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IAS Prelims 2017 GS Paper 1 Analysis

The 2017 Civil Services Preliminary GS Paper 1 was unique in many ways. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this year’s Prelims paper was its stress on Polity questions and less focus on specifically current affairs questions. This post analyses the 2017 Prelims GS Paper 1 in minute details and also tries to locate the difficulty level of the paper and how it will impact your chances of qualifying the 2017 Prelims.

Trend of Topic Wise Questions

How many questions were asked from which topic? Let’s find out.

General Awareness
Current Affairs


From the above distribution it is clear that conventional topics have made a comeback in 2017 Prelims with as many as 21 questions being asked from Polity alone! Even Science&Tech, Economy and Geography found good representation with 11, 11 and 10 questions respectively.

Only 6 questions were asked on Environment and Ecology. After many years less than 10 questions have been asked from this important topic. As many as 28 questions were based on General Awareness and Current Affairs. Both these topics are inter-linked so it is very difficult to separate the questions into these two topics neatly.

Difficulty Analysis of 2017 Prelims GS Paper 1

Going into the difficulty level of the questions, it is clear that overall difficulty of the Paper can be categorised as Moderate+ and nearer to hard level. Having said that all questions were not of the same difficulty level. Some were quite straightforward while others were tricky.

Overall Difficulty: Medium+

Polity Question Analysis

As many as 21 questions were based on Polity. These questions were easy to moderate level. A good reading of Laxmikant’s Indian Polity and Bare Constitution would have helped most candidates to answer these questions.

Also most of the Polity questions were single choice questions and most questions did not contain multiple statements.

Geography Question Analysis

Geography questions were easy if you had prepared the Atlas well since as many 8 out of 10 questions were map-based, which is quite a lot. Since in the past, not more than 4-5 map-based questions have been asked. So preparing the atlas on daily basis would have surely helped here.

Science&Tech Question Analysis

Science and Tech questions were mostly current affairs and general awareness based. Questions on Biological oxygen Demand, eLISA project, cyber security, LEDs, etc. were asked which did not require any specialised book reading but just regular reading of current affairs and general awareness topics. Apart from this, some analytical questions were also asked consisting of two or more statements on butterflies, bio-fuels were also asked that should have been answered only if you had good grasp of the topic.

Economy Question Analysis

11 questions were asked on Indian Economy. Again these questions were not conceptual rather they were based on the latest developments like Unified Payments Interface, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, Trade Facilitation Agreement etc. Only one question on economic liberalisation of 1991 was asked.

History Question Analysis

8 questions were asked on Indian History of which 6 questions were on Modern History and 2 on Ancient History. No questions were asked on Medieval History. History questions were not by any means easy. Questions on Factories Act, Trade Disputes Act were asked of which not many candidates may be aware. But UPSC balanced this with some straightforward questions on Dyarchy, Matching, Sequence; so overall History questions were of moderate difficulty.

5 questions were also asked on Art and Culture, which as usual, was a lottery ticket. Either you win it or don’t. In Prelims, either you know the answer or not, there is no guessing around.

Environment&Ecology Question Analysis

Only 6 questions were asked from this topic, which is quite low considering the past 4-5 years trend. Two questions were based on Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, two were general awareness based, while one was related to climate change. If you had gone through the Wildlife Act in-depth only then you could answer the two questions. The general awareness based Ecology questions were quite easy. Again, as with the other topics, UPSC tried to balance the hard with the easy and moderate in this topic as well.

Current Affairs and General Awareness Question Analysis

As many as 28 questions were solely from these inter-linked topics. As I have mentioned above, some questions from conventional topics also were also current affairs-based but these questions have to be categorised as exclusively current affairs/general awareness questions.

I am happy to state that most of the current affairs questions were from our Current Affairs updates that are provided free to our Test Series members. These questions were asked from the events that took place in the last 18 months. That is why I always stress the need to cover a wide period for current affairs questions.

Many Questions from Government Schemes and Programmes

Many of the General Awareness questions were from the recent government schemes and programmes like the questions on Recognition of Prior Learning Scheme, Smart India Hackathon, National Skills Qualification Framework, National Career Service, and Unnat Bharat Abhiyan.

Of course UPSC is free to decide which questions to ask in the Prelims, but should so many questions be asked from schemes and programmes launched by the government of the day? This way UPSC is encouraging candidates to go back to their rote methods and mug up everything related to such programmes from India Year Book and other reference books. It is precisely to discourage such rote-based learning that UPSC had started to set dynamic questions based on analytical reasoning for the past 7-8 years.

Conclusion and Expected Cut-Off Marks in 2017 Prelims

Overall, the difficulty level was Moderate+ as I have mentioned above. UPSC tried to balance the difficult questions with straightforward questions (if not easy questions).

Another pattern observed was the return of the conventional topics like Polity and Economy from which not many questions have been asked in the past few Prelims papers.

The cut-off for various categories as per UPSC in 2016 Prelims was as follows:

General: 116.00

OBC: 110.66

SC: 99.34

ST: 96.00

This year you can expect the cut-off to be between 110-120 for General category candidates, 105-115 for OBC category, 95-100 for SC category, and 90-95 for ST category.

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I am your friend, mentor and guide to help crack the IAS exam. I've cleared the Prelims everytime including the first and also reached the Interview stage. Know more about me

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This information is very useful for me
Doing a well job sir.


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