[ Official ] How was the Prelims 2021 paper? - ForumIAS

[ Official ] How was the Prelims 2021 paper?

How was the paper guys ? 

jack_Sparrow,curious_kidand28 otherslike this


A year ago, if someone had come to me for advice on whether to prepare for UPSC or not, I would have encouraged them enthusiastically. "Follow your dreams" and all that shit. Now I'm not so sure.

The issue is that competition is rising while vacancies are reducing. Particularly in the last few years, as with the explosion of  internet access across India (thank you Jio), people have access to the best resources and the best strategies. Plus a variety of other factors. 

Right now there are atleast 30,000 - 50,000 aspirants who are genuinely good enough to clear Prelims. Probably that number is higher. And it will only keep rising. UPSC has the unenviable task of selecting about 10,000 from those huge numbers. If they conduct conceptual tests like we want them to, the cutoffs will increase unsustainably. And so they resort to the easy way out. Make GS more random. Make CSAT tougher. Eliminate rather than select. 

We do have other options though. The number of vacancies can be increased. But that's not gonna happen with the current policy of minimum government and maximum governance. 

Another ideal option can be to increase the number of people who'll write Mains (say, to about 50,000) and then select the best from them. But again, this won't work due to logistical difficulties and economic reasons. 

So most probably UPSC will continue this way only. Make GS more random. Make CSAT tougher. Until competition reduces as people realise the futility and randomness of the whole process. 

And that makes me sad and pessimistic. Sad that so many bright people are trying so hard yet not able to break the barrier. Pessimistic that things are only gonna get worse. 

If you're clearing prelims, make the most of it. This is an opportunity that many dream of but few get to experience. 

If not, even after repeated attempts, probably it's time to deeply think about your future. 

PS - I usually try to be as optimistic as I can. But today I just don't feel like it. I might clear though (from various keys). But even if I do, it doesn't feel deserved. It's luck. 

D503,Joey27and64 otherslike this
Last year post exam I felt the paper was tough, later I felt it was doable. This year post paper I was on the verge of tears, but on the same lines I would say the paper was doable. Polity will always be a reliable friend, economics too. Even for environment I feel instead of being current affairs heavy, having a good understanding is key. I didn’t do the basic stuff in environment and it showed in this paper. I feel the cut off would be around 95-100, I just hope UPSC doesn’t wave their ‘absurd answers’ wand on this paper. 
I had the worst time of my life yesterday and today but I’m not going to think about it. Nahi hua toh it’s not the end of the world and we’ll come back better next time. 
Not advertising and just based on my 1st and last impression since I don’t really dwell on the paper too much, SFG helped a lot (though I was only a part of level 3)
CSAT was tough and comprehension could easily sink me. Right now I won’t think about the results, take a 4 day break and start mains prep. Prelims was an absolute torture for me, if I give mains it is going to be infinitely worse (a very big IF). I’m just content because I worked hard and going forward I’ll only get better. 

Arsene Wenger once said ‘what matters isn’t the intensity of your motivation but the stamina of your motivation’
Fits perfectly for UPSC 

Still, I’m somewhat affected by the fact that I’m 25 already without a job experience and no idea about alternatives. Would like some help/advice to overcome this thought from you guys.
D503,JSMilland48 otherslike this
I know this rage is temporary and it’s an every year affair. Every year tens of thousands will feel disrespected because of this exam and the sheer unfairness of it and they will have no option but to move on. However, anyone who calls this paper easy or suggests that basics or “logic” could help you clear it, please come meet me - I just wanna talk. 

All this speculation about UPSC wanting to end coachings is BS, just that. If they wanted to do so, they’d stick to books- normal traditional books that everyone whether from rural area or a metropolitan can purchase and read. They won’t be making a shit fest of this sort year after year. Sure 35-40 questions can be solved from basic sources. Assuming you make absolutely no mistake in these questions, you still have to get 10-15 questions right along with negative marking. And every year there are going to be thousands who fall on the wrong side of this gamble. I am one of them this year. I lost so many questions even in questions where I had eliminated 2 options. If it’s a game of probability then it needs special kind of badluck to have so many wrong hits. And yet I know that I am not alone. I know many people are facing exactly what I am with probably much more at stake than me. 

At the end of the day, we chose this for ourselves. But we also were told that there are going to be atleast some rules, some order to this chaos.@LetsGetThisBread ‘s daily targets literally kept me going on my worst days and I think it’s more than just unfair if they don’t end up with the desired result. Anyone who tries to preach about the pattern and approach of the exam at this point- please just don’t. Just stop. Let us grieve in peace ffs. 

