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Even before the new Mains pattern is announced the existing pattern has been undergoing changes for the past few years. In my 2010 GS paper analysis I pointed out that mix and match is the new mantra of UPSC and this trend was noticeable in 2011 as well.
Table of Contents
Highlights of the 2011 General Studies Paper:
- Lesser number of options
- More number of questions
- Mix of different sections in one question
- 5-markers were compulsory
- No minimum number of questions or marks from any topic
- Emphasis on ecological issues
Mix and Match
As in 2010 there were questions from different sections under a single major question. For instance, question no. 1 consisted of four sub-questions, two on Polity, one on nutrition, and one on health. Fortunately question no 2 exclusively focussed on modern Indian History.
This implies that IAS aspirants cannot afford to leave out any topic as the questions will be asked from different sections.
Lesser Number of Options
This is another reason why the GS Mains paper is getting harder progressively. Earlier a candidate had to attempt 3 out of 5 questions or had the liberty of at least one option in all questions except the 2-markers.
But now the 5-mark questions are compulsory which is again a slight disadvantage as not attempting even three or four 5-markers can make a big difference to your final GS score.
Emphasis on Ecological Issues
As in the 2011 Prelims paper, the Mains General Studies paper had a high focus on ecological aspects as well. For instance a question was asked about “evolution of Green Benches in the higher judiciary” that combined polity and environment.
Similarly a question on the melting of the Arctic ice was asked in paper 2. It is advisable to cover the environmental aspects in detail when preparing for Geography. This was you can cover two topics simultaneously while preparing for the General Studies paper.
More Number of Questions
This trend is visible in the optionals as well not just the GS paper. Earlier there used to be 30 mark questions but now they have been replaced by 20 mark questions. Also while the 2-markers have been retained there is addition of 5-markers which cannot be neglected without compromising on the final score.
The 10 mark questions seem to have replaced by 12 mark ones with 150 word limit instead of 125 words for the 10-markers.
Get prepared for some heavy writing in the GS papers. But more than writing what consumes increased time with the addition of more questions is the thinking required for each question.
It takes more time to think for three 20 mark questions than it does for two 30 markers even though the total marks are the same in both instances.
Statistics was Easy
I’ve mentioned this in my earlier analysis that statistics follows a see-saw pattern. One year the questions seem very difficult, the next quite easy. Fortunately this year Statistics was quite comfortable to attempt provided you had enough time in hand.
If you didn’t already know it, I always advise to attempt Statistics in the end as you might waste precious time if you get stuck on one question should you attempt it first. Of course, statistics requires constant practice to tackle the questions correctly and quickly. But if you can, these are some sure marks that can make up for low score in the first paper.
Overall Difficulty of the 2011 GS Paper was Moderate
Yes, although it can’t be termed an easy paper, it was not too difficult either. Science and Technology was divided into numerous 5-markers that were pretty straightforward provided you were aware of the current developments in S&T.
The questions on modern History were also of moderate difficulty and were not difficult to understand unlike the History questions in 2009 and 2010.
It seems UPSC was aware that many first timers are attempting this year’s Mains due to the changes in the Prelims pattern and accordingly kept the GS paper to manageable difficulty levels.
How Was Your Experience?
If you’ve attempted the 2011 Mains I would love to know your opinion and experience in the GS paper. So share them in the comments below.