Dissecting the UPSC Sample Paper for Civil Services Prelims 2011

Dissecting the UPSC Sample Paper for CSAT 2011

Department of Personnel, Government of India came out with a new structure and Syllabus for the Civil Services Prelims Examination. As, this will be the first time, the new syllabus and examination pattern will be followed, there are quite a few apprehensions about the exam. In this article we try to help ease those apprehensions.

The Pattern

Unlike previous years, from 2011, the UPSC civil services prelims exam will not have any optional paper. Each student will now appear for the same two papers. There will be two 2-hour exams, Paper-I and Paper-II. Paper I will be similar to the General Studies Paper of the past, with minor additions and deletions to the syllabus. Paper-II is the new kid on the block. Both the papers will carry 200 marks and there will be negative marking.

The notification and the subsequent ones, are silent on the number of questions, marking scheme etc . There are mixed reactions to this, whether there will be subsections in the paper, or there will be differential marking. It will be futile to make a final call. Trying to scond guess the UPSC can prove dangerous, hence, aspirants are advised to prepare for all kinds of scenarios.

Paper-II (CSAT) tests the student on general aptitude similar to various aptitude tests. The only major difference being the section on decision making and Interpersonal skills and Communication.

The Syllabus

Paper I – (200 marks) Duration: Two hours

Current events of national and international importance

History of India and Indian National Movement

Indian and World Geography – Physical, Social, Economic geography of India and the World.

Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

Economic and Social Development – Sustainable Development, Poverty, Inclusion, Demographics, Social Sector Initiatives, etc.

General issues on Environmental ecology, Bio-diversity and Climate Change – that do not require subject specialization

General Science.

Paper II- (200 marks) Duration: Two hours


Interpersonal skills including communication skills;

Logical reasoning and analytical ability

Decision making and problem solving

General mental ability

Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. -Class X level)

English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level).

Questions relating to English Language Comprehension skills of Class X level (last item in the Syllabus of Paper-II) will be tested through passages from English language only without providing Hindi translation thereof in the question paper.

The questions will be of multiple choice, objective type.

When we check the GS syllabus, the major change as such is the introduction of environment, ecology, biodiversity and the removal of general mental ability. The general mental ability portion has now been allocated to the CSAT.

Although, the introduction of environment, ecology, climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development seems to suggest that these are new areas, the questions related to these topics have been asked in the past. This merely suggests that these areas may carry more weightage than they used to do in the previous years. Thus, one needs to have a slightly tweaked approach towards the preparation for the GS paper.

For the CSAT, everything except general mental ability will be new to CS aspirants.

The Sample Paper

UPSC released a sample paper then revised with more questions. This sample paper is the only real source to understand the kind of questions expected this year. In this section we analyse each and every question in the sample paper.

Paper-I GS

Question 1

It is based on the Simon Commision and its recommendations. The Learning Objective(LO) is History of India and Indian National Movement. The question requires a through knowledge of the Simon Commision’s recommendations etc. It is along the patterns of previous years.

We can expect similar questions about other commisions and reports.

Question 2

It is based on the rainfall data of a geographic region. This question was asked in CS prelims in 2010. So, it is along the patterns of previous years. The LO is India and World Geography

Question 3

It is based on jatropha and other plants used to make bio-diesel. This question was asked in CS prelims in 2010. So, it is along the patterns of previous years. The LO is Environment, Bio-diversity and Climate change.

Question 4

It is based on Potato and Microwave. This question was asked in CS Prelims in 2010. So, it is along the patterns of previous years. The LO is General Science.

Question 5

It is based on Banks and Financial Inclusion. This question was asked in CS Prelims in 2010. So, it is along the patterns of Previous years. The LO is Economic and Social Development.

Question 6

It is based on Fiscal Stimulus. This question was asked in CS Prelims in 2010. So, it is along the patterns of Previous years. The LO is Economic and Social Development.

Question 7

It is based on Pollution and Carbon Monoxide. The question is understanding and application based. The effect of pollution on environment as well humans needs to fully understood. How certain pollutants affect the humans needs to be known.

Although UPSC has asked similar questions in the past, the focus has shifted from general science based direct questions to application based environment questions. The LO of environment and climate change is very important for this year. Be aware of all the major pollutants and how they affect us.

