UPSC Civil Service Prelims 2014 General Studies Paper 1 Analysis

Well, after lot of controversies regarding Prelims 2014 (#CSAT row), UPSC surprised most candidates and coaching institutes with “pattern breaking question papers” in Paper 1 and Paper 2. Though there are mixed responses regarding the difficulty level with regard to both papers, almost every one agrees on one thing regarding Prelims 2014 : it was a deviation from the pattern set by UPSC from 2011 to 2013! Within the prescribed syllabus UPSC tried new permutation-combinations with regarding to subject/topic weightage and developed new question types to offset the traditional preparation strategies of many coaching institutes. has already published detailed answer keys of Prelims 2014 Paper 1 and Paper 2 (CSAT). We have also hosted All India Polls to have a better idea about exam difficulty and expected cut-off score. This post is a detailed analysis of UPSC Civil Service Prelims 2014. We hope this analysis can throw light on many grey areas. There are lot of takeaways from this analysis for all future aspirants. PS: You may also refer our previous articles like analysis of 2013 Prelims and analysis of Mains 2013 as well.

UPSC Civil Service Prelims 2014 General Studies Paper 1 Question/Marks Break-up

Topic in the UPSC Prelims Syllabus Number of questions
asked in Prelims 2014
History and Culture 20
Indian and World Geography 14
Polity 14
Economy 10
Science and Technology 16
Environment 18
Current events of national and international importance 8

PS: The question split can vary on the basis of how you treat interdisciplinary questions. For example, we classified questions on the location of national parks under Indian Geography, and questions on biodiversity in a national park under Environment section.

Prelims 2014 Paper 1 : Sub- Topic Wise Question Split

UPSC Civil Service Prelims 2014 General Studies Paper 1 Analysis

ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series
2014 Prelims Question on:  Topic Category in the UPSC Syllabus
Festivals and tribes Culture
Panchayata Culture
Indian Philosophy Culture
Satyameva Jayate – Upanishad Culture
Sattriya dance Culture
Sculpture and sites Culture
Dances Culture
Shrines and location Culture
Bijak and Pusti marg Culture
Manganiyars Culture
Classical languages Culture
kalarippayattu Culture
BRICS Current Events of National /International Importance
12th Five Year Plan Current Events of National /International Importance
Arab Spring Current Events of National /International Importance
Artic Council Current Events of National /International Importance
Regions in news and  Countries Current Events of National /International Importance
Agni IV Current Events of National /International Importance
Guar Current Events of National /International Importance
World Economics Outlook Current Events of National /International Importance
Bombay Natural History Society Environment – Bio Diversity
Ganges River Dolphins Environment – Bio Diversity
Birds Recognition Environment – Bio Diversity
Biosphere reserves Environment – Bio Diversity
International agreements in Biodiversity Environment – Bio Diversity
Animal Welfare Board Environment – Bio Diversity
Global Environment Faccility Environment – Bio Diversity/Climate
Global warming Environment – Climate Change
Earth Hour Environment – Climate Change
Montreux Record Environment – Ecology
Wetland International Importance Environment – Ecology
Brominated flame retardants Environment – Ecology
Carbon Cycle Environment – Ecology
Lichens Environment – Ecology
Pollutants from steel industry Environment – Ecology
Soil Erosion Environment – Ecology
Food Chain Environment – Ecology
Eco Sensitive Zones Environment – Ecology
Parks and States ( MTF) Geography – India
Himalayan Vegetation Geography – India
Coral Reefs Geography – India
Seasonal Reversal of winds Geography – India
Rivers in Arunachal Pradesh Geography – India
Wetlands and Rivers Geography – India
Hills and regions Geography – India
Region and agriculture Geography – India
Towns and traditional saree Geography – India
National Highway Geography – India
Ten Degree Channel Geography – India
Changpa community Geography – India (Human)
Turkey location Geogrpahy – World
South East Asian Cities Geogrpahy – World
Venture Capital Economics – Concepts
MSF and NDTL Economics – Concepts
Interest rate increase Economics – Concepts
Sustainable Sugar Cane Initiative Indian Economy
Sales Tax Indian Economy
Seed Replacement Rates Indian Economy
Non Plan Expenditure Indian Economy
Current Account in BoP Indian Economy
Bank Saathi Indian Economy
Statutory Reserve Requorements Indian Economy
Places associated with life of Buddha Indian History – Ancient
Mahattara and Pattakila Indian History – Medieval
Ibadat Khana Indian History – Medieval
Radcliffe Committee Indian History – Modern
Partition of Bengal Indian History – Modern
1929 INC session Indian History – Modern
Ghadar Indian History – Modern
Queens Proclamation Indian History – Modern
Anti-defection Polity – Constitution
DPSP – International Peace Polity – Constitution
Constitutional Government Polity – Constitution
Governor Polity – Constitution
President Polity – Constitution
Supreme Court Polity – Constitution
Supreme Court Polity – Constitution
Programe and Ministry (MTF) Polity – Extra Constitutional
Parlimentary Committees Polity – Extra Constitutional
Integrated Watershed Development Polity – Extra Constitutional
Planning Polity – Extra Constitutional
Cabinet Secretariet Polity – Extra Constitutional
No – confidence motion Polity – Extra Constitutional
Saka era and National calendar Polity – Extra Constitutional
Diseases and eradication Science – Biology
Evolution of ogranisms Science – Biology
Hibernation Science – Biology
Neem oil Science – Biology
Photosyntesis Science – Biology
Identification of a person Science – Biology
Vegetatative Propagation Science – Biology
Transgenic crops Science – Biology
Maize Science – Biology
Animal classification Science – Biology
Vitamins and Deficiency diseases Science – Biology
Chemical Change Science – Chemistry
Solar Technologies Technology
Coal bed methane and Shale gas Technology
Space craft purpose Technology
Nano particles Technology

