1. Prologue
  2. Environment and Biodiversity [14 MCQs]
    1. Flora Fauna (7 MCQs)
    2. Pollution and Clean Energy (4 MCQ)
    3. Environment: Obscure Intl. bodies (3 MCQs)
  3. Agriculture [5 MCQs]
    1. AGRO: Schemes (2 MCQs)
    2. AGRO: irrigation & cultivation practices (1 MCQ)
    3. AGRO: Genetic Engineering related (2 MCQs)
  4. Geography [7 MCQs]
    1. Indian Geography: Climate related (1 MCQ)
    2. Indian Geography: Map based (4 MCQ)
    3. World Geography (2 MCQs)


  • Just like American society is divided among Pro and Anti-Trump groups, this week UPSC aspirants community is divided between Pro vs Anti Guessmasters after the completion of Prelims 2017 [at least it seems so, from the fierce debates and comment wars everywhere on answerkeys].
  • So for my own curiosity, I’ll simultenously check, to what extend one could apply guessmater-giri in UPSC Prelim 2017, while preparing the answerkey for the same.
  • While sometimes intelligent guess and intelligent elimination are necessary in UPSC, but this ‘ guessmaster-giri movement’ and its bragging on social media by some चंचल-तत्वs for populism and FB-likes, has reached to such pathological level that a gullible newbie might be sucked into falsely believing that UPSC prelims requires no preparation AT ALL and only by hawaabaazi you can become IAS!
  • Ofcourse, prelim-2017 candidates, would have learned the hard way that when UPSC examiner gets into mood, he can set tough papers to teach lesson to whomever he wishes to teach lesson to.
  • But after one year, it entire episode will fade from memory and public debate, then again, the first attempt aspirants will again fall prey to the preaching of the चंचल-तत्वs. So this assessment must be done and kept in public domain.

Environment and Biodiversity [14 MCQs]

analysis of environment questions in UPSC Prelims General Studies 2017

2016 and before 2017’s paper
  • Ever since the merger of forest service prelims with Indian civil services, UPSC had been devoting about 1/5th of the paper to environment, biodiversity, agriculture related topics.
  • That prem has now shifted towards polity, economy and Government scheme related topics.
  • While environment reduced to just 14 MCQs.
  • Minimum 1-2 MCQs would be from India yearbook’s chapter 11 on environment.
  • 2016: Six MCQs from national schemes, funds, laws and bodies
  • Air quality index
  • Ganga authority
  • Green India mission
  • Net metering
  • Energy star label
  • Gadgil report.
3 MCQ from these areas

  • m-STRIPE
  • Wildlife protection act schedule 1
  • Wildlife protection act schedule 5 (vermin)
  • They would ask low profile international environment orgnizations and funds such as Biocarbon fund, Forest carbon facility, birdlife international, TEEB, etc.
Prem continues: CCAC, GCCA and TRAFFIC asked. But TRAFFIC given verbatim in Shankar’s book, so, only 2 tough MCQs from “about us” pages of random bodies. Earlier this used to be a bigger number.
  • International treaties related questions asked be it INDC of Paris Summit, UN desertification convention, agenda 21 of RIO+20 and so on.
Nothing from international treaties.
Special affection to marine / riverine flora-fauna: dolphin, dugong, ghariyal. Ghariyal-Prem resurfaces and intensifies- in two MCQs this time!
Where will you find hornbill in its natural habitat? Same question, but for Ghariyal.
State butterfly asked What would happen if all butterflies die?
  • MCQs on environmental R&D – especially those related to pollution and clean energy such as fuel cell, biotoilets etc.
  • But nothing from this segment in 2016.
  • Prem resurfaces: three questions 1) bioremediation 2) algae fuel 3) carbon sequester.
  • Other than this, whatever I’ve to say about individual question, I’ve written it along with the answer itself. The question numbers correspond to “D” series question booklet.
  • Bigger picture, overall analysis and strategy for future…that I’ll publish after the individual subjects’ answerkeys are over.

Flora Fauna (7 MCQs)

30. The term M-STRIPES’ is sometimes seen in the news in the context of
(a) Captive breeding of Wild Fauna
(b) Maintenance of Tiger Reserves
(c) Indigenous Satellite Navigation System
(d) Security of National Highways

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is planning to implement a new computerized tiger monitoring protocol in all tiger reserves of the country known as Monitoring System for Tiger, Intensive Patrolling and Ecological Status (MSTrIPES).

