1. Observation / Analysis about Sci-Tech in Prelims-19
  2. UPSC Apologists and Science Avoiders
  3. Prelims-2020 Strategy: Science Theory
  4. Prelims-2020 Strategy: Science Current Affairs & Contemporary Affairs
  5. Answerkey for Prelims-2019 Science MCQs
  6. Science: Biology / Biotech (6 MCQ)
  7. Science Answerkey: ICT (4 MCQ)
  8. Science Answerkey: Physics (1 MCQ)

Observation / Analysis about Sci-Tech in Prelims-19

UPSC conducted civil services IAS/IPS preliminary exam on 2nd June 2019.
Total 11 out of 100 questions in General Studies Paper-1 were devoted to Science-Technology.
UPSC prelims 2019 analysis Science-Technology

Science-Tech in Prelim 2018 and before Prelim-2019
~9-13 out of 100 Questions from Science Followed the trend. 11 Questions asked.
2018: 4-5 Qs each from easy, medium and tough questions. Only 3 easy while 8 medium to tough. Thus, the difficulty level slightly increased.
2018: 5 ICT + 5 Biotech + 3 from Physics & Spacetech. Followed the same trend. Majority of the questions are from Biotech and ICT.
2018: only 3 theory MCQ + 10 current/contemporary. Followed the same trend. Majority of the questions from current affairs (i.e. 1/1/2018 onwards) and contemporary affairs (esp. from 2017’s news articles).
Since 2011 onwards, UPSC examiner kept showing ICT-prem with topics like NFC, Project Loon, Lifi, OLED, Cert-IN, GPS Application, 3D printer Applications, iOT, Wannacry and Aadhar’s Open API. UPSC examiner’s ICT-Prem continued with Wearable technology, LTE-Volte, digital signature, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).
Since 2011, examiner was in habit of asking about diseases Zika, Ebola, H1N1 or even theory of virus. But 2018 nothing. Disease prem rekindled with questions on Hepatitis and multi-drug resistance microbes.
2017: asked about Gravitational waves. 2019: again asked about Gravitational waves through merger of black holes.
2018: CAS9 given as one of the wrong option in a physics question. 2019: Asked what is CAS9? (it’s a biotech thing)
While Chemistry occupies good number of questions in UPSC’s combined defence service (CDS) and NDA exams but nothing from basic chemistry in IAS exam. (Unless you stretch some environment questions as part of chemistry.) Same trend continued, nothing from Chemistry.
In past, there used to be at least one question related to ISRO/NASA’s Space Missions. Nothing from here.
Some questions could be solved without studying anything, using various rules of ‘Guessmastergiri’. MCQs prepared with scientific precision. ‘Guessmastergiri’ not helping to reach any answer directly.

UPSC Apologists and Science Avoiders

UPSC what is the utility of PDF compilations

  • UPSC Apologists: Look, UPSC has asked simply everything that is happening around you. 4g so there is VOLTE, you play Pokemon go there is MCQ on Augmented Reality, there is Apple Smartwatch so there is question on wearable technology. इसलिए आपको सपना आ जाना चाहिए था की ये सब पूछा जानेवाला है. IQ nhi EQ chaahiye…
  • While UPSC has asked ‘known topics’ correct. But they’ve asked unknown or relative less known factoids about those ‘known topics’. So, this whole ‘Sapna theory’ of UPSC-Apologists is non-sense. You could not have prepared these things in such detail before the exam by manually searching those topics and making super speciality notes out of it.
  • At the same time you must avoid the cynicism that “Random things are asked, so, no point in preparing science technology, it has poor cost benefit.” Because
    • 1: At least 10% of the paper is from science technology.
    • 2: Large number of science / IT / Engineering graduates appearing.
  • So, if a Commerce / Arts / MBA student is thinking, “I’ll ignore SciTech and make up the deficit through Environment, Polity, Economy, History-Culture.” Well, then he’s making a mistake because those topics are not getting any easier.