UPSC Civil Service Prelims 2014 General Studies Paper 1 Sub Topic Split

  • Though the History and Culture together had 20 questions, there split was 8:12 between them. And out of the 8 questions in History, 6 questions were from modern India and 1 each from ancient and medieval India.
  • Events on national and international importance, popularly known as current affairs, had a total of 8 questions. But many questions checked the historical aspects of current events. Eg: BRICS qn.
  • Most of the questions from science were related to Biology (11 in number). Physics questions were more or less absent. 4 questions can be correlated with current technologies.
  • There were 7 questions based on constitution and 7 questions based on extra constitutional matters.
  • Questions testing the conceptual knowledge in economy were a meager 3 this year. Question related to other aspects of Indian Economy were too on a low, making 7 in total.
  • The split in geography was 12:2 between Indian and world geography.

UPSC Civil Service Prelims 2014 General Studies Paper 1 Analysis

  1. Difficulty level of questions: UPSC Civil Service Prelims 2014 Paper 1 was a mix of questions of different difficulty levels. Around 30 questions can be said to be easy, next 30 of moderate standard and last 40 of difficult level.
  2. Questions from periphery areas: At-least 20 questions in the last category were highly difficult. That was not due to the depth of questions, but due to the fact that questions extended to almost everything under the sky touching many peripheral areas. Also there were ambiguity in some of the options.
  3. Simple questions from core areas: Questions from core areas like Polity, Economics, History and Geography were relatively simple. Apart from a few exceptions, most questions from these topics didn’t test the in-depth understanding of students often disappointing many serious students who spend a lion’s share of of their time doing detailed study.
  4. Weightage of core area questions: Total number of questions from Polity, Economics, History (without culture) and Geography were around 50. (In 2013, these four topics had a combined weightage of more than 75 questions).
  5. Weightage of other areas: In Prelims 2014, UPSC gave high importance to ecology, culture, current events (national and international) and science and technology (especially environmental biology). These four areas formed the next 50 % part of the question paper.
  6. Knowledge vs Understanding: There were many questions from the peripheral areas which tested the width of the aspirants knowledge rather than the depth of understanding.
  7. Was it really ecology in full? The general feedback from many candidates after Prelims 2014 was that the question paper contained a majority of Ecology and Culture questions. Statistically that impulse feedback is not fully true. Of-course there is a big increase in the weightage of environment/culture questions. But still the traditional subjects like History, Geography, Economics and Polity (with plethora or materials available) had near 50 percent weigtage, making the paper more or less balanced in terms of topic split. Though UPSC has complete freedom to ask questions from any area mentioned in the syllabus, it is a matter of debate on which subjects aspirants need to be tested more : whether the importance should be for subjects like Polity and Economy or for Ecology and Culture (That debate is beyond the scope of this analysis!).
  8. Factual questions : Is it a healthy trend? There is an increase in the number of factual questions Eg:  National Highway names in UPSC Prelims 2014. But, unlike the general perception, the question paper didn’t contain more than 15 factual questions. Still 15 is a big number, considering the fact that even a single question can decide whether a candidate clear prelims or not.  Though higher number of factual questions does not seem like a good move to select the best brains in the country, the shift might be a short term measure to shatter the predictability of the UPSC exam nature. (Or it might have happened just like that, without any serious thought from the question setter!) UPSC, though had asked factual questions in the 1990s and 2000s, during the last 5-6 years gave more importance to conceptual understanding than knowledge/memory testing.
  9. Prelims 2014 Paper 1 questions : who will benefit most? While almost every one can answer those near 30 simple questions, the key lies in answering the tougher ones right. Those who were able to correctly answer majority questions from culture, ecology and biology in all probability will stand out from the crowd. Quizzers and candidates experienced in attempting state PSC exams also seem to have a better chance this year, provided they score well in Paper 2 (CSAT) too.
  10. What is a good score in Prelims 2014 Paper 1? This paper had something for every one, making very low score almost impossible. Same is the case for very high score. Analysing the difficulty level of paper, feedback from aspirants, and response from the Clear IAS All India After Prelims Cut-Off Poll, here is our response : 90-100 = Good Score; 100-110 = Excellent; 110+ = Exceptional. Even those with less than 90 too can hope of clearing Prelims if they have done well in Prelims Paper 2 (CSAT).
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