UPSC Prelims Strategy by Abhijeet Sinha, IAS [AIR 19, CSE 2017]

By | February 28, 2024

Hello everyone,

I am Abhijeet Sinha. I have secured 19th Rank in Civil Services Exam 2017 and joined the Indian Administrative Service in 2018. I gave two attempts at CSE and scored good marks in both my prelims: 163 in CSE 2016 and 152.66 in CSE 2017.

My Prelims strategy was slightly different from others. I almost always attempted over 95 questions, even though I barely knew more than 50 questions with full certainty (no blind guesses though ). My focus remained more on deducing the right option by following all kinds of thumb rules, some of which I learned from others and others I developed on my own.

Because of many variation in nuances, it would be pertinent to inform you beforehand that the strategies mentioned below are slightly risky. What worked for me, may not work for others. There is no single strategy towards success. Also, don’t let these rules interfere with your strong intuition and knowledge. They merely help in deducing answer intelligently when your core knowledge on a particular topic is insufficient. So, please continue to prepare for Prelims thoroughly, practice well and use the following thumb rules as guidelines to help you make intelligent guesses in the exam.

I. Extreme Statements are Likely to be Wrong

Wherever statements which make sweeping generalisation and use words such as every, all, only etc, they are likely to be false.

Example :

Q. With reference to Manipuri Sankirtana, consider the following statements:    (2017)

  1. It is a song and dance performance.
  2. Cymbals are the only musical instruments used in the performance.
  3. It is performed to narrate the life and deeds of Lord Krishna.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1, 2 and 3
(b) 1 and 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1 only

Here, because of the word “only”, option 2 could have been easily eliminated.

II. Names and Phrases Hold Clues

There is a reason behind name of any scheme/ person / body/ institution. That can be used to solve many questions

Example :

Q. The term ‘M-STrIPES’ is sometimes seen in the news in the context of   (2017)

(a) Captive breeding of Wild Fauna
(b) Maintenance of Tiger Reserves
(c) Indigenous Satellite Navigation System
(d) Security of National Highways

Because of the word ‘Stripes’, there is a natural connection to tiger that possibly no other options share.

This principle was useful in in another question too:

Q. Recognition of ‘Prior Learning Scheme’ is sometimes mentioned in the news with reference to ( 2017)

(a) Certifying the skills acquired by construction workers through traditional channels.
(b) Enrolling the persons in Universities for distance learning programmes.
(c) Reserving some skilled jobs to rural and urban poor in some public sector undertakings.
(d) Certifying the skills acquired by trainees under the National Skill Development Programme.

That’s one small bubble for UPSC, but one giant leap for an aspirant.

III. A Lot’s in the Language of A Name

Example : 

Q. What is ‘Greased Lightning-10 (GL-10)’, recently in the news? ( 2016)

(a) Electric plane tested by NASA
(b) Solar-powered two-seater aircraft designed by Japan
(c) Space observatory launched by China
(d) Reusable rocket designed by ISRO

Only an English speaking country would name its plane in English.

Q. Consider the following pairs:  ( 2017)

Traditions                                            Communities

  1. Chaliha Sahib Festival     —           Sindhis
  2. Nanda Raj Jaat Yatra        —           Gonds
  3. Warkari                               —            Santhals

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched ?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) None of the above

Sahib is a name that is commonly used in Urdu language, common to Sindhis. Using this, we could have eliminated 2 options.

Sometimes, when you breakup the root terms of a name, it can give valuable leads. Consider the following questions:

Q. Which one of the following books of ancient India has the love story of the son of the founder of Sunga dynasty?  ( 2016 )

(a) Swapnavasavadatta
(b) Malavikagnimitra
(c) Meghadoota
(d) Ratnavali

Here Malvikangnimitra is clearly made up of 2 terms  Malvika + Agnimitra, possibly the name of 1 female and 1 male person, indicative of a love story.

Q. What is/are unique about ‘Kharai Camel’, a breed found in India? ( 2016)

  1. It is capable of swimming up to three kilometers in seawater.
  2. It survives by grazing on mangroves.
  3. It lives in the wild and cannot be domesticated.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Here, Kharai seems to be made up of Khara + I and Khara refers to Salty in Hindi which correlates to sea water and this could have been used to find out that options 1 and 2 are possibly correct. Meanwhile, option 3 can be eliminated by using the rule of Extreme.