Difficulty: ★☆☆ [It’s a factual question from current affairs, so you either know the answer or you don’t. Guessmasters would suggest since it has the word ‘stripe’ so it ought to be something related to tiger.]

Current Affairs Span: September 2016, when it appeared in Indian express.

45. Recently there was a proposal to translocate some of the lions from their natural habitat in Gujarat to which one of the following sites ?
(a) Corbett National Park
(b) Kuno Palpur Wildlife Sanctuary
(c) Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
(d) Sariska National Park

Answer given verbatim in Mrunal’s article three years ago. Though I don’t claim it under my bogus marketing propagandaTM because such trivial thing difficult to memorize from such new users would not have even seen!

Difficulty: ★★☆ [Even if you eliminate Corbett (Uttrakhand) and Mudumalai (Tamilnadu) for climatic reasons for Lion relocation, still you’re left with Sariska (Rajasthan). Sariska being a tiger reserve, would sound unfit for lion immigration. So by elimination answer would be “B”. But first you must have the ability to recollect the locations of these other reserves- otherwise guess mastergiri can’t be applied.]

Current Affairs Span: As such three years old news. But again kept flashing in December 2016 and January 2017 because of SC appointed Committee’s remarks.

41. In India, if a species of tortoise is declared protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, what does it imply ?
(a) It enjoys the same level of protection as the tiger.
(b) It no longer exists in the wild, a few individuals are under captive protection; and now it is impossible to prevent its extinction.
(c) It is endemic to a particular region of India.
(d) Both (b) and (c) stated above are correct in this context.

ShankarIAS Environment Book Page 189

Tiger is given as Schedule I animal. So “A” is correct. Thankfully it’s not a 3TF question (three statements true / false like ‘only 1 and 2 correct | only 1 and 3 | all correct), else it’d have been difficult.
Difficulty: ★☆☆ [Easy, given in the book itself. Guessmaster-giri possible, because of ‘word’ association “protection” act vs option “A” that says “protection level as tiger.”]

60. According to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which of the following animals cannot be hunted by any person except under some provisions provided by law?
1. Gharial
2. Indian wild ass
3. Wild buffalo
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

Mrunal’s L8 Lecture for Green Law Panel that schedule 5 vermin- crow, fruitbat, mice and rat can be killed. Since the animals given in above MCQ are outside that’ Venn Diagram’, so by deduction, the answer is “D”.
wildlife vermin
Though I don’t claim it under my bogus marketing propaganda because most candidates don’t go through Green law panel report being an ‘out of public news’ topic.

Another source: ShankarIAS Environment Book Page 180.

Difficulty: ★☆☆ [Easy, given in the book itself. And even by guessmaster-giri, because 1 and 2 can’t be hunted due to their limited population, and there is only “D” option, where they’re together.]

17. If you want to see gharials in their natural habitat, which one of the following is the best place to visit?
(a) Bhitarkanika Mangroves
(b) Chambal River
(c) Pulicat Lake
(d) Deepor Beel

Ok it seems now UPSC examiner’s pathological obsession has shifted from Diclofenac-Vultures to Gharials. But again, ShankarIAS Environment Book comes to rescue: Page 135 mentions that Gharials are river dwelling fish-eaters and their only viable population is in the Chambal Sanctuary. So “B” should be the answer.
Difficulty: ★☆☆ [Easy to impossible depending on how much you revised this book or some other material. guessmaster-giri irrelevant. You either know the fact or you don’t.]

79. From the ecological point of view, which one of the following assumes importance in being a good link between the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats?
(a) Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve
(b) Nallamala Forest
(c) Nagarhole National Park
(d) Seshachalam Biosphere Reserve

NCERT Class 11: India- Physical Geography

  1. Page 17: The Eastern and Western Ghats Meet at Nilgiri hills.
  2. Page 16: Nilgiri hills are in Karnataka and Tamilnadu.

Now, If there is a place serving as Ecological link between Eastern and Western Ghats, then most likely it ought to be in Tamilnadu, than in Karnataka, because of the location. So, let’s check:

Place State Source
Sathyamangalam tiger reserve Tamilnadu ShankarIAS Environment Book, Page 336
Nallamala Forest It’s in Eastern Ghat India: Physical geography Class 11, page 17.
Nagarhole Park Karnataka India Yearbook 2017, Ch. 30
Seshachalam biosphere Andhra Pradesh ShankarIAS Environment Book, Page 338

Difficulty: ★★★ [Tough to recall so many locations. guessmaster-giri irrelevant. because Nagarhole could be touching Eastern ghat also, unless you know it’s specific location in the map.]

