6 Ways to Improve marks in UPSC General Studies Paper 1

UPSC prelims exams are considered to be the doors that open you to the real competitive world. The UPSC prelims consist of two papers: General Studies 1 and General Studies 2. Out of these only the cut-off of the former matters in the prelims competition while the marks in the latter are qualifying in nature. Even when these two papers are less significant in the long run of the competition without passing these you are out of the race even before getting in.

So, what should be the primary target for a UPSC aspirant?

Passing the two prelims papers with at least the minimum needed marks. As these marks are not included in the final merit list, all you need to do is tactfully touch the cut-off.

This article is meant exactly for that; to give you an idea as to how to start your journey by hitting the first target set for you in the long journey.

But just before getting into the core subject let’s see how the trend of cut-off has been over the past few years.

Cut-off of prelims GS 1 over the years




















Seeing the above table, you can understand how unpredictable the cut-off for the UPSC Prelims paper can be. The cut off is decided based on factors such as:

  • The number of candidates
  • The toughness of the paper
  • The number of vacancies that particular year (calls 12-13 times the number of vacancies each year)

Therefore, it is not an aspirant’s duty to focus on the cut-off, but it is for sure his or her obligation to try and give the best of efforts to clear the exam with the minimum qualifying marks, regardless of whether it is your first attempt or the third.

How can I improve my marks?

  • Go through the previous year question papers
  • Clarity of concepts
  • Read carefully
  • Focus on Current Affairs
  • Mock Tests
  • Identify weaknesses and strengths

To get a solid idea, let’s go through each of them in detail:

Go through the previous year question papers

Yes, UPSC is known for its unique way of coming up with questions. There is no other competitive exam where the aspirants feel a bit uncertain when it comes to preparation. For almost all other national-level competitive exams, once you are through with the syllabus, getting materials and preparing accordingly would be enough to crack the exam. But, for UPSC, where they are looking for people to serve the common they are searching for the best of the best. This is what makes the whole recruitment process a kind of its own.

UPSC is known for throwing surprises at the candidates. The last UPSC prelims are said to be one of the toughest prelims ever conducted by the UPSC. The questions asked had a different face from what has been observed so far. So what does this tell? To crack the prelims and to gain more marks from the previous year, you now need to understand exactly how the new set of questions are asked. For this, the first thing you can do is to go through the latest question papers. You can access the question papers from various websites, where they have provided question papers with the years mentioned.

Once you access these, go through them and analyze the pattern, and understand what the recruiters are looking for. UPSC prelims are like a mind game where mere mugging of details would never help you. You need to correctly capture the recruiter’s requirement through the questions asked. When it comes to UPSC the ‘obvious’ is never the answer.

Clarity of concepts

This is where the majority of aspirants fail in the UPSC prelims. They lack the much-needed clarity which is a necessity throughout the recruitment process. As mentioned in the above point, for UPSC, the answer is never the given, but what underlies it. So, to improve your marks, you need to go beyond where you are now. If needed, you can start from the basics. NCERT textbooks are considered to be the best to start the preparation. These books can give you a basic understanding of the important information needed. But this would not be enough. You need to take it to the next level by exploring more about what you have understood from these textbooks.

There are numerous materials available in the market and online. Research and speak to others; find the best, and start studying from them. A surface knowledge can never help you in cracking UPSC. You need to dive in and make the understanding of concepts crystal clear. There is no room for doubts in UPSC.

Read carefully

This is the continuation of the above point. Candidates often complain that they are not able to remember the concepts that they have studied thoroughly. You know how vast the UPSC syllabus is and how much one needs to go through before he can confidently sit for the exam and attempt it smoothly. So forgetting what you have studied can be the biggest villain of all in this journey. Tending to forget what you have studied is a major reason that reduces your marks.

Therefore, the process of reading and understanding should be given utmost importance. The way and the time is taken to register the information in your head speak volumes in making you the potential candidate to crack the exam. When you read, take time and try to give your full concentration. If given enough focus, you wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time on each topic. And do remember to jot down the points or mark the important ones as you read. Making notes would be something that all do, but not everyone gets the motivation to go through it again. When you prepare notes, make sure that they are crisp, precise, and presentable for revision to be done later.

Revision is important as much as the initial reading. As there is a lot to cover and you need to capture a bunch of information at a sitting, you must find time to go through what you have learned. Especially dates, years, and numbers are to be revised several times till you are sure about them. Those details that you miss repeatedly need to be given extra attention. This will help you feel at ease during and before the exam. Trying hard to remember something that you have learned and stressing out can negatively affect your exam outcome.

Importance of Current Affairs

Current Affairs is said to be the most important element in deciding your marks in the UPSC prelims exam. For mains, the role played by current affairs is very huge. This is the area where many tend to lose marks as they are not doing the learning properly. Of course, an aspirant will be aware of the places from which current affairs can be easily accessed.

However, no one should hesitate in making the practice of reading newspapers diligently a routine during his preparation period.  This is one of those mistakes that is committed by those candidates who tend to look for the easiest path in learning current affairs. Yes, it is true that you can get ready-made notes and Q&A, in a weekly and monthly format, but the information that you directly gain from the newspaper will give a complete idea of the events. Moreover, you should not limit your reading to one newspaper; try to find the details for an event from different newspapers and magazines. This can help you to reach a conclusion of your own rather than getting a biased opinion of one group of people.

