UPSC IES Prelims Paper 1 Analysis Of Four years (2017 - 2020) & Comparison Between Old and New Exam Pattern

Updated On -

May 3, 2021

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Sudeshna Bhar

Exams Prepmaster

UPSC Indian Engineering Service (IES) 2021 Prelims will be held on July 08, 2021, for the recruitment of engineers for different posts. The application form of UPSC IES 2021 will be released from April 07 – 27, 2021.

UPSC IES Selection Process has three stages – Prelims, Mains, and the Interview. In the latest IES exam pattern, there are 2 objective papers whereas the Main exam has 2 conventional papers.

For every wrong answer, one-third of the marks will be deducted in the prelims IES 2021 Prelims exam. Get the latest news on the UPSC IES Exam.

In the following part of the article, the analysis of the previous years’ paper has been discussed along with the comparison between the old IES exam pattern and the latest exam pattern.

Prelims Analysis

IES Prelims Analysis: Exam Papers of IES 2017 - IES 2020

The IES Prelims 2021 will be conducted on July 08, 2021. The following exam paper analysis covers the exam papers of the IES exam from 2017 to 2020.

Topics 2020 2019 2018 2017
Current issues of National and International importance relating to Social, Economic and Industrial development 10 4 4 10
Engineering aptitude covering Logical reasoning and analytical ability 10 14 13 8
Engineering Mathematics and Numerical analysis 12 4 7 8
General Principles of Design, Drawing, importance of safety 9 5 1 15
Standards and Quality practices in production, construction, maintenance and services 10 9 9 21
Basics of Energy and Environment: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, Climate Change, Environmental impact assessment 10 13 13 12
Basics of Project Management 12 13 12 4
Basics of Material Science and Engineering 11 14 26 9
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) based tools and their applications in Engineering 11 10 8 7
Ethics and values in the Engineering profession. 5 14 7 6
Important Points

IES Prelims Paper Analysis: Important Points:

The following are a few highlights of the paper-I that has been noticed in the past five years based on the topic-wise weightage and difficulty level of the questions-

  • The topic-wise weightage for 2016 has not been included since the sub-topics inclusive of paper-I changed after this year. From 2017, the subtopics were based on general studies and engineering whereas till 2016, it was general English and general studies.
  • The paper-I in IES 2020 Prelims was deemed as “easy to moderate” by the aspirants.
  • A maximum number of questions (19 in all) were asked from Project management and standard quality.
  • Many claimed that the question was comparatively easier than IES 2019 Prelims.
  • Geography, science and technology, history, and environment-related topics were important as evident from the number of questions asked from these topics in 2018.
  • Current issues, polity and governance-related questions were replaced by economic and social development topics in the IES prelims 2018
  • Current affairs questions were more direct in approach compared to 2017.
  • Weightage of the basics of energy and environment has been consistent in the past four years which makes this an important topic. The same applies to standards and quality practice in Production.
4 Year Analysis

IES Prelims Paper-1: Paper Analysis of Last 4 years

When you go through the topic-wise weightage of the past 4years of IES prelims Paper-1 data, you can easily make an average mark and question distribution that can be expected in the upcoming exams.

The following table depicts the average marks weightage of the ten sub-topics based on the past 4 years-

Topics Average Number of Questions Average Weightage
Current issues of National and International importance relating to Social, Economic and Industrial development 7 14
Engineering aptitude covering Logical reasoning and analytical ability 11-12 22-24
Engineering Mathematics and Numerical analysis 8 16
General Principles of Design, Drawing, importance of safety 8 16
Standards and Quality practices in production, construction, maintenance and services 12-13 24-26
Basics of Energy and Environment: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, Climate Change, Environmental impact assessment 12 24
Basics of Project Management 10-11 20-22
Basics of Material Science and Engineering 15 30
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) based tools and their applications in Engineering 9 18
Ethics and values in the Engineering profession. 8-9 16-18

A pictorial depiction for better understanding of the topic-wise weightage in average-

Prelims Syllabus

IES Prelims Paper 1: Categorizing Syllabus

In the prelims exam, the candidates must focus the type, pattern and topic of the questions, the sub-topics which is can be clustered into three broad categories -

Static Subjects

  • Drawing, design, safety
  • Project management
  • Quality practice
  • Material science
  • Engineering ethics

Dynamic Subjects

  • Current affairs and developments
  • Energy and environment
  • Information technologies

Mathematics and reasoning

  • Engineering aptitude
  • Engineering numericals

If you consider the table of average topic-wise weightage from the past four years you can easily derive the weightage of each cluster.

2020 Analysis

IES Prelims 2020 Paper-1: Difficulty Level Analysis

The IES prelims 2020 was deemed to be easy to moderate considering its overall difficulty level. The following are in-depth analysis of the questions’ complexity from different sections-

  • Questions from current issues were mainly related to GST Bill, digital India and different government committees and were easy and straightforward.
  • The engineering aptitude section was moderately easy.
  • It comprises sub-topics like numerical computation, pendulum, work and men, etc.
  • Engineering mathematics was difficult in IES 2020 Prelims. The main sub-topics that came in the question paper this year include partial differentiation solutions, Fourier series, complex analysis, the chord of cone, etc.
  • There were nine questions from the general principles of design and drawing which were all difficult.
  • Standards and quality sections had a share of 10 questions and were moderately easy in IES Prelims 2020.
  • The environment and energy section was quite difficult which was a surprise for many students as these sections are generally easy to moderate almost every year.
  • Project management related questions were very easy and mainly came from topics like total quality management, optimizing strategy, fixation concepts, etc.
  • Material science and technology topics included ionic theory, crystalline and non-crystalline structure, resistance etc. and were of moderate difficulty.
  • ICT was moderately easy and the main topics which came in the exam included firewall, internet of things holostore, tools, cost constructive models, etc.
  • Ethics and engineering values involve questions from pre-post justification, ethical issues etc. and were of moderate difficulty.
  • The best part was there were no questions related to current affairs on an international level.
  • Also, engineering mathematics and numerical analysis were easy enough for the candidates to score full marks from this section.
2019 Analysis