81. Consider the following statements in respect of Trade Related Analysis of Fauna and Flora in Commerce (TRAFFIC):
1. TRAFFIC is a bureau under United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
2. The mission of TRAFFIC is to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

ShankarIAS Environment Book Page 308

  • First statement is wrong because TRAFFIC is joint program of WWF and IUCN
  • Second statement is correct because verbatim given.

Difficulty: ★☆☆ [Easy to medium, depending on how much revision you’ve done from the book. guessmaster-giri irrelevant. because first statement is factual without extreme words.]

96. Due to some reasons, if there is a huge fall in the population of species of butterflies, what could be its likely consequence/consequences?
1. Pollination of some plants could be adversely affected.
2. There could be a drastic increase in the fungal infections of some cultivated plants.
3. It could lead to a fall in the population of some species of wasps, spiders and birds.
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

Statement 1 is right (by common knowledge) but for the sake of reference- NCERT Class 12 biology page 30! This eliminates “B”.
Second statement should be wrong because of the extreme word “drastic“. This eliminates “D”. Besides I’m unable to find any specific reference that mentions linkage between butterfly population vs fungus infection.
Birds and spiders tend to prey on butterflies (by common knowledge) but again for sake of reference: this google book, so statement 3 is a possible outcome.
Hence answer “C”: 1 and 3 only.

Difficulty: ★☆☆ [Easy to medium, depending on gut feeling vs the courage to act upon that gut feeling. Guessmaster-giri possible].

Pollution and Clean Energy (4 MCQ)

9. Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) is a standard criterion for
(a) Measuring oxygen levels in blood
(b) Computing oxygen levels in forest ecosystems
(c) Pollution assay in aquatic ecosystems
(d) Assessing oxygen levels in high altitude regions

NCERT Class 11 Chemistry: Ch. 14-Environmental Chemistry, page 407

The amount of oxygen required by bacteria to break down the organic matter present in a certain volume of a sample of water, is called Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD). The amount of BOD in the water is a measure of the amount of organic material in the water, in terms of how much oxygen will be required to break it down biologically. Clean water would have BOD value of less than 5 ppm whereas highly polluted water could have a BOD value of 17 ppm or more.

Another source: ShankarIAS Environment Book Page 59.

Difficulty: ★☆☆ [Easy, given in the NCERT itself. It’s true that non-science graduate may not be reading class 11 and 12 science NCERTs but this particular chapter is very important for the environment segment- hence I’ve been prescribing it since a long time. guessmaster-giri irrelevant., because this much basic theory, a candidate must have prepared!]

89. In the context of solving pollution problems, what is/are the advantage/advantages of bioremediation technique?

  1. It is a technique for cleaning up pollution by enhancing the same biodegradation process that occurs in nature.
  2. Any contaminant with heavy metals such as cadmium and lead can be readily and completely treated by bioremediation using microorganisms.
  3. Genetic engineering can be used to create microorganisms specifically designed for bioremediation.

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

While as such NCERT Class 12 Biology Chapter 12: Biotechnology application and NIOS Page 128 mention the term bioremediation but the specific details asked here, are not given.
So, let’s check ShankarIAS Environment Book:

  • Page 71: In-Situ Bioremediation techniques: subtopic- Biosparging- It is the injection of air under pressure below the water table to enhance the rate of biological degradation of contaminants by naturally occurring bacteria. Hence statement 1 is right.
  • Page 72 talks about genetic engineering approaches to bioremediation. Hence 3 is also right.
  • Page 72: Subtopic- Disadvantages of bioremediation – not all compounds are susceptible to rapid and complete biodegradation, and bioremediation often takes longer time than other treatment processes. So, second statement unlikely to be correct.

Hence, answer “C” 1 and 3 only.

Difficulty: ★★☆ [Easy to Medium depending on revision and gut-power. Guessmaster-giri rule #1 is statement with extreme words is wrong. So second statement ought to be wrong because it contains ‘extreme’ word “Any contaminant…readily, completely “. Still you’re left with “A” or “C”. And if you’re regularly reading newspaper/books, there would have come across examples of how xyz bacteria are used for eating oil-spill in ocean etc. so it’d mean #3 could be possible, but there is no “only 3” option, so you’re ultimately led to “C”: 1 and 3 only.]

