Analysis of General Studies Mains 2010 Paper 1

If there were any doubts remaining about conventional questions or format in the 2010 General Studies paper of IAS mains exam, now is the time to discard them. One good look at the GS paper of 2010 mains and you will realize just how unpredictable the Civil Services exam has become. In fact I struggled to find some common threads in the GS paper! After a lot of analysis this is what I made out of the General Studies paper.

Analysis of GS Mains 2010 Paper I

Long answers, less marks:

  • That’s right. The 250 word questions carried just 20 marks instead of the usual 30, and the 150 word questions came for just 12 marks instead of 15. So this means candidates had to rely on the 5 mark questions to score decently.
  • Implications of this:Now the GS Mains paper has become more balanced. Previously candidates would score heavily in the 30 and 20 mark questions and could take the 2-markers lightly, which were usually a lottery ticket. But from last year the 2-markers have been reduced considerably, UPSC has also reduced the marks for 250 and 150 word answers as mentioned above, and introduced 5-mark questions. So now candidates will have to prepare for all types of questions equally well and cannot rely solely on the big ones to score well in the General Studies paper.

Topic marks gone for a toss:

  • One of the primary reasons why coaching classes like Vajirams predicted the IAS Mains paper so well previously is that various topics were assigned fixed marks by UPSC. For instance, History came for 90 marks, Polity 90, Geography 30, and so on. So it was easy to students to cover the syllabus strategically. But again UPSC has shown that it is two steps ahead of the coaching institutes. Now it might not only vary the marks for different topics drastically but may even omit a section completely! This year History came for just 16 marks, whereas Geography for 42 marks, Polity for 48 marks, Indian Economy for 56 marks, Current Affairs for 62 marks, Environment for 39, Personalities for 16, Arts and Culture for 26, and an unexpected question on Decision Making for 5 marks. Of course you can’t add up these marks as they include all the questions and some questions do not fit into any clear category.
  • Implications: Now no section can be taken lightly. Previously we used to only give Geography a passing glance as it came for not more than 30 marks but now it may even come for 50 marks, no one can say. Also History related questions have been drastically reduced for the past 2 years in a row and this year just one 150 word answer was asked! Current affairs related questions are on the rise, so are environment related ones. So prepare all topics well and leave nothing to chance.

Mix of different topics in one major question:

  • Earlier questions from the same topics were clubbed together so selecting questions to attempt was easy. But in IAS Mains 2010 questions from different topics were clubbed together. So one had to possess knowledge of all topics in order to attempt the required number of questions. For instance, the question No. 2 on Dalhousie and annexations (History) was combined with question on Constitutional amendment bill (polity), and another question on Indian agriculture. What a mix!

Questions were far more analytical:

  • The reason why candidates earlier used to score 350 plus in the civil services GS paper was because questions were largely factual and so answers could be easily memorized. Not any longer. In the 2010 General Studies paper not only questions were unpredictable but were very analytical where one had to think logically to answer them correctly. A question on Bus accident was asked (8.e) to test the decision making ability. Candidates should expect similar questions in the 2011 UPSC prelims as well. Similarly question 1.a and 1.b were very analytical pertaining to river water disputes and poverty figure estimates.
  • Implications: Civil services aspirants now cannot solely rely on coaching classes notes of Vajirams and other fancied IAS coaching institutes but will need to prepare their own notes, think independently, take balanced view of the issue to be able to answer such analytical GS questions with confidence. Candidates preparing for the 2011 IAS Prelims should go through the syllabus thoroughly and refer the right IAS books, magazines, and newspapers along with coaching notes, where needed to score well in the 2011 Prelims as well as mains.

This is all for now. I will shortly analyze the IAS GS Paper 2 as well and post it on this blog of course! Meanwhile I’d love to read you comments and feedback on this post as well as the GS Mains 2010. So start commenting

Update: I’ve managed to analyze the GS Mains 2010 Paper 2 as well!

Recommended For You

About the Author: IAS Kracker

IAS Kracker is your friend, mentor and guide to help you crack the IAS exam. We have been guiding hundreds of IAS Aspirants since 2009 to help realize their dream of cracking the IAS exam. Know more about us.


  1. Hail Lazylord,

    Thanks for the analysis,

    Tell me something…wat was the cut off for Prelims 2010 GS?

    If people are correct, then can we take to be about 160(Paper1+Paper2) this year???

  2. Hello LazyLord,

    Thank you for your valuable insights… I will be giving my first attempt at IAS in the Civil Services Exam 2012.

    I learnt a lot from you through this website, most importantly, I learnt to make proper notes for GS prelims, from newspapers and other stuff. I'm grateful for that!

    Can you please tell me how one should prepare notes for GS MAINS(as opposed to prelims), in the same way?

  3. dear sir,

    i am a student of arts pursuing my second it advisable to take coaching classes in the second year itself or in the third year considering that coaching classes in delhi are only for four months?

    also these coaching classes in delhi are highly commercialised or are they actually of any help?

  4. its really great to have such a nice analysis over the trail of G.S. examiniation! thanks in deed . i was not having such a distant vision.its ture that CSE has been made totally unpredictable by UPSC .but to have such an approach needs great mental guts,which i need to develop from today onwards…..

    with regards


  5. Thanks for the analysis. I was able to attempt only 160 marks in General Studies Paper 1 and i am expecting to get 80 marks.. for me this paper was pretty tough. I am expecting around 130-140 marks in 2nd paper… looks like my chances have gone for a toss…

  6. Thank u so much for ur analysis i learnt a lot from this
    me pursuing B.Tech(ECE) final year me going to give my first attempt in Civil Services exam 2012 i didn’t know the exact information about this exam can u plz suggest me which optional subjects are better for me as i am from technical bckgrnd PLZZZZZ……..cutoff marks for prelims?????

    1. cuttoff marks for prelims may be 70+ for gen condidate, last year some condidate leave their attempt wich was last attempt, cause they want to understand the upsc csat pettern.
      best of luck

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *