UPSC Prelims General Studies 2018 Analysis

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Now that the UPSC Civil Services 2018 Preliminary examination is completed it is time to analyse the Prelims General Studies paper I in detail with the current trend analysis.

You can refer the 2017 GS Paper analysis for comparison here.

UPSC 2018 Prelims Topic-Wise Marks Analysis

Let us first analyse the topic-wise distribution of marks in the 2018 Prelims General Studies paper.

Topic No. of Questions Marks
Art & Culture 5 10
Ancient 2 4
Medieval 2 4
Modern 12 24
History Total 16 32
Maps 2 4
Agriculture 5 10
Other 3 6
Geography Total 10 20
Economy 11 22
Trade 3 6
Science & Technology 10 20
Polity 11 22
Environment, Ecology, Climate Change and Biodiversity 11 22
Govt. Schemes 5 10
General Awareness 10 20
Current Affairs 8 16

Art and Culture Question Analysis

5 questions were asked from Art & Culture topic in the 2018 General Studies paper of UPSC Prelims. In 2017 Prelims as well 5 questions were asked from Art & Culture topic. So the importance of this topic has remained unchanged.

As far as the questions are concerned they were based on Paintings, Devotional songs, Architecture, Handicrafts and Folk festivals.

You either knew the answer or you didn’t. As is the case with Art and Culture questions, there is no guess work involved here.

So the difficulty level of the questions from this topic is rated Hard.


Indian History Question Analysis

16 questions were asked from the History topic in the 2018 General Studies prelims paper. While only 8 questions were asked in the 2017 Prelims paper on Indian History. So the number of questions have doubled from this important topic.

In History, 12 questions were asked on Modern Indian History, which is by far, much more important as compared to Ancient and Medieval Indian History.

Now let us look at the level of difficulty of the History questions, particularly, Modern History.

Questions were asked on events that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries but social reform movements were ignored in the 2018 Prelims. Questions covered British trade with India, education, political reforms, Gandhian movements etc.

You could attempt these questions with conceptual clarity of the topic. Let us take few such questions from the 2018 GS Paper for our analysis:

In the Federation established by the Government of India Act of 1935, residuary powers were given to the

(a) Federal legislature

(b) Governor General

(c) Provincial Legislature

(d) Provincial Governors

Answer (b)

The requirement to answer this question: Knowledge of Govt. of India Act of 1935

Which of the following led to the introduction of English Education in India?

1. Charter Act of 1813

2. General Committee of Public Instruction, 1823

3. Orientalist and Anglicist Controversy


Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3


Answer (d)

The requirement to answer this question: Knowledge of the Educational reforms started during the 19th century

In 1920, which of the following changed its name to “Swarajya Sabha”?

(a) All India Home Rule League

(b) Hindu Mahasabha

(c) South Indian Liberal Federation

(d) The Servants of India Society


Answer (a)

The requirement to answer this question: Knowledge of the major socio-religious organisations/movements of the 20th century.

The difficulty level of History questions in the 2018 GS Prelims paper was Moderate.


Also Read: Recommended Books for IAS Prelims and Mains

Geography Question Analysis

10 questions were asked from the Geography topic in the 2018 UPSC Prelims. Of this 2 questions were based on Maps, 5 were based on Agriculture and 3 were based on General Geography.

On comparing with the 2017 Prelims we find that 10 questions were asked from this topic in previous year’s Prelims. So the number of questions asked in this year’s Prelims remained unchanged.

As usual, Agriculture continued to get the Lion’s share of the questions given the importance of Agriculture to the livelihood of Indian population.

There was a wide diversity of questions asked from the geography topic.

Questions were asked on the following: Minimum Support Price, Organic farming, Agricultural soils, Location of volcano (Maps), Earth’s Atmosphere, Conservation Agriculture, GM crops, Minerals, and Agricultural Households.

You had to have good grasp of the current developments in agriculture and rural development along with knowledge of the fundamental aspects of Physical geography to tackle these questions.

Questions on organic farming, minimum support prices, GM crops are always expected and candidates who had prepared these topics could have tackled the questions with confidence.

Only 2 Map-based questions were asked. UPSC is not asking too many map-based questions for the past 3-4 years.

Let us see some of the questions.

With reference to organic farming in India, consider the following statements:

1. ‘The National Programme for Organic Production’ (NPOP) is operated under the guidelines and directions of the Union Ministry of Rural Development.