Prelims-2020 Strategy: Science Theory

  • Way back in 201314, UPSC asked very silly and easy questions from science like name of diseases caused by Vitamin deficiency. So, NCERT (Class7-10) + LucentGK type combo would have sufficed.
  • But in recent exams, hardly any direct questions are coming from there, as if UPSC examiner has stopped pampering the sciencehandicapped aspirants as well as those who’ve fully mastered it. For example, Newton’s rules, laws of electricity, friction and optics, various uses of basic chemicals ….nothing is asked in recent years. Therefore, going through bulky General Studies Manuals, will give little benefit.
  • So, instead of finishing NCERT textbooks from first to last page, you should do selective study of chapters / topics having relevance with environment, agriculture, public health, biotech, space and ICT/communication. Give more attention towards Class 1112.

Prelims-2020 Strategy: Science Current Affairs & Contemporary Affairs

While preparing science Current/Contemporary affairs, the target areas should be: Environment, Agriculture, Public Health, Biotech, ICT/communication and Space. Within Space, first priority to ISRO than NASA, then other countries and lastly to the randomly discovered stars and planets.

  • Go through the science technology questions asked in the previous years.  Because
    • 1) sometimes the themes  / wrong options are again asked (e.g. CAS9). And
    • 2) atleast it gives you a rough idea in defining the boundary of your syllabus and preparation for sciencetech.
  • Contemporary Affairs (ie. topics older than one year): Book such as Ravi Agrahari: Sci & Tech (Macgrawhill) | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध or Sheelwant Singh (Pearson)
  • Current Affairs (i.e. 1/1/2019 onwards): Free PDF compilations whichever catches your fancy (VisionIAS, IASparliament etc).
  • While such PDF compilations have given very little utility / benefit in Prelim2019’s Science-Tech portion, as if UPSC examination had carefully monitored them and carefully avoided asking anything given it. The opposite strategy that,” I will prepare my super speciality notes on science technology from newspapers directly!” = poor cost:benefit, because:
    • 1) For majority of the topics in your handmade notes will overlap with those freely available PDF compilations.
    • 2)  To think like a UPSC examiner, first you will have to go through all PDF compilations then compare them with the newspaper, then identify which topic is not covered there, so you will make a super speciality note on it. This is impracticable and complete waste of time. Because such minutes things from Scitech are not asked in Mains. Besides cutoff is never 200/200 marks and your Prelim score is not counted in the final selection.
    • 3) While PDF compilations show little utility in prelims but they prove beneficial for the StatePCS exams.
  • Read theHindu / IndianExpress daily: Make notes from it Only If you’ve a very compelling reason to do so, e.g. This quotation or case study is very useful for the mains/essay/ethics/optional paper; or This newsitem from my graduation subject / homeState/ Hobby / Employer-Company may be asked in interview.

To conclude, there is no rocket science or secret formula to crack the science questions in IAS prelims. You prepare what you can, and then focus on the other subjects.

Answerkey for Prelims-2019 Science MCQs

Now let’s solve the science questions from Prelims-2019 GS Paper:

Science Answerkey: Biology / Biotech / Public Health

(Pre19-SetA) Q92. The word ‘Denisovan’ is sometimes mentioned in media in reference to
(a) fossil of a kind of dinosaurs
(b) an early human species
(c) a cave system found in North-East India
(d) a geological period in the history of Indian subcontinent

Difficulty: Medium to Tough depending on how keenly you follow newspaper for science tech affairs, because it’s not given in most of the current compilation PDFs or Science books for competitive exams.

  • 2019Feb IndianExpress: Denisovan culture was discovered in 2010 and still awaits taxonomic classification.  Aboriginal Australians have significant Denisovan genetic material.
  • 2019Jan theHindu: Denisovans — a cousin of Neanderthals — were discovered in 2010 in Altai caves in Siberia.
  • So, it ought to be B a human species.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q93. With reference to the recent developments in science which one of the following statements is not correct?
(a) Functional chromosomes can be created by joining segments of DNA taken from cells of different species.
(b) Pieces of artificial functional DNA can be created in laboratories.
(c) A piece of DNA taken out from an animal cell can be made to replicate outside a living cell in a laboratory.
(d) Cells taken out from plants and animals can be made to undergo cell division in laboratory petri dishes.

