UPSC surprised many when it came up with the decision that it will do away with optional subjects and will introduce a separate paper of aptitude testing in the preliminary examination from 2011. The series of surprises did not stop there and Civil Services (Pre.) papers are a testimonial to this. First the number of questions in the General Studies got reduced from 150 to 100. Second the CSAT paper was heavily biased towards reading comprehension. Actually, fifty percent of the CSAT paper consisted of reading comprehensions questions only. There were 80 questions in the CSAT paper and for 8 questions of decision-making there were no negative marks (It was mentioned in the notification of UPSC that there will questions with differential negative marking). It can be concluded that UPSC is in the middle of major reforms in the Civil Services Examination process and aptitude testing will play a big role in the selection of candidates for civil services.
General Studies (Paper-1)
The General studies paper of the Civil Services Exam had its share of surprises. The reduction of number of questions in the paper not only helped the UPSC to deal with the reduction of questions of aptitude testing (quantitative aptitude+counting+number system etc.) from the general studies but also helped them to declare that aptitude testing (CSAT) is very important to them. There were hardly any factual questions and the paper tested an aspirant on conceptual understanding of various topics of general studies. It would not be incorrect to say that the paper tested a candidate on General Studies Aptitude. In General Studies, each correct answer fetched two marks and for an incorrect answer, there was a penalty of 0.67 (one-third of the marks allocated to each question) for an incorrect answer.
In terms of distribution, maximum questions were from Science and Technology (21 ) closely followed by Economics (20) and geography (18) respectively. One very bold mention in the syllabus (Civil Services Notification) was Ecology. Close to 10 questions were from ecology and ecosystems. The question paper was lengthy and it required a very keen sense of reading to decipher the exact meaning of the questions. This fact is underlined by the presence of three statement (25) and two statement questions (14). Going by the level of the paper, one can infer that a net score of 80+ Marks should be required to clear the paper.
The first CSAT paper of UPSC was replete with challenges for one and all. The paper had a heavy bias towards reading comprehension. Close to 30 questions of reading comprehension were bilingual (Hindi and English) and around 10 questions were from reading comprehensions, which were in English language only. Most of the reading comprehension questions were inferential in nature and required a thorough reading of the passage. There were 8 questions of decision-making and there were exactly on the same pattern as was given in the CL Test Series. One interesting feature of these questions was that there were no negative marks for an incorrect answer. However, in the notification it was clearly mentioned that there will be questions for which differential marking scheme will be followed. These questions seem to belong to the same category. The syllogism questions were very challenging.
It can be safely said that quantitative aptitude was the easiest section of the paper. In total, there were close to 30 questions in Quantitative Aptitude/DI/LR. A serious test taker would finish this section in less than 40 minutes.
Given the difficulty of the papers (the verbal part), one can safely assume that a score of 180-200 (80 in GS and 100-110 in CSAT) marks out of 400 should ensure a call for the main examination.