- March 28, 2020
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UPSC 2018 Mains Analysis By Stephan Tobias IPoS
Analysis – CSE Main 2018
- The Art and Culture questions were relatively easier compared to the previous years. The
question regarding Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, although specific in nature, could have been
answered using common points of all Bhakti saints. Such an approach would definitely fetch
the candidate average marks. The question regarding ‘preservation of our art heritage’ was
extremely generic in nature and marks would depend on how well the candidate has
approached the question. The question regarding account of foreign travellers to India
required specific knowledge regarding the various travellers and their accounts which are
readily available in the NCERT books.
- There were no questions from the Freedom Struggle, which has always been an area of
interest for the UPSC. Questions from Indian history required a rudimentary understanding of
Gandhian philosophy and basic knowledge of the plight of indentured labourers which is often
mentioned in all books that cover the freedom struggle. There were no questions from World
- Geography questions were relatively straightforward and tested the basic conceptual
understanding of the candidates. Some of the questions were also dynamic in nature as they
involved current affairs such as IRNSS, Industrial Corridors, depleting groundwater resources
etc. Therefore conceptual knowledge coupled with general awareness of recent issues would
have enabled the candidates to answer these questions.
- Questions concerning Indian Society were quite challenging and would have immensely
benefited those who have a Sociology background. However, a keen understanding of current
events by a thorough reading of the newspaper, especially editorials, would have equipped
candidates to deal with these questions to a certain extent.
- Questions or certain themes have been repeated this year (eg- Indian secularism, India’s
interest in the Arctic region, etc). Thus, going through previous years’ papers would have
helped the candidates immensely.
- Questions regarding Indian Constitution and Polity involved a good mix of static portion and
also current events. While a bias towards current affairs was seen till the 2016 exam, this
year’s paper struck a balance between the two
- Current affairs based questions from Polity included some very straightforward questions
such as the controversy regarding EVMs, the tussle between the Delhi CM and the LG, the
controversy surrounding the ToR of the 15 th Finance Commission, etc. The static questions
from Polity also covered issues such as Financial Emergency, an area which is often neglected
by candidates while preparing for the Main examination. Therefore, the seemingly obscure or
unimportant topics from standard books like Laxmikanth must be covered by candidates for
the Mains exam was well.
- The questions from the Governance section could have been answered by candidates who
had gone through the report of the 2 nd Administrative Reforms Commission. The suggestion
for the formation of an umbrella Human Rights Commission body, issues regarding Citizens
Charters, financial capabilities of Panchayats etc are all comprehensively addressed in the
specific reports of the 2 nd ARC.
- The International Relations questions were on expected lines as they reflected the
uncertainties in the global sphere such as the impact of the ‘trade wars’ and the withdrawal
of the US from the Iran nuclear act. Candidates while reading about these challenges must
assess the specific impacts that they have on India and think of possible solutions for the
same as the questions were India centric and also called for solutions. The questions also
covered new and emerging relations such as with Israel and Central Asia, whose importance
can be easily gauged from the increasing number of editorials that appear in the newspapers.
- Economy based questions included current issues such as rising protectionism and currency
wars along with recent Budget measures. Thus, both 2017 and 2018 exams have seen an
increased importance of the Budget.
- The questions from the Agriculture and Food processing sections were quite generic in nature
and required candidates to have a good grasp of the various issues and challenges and also
good writing skills. However, there were also current affairs oriented questions such as
organic farming (Sikkim was recently declared as an organic state), millets (2018 was
declared as the International Year of the Millets). Therefore, a basic understanding of Indian
agriculture, the cropping patterns and the challenges that the sector faces would have
enabled the candidates to answer the questions.
- Internal security questions did not evoke much of a surprise on the candidates as they
covered trending topics such as LWE, drug trafficking (Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent)
and the challenges posed by CPEC. Cyber security continues to be an area of focus for UPSC
especially in the wake of the Justice Srikrishna Committee report which was discussed
extensively in the media.
- Environment related questions tested the candidates’ understanding of issues that have
gained prominence in the recent years such as wetland conservation, solid waste
management, bio diversity etc. Therefore, a thorough understanding of concepts that
frequently appear in the newspapers is called for.
- There were also some tough or challenging questions. While the Bose-Einstein question
would have been answered only by a very few, questions regarding biopharma and
comparison between Hyogo and Sendai frameworks (Disaster Management) were also very
- The case studies were very straightforward and easier compared to the 2017 exam, so the
key differential would be how candidates were able to answer the theoretical (Part A)
- The Part A questions were public administration centric and required a very nuanced and in
depth understanding of the various ethical issues and concerns. As the syllabus is limited and
the paper has been in existence for around 5 years, candidates can continue to expect
extremely challenging and analytical questions in the future as well. Only such an approach
would enable them to answer questions that seek the difference between actual and potential
conflicts of interest and also the difference between Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics.
Reading of the reports of the 2 nd Administrative Reforms Commission would have be
beneficial in this regard.
- The other questions, especially the quote based questions were also analytical and
challenging and would require candidates to have good writing skills, coherence and proper
Analysis – CSE Main 2018
Public Administration- Paper I
- In general, the paper was easier and more open ended compared to the previous year. Thus,
it was quite similar to the 2016 paper which saw high scores in Public Administration.
- The compulsory questions, barring a few, were relatively simple and straightforward. The
questions covered relevant issues and topics such as NPM, Administrative Law, Weber’s
bureaucracy, Simon’s approach etc which could all have been answered by any well prepared
- While the optional questions in section B covered a myriad range of topics from Comparative
Administration, Development Administration, Personnel Administration, etc, they could have
been adequately addressed by a candidate who had practiced answer writing along with
multiple revisions. The optional questions in Section A, however, were a bit more challenging.
Here, the candidate’s understanding of concepts, his ability to inter link various disparate
topics as well his general understanding of the basic subject matter were tested. The
questions in this section also included relatively easy concepts such as MIS, Barnard’s
Contribution Satisfaction Equilibrium etc.
- All in all, thorough preparation along with a proper choice of questions to be answered is
likely to fetch a candidate good/ very good marks in this paper
Public Administration- Paper II
- The questions were very generic and GS type. Therefore, the key would be to answer them
from a Public Administration perspective and not to make the answers very GS oriented. (Eg-
in the question pertaining to role of distract administration in mitigating climate change,
knowledge of PM Krishi Sinchayee Yojana should be brought in with a focus on the
preparation of District Irrigation Plans.) This would be the differential as some candidates are
likely to be carried away.
- The questions also covered dynamic issues such as the setting up of the NITI Aayog, the ToR
of the 15 th Finance Commission, the position of the Governor, etc
- Here again, the choice of questions made by the candidate is likely to be a deciding factor in
the final scores. Those who have chosen to answer GS type questions such as the ones on
TRAI and small and marginal farmers should have brought in adequate Public Administration.
Similarly the ones who chose questions related to the Governor, 15 th Finance Commission etc
should have comprehensively covered all the major points to ensure maximum marks as
these questions are likely to be attempted to by a vast majority o the candidates.