Difficulty: Tough. Verbatim answer not given in routine preparation sources. Look like some Biotech Professor put it there just to ‘tease’ students.

  • 2014, Huffpost: Scientists at University of Texas created First Living Organism With ‘Artificial’ DNA. So, B is eliminated. (Because we are required to find wrong option, whereas B is right.)
  • Random google book, page 574: DNA replication can also be performed in vitro (outside a cell). So, C is eliminated.
  • Random Science website, and highschool lab manuals: Cell division of Chlamydomonas is usually achieved in the laboratory by alternation of light and dark periods. So, D is eliminated.
  • Thus we are left with answer A.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q96. ‘RNA interference (RNAi)’ technology has gained popularity in the last few years.why?
1. It is used in developing gene silencing therapies.
2. It can be used in developing therapies for the treatment of cancer.
3. It can be used to develop hormone replacement therapies.
4. It can be used to produce crop plants that are resistant to virtual pathogens.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1, 2 and 4
(b) 2 and 3
(c) 1 and 3
(d) 1 and 4 only

Difficulty: Tough. Verbatim answer not given in routine preparation sources.

  • 2010Sep theHindu: Using RNAinterference technology, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) scientists have made major breakthroughs in introducing resistance to many viruses in various crops. So, #4 is right and we are left with option A or D. In both options, #1 is correct so we need not check its validity, everything boils down to #2’s validity.
  • Britannica: RNAi is being explored as a form of treatment for a variety of diseases, including hepatitis, AIDS, Huntington disease, and cancer. So, #2 is right, therefore answer is A.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q98. Which of the followings are the reasons for the occurence of multi-drug resistance in microbial pathogens in India?
1. Genetic predisposition of some people.
2. Taking incorrect doses of antibiotics to cure diseases.
3. Using antibiotics in livestock farming.
4. Multiple chronic diseases in some people.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 and 2
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1,3 and 4
(d) 2,3 and 4

Difficulty: Medium to Tough depending on how regularly you follow newspaper.

  • 2018Dec theHindu: Overuse and misuse of antimicrobial agents is the single most important cause of development of resistance. They are also used indiscriminately as growth promoters in animals or used to prevent diseases in healthy animals. The antibiotics used in livestock are ingested by humans when they consume food.The transfer of resistant bacteria to humans by farm animals was first noted more than 35 years ago. (says American medical journal). So, #2 & #3 are right this eliminates A and C. Because they don’t contain 2 or 3.
  • Now, we are  50:50 between option B and D, everything boils down to whether #4 is right or wrong?
  • Patient suffering from multiple chronic diseases will have poor immunity and he’ll be more vulnerable to be infected by multidrug resistance microbes in hospitals, but IS HE the ‘reason’ for the creating or spreading those multi-drug resistance microbes in India? Well, according to the 4th World Health Organization (WHO) report on antituberculosis drug resistance: multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) has been shown to be almost twice as common in tuberculosis (TB) patients living with HIV compared to TB patients without HIV. So #4 does seem to have some validity. Accordingly, the answer should be D.

Guessmastergiri: Not applicable. While most people know #2 to be correct, but that alone doesn’t even help reaching till 50:50.

(Pre19-SetA) Q99. What is cas9 protein that is often mentioned in news ?
(a) A molecular scissors used in targeted gene editing.
(b) A biosensor used in the accurate detection of pathogens in patients.
(c) A gene that makes plants pest-resistant
(d) A herbicidal substance synthesized in generally modified crops

Difficulty: Easy. Because it was asked as one of the ‘wrong’ options in Prelim-2018. So, anyone with habit of going through previous papers and reading about the wrong options’ validity should have no problem in solving it.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q100. Which of the following statements is not correct?
(a) Hepatitis B virus is transmitted much like HIV.
(b) Hepatitis B, unlike Hepatitis C, does not have a vaccine.
(c) Globally, the number of people infected with Hepatitis B and C viruses are several times more than those infected with HIV.
(d) Some of those infected with Hepatitis B and C viruses do not show the symptoms for many years.

