[Conclusion] UPSC Prelim GS-2017: Difficulty Level, Span of Current Affairs, Sacred cutoffs & the relevance of Guessmaster-giri

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  1. Prologue
  2. Span of current and contemporary affairs
  3. Was Prelim-2017 very heavy on current Affairs?
  4. Score from Feasible Prep. Sources
  5. Was Prelim-2017 EXTREMELY tough Paper?
  6. Are you saying cutoff will be 128-130 marks!
  7. Was Prelim-2017 anti-first attempt students?
  8. UPSC Cutoff Prediction: the futility of-
    1. Online Polls
    2. Coaching Sirs’ cutoff prediction
    3. Coaching THUGs’ cutoff prediction
    4. Mrunal’s cutoff prediction
  9. The Guessmaster-giri movement
    1. Rule#1: Extreme statement is ALWAYS wrong
    2. Rule#2: Parent department and dates are always wrong
    3. Rule#3: 3TF with 1-2 words= all correct
    4. Misc. Rules
  10. Relevance of Guessmaster-giri in Prelim-2017
    1. Net GAIN by guessmaster-giri is 40 marks!?
    2. Gain Computation#1: Gambling & probability
    3. Gain Computation#2: IGNORE Easy & Irrelevant MCQs
    4. Why Guessmaster-giri’s REAL Gain is less than +7.33 marks?
  11. Epilogue
  12. Appendix: Data Table of MCQ classification


  • Make sure you’ve gone through my Topicwise Answerkey for UPSC Prelim-2017 paper, available at mrunal.org/answerkeys
  • In the appendix of this article, I’ve given a data-table of 100 MCQs of Prelim-2017. I’ve used that table for all the observations and conclusions in this article.

Span of current and contemporary affairs

Area20162017’s Prelim Paper
Theory6260 MCQ from theory and within that

  • 24 easy, 10 medium, 24 tough.
Current / contemporary3840 MCQs and within that,

  • 16 MCQs  from 2016-17 current affairs
  • 24 MCQs from 2015 and before.
Total MCQs100100
  • Majority of the current/contemporary affairs are from 2016, and majority of them can be solved from either theHindu or Indian express.
  • Exclusive to theHindu are ~2 MCQs.
  • The purpose of highlighting above fact is that Even Indian express is a good enough newspaper for preparation of competitive exams. So, if theHindu is unavailable or very expensive in your town, you can use Indian express also. [अगर आपको ध-हिंदु नही मिल रहा तो कोई हिन-भावना से ग्रसित होने की जरूरत नही है.]

Now, Let’s check the span of those 40 current / contemporary affairs:

Events before 20105
Events from 2010-158
Events occurred in 201623
Events occurred in 20174
  • Latest event I could find is: Smart hackathone event in April 2017 i.e. two months before the prelim exam of June 2017.
  • This also ‘fits’ with the span of current affair in Prelim-2016. Even there also, the latest MCQ was two months before the exam. Same thing I had said in my GDP lecture BEFORE the exam. And just to be safe, I had covered GST upto May Week1.

Was Prelim-2017 very heavy on current Affairs?

If there are only two more current affairs MCQ in 2017, compared to 2016, then why do candidates feel that 2017’s paper was mostly current affairs?
Let’s prepare a matrix of the current / contemporary MCQs in 2016’s paper:

Current AffairsEasyMediumToughTotal
Current affairs

  • i.e. specifically happened in 2016-17
Contemporary issues

  • i.e. event appearing before 2016.
  • As you can see from above table, more number of questions are from contemporary issues. And Majority of them are medium to tough.
  • In the actual exam, whenever a person faces tough questions from a particular area, he starts to feel that entire paper is like that only.
  • Earlier, UPSC used to ask questions from Economics theory e.g. what is CRR, SLR? But this time, pretty much all economy questions are from current and contemporary issues only. So, again, it doesn’t fit into an aspirant’s ‘expectation’ of the paper, so he’ll think “entire paper is current affairs only”.
  • For business interest, just like a coaching sir would say paper is extremely tough, same reason current-affairs seller will say it’s extremely current affairs dependent, and they’d portray “current affairs” as a separate subject in their topic wise analysis because their bread and butter depends on selling such material.
  • Nonetheless, good number of MCQs can be solved directly from theHindu / Indian express and that too without maintaining extensive “RESEARCH” notes with background facts gathered from 10 other websites.
  • So, again, don’t fall into some inferiority complex that “my friends and seniors are saying this paper had lot of current affairs, and since I did not have __ material, therefore I failed. So, and next year I’ll pay less attention to theory and focus more on current affairs.” [“मेरे पास कोई महंगावाला करंट-अफेर्स मटिरियल नही है इसलिए मे पास नही हो पाऊंगा/पाउंगी” एसी हिन-भावना दिमाग में मत लाओ.”]
  • because next year, UPSC examiner could do something else! So you should do reasonable justice to both theory and current.

