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#UPSCSimplified: IAS Topper K Vijaykarthikeyan Shares How to Tackle Negative Marking in Prelims

Dr Vijaykarthikeyan suggests aspirants must only attempt the questions that they are sure about. They must remember that negative marking exists, and accordingly, be careful while attempting the questions, he says.


With over 10 lakh applicants each year, and only 1,000 selections – the UPSC exams can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. But it can be crossed! In ‘UPSC Simplified’, The Better India catches up with toppers to uncover the dos and don’ts for India’s toughest exam. Follow the series for all the tips you need!


K Vijaykarthikeyan is a doctor by qualification, who chose to appear for the UPSC examination in 2011 and went on to ace it. Currently posted as Commissioner, Coimbatore Municipal Corporation, he is the youngest bureaucrat to hold this position.

In this exclusive interview, we find out what strategy he used while preparing for the examination and why it is important to remember negative marking.

Dr Vijaykarthikeyan

UPSC examinations = Cricket match

Dr Vijaykarthikeyan has an interesting analogy in which he compares the UPSC examination to various formats of cricket.

a) Prelims and Test Series

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“The prelims is very much like batting in a test match, where a batsman doesn’t hit all the deliveries, but only that are good and leaves the others so that he can continue batting for long without the fear of getting out.”

Dr Vijaykarthikeyan suggests aspirants must only attempt the questions that they are sure about. They must remember that negative marking exists, and accordingly, be careful while attempting the questions, he says.

b) Mains and One Day match

“In the limited time that you are given, you will have to score as many runs as possible. In this format, there is not much time for you to adjust and get used to the pitch. You need to start batting from the word ‘go’. Similarly, while attempting the mains, you will have to write many words as well as many verbose essays. In this situation, be ready to go from the start.”

To do this, he urges aspirants to practice writing and attempting papers from the previous year to get the hang of completing the paper within the stipulated time.

c) Interview and 20/20 match

“In a 20/20 match, there are limited overs and the aim is to score as many runs as you can. The interview stage is very similar; you have to impress the interviewers in the short time you have with them. So give it your best.”

Explaining this, he says it is imperative for the aspirant to be well versed with topics that might be discussed during the interview. Be honest, he insists.

Negative marking can wreck havoc

Narrating an incident, Dr Vijaykarthikeyan says, “While preparation and aptitude are all important, remember to think clearly before attempting the paper. A friend and I, with similar aptitude and preparation level, sat to attempt the paper. Out of a total 150 questions, I was sure of about 64 at the first look. I took a chance on another 40 and ended up attempting a total of 104 out of 150 questions. However, in taking the risk, I got 30 questions wrong and ended up with a score of 64, because of all the negative marking.”

He goes on to say, “My friend, who also knew a similar amount of answers ended up attempting all 150 questions. While he got about 70 right answers, the negative marking, unfortunately, got him a negative score.”

The moral of the story, therefore, is to be more than a 100 per cent sure of the questions you attempt.

With these pointers, we wish you all the best for your examination!

In the second part of this article, Dr Vijaykarthikeyan will discuss coaching centres, online and offline study material, and how aspirants can structure their study time.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)


You May Also Like: #UPSCSimplified: IAS Topper Renu Raj Shares How to Ace the Exam While Juggling a Job!


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