For my young friends taking the Prelims exam this October
1. Prelims is a game of elimination. You’re supposed to eliminate the three least probable choices out of four options given on the page (on the page, not in your head). Once you read a question, go for the two least probable choices and eliminate them from your consideration. Now, after this first step, you should make it a contest between the two options left and weigh them against one another. That’ll increase the probability of your picking up the correct answer and save time and reduce your stress level.
2. Divide the questions into three imaginary (but useful) categories.
- A – the easiest 50 questions in General Studies Paper I (and the easiest 40 questions in General Studies Paper II),
- B – relatively difficult 30 questions in General Studies Paper I (and relatively difficult 25 questions in General Studies Paper II) and
- C – the most difficult 20 questions in General Studies Paper I (and the most difficult 15 questions in General Studies Paper II)
If you’re a reasonably good student, you should be able to solve the A category questions without sweating and gasping too much. Try to attempt these questions first. Don’t get stuck with the questions that you find difficult in your first reading (B and C category questions). You can always come back to them once you’re done with the A category questions.
3. Please do remember, if you skip a question on the question paper (on the page, not in your head), you must skip it on the Answer Sheet. Don’t use your black ball pen to darken the circle meant for the question number (you’re skipping at the moment) on the Answer Sheet.
4. Once you’re done with the A category questions, come back to the question number 1 on the question paper and start looking for the B category questions.
Apply the basic technique of elimination while attempting the B category questions. Eliminate the two least possible options out of four. While weighing the rest two against each other, please focus on the why (as against how, what and when) in the question.
5. After you’re done with the B category questions, come back to the question number 1 on the question paper and start looking for the C category questions.
This is where negative marking comes into play. (If a candidate gives more than one answer it is treated as wrong answer. If a question is left blank, there is no penalty for that question.)
While attempting a question without being absolutely confident about the correct answer, please keep these questions in mind.
How many questions (that you’re attempting to answer) belong to the C category?
What is the possibility of all your answers to the C category questions going wrong?
How much will you earn by attempting these C category questions in the final analysis? (For each question for which a wrong answer is given by the candidate, one-third of the marks assigned to that question are deducted as penalty. That is, three wrong answers will eat away one right answer)?
6. Prelims is a percentage game. Play like Pete Sampras. Not like Andre Agassi.
7. Do a mental calculation while tackling the C category questions. For every four C category questions, you must get at least one answer correct. Otherwise, you’ll end up ruining your final score, thanks to negative marking.
8. Here is my favourite analogy from cricket.
Bat like Rahul Dravid while attempting the A category questions. Be absolutely sure of where your off stump is. Darken the circles carefully on the Answer Sheet. Skip the difficult question on the Answer Sheet while skipping it on the question paper. Don’t rush yourself through just because you find the questions easy. Don’t lose your wicket to a long hop.
Bat like VVS Laxman while attempting the B category questions. Put a premium on your wicket while playing your shots. Respect the bowler (the difficult questions) without compromising your natural instinct. Don’t play across the line.
Bat like MS Dhoni attempting the C category questions. Take the match to the last over. Play a percentage game. Let the bowler blink first. Allow yourself to fail (that is, allow yourself to not attempt the questions that are way too difficult). Don’t fret over the questions you decide to not attempt.
9. The exams are a daylight affair. Your body and mind need to primed for the D-day. You can’t keep staying awake at night week after week and expect your body and mind to be in top shape on the exam day. Please use your nights for long, uninterrupted sleep. 8 hours, as the doctors say.
10. Don’t listen to music while studying. Not good. Sorry, Spotify.
Here is what research says. (Musliu, Arian & Berisha, Blerta & Latifi, Diellza & Peci, Djellon. (2017). The Impact of Music on Memory. European Journal of Social Sciences Education and Research. 10. 222. 10.26417/ejser.v10i2.p222-227.