Score from Feasible Prep. Sources

Let’s count source wise preparation vs. number of MCQs in Prelim-2017 GS paper:

Feasible to prepare?Preparation sourceMCQs
Not Feasible“About US” pages of random website10
Not FeasibleFalling from sky i.e. requires multiple books, webpages to arrive at right answer.15
Not FeasibleDATA interpretation from Old Economic surveys2
Not all prepare all 1000 pagesIndia Yearbook 20173
Not for all prepare itOptional Subject level book of History and Geography4
Not all have access to itOnly TheHindu exclusive current affairs2
Feasible to prepareTheHindu or Indian express or Current Affairs Magazine/PDFs13
Feasible to prepareM.Laxmikanth’s Polity Book16
Feasible to prepareShankar’s Environment book5
Feasible to prepareSchool Atlas (basic to moderate level preparation)3
Feasible to prepareMrunal’s Economy Lecture Series (BES17)12
Feasible to prepareNCERT Textbooks (Free download)9
Feasible to prepareNitin Singhania’s Culture book1
Feasible to prepareSpectrum’s History book OR Pratik Nayak’s History lecture series at Mrunal.org5

64 questions are from feasible preparation sources = 64 x 2 = 128 marks.
Of course, in the in the actual exam, very difficult to reach that high-score because:

  1. You can’t recall all those 64 things, even though they’re given in the “feasible” preparation sources.
  2. Even if you prepared school atlas, there is no guarantee you can recall what is asked. Same goes for obscure international organizations given in Shankar’s Book.
  3. Negative marking and Silly mistakes in ticking OMR or interpretation the question, even if you know the facts correctly in your head.
  4. Some MCQs are debatable answers because of vague wording or varying interpretations. [Right to vote, Cabinet Form of Government, Indus valley horse etc.]

But still, even accounting for forgetfulness and silly-mistakes, a serious candidate can definitely score more than the unreliable rules of guessmaster-giri.
(for proof, scroll down in the article).

Was Prelim-2017 EXTREMELY tough Paper?

Observe the GS paper’s toughness

Year201620172017 MarksCumulative frequency
Easy494242 x 2=8484
Medium182323 x 2=4684+46=130**
Tough333535 x 2 = 70130+70=200.
Total100100200** in actual exam very difficult to reach that score. Because:

  • Same reasons that I gave for 128 score.
  • Requires history or geography optional level knowledge AND/OR extensive reading and grasp over contemporary issues.

You’ll see, that compared to 2016’s paper, 2017 has only 2 more tough questions and only 5 more medium difficulty questions. So 2+5 = 7 MCQs. So it’s slightly more difficult paper than last year.

Q. Then why do candidates and coaching walla portray it as an extremely-tough paper?

Ans. That is for entirely different reasons:

Why tukkebaaz find it tougher than last year?
Easy Question in 2016“Easy” Question in 2017
15. ‘Basel III Accord’ or simply ‘Basel III’, often seen in the news, seeks to
(a) develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity
(b) improve banking sector’s ability to deal with financial and economic stress and improve risk management
(c) reduce the greenhouse gas emissions but places a heavier burden on developed countries
(d) transfer technology from developed Countries to poor countries to enable them to replace the use of chlorofluorocarbons in refrigeration with harmless chemicals
39. What is the aim of the programme ‘Unnat Bharat Abhiyan’?
(a) Achieving 100% literacy by promoting collaboration between voluntary organizations and government’s education system and local communities.
(b) Connecting institutions of higher education with local communities to address development challenges through appropriate technologies.
(c) Strengthening India’s scientific research institutions in order to make India a scientific and technological power.
(d) Developing human capital by allocating special funds for health care and education of rural and urban poor, and organizing skill development programmes and vocational training for them.
  • You can arrive at the answer almost instantly just by looking at keyword “banking sector“, because  others have completely irrelevant words related to environment.
  • So even a tukkebaaz person with mediocre preparation will feel this is an easy paper.
  • This is also an easy question because given verbatim in the India YearBook-2017, as well as my lecture.
  • But even wrong options also have closely related in keywords like “research, education”. So, Tukkebaaz will have to read, pause and think for a few seconds instead of eliminating instantly unlike last year.
  • In this way, even ‘easy’ questions of 2017’s prelim appear ‘tougher’ compared to the ‘easy’ question of 2016.
  • since they entered the exam hall with such preconceived notion that everything will be easy like last year, hence they find it more difficult.
  • Candidates went to exam hall with pre-determined mindset that “I must tick 90+ MCQ because of social media hype. And because in the famous mock tests  I was able to do that and secure highest all India ranks.” But most of them couldn’t tick 90+ in the actual exam, because this paper has limited opportunities for intelligent elimination or gambled guessmaster-giri compared to 2016.
  • It’s in Coaching-walla’s business interest to portray things in such fashion that newbies feel scarred and decide to opt for coaching. But, as I already proved- both in terms of feasible preparation source wise and in terms of Difficulty wise, you can get a decent score from disciplined self-study as well. [“तो मैं दिल्ली के अच्छे कोचिंग में नही गया था, और सब घर बैठ के तयारी करने वाले ओनलाईन फोरम में बोल रहे है की उनके पेपर ‘खराब’ गये है, इसलिए मैं पास नही हो पाऊंगा” एसी हिन-भावना दिमाग में मत लाओ.]

Are you saying cutoff will be 128-130 marks!

Of course not! What I’m saying is:

  1. Since last four years, the cutoff floats around 50% of the total marks of qualifying paper(s).
  2. In a hypothetical test environment where candidate had adequate sleep last night, diligently prepared everything from routine and feasible sources, he was not under the social-media hype to tick excessively, then 64-65% of the paper was from his preparation only- which is well above the 50%.
  3. Therefore, IT IS NOT ESSENTIAL to:
    1. Join coaching.
    2. Buy expensive material.
    3. Adopt guessmaster-giri.

Was Prelim-2017 anti-first attempt students?