Everyone else who feels lost and hopeless, there are no right combinations of words that will make you feel any better. I have attached so much importance to this exam that I don’t even feel it when people tell me I am more than this exam. But a line from Kota Factory goes - “War mein haarne wale warriors hote hain, losers nahi” You all are warriors. Please take care. 
D503,MikeWozniakand40 otherslike this
Overall GS paper 1 was very easy. Maximum questions can be answered only by your basic understanding of polity science history economy only these portions have capacity to pass the preliminary. Current affairs mainly is for mains and interview perspective. Some questions from current affairs may be left as we have not to get 200 numbers, however current affairs plays a good role in understanding the basics mor correctly.. Yes if anyone lacks in basic understanding of subjects then it is really difficult to clear the pre.exam. I am also not clearing as I know I directly appeared in the exam however I am getting 80  around confirm numbers due to some basic concepts. I hope the merit definitely will come down as all of you are sharing experiences. Best of luck for getting more correct answer in discussion. 

Very easy ?No,  Not from perspective of someone who has actually prepared for the exam. But for someone who just appeared to get a taste it will definitely appear extremely easy. A 12th std kid preparing for NEET will find this paper a cakewalk and might even wonder why people make such a fuss about UPSC at all. It's such an easy exam. But for someone who has shaped his/her preparation based on previous year questions , this paper would be a nightmare. As to you getting 80 marks let me tell you if someone has given 3-4 attempts then that person will be able to reach this score even if he just sleepwalks into this exam and this regardless of difficulty of paper. The real struggle is to get those 5-6 qsn correct that get you through. Scoring 80s is no consolation at all. 

JSMill,MikeWozniakand38 otherslike this
I have been a silent member of forum since 2017. started giving exam from 2017. couldn`t clear mains in 2017 and 2018. took a year gap and and gave prelims 2020. according to various coaching key was scoring around 100, so started mains preparation but couldn`t find my name in the pdf. when the marks released a few days back it was 80.27 according to upsc. I have given this years prelims also but havent checked any answer key. will wait for official result.  this huge marks variation between upsc and coaching answer key has been a great shock to me. I am sharing my journey here to tell all of you something. After my failure in 2018, my mother forced me to sit for other exams. The results of those exams have come out a few months back . Right now I have been selected in 3 state govt jobs. last year after prelims failure I was still unemployed, was at the lowest of may confidence, wanted to commit the worst. but this year I am feeling much more happy and not at all affected by prelims outcome. selection in other jobs have literally saved my life. So I would like to tell all of you who are preparing without a job, don`t make UPSC your whole existence. Take a step back and look for other jobs. I am 28 years old and very well know the helplessness  we feel after every failure. UPSC is unpredictable at each stage. clearing prelims will not guarantee success at subsequent stages. So I would advise everyone to prepare along with jobs. In these uncertain times, shed your ego and start giving other exams also.  clearing other exams also need preparation, competition is nowhere easy. but it takes less than half the time we devote to clearing upsc.  Failure in UPSC doesn`t make us losers, clearing it will not make us DEMI GODS. stop worshipping this exam. life is too precious for wasting away like this year after years. your parents wouldn`t love you less just beacause you haven`t become IAS. and your parents matter most not anyone else. so those who feel are not going to clear prelims , right away start preparing for other exams. results are anyway going to be out in and around 20 days. FYI SBI PO  notification is out. those who are eligible go for it. Last year after prelims debacle I sat for it and reached till interview stage with very little preparation. I am from humanities background , so engineering/ science graduates are in much more better position than me to clear bank exams.  results of other exams take time to come out, specially  result of state pcs exams as you can see from my experience. the result of my 2018 exams have come out in mid 2021 only. so don`t prolong your dependence on parents. start earning as soon as possible. Whether I clear prelims or not, my UPSC  journey of 5 years ends here. I have tried my best and have no regrets.  ALL THE BEST EVERYONE
D503,Auroraand37 otherslike this

Papers like these make me feel that it is good to prepare for UPSC, but with a decent backup or a side job. 

The work I put in for UPSC, the detachment and all, I can give half of it and crack a number of decent exams. But no issues. It's a hustle I chose. Let us see what the result has for all of us! 

D503,Itachiand37 otherslike this

Hello frenzzz I see peeps are starting to gather. Confession: I have no hope of clearing the prelims because the paper and my performance were like that. Having said that I have no regrets because I’m proud of my efforts (is that too vain to admit on a public platform??) and don’t think I could have done anything differently. There’s always going to be that “I could have revised this one more time”. But realistically speaking, I made the best use of my time in what I felt was a sustainable manner. Now what will be will be.