100. In the context of mitigating the impending global warming due to anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, which of the following can be the potential sites for carbon sequestration?
1. Abandoned and uneconomic coal seams
2. Depleted oil and gas reservoirs
3. Subterranean deep saline formations
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 3

Earlier UPSC had asked a question from Carbon sequestration in 2012 also. Anyways let’s solve: ShankarIAS Environment Book Page 222 mentions Carbon sequestration may be carried out by pumping carbon into carbon sinks of two types:

  1. Natural sinks- ocean, forest, soil etc.
  2. Artificial sink- depleted oil reserve, unminable mines. So statement 1 and 2 are correct.

And this google book claims Deep Saline Formations infact have highest capacity for this. So accordingly, answer is “D”.

Difficulty: ★★★ [Tough, even after reading Shankar’s book you’re left with 50:50 between A and D. Third statement is factual, so guessmaster-giri irrelevant. because, you can’t correctly predict how CO2 would be reacting to saline formations, unless you’ve done detailed study of chemistry. And if you’ve studied chemistry in detail, then there is no need for guessmaster-giri in the first place!

97. It is possible to produce algae based biofuels, but what is/are the likely limitation(s) of developing countries in promoting this industry?

  1. Production of algae based biofuels is possible in seas only and not on continents.
  2. Setting up and engineering the algae based biofuel production requires high level of expertise/technology until the construction is completed.
  3. Economically viable production necessitates the setting up of large scale facilities which may raise ecological and social concerns.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

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

US National research council report on Algal Biofuel (2012) observed that

  1. Page 16: situating algae and cyanobacteria biomass production in the U.S. desert Southwest could be perceived as a good use of low-value land by some, but as an intrusion into pristine land by others. Similarly, the use of genetically modified organisms in production systems could affect social acceptability. So this is social concern. [and it also proves statement #1 wrong.]
  2. Page 61: Open Algal ponds will attract insect larvae invasion and affect predator-prey balance. This is ecological concern. Hence Statement 3 is right.
  3. Page 31: discusses the challenges in the choice of algae strains for biomass production, the technology to be used for fuel production, the source, and the type of cultivation facility (open versus closed). All this proves statement #2 is right.

Hence answer 2 and 3.

Difficulty: ★★☆ [Easy to Medium depending on your wide reading on such topics in theHindu. By Guessmaster-giri statement 1 ought to be wrong because it has extreme word “only”, but still we are left with 50:50 between B and C. but what after that? Even statement #2 can be said an ‘extreme’ statement because it has two extreme words 1) high expertise 2) no need of high expertise once construction is over, even a Bihar board exam Topper can operate the system! So then second statement ought to be wrong because of the extreme words! Then you’ll wrongly arrive at answer “C”: 3 only. Hence this is Anti-guessmastersTM MCQ.

Environment: Obscure Intl. bodies (3 MCQs)

2. With reference to ‘Global Climate Change Alliance’, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. It is an initiative of the European Union.
2. It provides technical and financial support to targeted developing countries to integrate climate change into their development policies and budgets.
3. It is coordinated by World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
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

As per their stupid “About us” page:
EuropeAid (DG for International Cooperation and Development) drives and oversees the overall implementation of the GCCA. So third statement is wrong. By elimination we are left with “A”.

Difficulty: ★★★ [difficult to memorize 50 dozen such “About us” pages. And Guessing is also difficult because

  1. by logic that IF EU is behind this alliance, then some other group (WRI, WBCDS) could not be running it and vice versa, still you’re left with 50:50 between “A” and “C”.
  2. If you use logic that since it’s “global alliance” so rather than a regional group such as EU, the organizations with “World” in their prefix, could be running it, then you arrive at “C” which is wrong answer. So this question is specifically designed to be Anti-GuessmastersTM

15. Consider the following statements:
1. Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) to reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants is a unique initiative of G20 group of countries.
2. The CCAC focuses on methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

As per the timeline given on their official “About us” page

  • CCAC was formed in 2012 by UNEP and Ghana, Bangladesh etc. countries. So first statement is wrong.
  • Second statement is right- they focus on Short Lived Climate Pollutants such as methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons.

Difficulty: ★★★ [Tough, difficult to memorize and recall 50 dozen such international environment organizations’ about us pages. Anyways, UPSC examiner puts such “about us” page questions not with the primary desire of getting correct answer from the candidate, but rather to throw him off his balance so he makes silly mistakes in other easy questions.