2. ‘The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority’ (APEDA) functions as the Secretariat for the implementation of NPOP.

3. Sikkim has become India’s first fully organic State.


Which of the statements given above is/are correct?


(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer (b)

With reference to the ‘Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA); which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. GACSA is an outcome of the Climate Summit held in Paris in 2015.
  2. Membership of GACSA does not create any binding obligations.
  3. India was instrumental in the creation of GACSA.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer (b)

The above two Geography questions were current affairs related and were not easy to answer.

Other questions were tricky too. Consider the following question.

Consider the following statements:

1. In India, State Government do not have the power to auction non-coal mines.

2. Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand do not have gold mines.

3. Rajasthan has iron ore mines.

Which of the statement given above is/ are correct?

a) 1 and 2

b) 2 only

c) 1 and 3

d) 3 only

Answer (d)

The first statement in the above question is related to policy knowledge. Whether state governments have the power to auction non-coal mines or not. The other two statements are straightforward.

The difficulty level of Geography questions in the 2018 GS Prelims paper was Hard.


Economy and Trade Question Analysis

A total of 14 questions were asked from these two topics (11 from Economy and 3 from Trade) in the 2018 General Studies Prelims paper. In the 2017 GS paper 11 Economy related questions were asked.

Analysing the Economy questions one can see that they were conceptual. A sound understanding of the Economic fundamentals would enable the candidate to answer the questions.

Questions were asked on GNP, GST, Banking, Capital formation, Savings, Treasury bills, Capital Adequacy Ratio, FRBM Act, Merchant Discount Rate etc.

Only the questions on Merchant Discount Rate and GST were current affairs related. Rest of the questions were conventional questions. Questions on FRBM Act are being asked routinely almost every year by UPSC.

Questions on Trade were fact-based and specific. Either you knew the answer or you didn’t. Consider these questions.

Consider the following countries:

  1. Australia
  2. Canada
  3. China
  4. India
  5. Japan
  6. USA

Which of the above are among the ‘free-trade partners’ of ASEAN?

(a) 1, 2, 4 and 5

(b) 3, 4, 5 and 6

(c) 1, 3, 4 and 5

(d) 2, 3, 4 and 6

Answer (c)

India enacted The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection ) Act, 1999 in order to comply with the obligations to

  1. a) ILO
  2. b) IMF
  3. c) UNCTAD
  4. d) WTO

Answer (d)

The difficulty level of Economy and Trade questions in the 2018 GS Prelims paper was Moderate.


Science & Technology Question Analysis

10 questions were asked from the Science and Technology topic in the 2018 Prelims while 11 questions were asked in the 2017 Prelims from this topic. So the number of questions has remained almost the same.

Questions were asked from the following topics: Space technology, Digital India, 3D Printing, Universe, AI, Crypto currency, Internet of Things, GPS technology and BHIM application.

As can be seen there was only one conventional question related to the Universe. Rest of the questions were related to recent happenings in the field of technology. Digital India and BHIM UPI also got asked in the paper.

The overall difficulty level of the Science and Technology questions in the 2018 GS Prelims paper was Easy.


Polity Question Analysis

In the 2017 Prelims General Studies paper an unusually high number of questions were asked from the Polity topic at 22. In the 2018 GS Prelims, UPSC normalised the trend and reduced the number of Polity questions by half to 11.

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Questions were asked from different sub-topics of Polity and were fact based as well as conceptual.

Let us analyse some of the questions.

Right to Privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty. Which of the following in the Constitution of India correctly and appropriately and appropriately imply the above statement?

(a) Article 14 and the provisions under the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution

(b) Article 17 and the Directive Principles of State Policy in Part IV

(c) Article 21 and the freedoms guaranteed in Part III

(d) Article 24 and the provisions under the 44th Amendment to the Constitution


Answer (c)

This is a straightforward question based on Fundamental Rights.

Which one of the following reflects the most appropriate relationship between law and liberty?

(a) If there are more laws, there is less liberty.

(b) If there are no laws, there is no liberty.

(c) If there is liberty, laws have to be made by the people.

(d) If laws are changed too often, liberty is in danger.

Answer (b)

Which of the following are regarded as the main features of the “Rule of Law”?