P.S I would really like to have a chat with the people who made the CSAT paper…. Do they like torturing people or is it just a Sunday affair?

D503,MikeWozniakand36 otherslike this
@Celeborn thanks to show your integrity in the last sentence.
I have invested a huge amount of time, money, emotions, physical and mental effort to this process. Detachment, alienation, sacrifice, or whatever "ahuti" this exam demands, I have submitted to it. People around me, including the mentors and forum faculties had told me, I have a huge potential to clear mains if I write. Topping in MGP test series, class tests, and what not.But for past 4 years, I have been returning back from the front door only. Not able to pass the prelims barrier. 

Once I was told to dominate the prelims exam. I did today. I did everything. But I am still at the door. Will be waiting for another 40 days to see if it opens or not. But this feeling. This moment of sadnes. Even after 4 years of practice, I have not been used to it. It still aches the same as it did the first time. 

There are so many things I have learnt in this journey, whether about studies or life, I am a evolved person today. And I know I will be a successful person in life (as per my definition of success). But this moment right now, this still ache. Very bad!

May you all have a good sleep (the only good thing this exhausting day can give us). And try to be kind to yourself. 
D503,Adyaand33 otherslike this
This was my last attempt based on age, I could go on more as I belong to the reserved category but you know there comes a time when you have to let go off things. I had been here since ForumIAS started. I remember there even used to be an Astrology discussion thread. Good times. I am not speculating whether I will get selected in Pre or not this time. I didn't bother to check even the keys. I just venture daily into this discussion thread and read all the comments. It makes me feel alive. Maybe this is what closure feels like. Now whatever the result, I have made my peace with UPSC. I was a naive kid when I started but I am a learned man now in the end and I think I will gracefully accept that as my consolation prize.
D503,missionmangaland33 otherslike this

I read all the comments last year also but did not comment anything because I was naive back then...just beginning my journey into UPSC...

But since last year October to yesterday, I tried my level best. Have more than 120 mocks of vision, Forum, GSSCORE, OnlyIAS, NextIAS and what not . No day in last year I spent without studying 6 hours daily.(I'm a working professional)

Last year, I was getting around 88-95 from different answer keys but didnt clear prelims. As I opted for IFoS also last year so not even know what my actual score of last year is.

And now. Here I'm again. After a year of hardwork and doing everything I could possibly do, I'm getting 86.67 in most optimistic scenario. I'm from general category just because I choose to have a job to help my family overwise I would be EWS as my all family income and other criteria is very much at lower middle class level. I'm at my lowest right now. 

It's easy to say that try next year and all that cherishable stuff, but I literally left no stone unturned this time. I even got 137 marks in NextIAS Anubhav All India test series had been under top 100 in my test series...but this time I'm literally heartbroken like hell...

GaneshGaitonde,Omenand30 otherslike this
A paper doesn't become easy because 45 odd questions were doable. In a paper where you have to score a 100 with negative marking, this scenario becomes a case of luck and gamble. Because after those 45 questions all you can do is eliminate and mark 1 out of 2 options and sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. Last year a lot of my 1 out of 2 worked this year they didn't. I have studied much harder this year, I know much more about the syllabus in depth this year but still my marks are lesser and that's because this exam has become a game of gamble. And that is a disrespect to the hardwork of people. In this exam of tukkafication in the name of logical guess, upsc has lost my respect. Time to move on to things where your hardwork is respected.
GaneshGaitonde,GaryVeeand27 otherslike this

Hey guys,

I was thinking maybe sometime we could do a forum people's zoom where we just hang out and chill for a while. I feel like the exam process feels very dehumanising and isolating, so it might do some good. Could make everyone feel a bit better to have a little bit of human connection and chitchat. I'm sure we can find a way to preserve anonymity :p

If anyone's interested we can take it up. Or if you think it's weird and creepy please ignore 😂

JSMill,Auroraand27 otherslike this
Im really nervous. Normally i would buckle up for next attempt if things dont go my way, this time ill have to pack up my books (and have no idea whether to dump them or give them to raddi), empty rented accomodation(in 2 days coz i dont wanna pay november rent) and move back to home. Its gonna be a significant moment. After missing mains cutoff by 3 marks last year, I really wish i get one final chance at this exam. Anyway, life is still gonna be great, happy, productive and merry nonetheless. Thanks for the support shown by many. Wishing the best of us. 
D503,hemant23_iitd8676and26 otherslike this

Hi everyone!  After reading all your comments I see so many of you leaving or thinking of leaving something your prepared for years and something you loved with all your siddhat and the fault is not yours. Yesterday's paper was a exam of elimination and not of selection. CSAT particularly I believe has become a exam which selects only the elite among the masses. My centre was in TN, I saw many people who had backgrounds of not from these convent and other schools, having issues with english. The kind of passages which were given I was sure this is a exam of elimination. 