Difficulty: Easy to medium, depending on your reading habit and whether you’ve Science / Medical / Pharma background.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

Science Answerkey: ICT

(Pre19-SetA) Q75. With reference to communication technologies, what is/are the difference/differences between LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and VoLTE (Voice over Long-Term Evolution)?
1. LTE is commonly marketed as 3G and VoLTE is commonly marketed as advanced 3G.
2. LTE is data-only technology and VoLTE is voice-only technology.
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

Difficulty: Medium to tough, depending on your reading habit and whether you’ve ECE/IT  background. In retrospect, it may look easy but in real exam when you have to tick, you’ll have second thoughts over second statement. I don’t classify it as easy because verbatim answer is not available in the routine preparation sources and PDF compilations.
ANS: 2017-Sept, IndiaToday

  • VoLTE allows an operator to offer both voice and data over a 4G LTE network. The big advantage of VoLTE is that call quality is superior to 3G and 2G connections (through which voice is usually routed) as much more data can be transferred via 4G.
  • From above statement, we can infer: VOLTE associated with 4g so #1 is wrong. VOLTE allows both data and voice so #2 is wrong.

Guessmastergiri Rule#1: Extreme worded statements are always wrong. Accordingly, #2 ought to be wrong without studying anything, but that can take us only to 50:50 stage between A or D. It does not help arriving at the correct answer directly.

(Pre19-SetA) Q91. In The context of digital technologies for entertainment, consider the following statements :
1. In Augmented Reality (AR), a simulated environment is created and the physical world is completely shut out.
2. In Virtual Reality (VR), images generated from the computer are projected onto real life objects or surroundings.
3. AR allows individual to be present in the world and improves the experience using the camera of smart-phone or PC.
4.VR closes the world, and transposes an individual, providing complete immersion experience.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 and 4
(c) 1, 2 and 3
(d) 4 only

Difficulty: Medium to tough, depending on your reading habit and whether you’ve ECE/IT  background. I don’t classify it as easy because verbatim answer is not available in the routine preparation sources and PDF compilations.
ANS: 2017-August, theHindu:

  • Virtual Reality: computergenerated simulation of real-life environments that are primarily achieved with the use of headsets. When worn, the user’s vision and hearing are stimulated to provide realistic experiences.
  • Augmented Reality: superimposition of computergenerated images on existing environments to make them more interactive. It is utilised in the form of applications for mobile devices such as Pokemon GO. So, #2 is wrong. This eliminates A and C. Based on the same sentence, #3 is correct. So, B is the answer.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q94. Consider the following statements about a digital signature:
1. An electronic record that identifies the certifying authority issuing it.
2. Used to serve as a proof of identity of an individual to access information of server on Internet.
3.an electronic method of signing an electronic document and ensuring that the original content is unchanged.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only (if considering ‘Digital Signature’ in the literal sense.)
(d) 1,2 and 3 (if considering ‘Digital Signature Certificate: DSC’ in broad sense.)

Difficulty: Tough. This is vaguely worded question. Digital Signature, Digital Signature Certificate are two different things and UPSC examiner has given features of both.