  1. Limitation of powers
  2. Equality before law
  3. People’s responsibility to the Government
  4. Liberty and civil rights

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 and 4 only

(c) 1, 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Answer (c)

These two questions are based on Law and political philosophy. Mere knowledge of the Constitution cannot help in answering these questions.

Other questions on Polity were of moderate difficulty level.

Environment, Ecology, Climate Change and Biodiversity Analysis

11 questions were asked in the 2018 Prelims on Environment and Ecology while 6 questions were asked on this topic in the 2017 Prelims paper.

The questions related to Environment, Ecology and Biodiversity were a combination of current affairs, facts and conceptual clarity. Let us take some examples of such questions.

Which one of the following is an artificial lake?

(a) Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu)

(b) Kolleru (Andhra Pradesh)

(c) Nainital (Uttarakhand)

(d) Renuka (Himachal Pradesh)

Answer (a)

This is a fact-based question.

Which of the following is/are the possible consequence/s of heavy sand mining in riverbeds?

  1. Decreased salinity in the river
  2. Pollution of groundwater
  3. Lowering of the water –table

Select the correct answer using the code given below :

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1,2 and 3

Answer (b)

This question requires conceptual clarity and is based on recent reports of illegal sand mining instances across the country.

The Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), a UN mechanism to assist countries transition towards greener and more inclusive economies, emerged at

(a) The Earth Summit on Sustainable Development 2002,Johannesburg

(b) The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012,Rio de Janerio

(c) The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2015,Paris

(d) The World Sustainable Development Summit 2016,New Delhi

Answer (b)

This is a general awareness based question and you should possess knowledge of the various climate summits to answer it.

Overall, the difficulty level of the Environment and Ecology questions was Moderate.


Government Schemes Question Analysis

UPSC tends to ask many questions related to government schemes and programs in every Prelims and the 2018 prelims was no exception to this trend. This year 5 questions related to government schemes were asked.

But categorising questions into govt. Schemes and programs can be tricky affair since this tends to overlap with current affairs. So no clear cut distinction can be made between questions based exclusively on government schemes and those based on current affairs.

Let us see some of the questions related to government schemes and programs asked in the 2018 UPSC prelims.


With reference to Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, consider the following statements:

1. It is the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

2. It, among other things, will also impart training in soft skills, entrepreneurship, financial and digital literacy.

3. It aims to align the competencies of the unregulated workforce of the country to the National Skill Qualification Framework.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3


Answer (c)

This question was related to skill development which has been in the news for the past 3-4 years during the period of the current government at the centre.

Consider the following Statements:

  1. The Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 replaced the prevention of food Adulteration Act, 1954.
  2. The Food Safety and standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is under the charge of Director General of Health Services in the Union Ministry of Health And Family Welfare.

 Which Statement given above is/ are correct?

  1. a) 1only
  2. b) 2 only
  3. c) Both 1 and 2
  4. d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer (a)

Question on FSSAI Act is not unexpected and since it replaced the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act it is the main Act on food safety in India.

Apart from this, two questions on Aadhar authentication were also asked which I have also categorised under the category of Govt. schemes and programs. Aadhar is a buzzword and IAS aspirants are expected to remain vigilant about everything related to it, from the technology to the social impact of this breakthrough initiative.

Overall, the questions related to Government Schemes and Programs were of Moderate difficulty.


General Awareness Question Analysis

General Awareness is very important topic of Prelims and UPSC tends to ask 10-15 questions from this topic every year. In the 2018 Prelims 10 General Awareness questions were asked while in the 2017 Prelims 20 questions were asked from this topic.

Given the importance of this topic I recommend the Manorama Year Book and the India Year Book in the Recommended Books for IAS page to building your General Awareness base quickly. Of course this has to be supplemented by daily reading of a good newspaper like The Hindu or the Indian Express.

Now let us analyse some of the General Awareness questions asked in the 2018 UPSC prelims.

Consider the following events:

  1. The first democratically elected communist party government formed in a State in India.
  2. India’s then largest bank, ‘Imperial Bank of India’, was renamed ‘State Bank of India’.
  3. Air India was nationalized and became the national carrier.
  4. Goa became a part of independent India.

Which of the following is the correct chronological sequence of the above events?

(a) 4-1-2-3

(b) 3-2-1-4

(c) 4-2-1-3

(d) 3-1-2-4

Answer (b)

This question is a combination of Polity and GK.

In which one of the following States is Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary located?