This discussion is best left to paan-parlours and the online places which have degraded to that level. But nonetheless, I’ll try to shed some light to people living in excessive pride or inferiority complex can come out of them.
Success chances of First Attempt candidates in prelims

  • In the latest 66th Annual report of UPSC, the latest comprehensive ‘data’ is given for CSE-2014 round.  (in this report, UPSC gave only limited data for CSE-2015. Sometimes, I feel they deliberately delay disclosing data for preventing any real or frivolous litigation by a group of aspirants).
  • Anyways, from the graph, you’ll see that while majority of the applicants in UPSC prelim-2014 were first-attempt students, but they constitute hardly around 1/5th of the students who clear prelims.
  • And 2014’s cycle had one of the largest vacancies in recent years. This year vacancies are less. Paper is tough so first attempt walla will SUFFER.
  • But above interpretation is misleading. Because majority of the students applying for prelims are JBPS. (just because papa said). If you look at the same table again, more number of students cleared prelims on first attempt than those from fourth and fifth attempt. (because after an age, person becomes unwilling to change strategy as per changing times, and unable to devote more hrs because of job and family responsibilities etc.) So, infact older candidates should worry more than first attempt-walla.
  • 2014 is curious year for one more reason: UPSC used to count Paper-II (Aptitude) marks in the prelims result preparation. So, depending on which side of the fence you’re, the interpretation can be,
    • A) Senior players particularly with experience of other aptitude heavy exams like SSC, Banks were enjoying advantage OR
    • B) first attempt IIT/engineers were enjoying advantage! Anyways, until UPSC releases similar data for 2015 and 2016 round, difficult to say.
  • In 2017, Nearly 1/4th of the paper is contemporary affairs. i.e. questions from bit older topics like BTIA, TFA, Domestic content requirement would have helped senior players to some extent. Because they’d have prepared some of these issues for past Mains also.
  • But, on the other hand, quality council of India’s composition or global infrastructure facility- even senior players can’t recollect all such developments.  So, they’re at same disadvantage like a first attempt player.
  • Besides, every senior player is not necessarily a ‘serious’ player.
  • A serious player knows that UPSC question papers are not of same difficulty and trend each year. So they tick conservatively when papers are tough.
  • Only the headless chickens blindly follow the “tick 90+ hype” generate by social media and tick excessively, even if it requires adopting the unreliable rules of guessmaster-giri.
  • Such headless chickens are spread among the mass of first attempt walla as well in the mass of senior players. (although more spread among first attempt-wallas because of their impressionable age group).
  • Conclusion: Paper is not anti-first attempt; but anti-headless chickens. First attempt wallas are at slight disadvantage in every competitive exam, because of their inexperience and lack of exposure, but nonetheless good number of them are reaching final merit list. Therefore, neither first attempt walla should become pessimistic, nor senior player should become optimistic that nature of paper favours / disfavors them. Success depends on your individual caliber – how you performed on the particular day.

UPSC Cutoff Prediction: the futility of-

Online Polls

  • Method: Many websites conduct online-user polls to find out the scores, then they’ll give average or median score as “Cutoff”.
  • It’s unreliable because sample size is small. Those who’re not using e-learning as primary source of preparation, usually don’t participate. e.g. vernacular/ remote area / poor / PH candidates.
  • Besides, such online polls usually require user to ‘register with email address/mobile number’ (So later on they can be spammed with offers for joining xyz class or mock test). Hence many ‘senior’ players only observe silently, without registering or participating. Similar reasons for less activity of female aspirants. [Same UPSC report says in 2014, ~1.10 lakh females appeared in prelims, ~2000 of them qualified for Mains, ~300 in the final merit list and four of them in top-5 ranks]
  • Trolls inflate their scores.
  • Even sincere people write scores depending on which unofficial answerkey is giving them Maximum marks rather than the answerkey that is giving them Less marks. And in all the debatable question, they presume their answer is right and others are wrong!
  • For the entire year, some candidates spend more time online on “peripheral bolbhacchan & chatting” related to competitive exams instead of doing actual studies. So, obviously they’d have scored less than others. After exam, they become most vociferous to project lower cutoffs. And other candidates feeling insecure about their own scores, will join the chorus.
  • While it’s true, that some questions are open to multiple interpretation. But some of these चंचल तत्वs would dissect and dispute even the simpliest answers given verbatim in the books to prove their point. And all such din and fury in the online forum, prevents any civil discussion about civil services exam’s cutoffs! It’s better to just go on vacation, than bring more stress on your head with all such ‘debates’.
  • As Arun Jaitley said, “only five people are having trouble in GST-registration, and they’re making all complaints on Twitter”. [लेकिन इसका मतलब ये नही है की हरेक व्यक्ति का पेपर ‘खराब’ गया है’.]

Coaching Sirs’ cutoff prediction

  • Method: Coaching sir would usually ask the some of his sincere students from present and old batches “how was your paper, what is your score?”. Then he’ll glance over the paper to gauge its difficulty level. Then he’ll predict a figure.
  • It’s unreliable because Sample size is even smaller. Few students of a single class in a particular geographical area- don’t represent the entire mass of serious aspirants.
  • And ‘glancing’ over the paper will not give the true picture of its difficulty. For example, prima-facie, the paper look extremely tough and extremely current affairs heavy compared to last year, but it’s only moderately tougher as I explained earlier.
  • Therefore, predicting cutoff by glancing, gauging or gut-feeling is erroneous.

Coaching THUGs’ cutoff prediction

  • They deliberately underestimate and downplay the cutoff marks so more students join their mains lecture and mock test programs.
  • So their predictions are completely bogus and self-serving.