Carbon monoxide, Sulphur dioxide, Acid rain, Smog etc should be well understood.

Question 8

It is based on global warming. The question requires real understanding of the concept of global and the challenges. The question asks what limits India’s fight against global warming. It is certainly not a direct question. The difficulty in application based question is you need to know the concept in depth and just a superficial knowledge won’t help.

It requires which methods are being used, why a certain method is preferred over others etc. This question again signifies the importance of the LO of Environment and Climate change.

Question 9

It is based on the Constiution and Polity. The question asks about the National Social Assistance Program. The question focusses on what the student understands from fundamental rights, fundamental duties and directive principles of state policy. The question tests whether the student is able to fully and clearly distinguish between the three and understands when each of the three come into picture.

It requires not just the knowledge of the law but how and when it is applied. The focus is again on application and not just mere articles of the constitution. The LO is Indian Polity and Governance.

Question 10

It is based on the Constitution and Polity. The question asks about the Lok Adalats. The question focusses on the understanding of the Constitution of India. The question is more direct and needs teh student to know the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalats.

The LO is Indian Polity and Governance.

Question 11

It is based on deflation. The question focusses on the economic term in news. The question requires proper understanding of general economic terms in news. Similar terms may be expected this year. Some of the terms more popular these days are Quantitative Easing, Fiscal Responsibility, MicroFinance Bill, Malegam Commitee, etc.

The LO is Economic and Social Development. The student is expected to be well aware of various aspects of the Budget and the Economic Survey.


Questions 1-3 are based on Comprehension. The passage is on Indian contemporary issue and not very difficult to comprehend. The questions however are inferential where the ability to decipher the hidden meaning comes to the fore. With enough practice and extensive reading, scoring on these questions shouldn’t pose too much trouble to a serious candidate.

Question 4 is based on Critical Reasoning – arriving at the conclusion. This is one area which requires ample practice on all the differnet question types – syllogisms, assumptions, implicit statements , inferences, stregthening-weakening, analogous to the argument etc.

Question 5 is a Data Sufficiency question, based on arrangement of people. Data sufficiency questions These questions can be a part of any of the following sections:

General Mental Ability

Basic Numeracy

Data Interpretation

Logical Reasoning and Analytical Ability

It is necessary to understand here that solving the question and reaching a solution is not expected. The candidate only needs to judge whether the given data is sufficient or not. These type of questions are tricky questions and a novice could easily mark a wrong answer even for a very easy question. A lot of practice is recommended for these questions.

Question 6, which is a basic question on indices, indicates that the CSAT paper will have questions on Arithmetic. Arithmetic though is easy appears to be tough simply because it is taught at the school level and candidates are generally not in touch with the topics it covers. Again, practice plays a very important role here.

Question 7 is a simple question on percentages disguised as a question based on pie charts. The question is complete even without the pie charts. The pie charts are just a distractor – a student not comfortable with different types of charts that are covered under Data Interpretation might needlessly end up not attempting this question at all.

In general, sound understanding of fundamentals and familiarity with question types that aptitude exams generally test will be of prime importance for a candidate who wishes to do well.

Q 8 is a cross-over of Critical Reasoning and Comprehension with a dash of Vocabulary sprinkled on it. Practice on reasoning based questions coupled with an ability to eliminate the incorrect options will come to the fore. These questions are deceptive and will require enough attention and respect to sail through.

The latest addition to the UPSC sample questions list were Questions 9 and 10. They are a a combination of Decison Making and Problem solving questions with a hint of communicaiton inserted. One’s ability to take mature and timely decisions with a balanced approach focussing on the best outcomes is tested here. Enough practice with Decision making & Problem Solving as well as Interpersonal skills and communicaiton should help one get a good grip on these question types.

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3 Responses to “Dissecting the UPSC Sample Paper for Civil Services Prelims 2011”

  1. Corrinne Staine says:

    You make a lot of good points on this blog. Keep up the great work.

  2. Pamala Schroy says:

    Good job! what a great post!

  3. Mritunjys 2008 says:

    The new pattern is a boon to science students/aspirants foe CSE 2011

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