Tackling UPSC CSE Prelims’ Negative Marking: Strategies for Success

The UPSC Civil Services Examination (CSE) is one of the most competitive exams in India, with lakhs of aspirants vying for a few hundred seats. The Preliminary stage is the first hurdle in this challenging journey, consisting of two papers – General Studies (GS) and Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). One of the crucial aspects of the Prelims is the negative marking system, which can make or break your chances of clearing the exam. Here, we’ll discuss effective strategies to tackle negative marking and improve your chances of success.

Understanding Negative Marking

Negative marking is a system where candidates lose marks for incorrect answers. In the UPSC CSE Prelims, for every incorrect answer, one-third of the marks allotted to that question are deducted. This means that for every three wrong answers, you lose one mark. However, there is no negative marking for unanswered questions.

Strategies to Tackle Negative Marking

Focus on Accuracy: The most effective way to tackle negative marking is to focus on accuracy rather than attempting all questions. It’s better to leave a question unanswered than to guess and lose marks.

Practice Mock Tests: Regular practice of mock tests will help you understand your strong and weak areas. It will also help you manage your time better during the exam, reducing the chances of guesswork.

Elimination Technique: When you’re unsure about an answer, try to eliminate the options that are clearly incorrect. This increases your chances of guessing the correct answer if you have to.

Guessing Strategy: If you must guess, use a strategic approach. For example, if you can eliminate one or two options, your chances of guessing the correct answer increase significantly.

Don’t Panic: During the exam, it’s essential to stay calm and composed. Panicking can lead to hasty decisions and more incorrect answers.

Revision: Always try to revise your answers if you have time. Sometimes, a second look can help you identify mistakes and avoid unnecessary negative marking.


Negative marking in the UPSC CSE Prelims is a challenge that can be overcome with the right strategies and preparation. By focusing on accuracy, practicing regularly, and using smart guessing techniques, you can minimize the impact of negative marking and improve your chances of success. Remember, it’s not about attempting all questions but about answering the right ones correctly.

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