Mrunal’s cutoff prediction

I don’t predict cutoffs because:

  • Sample size problems and the unreliability of online polls. Unnecessarily, it creates panic among students.
  • Some MCQS are open to multiple interpretations.
  • Depending on the year, cutoffs for individual categories vary by a margin of 1 mark to 5 marks to 20 marks so predicting solely General category cutoffs with a margin of +/-5 marks (=slab of 10 marks) creates more panic among others.
  • I don’t use glancing and gut-feeling methodology used by coaching sirs, because how you felt in actual exam-hall with only few hours of sleep on previous night, is entirely different than my comfortable office. So I may feel “this is very easy pappu type MCQ” and yet in exam hall, you’d have made silly mistake in interpreting and ticking it! And vice versa (I found some MCQ tough but you felt it was very easy).
  • Yet, at the same time, it’s true that cut-off prediction helps students deciding whether they should:
    1. Prepare for Mains
    2. Migrate to Delhi (although not essential for success)
    3. Join some Mains mock tests (although not essential for success) or
    4. Shift focus to lower exams.
  • As such, I’ve given sufficient data in this article, about toughness of questions vs. feasible preparation sources- for an individual candidate to gauge whether his preparation was on the standard path or not? So make first three decisions accordingly.
  • In 2016, UPSC had declared prelim result within 40 days of conducting the Preliminary exam. So, hardly 3-4 weeks left as I write this. You can continue preparing for mains for the time being. Besides, ~1000 vacancies, so remaining people will have to reappear anyways. You’ve prepare for mains anyways. Then why waste so much time and energy on debating answerkeys and predicting cutoffs!?
  • The fourth decision (whether to focus on lower exams or not?) rests on entirely different factors viz. your age, attempt, graduation, financial situation, marital status and family support.

Now coming to the main subject of the article.

The Guessmaster-giri movement

Chronology of Events culminating to the present state of chaos
1979-2006Candidates would tick all the MCQs in the UPSC preliminary exam, because there was no negative marking.
2007UPSC introduced the -33% penalty for wrong answer for the first time in prelims. A section of candidates, would still tick ~90% of the questions because of

  1. Their “Old Habits” from the previous years.
  2. Statistics and probability: If you don’t know the answer of the 3 MCQ & still attempt them, and luck by chance even if a SINGLE is correct, still you’ll gain: +1*2-(2*2/3)=0.67 marks.
  3. As such RTI was enacted in 2005 but since UPSC did not disclose the Prelim cutoff marks, individual scores and answerkeys on their website / press note, these “Tickmaster” candidates were unable to ascertain the validity of their strategy [Very few users were active online on UPSC related orkut groups, forums]
  • I had won a “Landmark” RTI case @CIC that prelim is a standalone exam and its Answerkey must be declared immediately after prelim is over.
  • But then UPSC went to appeal at Delhi High Court, so I left the matter for the lack of time, money and resources. [In CIC hearing, you don’t need lawyer, you don’t need to goto Delhi. You can appear from NIC video conferencing facility at your district, so it costs almost nothing.]
  • In retrospect, If that was implemented, then people wouldn’t have to waste time in right to vote and Indus Valley horse debates!
  • E-learning sites, apps, startups, online forums etc. begin to gain prominence in the UPSC and other competitive exams.
  • In these places, some users चंचल-तत्वs “DISCOVERED” that in some Prelim-MCQs, even if you don’t know the answer, still you can GUESS the correct answer by certain keywords. And they outlined following SACRED rules:

Rule#1: Extreme statement is ALWAYS wrong

If a statement contains extreme words like “all, must, none, cannot, always” then it’s wrong statement. Hence you can guess the right answer, even if you don’t know the topic.


Rule is valid and helpsRule is not always valid
(Prelim 2016) 16. With reference to the ‘Trans-Pacific Partnership’, consider the following statements :
1. It is an agreement among all the Pacific Rim countries except China and Russia.
2. It is a strategic alliance for the purpose of maritime security only.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2Since both statements have extreme words, answer will be “D”.
(Prelim-2016) 41. With reference to ‘Bitcoins’, sometimes seen in the news, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. Bitcoins are tracked by the Central Banks of the countries.
2. Anyone with a Bitcoin address can send and receive Bitcoins from anyone else with a Bitcoin address.
3. Online payments can be sent without either side knowing the identity of the other.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3 Second and third statements have extreme words so both should be wrong! But in fact both are right!
(Prelim 2016) 15. With reference to the ‘Gram Nyayalaya Act’, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. As per the Act, Gram Nyayalayas can hear only civil cases and not criminal cases.
2. The Act allows local social activists as mediators/reconciliators.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2First statement has extreme word “only” so it should be wrong. Second statement has no extreme word, so it should be right. So answer will be “B”.
(Prelim-2013) 1. The people of India agitated against the arrival of Simon Commission because

  1. Indians never wanted the review of the working of the Act of 1919
  2. Simon Commission recommended the abolition of  Dyarchy (Diarchy) in the Provinces
  3. there was no Indian member in the Simon Commission
  4. the Simon Commission suggested the partition of the country

On extreme word logic, both A and C should be wrong!

(Prelim-2017) 31. What is/are the most likely advantages of implementing ‘Goods and Services Tax (GST)’?
1. It will replace multiple taxes collected by multiple authorities and will thus create a single market in India.
2. It will drastically reduce the ‘Current Account Deficit’ of India and will enable it to increase its foreign exchange reserves.
3. It will enormously increase the growth and size of economy of India and will enable it to overtake China in the near future.
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3Second and third statements have extreme words “drastically” and “enormously” so they’ll be wrong.
(Prelim-2017) 27. Which of the following has/have occurred in India after its liberalization of economic policies in 1991?
1. Share of agriculture in GDP increased enormously.
2. Share of India’s exports in world trade increased.
3. FDI inflows increased.
4. India’s foreign exchange reserves increased enormously.
Select the correct answer using the codes given below :
(a) 1 and 4 only
(b) 2, 3 and 4 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4Fourth statement should be wrong, but it isn’t, as per economic survey data!

Rule#2: Parent department and dates are always wrong

If an MCQ has name of parent department or organ, then it’s definitely wrong. And if it has three statements, then remaining two statements are always right.


