UPSC’s Uncertainty Principle- if you have written UPSC prelims 2018 you need to read this!
The first rule in UPSC preparation is to expect the unexpected. The second rule in UPSC preparation is to expect the unexpected!
However often one tends to read all the compilations from various coaching institutes and expect to crack the exam. UPSC has a reputation to maintain as the mother of all competitive examinations and in 2018 it did just that. It was more of a test of presence of mind than just the knowledge aspect.
2018 Paper- Focus on depth, not just breadth
One of the most striking features of the 2018 paper was the depth in the questions asked. The level of questions asked for even static portions like Polity or History required a deeper understanding of topics and is a clear signal that aspirants need to go beyond the Laxmikanths and Spectrums of the world. Most prominently for polity there were many public administration related questions including an understanding of the “Rule of law”. Even for History questions from unconventional sources, like Swarajya Sabha and Hind Mazdoor Sabha left many aspirants stumped.
Framing of the questions also saw an innovation in terms of paragraph-based questions like on Internet-of-things and Sixth extinction. These were in fact easier questions but contributed to the paper being lengthier and hence many aspirants were unable to do the second and third rounds of analysis that they had planned.
In terms of the spread of the questions, UPSC has stuck to the trend over the past 5 years (see table 1 below). A noteworthy trend is the steady increase in questions related to International Affairs with seven of them relating to International organizations this year. Environment questions this year largely focused on International climate initiatives and organizations whereas traditional areas like animal biodiversity and protected areas were ignored.