I was utterly disappointed after the paper. Questions like sports awards? So many random science and tech questions? Why UPSC why? No questions on buddha, seas ? There was a complete change of pattern. Random medieval India question. Who so ever says we could have done well in calm conditions, I agree we could have , but when an unexpected question paper comes in front of us , most of us become a little hesitant in guessing answers, I was hesitant in most of them - I am scoring somewhere b/w 85-95 and I don't think I would be able to clear and one of the reasons I was sad because I did not go with my gut for some questions whose answer was actually correct. But then it was not my fault, it was exam situation and I could make limited guesses which I did and I just have to move on with it. 

UPSC has become unpredictable and lowered its standards. Its right to move on , not entirely though, I would be giving other exams, picking up jobs and then side by side prepare. Gone are the days when result was proportional to the hard work. 

@LetsGetThisBread I was really effected with what you have said to me! I really hope you clear, you have given so many years and you really deserves this girl. Mine was first attempt, and I still have lots of energy in me so will keep working hard. 

And to everyone who is calling it quits , right decision to move on but if any way you feel you might regret it later, then I would humbly suggest giving exam side by side, because now I think you don't need that dedicated prep considering the randomness rather you need some good observation skills ( cooker question , mosquito repellant ) and of course god's luck! 

All the very best everyone :)

D503,GaneshGaitondeand26 otherslike this
This exam is way too arbitrary to be a mainstay of my life now. 

2nd attempt. Getting around 96, may or may not qualify. CSAT check karne ki himmat ni hai. Jo bhi ho, I’m kinda done with all this. 

Those who qualify, give it your all in mains - not just with the objective make it to the final list, but maybe more to avoid having to sit for another prelims of this kind. 
Aurora,GaneshGaitondeand26 otherslike this

Hi guys.. Like I mentioned yesterday, Hoping to clear prelims with 102+ marks as per 4 answer keys that I matched.. Feeling confident about CSAT because I solved maths and reasoning more than english (as was my strategy).

Since, everyone is discussing about the difficulty and randomness , I want to share my two cents and also describe my state of mind while giving the exam. It might be a long comment so read at your own discretion.

1. I scanned the paper for the first 5 minutes.. Just looked at questions and their placements.. I had Set-D, so first page was full of S&T, out of which I felt 2 questions were from some PYQs picked out verbatim. Unfortunately, I wasn't even sure of answers for them. I then looked at the 100th question and saw that 80-100 is all history and I had no courage to start paper from there..  So, I started from the beginning. 

2. At one point maybe around 30-40 questions, I felt like I was giving one of Vision's mocks.. All this while, I have been a strongly opposed to Vision's mocks and somehow the paper yesterday, just reminded me of that. 

3. I usually go through one reading of the paper in one hour. But by the time I was at 60th question, it was almost 10:45 and I had not even marked the bubbles. I almost felt like crying... 

4. Somehow I reached 80th question.. I will not lie, I had no hopes from history, but I did 80-100 questions in almost less than 10 minutes. It was the easiest portion FOR ME  in the paper and I will come back to it , why I say it was EASY "FOR ME".

5. I filled the bubbles and in one go I had filled just 60 bubbles. I knew the paper was bad overall and I was not sure of many questions, so I had to attempt  more..  I attempted 90 questions.. Honestly, I felt like attempting more because I knew my accuracy was not that good.. But I stopped at 90. 

Now, coming to easy/difficulty of the paper. IT WAS NOT AT ALL EASY. I love watching cricket and even look at points table , but I got confused and this question kept haunting me throughout the paper. Ofcourse, I did it wrong. I first marked correct but then changed it and got it wrong...

I WILL NOT LIE GUYS.. IF I CLEAR THE PRELIMS (which I am hopeful of, unless upsc decides to mess with me), IT IS70% HARDWORK AND 30% LUCK. 