(a) Arunachal Pradesh

(b) Manipur

(c) Meghalaya

(d) Nagaland

Answer (a)

This is a fact based question related to location of wild life sanctuaries. You are expected to know the location of important sanctuaries and national parks of the country.

With reference to solar power production in India, consider the following statements :

  1. India is the third largest in the world in the manufacture of silicon wafers used in photovoltaic units.
  2. The solar power traffics are determined by the Solar Energy Corporation of India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer (d)

This is a question straight from India Year Book.

Other questions on General Awareness were not so straightforward. For instance, the question on Right to Education was quite tricky and only candidates who had knowledge of it could answer the question.

There was one question related to Conventions 138 and 182 of International Labour Organization.  This pertained to child labour issues. Only if you were aware of these conventions could you answer this question. No guess work could work here.

Hence the overall difficulty level of the General Awareness questions in the 2018 UPSC Prelims was Hard.


Current Affairs Question Analysis

As the saying goes, save the dessert for the last. Current Affairs is often the favourite topic among UPSC aspirants and usually the largest chunk of questions are asked from this most important topic.

However, this year in the 2018 Prelims UPSC surprised us all by asking only 8 current affairs related questions. This should not be much of a surprise actually since in 2017 Prelims also only 8 current affairs questions were asked.

Again, I need to stress that current affairs questions tend to overlap with questions on general awareness and conventional topics like Economy and Environment and Ecology so it is difficult to categorise questions in a single topic.

Now let us analyse some of the current affairs questions.

In the Indian context, what is the implication of ratifying the ‘Additional Protocol’ with the ‘International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’?

(a) The civilian nuclear reactors come under IAEA safeguards.

(b) The military nuclear installations come under the inspection of IAEA.

(c) The country will have the privilege to buy uranium from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

(d) The country automatically becomes a member of the NSG.

Answer (a)

India ratified the additional protocol with the IAEA in 2014 that brought its civilian nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards. So this is not exactly a current affairs question but more of a general awareness question. But since the implication of signing the additional protocol is asked which has current ramifications it can be included in the current affairs category as well.

Consider the following pairs:

 Towns sometimes mentioned in news Country

  1. Aleppo – Syria
  2. Kirkuk – Yemen
  3. Mosul – Palestine
  4. Mazar-i-sharif – Afghanistan

Which of the pairs given above are correctly matched?

(a) 1 and 2

(b) 1 and 4

(c) 2 and 3

(d) 3 and 4

Answer (b)

You should be able to answer this question provided you have been following international events on regular basis.

What is “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)”, sometimes seen in the news?

(a) An Israeli radar system

(b) India’s indigenous anti-missile programme

(c) An American anti-missile system

(d) A defence collaboration between Japan and South Korea

Answer (a)

This was an easy question related to defence.

The terms ‘WannaCry , Petya and EternalBlue’ sometimes mentioned in the news recently are related to

  1. a) Exoplanets
  2. b) Cryptocurrency
  3. c) Cyber attacks
  4. d) Mini satellites

Answer (c)

Again, this was an easy question related to technology provided you have been following developments related to it regularly.

Overall, the difficulty level of Current Affairs questions was Moderate.


Summary of 2018 Prelims GS Paper Analysis

From the above analysis it is clear that the 2018 Prelims was a mixed bag. Questions on Science and Technology were easy but that’s where the party ended. The questions on Art and Culture, General Awareness and Geography were of Hard difficulty level. But then Art and Culture questions are never easy. But this time UPSC made you work on GK questions as well. But other than this questions on the remaining topics were of Moderate difficulty level which salvaged the situation.

In spite of this there is no doubt that the cut-off in the 2018 Prelims has fallen lower than in 2017. Although the actual cutoff will be announced by the UPSC only after the declaration of the final results of Civil Services Examination 2018, it can be said that the overall difficulty level of the 2018 UPSC Prelims GS Paper was Moderate+.


Reference Books for IAS

GS Solved Papers
General Studies Manual
Manorama Year Book
Oxford Student Atlas
Science and Technology

Topic-wise Books for IAS

Indian Polity Laxmikanth
Ecology and Environment
India's Struggle for Independence
Brief History of Modern India
Indian Art and Culture
Certificate Course in Geography

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Take it Easy - February 2, 2019

THAAD is an American anti-missile system, not an Israeli radar system. Also, when there are more laws there is less liberty.


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