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[ FAQs Prelims Series ] : How to go about the UPSC Prelims paper to finish it in time?

This is the fourth article of our FAQ series on UPSC Prelims. We will answer one popular question every 7-10 days. We hope it helps you to better prepare for the final exam.


    How to go about the UPSC Prelims paper to finish it in time?


Finishing the paper before time is critical so that you can revise the paper and correct any apparent mistakes. There is no one best approach to finish the paper, but here are some ways in which you can increase the pace and efficiency with which you attend the paper.


Complete the paper in MULTIPLE rounds, always!


Many aspirants fail to complete the paper on time because they get stuck on a few confusing questions which eat away much of their time. To avoid this, complete the paper in at least FOUR rounds.

  • In the first round, SCAN and swiftly READ the paper. Doing so makes you familiar with the question paper as a whole even before you begin to attempt it. This fires up your brain as it start preparing itself to face various areas of the paper. This is really important, do not skip this step! Also, do not feel worried at this point if there are several unfamiliar questions in this paper. Every year the paper is such that there are many unfamiliar questions – nearly every aspirant feels the same way. Spend no more than 5 minutes in going through the paper in the first round.
  • In the second round, attempt only those questions that are easy, straightforward or that you can solve in one go. Doing this boosts your confidence significantly, releases a lot of pressure and prepares you to tackle harder questions in the paper. Try solving 35-45 questions in this round. In most cases, you should not take more than 40-50 minutes to complete this round.
  • In the third round, attempt questions of medium difficulty level that you had some confusion about. (Do not attempt hard or very hard questions at this point.) Try to eliminate options using your background knowledge, common sense and smart elimination techniques. (We will cover an article about this kind of elimination soon.) You will see that about 25-35 questions can be easily solved this way and that you are very near to completing a major chunk of the paper. This round should not take more than 30 minutes. By now, you would have solved more than 60-80 questions.
  • In the fourth round, take a dig at hard and very hard questions. Do not indulge in blind guessing, rather make careful, informed and intelligent guesses and see if you can mark answers reasonably. You will find that 10-15 questions can be solved this way. Also, many questions that first appeared hard will now appear easier because your confidence increases tremendously after solving a major chunk of the paper. Instead, if you had solved these questions in the very first round, you would not only lost a lot of time but also lost confidence with respect to the paper. Spend no more than 15-20 minutes in this round.

By now, you would have spent anywhere around 90-100 minutes and solved about 70-95 questions with 20 minutes or so to spare. Try REVISING the paper at this point and see if you want to update any of the answers you have given so far. Also, verify the OMR sheet once to ensure that all the answers are correctly punched in.

During rounds one to four, it is a good idea to star mark questions that you are a bit unsure about so that you can attend them in the very final revision round.



Attend as many mocks as possible


  • We keep mentioning this, but the more mocks you attend in exam like conditions, the better you get at time management in the exam. More and more practice also makes you better at managing exam related stress and avoiding last minute rush that often leads to costly mistakes.


If you follow the approach above, you will not only complete the paper well ahead of time, but also be able to revise it well and address any potential mistakes. In the end, it all boils down to execution, so make sure that you do it well. Your scores will definitely improve!