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UPSC Prelims Exam Analysis and Expected Cut-offs 2020

Updated on 05 October 2020
UPSC & State PSC
7 min read 16 views
Updated on 05 October 2020

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the Civil Services Exam (CSE) every year intending to recruit candidates for the post of IAS, IFS, IPS, etc. The UPSC CSE exam date 2020 was announced to be conducted on 31st May 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exams were canceled and later scheduled on 4th October 2020. The total number of vacancies that were released by UPSC this year was around 796. In this article, we will look at the complete exam analysis of the UPSC exam 2020. 

UPSC Prelims 2020 Highlights:-

  1. UPSC CSE Exam was conducted on 4th October 2020.
  2. A large number of candidates showed up for the examination. 
  3. The exam centers took necessary safety measures during the exam due to the ongoing pandemic. 
  4. UPSC CSE exam was held in two sessions.
  5. The first session was conducted from 9.30 am to 11.30 am.
  6. The second session was conducted from 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm. 
  7. UPSC CSE prelims are conducted via two papers i.e. Paper 1 and Paper 2. 
  8. Paper 1 is based on General Studies.
  9. Paper 2 is based on the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). 

UPSC Exam Analysis for Paper 1- General Studies 

Paper 1 (General Studies) consisted of MCQ type questions. A total of 100 questions were asked in the examination. Candidates have to mark one correct option out of four options. There will be negative marking for Paper 1. For each wrong answer, ⅓ marks will be deducted. 

It was observed that Paper 1 was tough as compared to last year. The questions based on current affairs were easy and those who kept an eye on the day to day news and happenings cleared it easily. 

 Questions on medieval history were moderate while those related to policy were easy. 

We are sharing the detailed subject-wise UPSC prelims 2020 exam analysis below:


Total No of Questions

Level of Difficulty

Current National & International Events


Moderate to tough 

History & Art and Culture


Moderate to tough

Indian Polity 


Easy to Moderate



Moderate to tough



Moderate to tough

Environment & Ecology


Moderate to tough

Science & technology


Easy to Moderate



Overall Level of difficulty- Moderate to tough

UPSC Exam Analysis for Paper 2- Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)

Paper 2 was conducted in the second session in an offline mode. Candidates found this section to be moderate. The comprehension and mathematics sections were both easy to moderate. A total of 80 questions were asked in this paper. If candidates answer any of the questions wrong then ⅓ marks will be deducted for each question. Candidates have to just score 33% marks to qualify the exam. Note that only those candidates who score 33% in Paper 2 will be allowed to appear for the mains exam. 

Expected Cutoffs

Cutoffs help candidates determine the marks required to qualify for the exam. This year UPSC has conducted its prelims exam for which the complete paper analysis is given above. We are sharing the expected cutoffs for the UPSC prelims 2020. But before we look into that, it is important to know the previous years cutoff to get an idea for this year. 

We take an example for the general category candidates. The cutoffs for last year i.e. 2019 was 98, 2018 was 98 and 2017 was 105.34. For this year the cutoffs will be almost the same as last year as there is not much difference in the number of questions and types of questions asked in the exam. 

The number of questions asked from Current affairs, Polity, Economy and General Science has differed this year. 

Current affairs are the most important topic which comprises maximum marks in Paper 1. This topic has the potential to change the trend every year for the UPSC prelims exam. A few questions were asked out of the syllabus but it does not hold much weightage. However, there are high chances that candidates have answered these questions wrong which leads to marks deduction. 

Some questions related to the understanding of the core concepts were asked in the exam. These questions have a higher potential of marks deduction as questions like this demands high skills. It is observed that candidates often make silly mistakes in such questions and loose marks. 

These expected cutoffs will be useful for candidates to get an understanding of the minimum marks required to clear the exam. We know that clearing the UPSC exam is not a piece of cake and that candidates miss this golden opportunity by losing 1 mark each year. Also, the pandemic has surely affected the number of vacancies this year. Last year UPSC had 896 vacancies which decreased to 796 this year. However, with this information, you can easily understand the cutoff scenario and start preparing for the UPSC mains exam. 

To conclude, the difficulty level of Paper 1 was moderate to difficult while that of Paper 2 was easy to moderate. Candidates who clear both these papers will be allowed to appear for the UPSC mains exam. The UPSC mains will be conducted next year on 8 January 2021. Observing the UPSC Prelims 2020 exam analyses will help candidates get a clear idea about the entire exam. This will help all the upcoming aspirants to score good marks in the paper.

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