By Guessmaster-giri, it’s possible to arrive at right answer because :

  • If you count ‘unique’ as an extreme word with G20 then first statement is wrong.
  • Second statement is factual with no extreme words like “only” so it ought to be right. Hence answer “B”.

Current Affairs Span: formed in 2012, and hosted some side event in UNFCCC’s Marrakech summit 2016. but in such summits 50 dozens entities participate and do side shows!


Ever since the merger of Forest service prelims with Civil services exam, good number of questions are devoted to agriculture. They can be classified into three categories:

Category 2016 and before 2017’s paper:
1) Schemes
  • 2016: One low profile scheme: “millet promotion”; and one high profile scheme: PM Fasal Bima yojana
  • 2015: EVEN when Modi had launched good number of schemes, still UPSC continued asking schemes from Rajiv-Indira times’ such as accelerated irrigation benefit scheme, command area development etc.
Only Modi era schemes asked

  • Soil health card
  • e-NAM

It means

  • Either examiner updated the question bank database OR ;
  • Pro-congi examiners from have been replaced. And it’s a blessing for the aspirants- henceforth no old schemes need to be prepared. Otherwise India Yearbook it still full of them.
2) cultivation and irrigation practice
  • Drip irrigation benefits
  • Shifting from Wooden plough to steel plough?
  • Seed village concept
  • 2014: vegetative propagation
  • 2013: Contour bunding
  • How to do water conservation?
  • Urea fascination continues: Earlier they asked (2015) impact of excessive nitrogen fertilizer use then (2016) How neem coating of urea helps in cultivation? Now (2017) soil health card benefit?
3)R&D, Genetic engineering related
  • 2014: MCQs on transgenic crops
  • 2013: 1) Mycorrhizal biotech, 2) examples of biofertilizers.
This lunacy had stopped for a while in 2015 and 2016 but again resurfaced with MCQs on

  • Somatic cell transfer for animal cloning
  • Genome sequencing

AGRO: Schemes (2 MCQs)

22. Consider the following statements :
The nation-wide ‘Soil Health Card Scheme’ aims at
1. expanding the cultivable area under irrigation.
2. enabling the banks to assess the quantum of loans to be granted to farmers on the basis of soil quality.
3. checking the overuse of fertilizers in farmlands.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Mrunal’s Lecture BES164 / Agriculture Part#2
A soil health card provides information about 12 soil parameters, so farmer can use appropriate fertilizers. hence only 3 is the correct statement. Statement 1 and 2 are irrelevant.

Difficulty: ★☆☆ [Easy, given in the lecture and its PowerPoint. And it’s easy by Guessmaster-giri also because name of the scheme makes statement 1 irrelevant and statement 2 is very farfetched futuristic thing and loss issue comes under insurance companies- not banks. So 2nd statement wrong, hence by elimination answer is “B”.]

Current Affairs Span: Budget speech 2014 when the concept was mentioned. Although actual implementation started from 2015.

58. What is/are the advantage/advantages of implementing the ‘National Agriculture Market’ (NAM) scheme?
1. It is a pan-India electronic trading portal for agricultural commodities.
2. It provides the farmers access to nationwide market, with prices commensurate with the quality of their produce.
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

Mrunal’s Lecture BES164 / Agriculture Part #3
Both statements are correct.

Difficulty: ★☆☆ [Easy, given in the lecture and its PowerPoint. Guessmaster-giri irrelevant because technical name of the portal is “e-NAM” but they’ve only given “NAM” so one can’t eliminate or confirm statement #1. Besides, this is the minimum a candidate has to prepare in “major schemes for agriculture”.]

Current Affairs Span: Budget speech 2014 when the concept was mentioned, however only in April 2016 the pilot project was launched in 8 states.

AGRO: irrigation & cultivation practices (1 MCQ)

21. Which of the following practices can help in water conservation in agriculture?
‎1. Reduced or zero tillage of the land ‎
‎2. Applying gypsum before irrigating the field ‎
‎3. Allowing crop residue to remain in the field ‎
Select the correct answer using the code given below :

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

The FAO manual confirms

  • According to the Kurukshetra Magazine November 2017 special issue on irrigation: Tillage exposes the soil to drying, conversely, reductions in tillage help conserve soil water. So #1 is right.
  • The retention of crop residues helps in reducing water loss from the soil to the air and cools the soil. So, #3 is right.
  • According to some random research papers, Google books and FAO manual even gypsum application helps in water conservation, so answerkeys were divided between Option C or D.  Official UPSC Answer – C: only 1 and 3 help. Gypsum doesn’t help.