IES Prelims 2019 Paper-1 Analysis

The IES 2019 Prelims paper-1 was of moderate difficulty and definitely more difficult than the paper of IES 2020. The following is the detailed analysis of the IES 2019 GS paper and the difficulty level of each topic this year-

  • The current affairs questions mainly were asked from economics this year and were slightly tougher than usual. There were 9 questions which means it had a fair share of marks and hence essential.
  • The engineering aptitude questions were rather difficult. However, the questions were very scoring if you have prepared the geometry part well.
  • Mathematics was quite easy this year and scoring enough. Any candidate who has prepared well could have scored full marks from this section.
  • The number of questions from the designs, drawing section was rather less this year. The questions were application-oriented but easy. Mainly questions based on Auto CAD were asked which indicates UPSC’s shift towards the latest trends and technology.
  • Quality practices related questions were easy to moderately difficult. There were 9 questions and one 3 was considered easy.
  • Questions from the environment were easy and predictable. The questions were more about the technicalities of the subject than based on current affairs.
  • Project management had a diversity of questions based on all the sub-topics under this section. This shows UPSC is trying to cover as much of the syllabus as possible through the GS paper and hence, you cannot leave out any part.
  • Material science questions came primarily from crystallography and polymers and ceramics. There were 14 questions of moderate difficulty from this section.
  • ICT questions were rather tough in IES prelims 2019 and most questions were network-based.
  • There were 14 questions from the ethics section and they were mostly closed-end questions that were easy to moderate.
2018 Analysis

IES Prelims 2018 Paper-1 Analysis

The IES Prelims Paper-1 of 2018 was moderately difficult considering all the sub-categories. The detailed analysis is as follows-

  • There was a shift from Indian polity and constitution related questions towards economic and social development in the current affairs section this year.
  • The importance of questions related to science and technology as well as humanities subjects like history and geography did not diminish.
  • Questions related to history and the Indian national movement were difficult.
  • The Indian polity related questions were moderately difficult.
  • Economic and social development based questions were moderately easy and focused primarily on small finance banks, NPCI, BTIA, government budgeting, international economics, and other topics with high factual elements.
  • Environmental ecology, biodiversity and climate change-related topics were easy to moderately difficult. Questions mainly on gharials, lions’ translocation, m-stripes were asked and this has been a trend for the past couple of years.
  • Questions from science and technology-focused mainly on the use of science in our day-to-day life.
Prelims Cutoff

Cut off trends in IES Prelims Paper 1

The following graph depicts the cut-off of trends for the general category in the past three years.

Papers 2019 2018 2017
ECE 226 213 221
Electrical 221 230 257
Mechanical 187 256 231
Civil 188 207 202

As depicted by the bar graph above, the cut-off for the general category can be anywhere between 188 and 256 as depicted below:

This entirely depends on the difficulty level of the paper. The harder and more difficult the paper, the cut-off marks go lower accordingly.

The cut-off for the reserved category is much lesser than that for the general category and can go down up to 90-100 depending on the cut-off for the general category in a particular year.

Old Vs Latest Pattern

Difference between the Old and Latest IES Exam Pattern

The main difference between the IES exam pattern before and after 2017 lies in the marks distribution. The following graph can give you an idea about the changes in a nutshell-

The objective paper-I and II are now combined into one paper which has significantly shortened the exam duration as well as the evaluation time. The English section has been excluded from the new IES Exam Pattern.

Since the syllabus for prelims and mains is identical, the preparation time and effort become less and there will be better scope for revision.

As per the latest reports, approximately 15 times the available vacancy will qualify for the Mains which means if you can rank within the top 7500 in IES 2021 Prelims.


IES Paper Analysis FAQs

Ques. How much time should you spend preparing each sub-topics?

Ans. For the entire GS syllabus, spare at least 2-3 hours daily for preparation.

Ques. How to filter and study the current affairs that are relevant for IES?

Ans. Studying current affairs for IES mainly involves having a thorough knowledge of Indian polity, governance, different government committees, and major economic developments at a national and international level.

Ques. Are questions repeated from the IES previous years?

Ans. Yes, questions are often repeated from the previous years or at least have similar patterns.

Ques. Have there been any changes in the syllabus of IES Prelims Paper 2?

Ans. After 2016, there have been several changes in the IES Prelims Syllabus as well. Significant changes have been noted in Paper 2 of the prelims. The following are some of those changes which you must be aware of:

  • Topics and subjects which are common in the B.Tech. The curriculum of most national and state institutions and universities are specifically stressed.
  • Renewable sources of energy, mechanics, and robotics are some new topics introduced in mechanical engineering.
  • Engineering mathematics and signal systems are a new addition to the electrical engineering syllabus.
  • The topic of structural engineering has been added to the syllabus of civil engineering.
  • Several new topics have been added to the electronics and telecommunication syllabus like VLSI, DSP, Embedded system, communication network, microwave, satellite communication, and basic electrical engineering.

Ques. Is there any minimum cut-off for IES Prelims Paper 1 and Paper 2?

Ans. The combined marks of Paper-1 and Paper-2 of IES prelims is considered to determine the prelims cut-off which is out of 500.

Ques. Since the syllabus has changed after 2016- can I skip practising the question papers before 2016?

Ans. You can skip questions that are no longer relevant according to the new syllabus. However, it is best not to skip practising the entire question paper as topics that are constant even after the change are often repeated from these papers.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.