The rule is valid and helpsThe rule is invalid, doesn’t help.
31. (Prelim-2016) With reference to ‘Financial Stability and Development Council’, consider the following statements :
1. It is an organ of NITI Aayog. (PARENT DEPARTMENT will be wrong)
2. It is headed by the Union Finance Minister.
3. It monitors macroprudential supervision of the economy.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
(Prelim-2014) 60. Which of the following statements is/are correct regarding National Innovation Foundation-India (NIF)?
1. NIF is an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology under the Central Government. (PARENT DEPARTMENT should be WRONG)
2. NIF is an initiative to strengthen the highly advanced scientific research in India’s premier scientific institutions in collaboration with highly advanced foreign scientific institutions.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
1st statement is right. But 2nd is wrong because it’s meant for grassroot level innovators. Hence answer “A” only 1 correct. http://www.nif.org.in/
So here, if you use rule#4 then you’ll get wrong answer.
95. (Prelim-2016) With reference to ‘Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)’, consider the following statements :
1. It is an organization of European Union in working relation with NATO and WHO. (parent department will be wrong)
2. It monitors chemical industry to prevent new weapons from emerging.
3. It provides assistance and protection to States (Parties) against chemical weapons threats.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
(Prelim-2017) 59. With reference to the ‘National Intellectual Property Rights Policy’, consider the following statements:
1. It reiterates India’s commitment to the Doha Development Agenda and the TRIPS Agreement.
2. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion is the nodal agency for regulating intellectual property rights in India. (PARENT DEPARTMENT should be wrong, but it’s right in this case)
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2So here, if you use rule#4 then you’ll get wrong answer.
(Prelim-2013) 1. Consider the following statements:

  1. National Development Council is an organ of the Planning Commission. (PARENT organization will be wrong)
  2. The Economic and Social Planning is kept in the Concurrent List in the Constitution of India.
  3. The Constitution of India prescribes that Panchayats should be assigned the task of preparation of plans for economic development and social justice.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1,2 and 3
10. With reference to the role of UN-Habitat in the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future, which of the statements is/are correct?
1. UN-Habitat has been mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities to provide adequate shelter for all.
2. Its partners are either governments or local urban authorities only.
3. UN-Habitat contributes to the overall objective of the United Nations system to reduce poverty and to promote access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1, 2 and 3
(b) 1 and 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1 onlyHere is parent organization is right. Yet, by first rule (Extreme word) you can arrive at the right answer.
(Prelim 2016) 27. With reference to an initiative called ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)’, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. It is an initiative hosted by UNEP, IMF and World Economic Forum. (Parents always wrong)
2. It is a global initiative that focuses on drawing attention to the economic benefits of biodiversity.
3. It presents an approach that can help decision-makers recognize, demonstrate and capture the value of ecosystems and biodiversity.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Rule#3: 3TF with 1-2 words= all correct

If a question contains three statements having one or two words only. Then answer is “all correct”.


The rule is valid and helpsThe rule is invalid, doesn’t help.
(Prelim 2013) 3. Which of the following bodies does not/do not find mention in the Constitution?

  1. National Development Council
  2. Planning Commission
  3. Zonal Councils

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3
(Prelim 2013) 5. Consider the following animals:

  1. Sea cow
  2. Sea horse
  3. Sea lion

Which of the above is/are mammal/mammals?

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 3 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

By the rule, answer should be “D” because even word association rule would suggest cow, horse, lion all are mammals. But both rules are also invalid. Here, because sea horse not a mammal.

(Prelim 2016) 34. Which of the following statements is/are correct?
Viruses can infect
1. bacteria
2. fungi
3. plants
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3All correct as per Tamilandu Class 11 science text book.
(Prelim 2013) 8. Consider the following historical places:
1. Ajanta Caves
2. Lepakshi Temple
3. Sanchi Stupa
Which of the above places is / are also known for mural paintings?

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 2 only   
  3. 1, 2 and 3
  4. None

Infact word association rule also invalid. Because on that logic both Ajanta and Sanchi having  some association with Buddhism, then either both should have painting or none should have.

(Prelim 2016) 77. Which of the following is/are the indicator/indicators used by IFPRI to compute the Global Hunger Index Report?
1. Undernourishment
2. Child stunting
3. Child mortality
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 , 2 and 3
(d) 1 and 3 onlyall three right as per IFRPI official website.
(Prelim 2015) 49. Which of the following has/have been accorded ‘Geographical  Indication’ status?
1. Banaras Brocades and Sarees
2. Rajasthani Daal-Bati-Churma
3. Tirupathi Laddu
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a)  1 only
(b) 2 and  3 only
(c) 1 only 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
(Prelim 2016) 53. On which of the following can you find the Bureau of Energy Efficiency Star Label?
1. Ceiling fans
2. Electric geysers
3. Tubular fluorescent lamps
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
(Prelim 2015) Consider the following languages:

  1. Gujarati
  2. Kannada
  3. Telugu

Which of the above has/have been declared as ‘Classical Language / Languages’ by the Government?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only
  1. 2 and 3 only
  1. 1, 2 and 3
(Prelim 2017) 75. The Parliament of India exercises control over the functions of the Council of Ministers through
1. Adjournment motion
2. Question hour
3. Supplementary questions
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Misc. Rules

The validity of following rules, is also just like above: sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

  1. Dates and numbers are always wrong.
  2. Word association: i.e. ‘m-stripe’ has stripe so it has to do something with tiger. (Prelim-2017).  But then in gender gap index, such word association will lead to wrong answer. Same problem in the sea-mammal question of 2013.

Anyways, let’s summarize:

Relevance of Guessmaster-giri in Prelim-2017

Possible to guess correct answer with some background knowledge5
Possible to guess correct answer without any background knowledge!15
Irrelevant MCQ i.e. a GK question where none of the guessmaster-girl rules had any application.67
Anti-GuessmastersTM MCQ i.e.  an MCQ, where if you apply the rules, then you’ll get a wrong answer!13

Net GAIN by guessmaster-giri is 40 marks!?