Similarly, question on Araghatta ( 2016) could have been solved by realising that root term Arag is similar to Irig, that which makes up Irrigation

Q. With reference to the economic history of medieval India, the term Araghatta’ refers to

(a) bonded labour
(b) land grants made to military officers
(c) waterwheel used in the irrigation of land
(d) wasteland and converted to cultivated land

IV. Common Sense is Your Friend

There is no substitute to common sense, and common sense can be utilised to solve many more questions. Consider the following question:

Q. The Global Infrastructure Facility is a/an   ( 2017 )

(a) ASEAN initiative to upgrade infrastructure in Asia and financed by credit from the Asian Development Bank.
(b) World Bank collaboration that facilitates the preparation and structuring of complex infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) to enable mobilization of private sector and institutional investor capital.
(c) Collaboration among the major banks of the world working with the OECD and focused on expanding the set of infrastructure projects that have the potential   to mobilize private investment.
(d) UNCTAD funded initiative that seeks to finance and facilitate infrastructure development in the world.

Here, a global body can’t be centered to ASEAN or OECD. Plus since, it talks about Infrastructure, it shouldn’t related to UNCTAD which is a trade centered body.

The summary of the entire discussion above is to practise and think logically. It will help you to solve four to five questions correctly. Almost all my friends, who I have told this strategy have seen improvement in their marks by 5- 10 marks.

At the same time, these strategies are not a substitute hard work because for the majority of other questions, you needs to get the fundamentals right.  Without those basics, all strategies— no matter how so appealing— backfire. I realised the importance of hard work a year too late. I don’t want you to repeat it.

My best wishes,
Abhijeet Sinha

Note: My book, Fundamentals of Essay and Answer Writing is out now! It’s a comprehensive guide that helps you write better Essays and Answers in the UPSC Mains Exam. You can get the book here.

58 thoughts on “UPSC Prelims Strategy by Abhijeet Sinha, IAS [AIR 19, CSE 2017]



    In the below mentioned question even the option 1 has 2 names(1-boy n 1-girl)

    Q. Which one of the following books of ancient India has the love story of the son of the founder of Sunga dynasty? ( 2016 )

    (a) Swapnavasavadatta
    (b) Malavikagnimitra
    (c) Meghadoota
    (d) Ratnavali

    How to dedice in this case??????

    Thank u in advance….

    1. Virendra Ghadage

      Founder or sunga dynasty was Pushyamitra , so as per other kings name also related to its as per the chroology in ancient india. so in option B Suffex is Mitra

  2. ashutoshjalan

    Thanks for sharing the insights.

    Q. With reference to the economic history of medieval India, the term Araghatta’ refers to:

    Just struck me that the word “hatta” refers to an instrument/tool as we can infer from “ravanhatta” (musical instrument designed by Ravan). Hence, option “C”.

  3. surya

    On the question about the love story of the son of the Sunga King : the Sunga dynasty was famously brahmin and Agnimitra sounds like a very vedic brahmin name.

  4. nagaraj sutar

    Hello Abhijeet Sir, Thanks a lot for these crucial strategies. I really loved them and will apply them after completion of basic study. Sir, I graciously implore you and Anudeep Sir to post such strategies for CSAT Paper. Please post books also for CSAT Papers for beginners, who are from the Arts background. Thanks a lot both Anudeep Sir and Abhijeet Sir for this useful post.

  5. Minlunlal Stanley

    Sir I really need answer evaluation so if you can help me out I would really appreciate. The most struggling area in my preparation is concept clarity. I really need help

  6. Raunak Singh

    Sir this really means a lot to me 🙏💞..
    Thnx for ur anthropology detailed information, sir I’m a beginner currently passed my 12th PCM but didn’t qualified jee …. So I’m reading ur books and with this I’m starting my basic prep…..
    Once again thanku Anudeep Durishetty Sir {AIR1} …. 😇😇❤️❤️

  7. GT

    Thanks for this post, Anudeep and Abhijeet sir! Is it possible to update the title to something like “Thumb Rules for Educated Guessing in UPSC Prelims – A Strategy by Abhijeet Sinha, IAS [AIR 19, CSE 2017]”.

    Informed guessing is the crux of this post, along with the caveat that guessing is no substitute to preparing well enough to *know* the right and wrong answer choices. So it’s helpful to mention that in the title.


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