Difficulty: ★★★ tough. Because applying Guessmaster-giri

  • statement 3 ought to be correct by common-sense
  • It still boils down to what impact would gypsum have on irrigating the field? So you’ll be caught among three options B, C and D.
  • And if you apply the traditional science knowledge of ‘absorption’ (more surface area = more absorption), then statement 1 ought to be wrong. Then you may wrongly conclude the final answer is “B” only 3.

Basically, this is an Anti-guessmastersTM MCQ.

AGRO: Genetic Engineering related (2 MCQs)

28. What is the application of Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) Technology?
(a) Production of biolarvicides
(b) Manufacture of biodegradable plastics
(c) Reproductive cloning of animals
(d) Production of organisms free of diseases

Over the years, theHindu has been running news of cloning of buffalos by Somatic Cell technology. (For example this news in Jan 2016). So, “C” should be the answer.
Britannica confirms that SCNT technology was used for cloning the sheep “Dolly”.

Difficulty: ★★★ tough if you’ve never heard the term before, because by guessmaster-giri (b) ought to be wrong because it’s non-living plastic. Still, you’ll be caught between A, C and D. NCERT biology (Class 12) mentions about somatic hybridization, so that may even prompt you to wrongly arrive at “A”. Basically this is an Anti-guessmastersTM MCQ.

70. With reference to agriculture in India, how can the technique of ‘genome sequencing’, often seen in the news, be used in the immediate future?
1. Genome sequencing can be used to identify genetic markers for disease resistance and drought tolerance in various crop plants.
2. This technique helps in reducing the time required to develop new varieties of crop plants.
3. It can be used to decipher the host-pathogen relationships in crops.
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

Since UPSC has combined the preliminary exam of civil services and forest services, so few such odd questions are expected. There is no need to lose sleep, if you can’t solve it. It’s even a waste of time to solve this at home. But let’s do it:

NCERT Class 12 Biology Chapter 6: “Molecular Basis of Inheritance”.
It explains the benefits of human genome sequencing that – “It is the sequence of bases in DNA that determines the genetic information of a given organism. So, learning about the DNA sequences can lead to an understanding of their natural capabilities that can be applied toward solving challenges in health care, agriculture, energy production, environmental remediation.”

So on that logic, statement 1 and 3 should be possible, and if 1 and 3 are possible then statement 2 ought to be possible as well! So answer D- all three statements are correct.
Now let’s drop guesswork and check it from authentic sources:

Difficulty: ★★★ Tough. While it may seem easy by guessmaster-giri and gut-feeling outside the examhall, but in past there have been tricky MCQs from genetic engineering topic, especially because second statement is in a way ‘extreme worded statement‘ [Genome sequencing is a very time consuming process so if examiner says in the ‘present tense’ that it helps in faster creation of new varieties, and guessmastergiri’s first rule says extreme worded statements ought to be “WRONG” but then you’d be 50:50 between “A” and “C” but since both of those options are wrong so it’s an Anti-guessmastersTM MCQ.


Geography can be divided into three parts 1) India 2) World 3) Physical.

2016 and before 2017’s paper
There has been a gradual fall Geography MCQs from 14 (2013) to just 4 in 2016
  • Increased to 7, but mostly tough so even getting 4 correct is an accomplishment!
  • When UPSC revamped Mains syllabus in 2013, for the initial two years Geography segment in GS Mains paper1 would be very tough- optional subject level of knowledge required. But gradually they did ‘ease of doing business’ there, but now part of that prem (of optional subject level toughness) has now shifted to prelim geography.
Low profile tributaries of famous rivers asked e.g. Godavari, Bramhaputra in 2015 and 2016 respectively. MCQ on low profile Teesta river along with its low profile tributary- Rangeet.
2016 did not have many variety of MCQs from geography but earlier they used to ask multiple types of MCQs e.g.