  • Guessmasters would only highlight the first two rows in above table, and say [15+5] x 2 = 40 marks gained!
  • But that’s not the real NET gain. Let’s try two computation methods:

Gain Computation#1: Gambling & probability

Suppose a person did not study anything, and had only some background knowledge. He attempts all the questions, then what will be his score?

  • In all the “possible to guess” questions he’ll gain +2 marks each.
  • In the anti-guessmaster MCQ, he’ll loose -2/3 marks each. (Because examiner designed them in such way that you’ll be led to wrong answer)
  • In the irrelevant MCQs: let’s make three projections: how many of those MCQs will he get wrong by gambling? All of them, half of them or one-third of them?
CriteriaMCQsGain?100% of irrelevant wrong67% of irrelevant wrong50% of irrelevant wrong33% of irrelevant wrong
Possible with some background knowledge51010101010
Possible without any background knowledge!153030303030
Irrelevant MCQ670-44.6714.8844.6774.45
Anti-Guessmasters™ MCQ13-8.67-8.67-8.67-8.67-8.67

In real life, the last two columns 93-123 marks without studying anything, is a wishful thinking and an implausible Bollywood story plot. Because

  1. Even in the possible questions, he’d make some silly mistakes in interpretation.
  2. If a person was so lucky at random picking, he would have been buying lottery tickets than bothering with Government jobs. Therefore I’m not even making the projections for 25% wrong and 0% wrong scenarios.
  3. Since guessmasters strongly recommend that you should atleast remove one or two options, so that your chances of getting wrong answers are reduced from 100% to atleast 50 to 67%. Then, plausible score for a guessmaster WITHOUT studying anything is in the range of 63 marks to 93 marks. And more likely to be in the lower side of the average (78 marks) because of reason#1.
  4. Therefore, he’ll be outside the sacred cutoff ranges predicted by all coaching classes and e-learning wallas.

Conclusion: if a person says “I cleared PRELIMs without studying anything, then he’s a LIAR and Clickbaiter“. And Next year, UPSC examiner could simply reverse the extreme worded statements to be true then entire strategy will collapse. So, no sane person should drop his preparation after seeing this table.

Gain Computation#2: IGNORE Easy & Irrelevant MCQs

  • A serious candidate prepares from standard books and material. So, even without applying any guess, he could tick the easy MCQs correctly. [There are 42 such easy MCQs in 2017’s paper]
  • So, for a serious candidate, the real gain of guessmaster-giri is how many of the medium to tough MCQs could he solve by the application of these rules?
  • For first, let’s make a matrix. I’ll ignore all the MCQs where either A) guessmaster-giri is irrelevant, or B) MCQ is of easy nature. Then we are left with following 17 questions:
QTopicSubjectDifficultyguessmasterGuessmaster-giri Rule
2GCCAenb-orgtoughantiParent org. not WRONG! so second rule backfires.
21water conserveAGRI-irrigationtoughantiextreme word and word association that gypsum is irrelevent to irrigation, will lead to wrong answer.
23lipsticksci-healthtoughantiword association that softdrinks don’t have oil, will lead to wrong answer
27LPGe4mediumantiExtreme word will lead to wrong answer
28somatic nuclearAGRI-genetictoughantiword association that somatic is related to plant-breeding by NCERT
52domestic contente3mediumantiword association then content is related to “TV”
64QCIe4toughantiParent org. not WRONG
70genome sequencingAGRI-genetictoughantiextreme word
84gender gape6mediumantiword association
97biofuelenb-pollutionmediumantiextreme word not wrong
100carbon sequesterenb-pollutiontoughantiword association that saline formation unrelated to carbon; unlike first two statements
10UN habitate5mediumPossibleextreme word
11NSQFe4mediumPossibleextreme word wron & word association
35cyber securitysci-ITtoughPossible3-Therefore,
66APMCHUDe4toughPossibleextreme word & date wrong
76private member billPolitymediumPossibleextreme words
89bioremediationenb-pollutiontoughPossible*vague idea necessary that microorganisms can be used, then eliminate extreme worded statement

Let’s count and make a table

DifficultyGuessmaster-giri PossibleAnti-Guessmasters
Total marks7 x 2 = +1410 x (-2/3) = -6.67


NET GAIN: 14 – 6.67 = +7.33.
But In real exam, the REAL NET GAIN will be even LESS than 7.33 marks.

Why Guessmaster-giri’s REAL NET Gain is less than +7.33 marks?

I’ll again paste the same table:

Year201620172017 MarksCumulative frequency
Easy494242 x 2=8484
Medium182323 x 2=4684+46=130**
Tough333535 x 2 = 70130+70=200.
  1. Compared to last year: more number of medium to tough questions. And more importantly those questions’ nature was such that even knowledged elimination or intelligent guess was rarely possible. Hence even though quantity wise only two more tough MCQs than last year, but in examhall perception, you’ll feel this is very tough paper than last year!
  2. UPSC’s four question booklets are usually arranged in such manner, that first 10-15 MCQs will go above your head because of their toughness and randomness. (observe the colorcoded data-table i’ve given in the appendix!) Then mind gets ‘blocked’ and starts to work at less efficiency, even where you know the answer (or even for the application of guessmaster-giri rules).
  3. Because of social media’s hype and fear-mongering that you MUST tick 90+ only then you’ll clear prelims. But this was not possible in the 2017’s paper.

2+3=mind gets blocked further in the real exam. So, if you apply guessmaster-giri correctly at one place, it’s also possible that in the easiest answer you recall the knowledge correctly but tick the OMR wrongly.

