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UPSC CSE Prelims 2021 analysis

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    14th Oct, 2021

UPSC Prelims Exam 2021 was conducted on 10th October 2021 which got postponed due to the second wave of Covid19. After the IAS Prelims exam 2021, Aspirants are inquisitive to know their marks and expected cutoff. Since the gap between prelims and mains exam is less than 90 days, the aspirates have very less time to start preparation for mains. So, it becomes very important for aspirates to start preparation at the earliest. Keeping this in mind, we have uploaded the Prelims Answer Key for GS Paper 1 on our website.

As expected, the paper was unpredictable and questions were moderate to tough. This time, UPSC has tried to give weightage to all subjects equally. Moreover, questions were mix of both factual and conceptual with little room for elimination, unlike previous years. However, polity and history had maximum no. of question. One of the biggest surprises of this year paper was 3 questions from sports, which took many aspirants by surprise. Sports are not mentioned in the syllabus however, it can always be asked by UPSC as part of current affairs.

Questions of Polity, Ancient India, Art & culture and science were difficult. Moreover, Polity questions were mostly conceptual barring few which were direct and it has become a kind of trend in last few years. While Geography, Modern India and economy’s questions were comparably moderate. In economy, questions were not asked directly from economic survey or Budget but concepts in economic survey or Budget were used in framing economic questions.

Questions from current affairs were few compared to last year. However, many conceptual questions were inspired by current events. That’s why current affairs are still the core of this examination. Further, Paper-II was again difficult especially reading comprehensions and this may play a role in lowering of cutoff this year.

Below is Subject wise questions categorization of GS paper 1:




No. of Question Asked








History & Culture









Science Tech






Polity: Total 20 questions were asked from Polity mostly based on Constitutional Articles and constitutional jurisprudence. There were tricky questions like ‘constitutional status of India on 26th January 1950’ and ‘Right to the city’. Questions were from unconventional areas like ‘Judicial Custody’ and ‘Parol’. Overall nature of the questions was moderate to difficult. This time special focus was given to Part III of the Constitution and one needed to be really well versed with the Articles of Part III.

Geography: Questions were mostly conceptual. UPSC didn’t go too deep and asked basic questions from NCERT. Anyone well versed with the basic concepts of geography will find it relatively easier to solve the paper. Map, Water, Forest, Resources were major areas of question. Geography’s questions were easy to moderate as there were no unconventional questions.

History, Art & Culture: There were around 20 questions from History & culture. While modern India questions were moderate, Ancient and culture questions (Harappa, administrational law) were moderate to difficult. After few years of gap, there were 3 Personality based questions from Modern India. Questions from Modern India vis-à-vis previous years were less and on expected lines. Like last year, there were lesser questions from Art and Culture and after really long time there were no questions from Buddhism and Jainism. This was just to change the trend. Ancient and medieval questions were moderate to tough.

Economy: Economy questions were mostly application-based and conceptual-based. Anyone clear with the basic concepts of economics will find it relatively easier to solve the paper. However, some of the questions options were really confusing.  There were reference of current affairs in questions were easy to moderate. Questions were from conventional topics like RBI, inflation, currency, recession etc. 

Environment: Environment questions were moderate to tough as they were mostly fact and knowledge-based like questions on Magnetite particles filter feeder, UNEP. Though, questions were from conventional topics like biogeochemical cycles, symbiotic relationships etc. One can see clear change in pattern of environment questions. There were no questions from national parks, animals, pollution etc which they have been asking continuously for last 4-5 years. Environment question were moderate to tough and more focus were given on ecology part of syllabus.

Science& Technology: This section was difficult this year. There were no questions from application of modern technologies which they had been asking for last 4-5 years continuously. Most of the questions were from Science which could have been solved through common sense or through basic understanding concepts. There were questions from diseases and Common day curiosity-based questions. Questions were influenced by Current Affairs and the mixture of concepts and facts. 

Sports: Special appearance and surprise were sports questions. Questions were factual and difficult.

CSAT (Paper-II): Comprehension Questions were on difficult side, similar to last year. The most of the comprehensions had a single question that made the comprehension time-consuming. Options in the comprehension were quite close and confusing that made it really tough to choose correct answer in lesser time. Reasoning and Maths Questions were on predicted lines with a moderate level to difficult level. Further, Quantitative appetitive questions were difficult.


Though most of the questions were not directly on current events but was certainly based or inspired by current affairs only. So the relevance of the current affair and its linkage with the syllabus remains relevant. Statements of questions were from a broad range of sources which required in-depth study and brush up of the syllabus just before the exam will not work. Overall paper was Unconventional hence cut-off will be the same or a little low from last year.

Only one thing is predictable about the UPSC PRE. Examination and that is an unpredictable pattern of questions. Any aspirants with basic understanding and in deep study of the syllabus will find it relatively easier to solve the paper.



Pankaj Dwivedi


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