  • Match the following cities with economic importance,
  • map based ‘factors’ affecting climate etc.
  • tribal group vs. state where they live.
  • 6 out of 7 MCQs are map based or location based only!
  • And hence the geography section is tough, because every year, max. 2 MCQs would be from map in prelims. And in Mains, the Map based GK is not directly asked in GS Mains papers (unlike Optional Geography paper, directly 10-20 marks worth places asked). So non-geography optional students tend to take map study casually. So they’ll find 2017’s Geography MCQs challenging.
2015: Which of this does not open out to the Mediterranean Sea?
(a) Syria
(b) Jordan
(c) Lebanon
(d) lsrael
Prem resurfaces: Mediterranean Sea is a border of which of the following countries?

  • Jordan
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Syria

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  • 1, 2 and 3 only
  • 2 and 3 only
  • 3 and 4 only
  • 1, 3 and 4 only

Indian Geography: Climate related (1 MCQ)

16. With reference to ‘Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)’ sometimes mentioned in the news while forecasting Indian monsoon, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. IOD phenomenon is characterized by a difference in sea surface temperature between tropical Western Indian Ocean and tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean.
2. An IOD phenomenon can influence an El Nino’s impact on the monsoon.
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

  • TheHindu: Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is an event which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the Indian ocean. So first statement is wrong.
  • A positive IOD leads to greater monsoon rainfall and more active (above normal rainfall) monsoon days while negative IOD leads to less rainfall and more monsoon break days (no rainfall). So yes, IOD can influence El Nino’s impact on Monsoon. So second statement is right.

Difficulty: ★★☆ [Medium to tough for non-geography optional students.
Because most of the geography books confine themselves to El Nino, Southern Oscillation, Tibet plateau heating, jet stream and ITCZ. IOD rarely gets focus.

And, Even if you apply guessmaster-giri that Indian ocean diople has word “India” so it ought to be unassociated to Pacific Ocean and if at all they’re associated then it should be “Eastern” Indian ocean with “Eastern Pacific” ocean so statement 1 should be wrong. Still you’re 50:50 between “B” or “D” unless you’ve exact idea whether El Nino impacts IOD or IOD impacts El Nino and which among them ultimately impacts monsoon? So, guessmaster-giri irrelevant.

Indian Geography: Map based (4 MCQ)

8. Consider the following statements:
1. In India, the Himalayas are spread over five States only.
2. Western Ghats are spread over five States only.
3. Pulicat Lake is spread over two States only.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1 and 3 only

  • If you apply commonsense that Himalaya ought to be passing through international border states only i.e. J&K, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunanchal Pradesh = total 5 states. But we’ve to count the “eastern hills” also, because they’re part of Himalayan system as per NCERT Class 11 India- Physical Geography. So that’d cover Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram et al so definitely more than five states. Hence first statement is wrong.
  • Western Ghats are spread over six States: Gujarat ( southern part), Maharastra, Goa, Karnataka ,Kerala and Tamilnadu – so 2nd statement is wrong. Ref: Gadgil Report Summary at Mrunal.org
  • By elimination we are left with Answer “B”.

Difficulty: ★☆☆ [Easy to medium for those who’ve studied India’s physical and political maps diligently, even if they don’t know where Pulicat lake is located. Easy through guessmaster-girl also because statement 1 and 2 have extreme word “only” so they ought to be wrong, then by elimination you can arrive at the right answer “B”.]

55. With reference to river Teesta, consider the following statements:
1. The source of river Teesta is the same as that of Brahmaputra but it flows through Sikkim.
2. River Rangeet originates in Sikkim and it is a tributary of river Teesta.
3. River Teesta flows into Bay of Bengal on the border of India and Bangladesh.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

India Yearbook 2017, Chapter 1: Land and the People, subtopic River system. “Brahmaputra in Bangladesh is fed by Teesta etc.”
Meaning Teesta merges into Brahmaputra itself rather than flowing into sea by its own. Hence third statement is wrong, therefore by elimination, we are left with answer “B”.

Difficulty: ★★★ [It’s even difficult to memorize the tributaries of Bramhaputra within India, let alone in Bangladesh. लेकिन इतना डिटेल में कौन तैयार करता है? guessmaster-giri irrelevant. because even if you consider that Teesa and Bramaputra couldn’t be having same ‘source’, then 1 is wrong, still by elimination, you’d be 50:50 between “B” and “C”, unless you know the route of this river.]

74. If you travel by road from Kohima to Kottayam, what is the minimum number of States within India through which you can travel, including the origin and the destination?
(a) 6
(b) 7
(c) 8
(d) 9

Let’s count in नकशा, the map

  1. Nagaland, Kohima
  2. Assam
  3. W.Bengal
  4. Odisha
  5. Andhra Pradesh
  6. Karnataka (or Tamilnadu)
  7. Kerala, Kottayam

Total seven states.