Argutes provide daily current affairs through our website. The information is carefully compiled and made into notes for your convenience. After getting a solid idea from the newspapers and similar direct sources, going through daily notes can help you in several ways. You can also take short tests that we have developed for quick revisions so that you do not need to go through your handwritten notes for the most important topics. These tests are available also for the UPSC prelims General Studies paper 1 in our app (available on all platforms – iOS, web, android).

Identify weak areas and strengths

Many aspirants fail to focus on these core elements- Strengths and weaknesses. As people from different educational backgrounds give the UPSC exam each year, the questions are also set in such a way that everyone is tested in one way or the other. This ensures that no one has an advantage over another candidate. During preparation, there come situations when you make mistakes and find where you go wrong. In the process, you almost discover yourself and get to know what your forte is and where is it that your falter. Failing to focus on these, is what differs the successful candidates from the rest.

No matter what competitive exam that you are preparing for, you need to give time in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses. For the UPSC exams, this becomes even important because the whole recruitment process demands the candidates to come out with the best in themselves and use their potential to prove themselves among the huge number of competitors they have. Once you are sure where you need to improve, you can focus on that.

Mock tests

Mock tests are the ultimate goal to improve your marks. These tests work wonders in increasing your marks than any other strategy. A candidate who takes regular mock tests will surely see that his marks improve over the period. Moreover, attempting these tests on a regular basis helps to reduce exam stress and helps to stay vigilant during the exam.

There are instances where candidates opine that despite taking mock tests religiously, they do not see the improvement that they want to see. Here, it is clearly understood how the candidates are not utilizing the time they spend on mocks. The mere attempt of such tests would never help you; rather it will only waste your valuable time. Learn the technique of the optimal utilization of mock tests: attempting the test, analyzing the result, going through the mistakes, rectifying them, and noting down the extra tricks are all part of the strategy of attempting these mock tests. Each of these elements is important in enhancing your performance in the real prelims and mains exam.

Another thing that an aspirant needs to be sure of is the mock test that they choose. Thorough research is required before selecting the best for you. Otherwise, the money, time, and energy spent on them will go in vain. While choosing, always go for those mock tests that have been researched, developed, and set in accordance with the latest exam pattern and the questions ought to be relevant and their difficulty level should be par or slightly above that of the real exam.

Argutes offers you the collection of the best mock tests exclusively made focusing on the UPSC prelims General Studies paper 1. Our special mock test package comes with the following features:

  1. Mirror of the UPSC exam: Yes, you heard that right. Our test series is a set of questions that almost mirror the real exam. The questions are there from throughout the syllabus and are targeted for the sharpest of minds or those who aspire to be. With our solutions and feedback at the right time, preparation will not be a difficult task anymore.
  2. Real-time experience: We offer you the chance to take the test together with thousands of other aspiring candidates at the same time. Often aspirants find themselves stressed before and during the UPSC exam. Lack of preparations and anxiety can give you the jitters. But, with our live tests that happen frequently, you do not have to worry about it anymore. This real-time experience can make you confident to face the real exam in no time.
  3. National ranking: After the mock test you can see your ranking at the national level. This gives you an idea as to where you stand in terms of competition. The percentage and percentile will give you the exact idea of how far you have improved in your journey and how far you need to go.
  4. Subject-wise tests: We know how vexing it can be to sit for a full mock test that takes a minimum of an hour to finish. Not every day, you can do a mock test. Well, worry not. With our UPSC prelims test series for General Studies Paper 1, you can divide your time and attempt tests for each subject. This will help you focus on areas that you need to give extra attention to. You do not have to waste your valuable time of preparation on areas that you are already thorough with.
  5. Refresh quizzes: You can now go for short quizzes to make the preparation lively. In this package, we have included interesting quizzes for each topic which you can undertake when you have a little time to spare or when you feel like taking a break in the monotonous daily routine. These quizzes are meant for the recall of concepts in the quickest way possible.
  6. In-depth solutions: After each mock test, you can get an in-depth solution to each question asked. These solutions are designed and presented in such a way that the aspirant can easily understand the concept and idea behind each question. He or she can also get more details related to the topic asked in the particular question along with the solution itself.
  7. Detailed report: A report will be available after the mock tests explaining to you where you are lacking and what your strengths are. These reports can pinpoint those topics that you need to work upon. This helps the candidate to quickly move forward with the preparation without spending time unnecessarily for analysis. Thus our mock tests will act as your tutor during the preparation time.

There is a lot more to these tests.  If you have doubts, you can access the free version and see for yourself. Our premium version has many more features in store for you, that you can make use of, to stay ahead of others throughout the competition and harvest the sure-shot success. Test packages for other levels of UPSC exams with more and better features will be available on the app soon.


The saying “Failures are the stepping stone to success” is true to its core. Only when you fail you will come back stronger with that unquenchable fire in your heart. Yes, it is true that you failed this time, but you failed because you tried. With each failure, you will learn to improve your capability, and with each failure, you get closer to success. Improvement of marks is just one element in this journey. There is a lot more to this unique experience than you know!