  • The Guessmasters have derived their SIX sacred rules mainly from the keyword patterns of 2016’s prelim. However, the further you go back- 2015, 2014, 2013, the more examples you’ll find where  the same rules will lead to WRONG answer.
  • Therefore, a serious “SENIOR” candidate will become very conservative in applying this rules in real life. Because UPSC examiner could have done the reverse.
  • Some of the medium level MCQs, you’ll be ticking by knowledge (e.g. Private member’s bill, and domestic content requirement). So then credit doesn’t go to Guessmastergiri.
  • In the MCQs where guessmaster-giri is irrelevant:  some of them have debatable answers multiple interpretations e.g. right to vote, indus valley horse, cabinet form of Government etc. so even if you gain +7.33 marks here, it’s possible you may have lost something there.


Well-wishers have pointed out that I've spent excessive time and brain on researching about this 90+ guessmaster-giri theory.

That's true but I've done it nonetheless, because, while jio4g freebie has 'empowered' the aspirants from smaller towns in the preparation of competitive exams. But, they tend to fall victim to such "shortcuts to success" on social media, and waste an attempt and an entire year in the process. Therefore, someone should throw light on this.

Q. Explain the meaning of following words and use them in sentences. 1 mark each:
WordMeaningExample Sentence
Duplicitousmarked by deliberate deceptivenessTo expand their userbase & pageviews, some E-learning wallas use duplicitous methods such as telling newbies how they could score 40 marks in UPSC prelim GS paper by guessmaster-giri WITHOUT studying anything whereas the real gain is not even 8 marks.
Hubrisfoolish amount of pride or confidence that ultimately leads to a person’s fall.If the guessmasters had not committed the hubris of bragging on social media that “2016 was an extremely easy paper, entirely solvable by guessmaster-giri”, then perhaps UPSC examiner wouldn’t have set such tough paper for 2017 for everybody.
Delusiona persistent false psychotic belief despite indisputable evidence to the contrary.Despite burning their hands with 2017’s paper, some candidates are still under delusion that in 2018’s paper all the extremely worded sentences will be wrong.
Premonitiona strong feeling that something is about to happen, especially something unpleasant.I had a premonition that UPSC examiner will apply backbreaking move™ against the guessmasters this time due to their hubris, so I had warned the candidates even in my last lecture before Prelims.

UPSC Cutoff Prediction is futile timepass

Appendix: Data Table of MCQ classification

I’ve used following data table for my observations and conclusions. Question numbers correspond to Booklet “D”. you can paste this table into MS-excel then do more analysis yourself. and if you can’t decode the abbreviations that I’ve used, then go through my topicwise answerkeys at Mrunal.org/answerkeys

QTopicSubjectDifficultyPrep.SourceTheoryDate fromDate Toguessmaster
2GCCAenb-orgToughAbout Ustheory2007anti
4med seag-w-mapToughmaptheoryirrelevant
7LS electionpEasyLaxmikanththeoryanti
10UN habitate5MediumAbout Uscontemporary1978Possible
13National Career Servicee4EasyIYBcontemporary2015Possible
15CCACenb-orgToughAbout Uscontemporary2012irrelevant
18naval sympIRToughAbout Uscurrent20082016irrelevant
20SINDHIH-CultureToughfalling from skytheoryirrelevant
21water conservAGRI-irrigationToughfalling from skytheoryanti
22soil healthcardAGRI-schemeEasyMrunalcontemporaryFeb-142015Possible
23lipsticksci-healthToughfalling from skytheory2015anti
24OLEDsci-ITToughfalling from skytheoryirrelevant
25sun templeH-CultureToughfalling from skytheoryirrelevant
26LS-speaker consensuspEasyLaxmikanththeoryirrelevant
27LPGe4MediumOld Surveystheory19912016anti
28somatic nuclearAGRI-geneticToughfalling from skytheoryanti
35cyber securitysci-ITToughfalling from skycontemporary2013Possible
36rright to votepToughNCERTtheory20132015irrelevant
39unnat bharate5EasyMrunalcontemporary2014irrelevant
42judical reviewpEasyLaxmikanththeoryirrelevant
44gdp vs tax and fiscal deficite2MediumOld Surveyscontemporary2016irrelevant
45guj lionsenb-faunaMediumIEcontemporaryDec-16irrelevant
46pres rulepEasyLaxmikanththeoryirrelevant
48great nicobarg-w-mapToughmaptheoryirrelevant
52domestic contente3MediumIEcontemporary2014Sep-16anti
53nuke summitIRToughAbout UscurrentMar-16irrelevant
54NPSe1ToughAbout Uscontemporary20032009irrelevant
57BIS (1937) to Agmark (1997)e4MediumAbout Uscontemporary19371997irrelevant
59IPR policye4MediumIEcurrentMay-16irrelevant
61fundi duties processpMediumLaxmikanththeoryirrelevant
64QCIe4ToughAbout Uscontemporary1997anti
66APMCHUDe4ToughAbout Uscontemporary2006Dec-16Possible
67democracy virtuepEasyNCERTtheoryirrelevant
69string theorysci-spaceMediumhindutheoryApr-17irrelevant
70genome sequencingAGRI-geneticToughfalling from skytheoryanti
72rights correlativepEasyLaxmikanththeoryirrelevant
73preamble key to mindpEasyLaxmikanththeoryirrelevant
76private member billPolityMediumhindu/IEtheory2016Possible
79ghats linkageenb-faunaToughfalling from skytheoryirrelevant
82DPSP added in 42ndpMediumLaxmikanththeoryirrelevant
83rrights are claimspEasyNCERTtheoryirrelevant
84gender gape6MediumIEcurrentOct-16anti
90trade disputeH-Freedom-communistToughfalling from skytheoryirrelevant
91local selfpEasyLaxmikanththeoryirrelevant
93digital single markete3Mediumhinducontemporary2015Mar-16irrelevant
94beachgeo-india-mapToughfalling from skytheoryirrelevant
96butterflyenb-faunaEasyfalling from skytheoryPossible
97biofuelenb-pollutionMediumfalling from skytheoryanti
98nutritione6ToughAbout Uscontemporary2010irrelevant
99factories actH-Freedom-communistToughfalling from skytheoryirrelevant
100carbon sequesterenb-pollutionToughfalling from skytheoryanti