Difficulty: ★★★ [Tough because 1) person needs to know where these cities are located 2) person needs to have precise political map of India in his head. guessmaster-giri irrelevant. because one word answer and the wrong options are very close.]
Kottayam Kerala UPSC Prelim
94, At one of the places in India, if you stand on the seashore and watch the sea, you will find that the sea water recedes from the shore line a few kilometres and comes back to the shore, twice a day, and you can actually walk on the sea floor when the water recedes. This unique phenomenon is seen at
(a) Bhavnagar
(b) Bheemunipatnam
(c) Chandipur
(d) Nagapattinam.

Odisha state Government’s sarkaari tourism webpage says verbatim that
Chandipur beach has a unique distinction on its own. Unlike other beaches, the sea water here recedes away from the shore line about five km twice a day, an unusual phenomenon, rarely found anywhere.

Therefore answer is “C”. Completely factual one word GK question, so guessmaster-giri is irrelevant and inapplicable here.

Yes, some candidates have been circulating youtube clips of Bhavnagar beach with similar phenomenon, but when it comes to UPSC Answerkey, Government site wins over YouTube or Personal travel diary blogs.

Difficulty: ★★★ Tough because there is no dearth of such random Kaun Bangega Crorepati (KBC) type GK “Wonders of India”. Tomorrow they’ll ask: “On which beach the blue केकड़ा (crabs) can be seen walking transversly against the orange sunset?” तो साला इतना डिटेल कोन तैयार करता है? And more importantly, will you classify that as geography question or endengered species biodiversity question or biology question about the impact of sunlight on crab movement?

In past also, they’ve asked such question “so and so event happens, so which place it is?” e.g. consider this question asked in Prelims-2011:
Two important rivers- one with its source in Jharkhand (and known by a different name in odisha), and another, with its source in odisha- merge at a place only a short distance from the coast of bay of Bengal before flowing into the sea. This is an important site of wildlife and biodiversity and a protected area. Which one of the following could be this ?

  1. Bhitarkanika
  2. Chandipur-on-sea.
  3. Simlipal.
  4. Gopalpur-on-sea.

Now on this logic, if you start making ‘database’, of all the places asked in last 5 years, and memorize their uniqueness, still cost:benefit will be very less. Because Chandipur has missile testing range, It has devkund waterfall, Nilgiri Jagganath temple- then which king built it during which age? What type of architecture does it have? There is no end to this chain reaction and geometric progression!

World Geography (2 MCQs)

48. Which of the following is geographically closest to Great Nicobar ?
(a) Sumatra
(b) Borneo
(c) Java
(d) Sri Lanka

In नकशा the map, Sumatra seems quite closer to Great Nicobar than Sri Lanka.
Map Nicobar to Sumatra
Difficulty: ★★★ Tough, unless you have the rough idea of the placement of Sumatra, Borneo and Java islands. guessmaster-giri irrelevant. because one word GK answers with close proximity to each other.

4. Mediterranean Sea is a border of which of the following countries?

  1. Jordan
  2. Iraq
  3. Lebanon
  4. Syria

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

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

In नकशा the map, you can see Mediterranean Sea doesn’t touch Jordan and Iraq so, by elimination, we are left with answer “C”.
Map Syria
Difficulty: ★★★ Tough, unless you have the rough idea of the placement of these countries. Even if you apply guessmaster-giri that (with some background knowledge) that Syria may be touching and Iraq can’t be touching still you’d be 50:50 between “C” and “D”. Besides, above question is factual, with no extreme words. So, irrelevant for guessmaster-giri.

PS: There is a fine line between “irrelevant” vs “anti-guessmaster”.

Irrelevant Anti-guessmastersTM
Irrelevant means the Guessmaster should himself not touch the question. Examples:

  • GK questions only four options with single words in each e.g. Great Nicobar question given above.
  • Statements not involving extreme words like “all, only, must etc”.
  • Very basic thing which every serious aspirant must be knowing e.g. BOD oxygen.
  • Means UPSC examiner deliberately arranged the options to “lure and entice”- them into ticking wrong option.
  • Example questions: EU’s Global climate alliance, Algae Biofuels etc.


Anyways, once I’m done with entire answerkey, we’ll have the larger picture on total number of MCQs in both the sides.