UPSC Prelims Answer Key 2024: What Went Wrong?

UPSC Prelims Answer Key 2024: What Went Wrong?

From students to UPSC toppers and coaches, many have raised questions over the discrepancies in the answers.

Sunidhi VijayUpdated: Tuesday, May 21, 2024, 05:28 PM IST
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UPSC Prelims Answer Key 2024: What Went Wrong? | Pixabay

The prelims answer key released by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for the Civil Services Examination (CSE) 2023 has stoked a controversy after many candidates have alleged discrepancies in the answers. The candidates have flooded social media asking the UPSC to take accountability or at least explain the answers. 

According to the students, the answer keys are different from the unofficial answer keys released by the coaching institutes. Some also claimed to be completely oblivious to the answer keys released by the UPSC. As many as 15 answer keys are deemed to be different from what was prescribed by the coaching institutes. 

The Free Press Journal (FPJ) reached out to several candidates who appeared for the prelims this year, as well as some experts to understand if the discrepancies really mattered in the final result.   

UPSC candidate, Satyam Yadhuvanshi said, “The answer key released by UPSC is completely different from what was told to me by the coaching centre. I would have understood if it was just my coaching centre who got it wrong but all my fellow candidates who study from different centres have also complained about this issue.” He further added that the UPSC should at least provide the students with the source or explanation behind the answer key to make them aware of and understand the logic behind it. 

Clearing the doubt of how the same question can have different answers, Ayussh Sanghi, CA and UPSC coach said, “It is not uncommon for UPSC to ask questions that have multiple correct answers, in that case, the students have to select the answer that appears to be more correct. Thus, it is a probability game.” However, according to Sanghi, UPSC has clarified in the past if this was the case and given marks for both options. He said, “UPSC had clarified in past instances after the exam about giving marks for either of the options.” Sanghi has over 10 years of experience in the UPSC teaching realm. 

Explaining what went wrong this time, he continued, “However, this time, UPSC has removed the elimination technique to increase the competition. But, the mistake that happened this year is that in one of the questions, UPSC asked, ‘Which of the following statements are correct’ but gave only one option which is where the contradiction happened.”

“Whenever the coaching centres are too heavy on the studies or materials, UPSC tends to break the mould and take a different direction. For example, in 2011, UPSC asked most questions from chapters that were least expected by the coaching centres. This is acceptable. However, this time the UPSC has not been fair to the students and to break the arrogance of the coaching centres, they have committed mistakes in the answer keys,” Sanghi continued, adding that this might be someone’s last attempt and because of this, he/she may lose his only chance of clearing the exams. 

Smit Patel, UPSC AIR 562 told the FPJ that he also faced the issue of discrepancy in three and three-and-a-half marks. He added, “I did not attempt many of the questions that are deemed controversial after the release of the answer key. I might have found them to be too tricky while solving the paper.” Patel continued that even though the question paper was tough this year, it was reflected in the low cutoff and easy scoring. “It all boils down to whether a candidate is capable of holding their nerves while at the same time playing with their knowledge,” he added. 

Pavan Patel, a UPSC mentor, echoed similar thoughts and said, “Every year UPSC’s answer key is somewhat different from coaching institutes, but the margins were narrow. However, it is more visible this time due to increased vagueness in options.” Sharing an example about the same, he added, “In the answer key on nocturnal animals, UPSC provided only one option as the right answer. However, even experts in this field have no clue as to why this was done.”

Another UPSC candidate, Pradhan Pranshu, said that while there can be variations in answers, UPSC should at least provide explanations for the answers which are multiple-option based. “I faced a discrepancy of almost eight marks and even though I am not blaming the UPSC for it, I just want to know the explanation behind their answers because even while I was attempting some of the questions, I was very sure that they could not be wrong,” Pranshu continued.

“It’s high time for UPSC to take accountability for its process. There needs to be transparency in the final answer keys of the UPSC Prelims exam, along with proper justification and citing authentic sources for each answer,” said Shivani Garg, founder of Examkund. She added that with millions of students undertaking this exam annually, the candidates have a right to clarity and accuracy in the evaluation process. 

However, Mohammad Zia, the founder and director of UPSC Master had a slightly different opinion on the matter. He said, “One key aspect is that coaching centres often rely on predictions and trends, which may not always align with the actual UPSC answer key. It's essential for candidates to cross-verify information and understand that coaching centres provide guidance, not guaranteed answers.” He further added that this situation highlights the importance of critical thinking and self-preparation alongside external guidance.

Similarly, Shamal Bhagat, AIR 258 shared that she also faced certain discrepancies in the answer keys after the result was announced. “There was a 10-mark variation in my answer key as well. However, candidates have to remember that there can be variations in answer keys from one coaching centre to another as well. How people interpret certain questions also plays a role here,” she said.

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