Mrunal recommends

  1. (free) NCERT, NIOS, TN-Books 4 History,Geo,Sci
  2. Indian Polity M.Laxmikanth (Hindi | English)
  3. Spectrum: Modern History (Hindi | English)
  4. Maths: Quantam CAT Sarvesh Kumar
  5. Objective General English SP Bakshi
  6. Word Power made Easy -Norman Lowe
  7. Topic wise Solved Paperset by Disha

60 Comments on “[Conclusion] UPSC Prelim GS-2017: Difficulty Level, Span of Current Affairs, Sacred cutoffs & the relevance of Guessmaster-giri”

  1. It’s always easy to be a critique.
    The grass on the other side always looks green.

  2. waaaaw
    Super analysis
    Thank you Mrunal sir.

  3. Ever since I started for UPSC preparation, I have been follower of Mrunal Sir. You are a man of action . Your lecture had great impact on many sleeping souls like me. I found economy accesible through your digital India mission. When you arrive with Eco Survey, I jus t be turned into lunatic soul searching for 4G phone with Jio, to fetch HD Gyangangastic water from your everflowing river. I want to touch your feet for bringing ganga again from Delhi ,Mecca,Haridwar to my doorstep. You are my Prime Minister. You are my President. Thanks a lot

  4. That is also a true concern, Mrunal Sir. We all are your global students. After becoming IAS, if u come to our office, we shall rush to u to touch your feet like your local students. Please do upload videosbefore 1 or 2 month of prelims

  5. bande ko itna bhi beshukra nhi hona chahiye,use ur words delicately n respect others,nhi toh a ji itni baizatti hogi aapki,

  6. v good analysis sir,
    After a long time you are active with bang..!!!

  7. such a sheer waste of my time, do something worthwhile.

    1. Bro, for you it must be a waste of time but it is very relevant for the newcomers………..And it is lot of better than the concept of doing 100MCQs in a paper,TIKDAM baaji………

  8. superb analysis sir, thank you

  9. Sir, For your analysis and indepth understanding of upsc civil services, you must be selected atleast as a member of UPSC board. in your own style, itna analysis kaun karte???

  10. Thank you very much sir for your valuable guidance.

  11. When this report going to tabled in parliament?😀

  12. Mrunal Sir,

    Your analysis is like a boss! Only one request, please upload pdf/ written content in addition to the youtube/video content. Earlier pdf was super awesome for reading, revision, carrying around etc. Kindly revert to old format!


  13. Sir,
    Please start providing PDF articles as they are convenient to read rather than watching videos. It would be better if frequency of uploading could be increased from present 7-15 days to 2-3 days as we often visit website and find nothing new. It is not always possible to watch videos but articles can be read. So, kindly post articles as much possible.

    You are right in saying that guessmaster-giri has blown out of proportion and many have fallen prey to it. Few have made joke of UPSC and now UPSC is joking on them. They claim that none of the above can not be the answer most of the time. But this year there were many ‘non of the above’ answers specifically targeting guesssmaster giri. Hopefully, your efforts to educate people especially newbies may help some aspirants who have burnt their hands in this years prelims.

    Sir, your text articles are knowledge rich and we can read them at our own pace. However, videos are not that convenient. So, I want to request you to kindly focus more on text articles.

  14. Yes indra says right. Lecture is time consuming and reading pdf is easy and required less time. Pl

  15. Great analysis with exhaustive details!

    And to all those who are criticising him for wasting time on this: the time and this website both solely belong to Mrunal , so let’s leave this at his discretion to wield it the way he wants.

    And for the relevance, amidst the post prelims pandemonium forged by the coaching walas, this article was not only very imperative but also the need of the hour. Relevance is also subjective and relative.

    Thanks again Mrunal sir

  16. Though I didn’t gave the paper this time but still have to say I have not seen any analysis like this….neither this year nor in any previous years…hats off to you for being the torchbearer of guidance for us!!

  17. It’s a great analysis :)thank you sir

  18. NO matters what some idiots are barking against mrunal sir.., we still will die heart fans of MRUNAL

  19. Hello sir. This was my 4th attempt and going to write my 2nd mains..
    In my first 2 attempts, i couldn’t clear pre because i would go only for those questions which i knew well which resulted in less attempt of questions and hence less marks…
    But then i decided to take risk and started attempting more questions (>90 ques) and i saw drastic increase in marks..
    Last yr got 125 marks and this year 115 marks..
    So i guess that guessmaster giri is not that bad..it is actually more efficient way of doing things..
    Afterall we are here only to clear this exam..

    Btw you are awesome but please revert back to ur old style..i mean mrunal that i used to read 2-3 yrs back is no more the same..
    Hope u get to read this..

  20. great analysis.

  21. Hello Sir,

    I’m following your website very closely for the preparation of Civil Services. And your guidance has tremendously allayed all sorts of confusion. However, I want suggestions on to ‘How to improve the analytical ability?’

    Given the kind of questions that are being asked in Mains examination, it becomes quintessential to have this skill in order to get decent marks. My style of preparation for most part of my academics were nowhere demanded this analytical form of thinking, and consequently, I never pondered over it. However, UPSC expects us to have “ability to analyse” as well as to “take a stand on ‘socio-economic’ issues”.

    You’re requested, therefore, to please give guidance for this. The same will be greatly appreciated.

    Thank You!
    Adarsh Singh

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