Negate the Negative Marking

  • by Mayuri Khanna

Before prelims examination many Do’s and Don’ts are usually told to the aspirants related to choice of topics, number of attempts and avoidance of negative marking. Yet during the examination atmosphere, to increase the number of attempts student move for guesswork. This brings them in the vicious cycle of Negative marking. More guessing, more chances of negative marking.

This occurs due to the following reasons:

a) The Multiple Choice questions examination allows wide coverage of curriculum and due to this the length and breadth of the topics increases tremendously. Thus it becomes difficult for the students to have knowledge about everything.

b) Further due to notification of CSAT as qualifying, the entire load for passing the examination moves to General Studies. To beat the competition, it is important to attempt atleast 70 questions in Paper 1. Thus to increase the chances of passing the examination, student get tempted towards guessing the options to mark the answers.

Before moving towards the negative analysis of Negative Marking, firstly let us understand…why the concept of negative marking came up in Civil Services?

In a multiple choice test, if there is no negative marking then if an answer is correct then also it is not sure that the candidate actually knows the answer or the outcome is due to a random guess. This blurs the different between the serious and non-serious candidates…That is why negative marks concept have come up to check the entry of non-serious candidates. It discourages random guesses, and therefore the scores are more reliable.

This would give an advantage to the candidate who has a thorough knowledge of the subject and would eliminate candidates, who have merely superficial knowledge and want to score by mere guess work.

In the civil services examination, the cutoff marks are increasing year by year. The toughness of paper is increasing due to change in pattern of questions, so a slight mistake can place the student out of the race.

The total numbers of questions are 100 and to be on safe side a student should attempt atleast 60-65 questions. The proposition of guesswork lies on the number of questions attempted as well as whether it is wild guess or educated guess.

For example if a student is sure in 55 questions and want to move for guesswork, then atmost he should move for 5-7 questions as the risk will be less. Totally wild guesses should be avoided.

As in the previous year examination the number of current affairs questions were high. In such type of questions the guesswork should not be done (as either you will know the answer or not, there cannot be educated guess), whereas in the conceptual questions if the basic foundation is strong, a student can go for redundant scheme and can reduce the options to two. This will be called the educated guess.

Apart from that sometimes even the questions are easy but options become quite tricky, in hurry student fails to differentiate between the minute terms mentioned in the statements to make them redundant.

The cut-off of 2016 prelims has been disclosed by the UPSC, it is 116 whereas last year it was 107.34. As cut-off marks are increasing yearly, student should go for negating the negative marking.  However, the cut-off usually depends on the nature of questions (ratio of general/current and conceptual questions)

To negate the negative marking, the student may follow the following points:

a) The attraction towards guesswork should be completely avoided. Mind makeup should be there that one should go for maximum 4-5 guesses only as the risk of decrement in marks due to negative marking will be less.

b) Student should not loose hold of their nerves in the examination hall due to ‘mounting pressure’ syndrome which is quite natural. He/she should read the question carefully, read the guidelines such as “choose correct or incorrect statement” properly. In hurry many a times student fail to differentiate between them.

c) It is also observed that despite knowing the right answers, wrong bubbles are blackened and it is presumed to have marked the right answer. This is due to ignorance and stress. Avoid that.

d) Many students mark the answer with pencil and then in the last minute blacken the bubbles. In this hurry many a time student fails to mark all the answers or mark it incorrectly. So in the questions in which student is sure, he should blacken that at first instance only to avoid the last minute race.

e) The student should attempt all the questions in which he is sure at one go and then flip the questions second time to move for that questions in which there are confusion between the two options.

f) Do not follow elimination process for choosing an answer it may be ruinous. If you are not sure for your answer, leave them unanswered as there is no penalty for unanswered questions. Student should move for calculative risk only.

A sensible planning can bring a vast improvement in the marks, and student can greatly improve one’s marks by not falling into the traps we have discussed earlier in the article.