  1. Ravi Agrahari: Sci & Tech (Macgrawhill) | हिंदी में भी उपलब्ध ch.15: A digital signature means an electronic signature useful to authenticate the identity of the sender of a message or the signer of an electronic document. This ensures that the original content of the document is not changed. So #3 is right. But this alone doesn’t help even to reach 50:50. Answer could be B / C / D.
  2. Google Book, Indian Biz Laws: When a person wants to use digital signature, he has to obtain a Digital Signature Certificate (DSC). For this, he has to apply to a ‘Certifying Authority’ which is the private professional agency authorised by the government for this purpose. The Certifying Authority takes suitable verification about the applicant and then upon being satisfied, grants a digital signature certificate in the form of digital file to the applicant. Same book, Page 515:  A Digital Signature Certificate would ordinarily contain the following:
  1. Information about the subscriber;
  2. Information about the Certifying Authority; (So, that means #1 is correct, for ‘DSC’).
  3. The issue date and period of validity;
  4. Serial  number of the certificate;
  5. Public key of the subscriber;
  6. The Hash function i.e. the algorithm;
  7. The Certifying Authority’s public key and the digital signature;
  8. Information about the financial relationship between the Authority and the subscriber (insurance, deposit etc).

Now, just to cross check validity of #2: Corporate Affairs Ministry Website:

  • Digital Signature Certificates (DSC) are the digital equivalent (that is electronic format) of physical or paper certificates. Few Examples of physical certificates are drivers’ licenses, passports or membership cards. Certificates serve as proof of identity of an individual for a certain purpose; for example, a driver’s license identifies someone who can legally drive in a particular country.
  • Likewise, a digital certificate can be presented electronically
    • to prove one’s identity, to access information or services on the Internet (=then #2 also correct) or
    • to sign certain documents digitally (=then #3 also correct).

Thus, correct answer could be:

  • if digital signature is asked in literal sense, then C: only #3 is right.
  • If digital signature asked in broad sense of ‘digital signature certificate’ then D: 1, 2 and 3 are correct.

Going by the precedence, examiner could be asking in literal sense only. So, while I lean towards C, but ultimately, final judge is UPSC’s official answer key to be released next year.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.

(Pre19-SetA) Q95. In the context of wearable technology, which of the following tasks is/are accomplished by wearable devices?
1. Location identification of a person
2. Sleep monitoring of a person
3. Assisting the hearing impaired person
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Difficulty: Easy to medium, depending on your imagination of how smartwatches and other devices could be used.

  • Wearable devices such as smart watches can track GPS location of a person and monitor his heart rate and sleeping pattern so 1 and 2 are right.  There is only one option D where they’re together.
  • But just to crosscheck validity of third statement: 2018Feb theHindu: ReSound company’s newest product, a hearing aid, LiNX 3D was named an Honoree in both the Accessible Tech and Wearable Tech categories at Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas.  So #3 is right = Answer D: 1, 2 and 3.

Guessmastergiri Rule#4: A 3TF MCQ with 1-2 words= all correct without studying anything. If you ignore the word ‘person’, then it fits this format, and you arrive at correct answer ‘D’.

Science Answerkey: Physics (1 MCQ)

(Pre19-SetA) Q97. Recently, scientists observed the merger of giant ‘blackholes’ billions of light-years away from the earth. What is the significance of this observation?
(a) ‘Higgs boson particles’ were detected.
(b) ‘Gravitational waves’ were detected.
(c) Possibility of inter-galactic space travel through ‘wormhole’ was confirmed.
(d) It enabled the scientists to understand to ‘singularity’.

Difficulty: Medium to Tough depending on how keenly you follow newspaper for science tech affairs. Because ‘merger of Blackhole’ is not a ‘big’ current affairs item greatly covered in PDF/Mags unlike that first blackhole photo-walla topic.

  • 2018Dec, IndianExpress: So far the USbased LIGO and Europe-based VIRGO gravitational-wave detectors have recorded gravitational waves from a total of 10 black hole mergers and one merger of neutron stars. Alternatively
  • VisionPT365Science: Gravitational waves are distortions or ‘ripples’ in the fabric of spacetime caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe such as such as the explosion of giant stars, the collision of ultradense dead ones, and the coming together of black holes (=merger) so B could be happening. But in real exam very difficult to recall and connect the dots like that.

GuessmastergiriTM: Not Applicable.
Stay tuned for the remaining subjects’ Answerkeys.