I was lucky that whatever questions that came in history, I knew many of them.. Who knew that they would ask where do Ajanta Caves lie? But I had read it , I do not know where, maybe in a video, maybe in some mock, god knows. I knew nothing about the other three options..This is luck. Sheer luck. No amount of hardwork can help you in such random questions. 
I knew the answer of Lemon grass, because my father had planted it in our garden 2 years ago. Now we have never studied it in any source, this was pure luck. 

I just want to say that paper was as random as it could get. And I am pretty sure , it would be more random next year as well. So, I would just say that don't chase random current affairs materials. None of them might feature in the paper, but what will actually feature in the paper and will give u a sense of calm are the questions from basic books. Like someone said polity and economics will always be your best friends. I see people running after random current affairs/mapping/indices and many people just don't give ENOUGH importance to basics. 

Also, it is high time people study ancient and medieval properly. Gone are the days when toppers used to say "Medieval se kuch nahi aata". In our attempt to chase "Marketed study materials", we neglect our basics. NCERTS are the bible, no matter whatever other people say. 

Honestly, I used to feel so anxious that people are reading PT365 and what not and magazines are something that have never been a good friend of mine. I did read monthlies. I did try to recall facts, but at the end, I knew there is a limit to what I can attempt from current affairs. It will not be a surprise that coaching mafia will now compile sports as an important column in their magazines. What if UPSC next year asks 5 questions on Defence and all.. 


TL;DR: Paper was not easy. Randomness --->infinity .. Make your basics very strong that you don't get any questions wrong from that. .. lastly, UPSC prelims is a gamble and LUCK IS A BIG FACTOR.. So, people who deny the importance of luck, please do it somewhere else. 

JSMill,DMand26 otherslike this

Hello Guys

I am 25; Graduated in 2017 from DU in BSC. Have been a forum member since 2019 (After my 2nd prelims).

My journey in UPSC CSE has officially come to a close.

This was was my 4th prelims. Unable to get through this door and unable to write mains even once ; have decided to pursue other things in life wherever it takes me.

Got into CSE prep largely for IFS/IRS - Dono mein se kuch bhi miljaye sort of.

Just want to thank all the lovely people for their support and wish you all for your future endeavors.

Maybe fir kabhi milenge yahin par.

Take care 


Aurora,Sansastark49and26 otherslike this

Everyone discussing whether it is chenab Or satluj.. 

Meanwhile I am the only one who marked jhelum 😂😂😂

So no discrepancy there. I was obviously wrong 😅

MikeWozniak,Auroraand26 otherslike this

Cheera (My girlfriend's cat): Standing near the door meowing wanting to be let out to another room.

My girlfriend: Everyday this poor thing does this knowing very well that the door will not open. He has great perseverance.

Me: It is not perseverance, its just that cats and dogs have very short term memory.

My girlfriend: I think that door is UPSC and you are the cat.

Me: :neutral_face:

phoebe,Auroraand24 otherslike this


» show previous quotes

Very easy ?No,  Not from perspective of someone who has actually prepared for the exam. But for someone who just appeared to get a taste it will definitely appear extremely easy. A 12th std kid preparing for NEET will find this paper a cakewalk and might even wonder why people make such a fuss about UPSC at all. It's such an easy exam. But for someone who has shaped his/her preparation based on previous year questions , this paper would be a nightmare. As to you getting 80 marks let me tell you if someone has given 3-4 attempts then that person will be able to reach this score even if he just sleepwalks into this exam and this regardless of difficulty of paper. The real struggle is to get those 5-6 qsn correct that get you through. Scoring 80s is no consolation at all. 

Exactly. I hadn’t seriously prepared since Mains 2020, and I feel I might have cleared prelims. I might not have also, but I would have definitely come close. Paper was random, not hard. That’s worse than it being hard. When it’s random, most of your focused preparation goes for a toss. Your selection often depends on the off chance that you had read something somewhere at some time in the past, distribution pattern of questions from various subjects, or in many cases, on sheer dumb luck.

Especially when it’s a small sample size of 100 questions, 25-30 of which almost all serious candidates will get right, and roughly 35-40 of which most candidates would know very little about at the time of the exam (even though they would vehemently try to prove their reasoned answer correct later), it will just leave a rank list of thousands of students near the border. And any of them could have cleared prelims on their day. And vice versa. Quite cruel. 

If you’ve given over a year and a half to this, I would strongly urge you to find a job. It is hard work, persistence and all that jazz that goes along with it. But, if the sun doesn’t shine on you, it simply doesn’t shine on you. And there’s not always a lot you can do about it. That is the truth, harsh as it is. 

D503,MikeWozniakand23 otherslike this
Write your comment…