through the questions and then start attempting questions that you are most familiar with. These questions will help you fetch easy marks quickly and will boost your confidence to deal with complex questions later.


This way you will not regret missing out on any question that was easy in the last few seconds of the exam.

Avoid Making Wild Guesses

Making wild guesswork in the UPSC Prelims exam is a recipe for disaster. You are advised to make random guesses as each incorrect answer can cost a penalty of 0.33 marks and can lower your chances of clearing the exam cut-off.


On the other hand, you may take a calculated risk by eliminating incorrect options to arrive at the right answer if you are really in need of marks to clear the exam cut-off. However, it is advised to take this risk with as few questions as possible in the exam.

Skip Doubtful Questions 

Leave those questions where you don’t have the slightest knowledge of the right answer. These questions will eat up all your time and you might end up marking an incorrect option. Therefore, if you are unsure of an answer to any question, skip it and go to the ones that you are able to solve quickly as you have only a limited time which you don’t want to waste on questions that might not yield you marks instead can cost you some marks if attempted.


To save time during the exam, it is recommended that you attempt as many quizzes and online mock tests. For this purpose, you can visit exam preparation websites online or can download some of the best test preparation apps available online.

Read all Questions and Instructions Carefully

This is the common mistake most candidates commit while attempting the UPSC Prelims exam. They don’t read the information in the questions properly and misinterpret words and sentences which leads them to arrive at an incorrect answer. This happens due to the pressure of losing time.


You must re-read questions to ensure that you have not missed anything before solving them. Not only during examinations, you are also advised to read and examine every information regarding the exam from UPSC IAS Prelims Syllabus, notifications to exam instructions in order to avoid any last-minute hassle.

Solve Previous Years’ Papers


Previous years papers give you insight into the type of questions asked as well as knowledge of the importance of each topic in the exam. Solving Civil Services Prelims previous years papers will help understand how UPSC sets Civil Services Prelims exam and will make you familiar with the types of questions asked in the exam.


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