Civil Services Exam – How to Answer Factual and Conceptual Questions

The UPSC’s aim with Civil Services Exam’s factual and conceptual questions is to recognize and handpick the aspirants with most relevant specific skills and most aptitude, which is essential to perform effectively as a good administrator. It does not explicitly elaborate this kind of expertise, so the aspirants conclude them from UPSC Civil Services Exam Syllabus, Civil Services Exam Previous Year Question Paper, and response from successful candidates. 

The Civil Services Examination (CSE) conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is usually spread over an entire year, divided into three extremely competitive stages- Prelims, Mains and Interview, in which anything can go wrong at any stage or time leading to one’s failure even after putting so many efforts.

Due to the nature of the exam, many of the students start believing in myths floating around it, e.g. you need at least 5-6 years to clear this exam. But all of that isn’t true, it is true that it is a tough exam, but one can clear it with the correct mindset and strategy. So, here are some tips aspirants can use to tackle factual and conceptual based questions.

  • Polity subject questions have moved to traditional concepts as compared to the last year’s trend and are now moving towards governance. Economy questions were mostly drawn from the Current Affairs segment, and they also have some factual elements.
  • In the current affairs segment, now instead of connecting the current affairs questions to the concepts, it focuses more on the factual questions. The quantity of reserved question has increased over the past few years.

Many aspirants often wonder, does the concept questions come first or the factual ones? It is not as astonishing as the chicken-egg question, but the concept and factual questions complexity has been muddled artificially.

Aspirants have been misguided over the last few decades, they have been misled and which has cost them their precious time and a lot of careers has been ruined with such a misconception about the exam with the help of irrelevant strategy. But it’s time to leave the complicated pondering on this kind of issues aside and observe the pattern and nature of previous years question papers.

In the below-mentioned questions, we will be looking into the nature and strategy of conceptual and factual based questions asked in the previous papers and how to tackle them.

Factual vs. Conceptual Questions

Factual questions ask sensibly simple resolutions to the problems; they are straightforward answers based on the apparent facts or awareness regarding the issue. These type of questions are generally at the lowest level of cognitive thinking processes, and these kinds of solutions are frequently either right or wrong.

The conceptual questions are usually the application level questions based on the concepts that resolve an issue. The other category of this kind of question is – combination type where the UPSC CSE asks questions with the blend of the factual and the conceptual patterns.

How to Tackle Factual and Conceptual Questions

The UPSC Civil Services Exam aspirants should have a clear cut understanding of the UPSC Civil Services Exam syllabus, and its exam pattern, etc. They should have a smart and effective study plan to succeed in the exam.

UPSC Civil Services Prelims Factual Questions

  1. In the context of Indian history, consider these following pairs:
    • Tripathi: the land, and its revenue which was set apart for the various societal benefits like the maintenance of the village tank, etc.
    • Taniyurs: Village which was donated to a single Brahmin or a group of Brahmins to keep and maintain its standards.
    • Ghatikas: The colleges which are generally attached to the temples and god’s places.

      Which of the following pair given above is/are correctly matched?
      • 1st and 2nd
      • Three
      • 2nd and 3rd
      • 1st and 3rd
  2. Very recently, for the first time in the history of our country, India, which of the following states has been declared as a ‘State Butterfly’?
    • Arunachal Pradesh
    • Himachal Pradesh
    • Karnataka
    • Maharashtra
  • These are some of the factually based questions asked by UPSC CSE. For answering these factual based questions aspirants needs to develop a good memory power and regular reading habits. Most of the fundamental questions are requested from the NCERT textbooks:
    • Economic Surveys
    • Newspapers
    • India yearbooks
    • Major reports like the forest reports, etc.
  • While reading the sources as mentioned above, aspirants should always create notes and jot down all the relevant words and their meanings, the facts and figures for the Preliminary exam. This is the best technique to tackle the factual type question. Apart from that, the aspirant can use mnemonics tricks also for maintaining the facts and the figures.

UPSC Civil Services Prelims Exam Conceptual Questions

  1. The Indian Parliament hold power to legislate on any item in the State List in the national interest- if a resolution to that effect is passed by the:
    • Lok Sabha – by a simple majority of its total membership
    • Lok Sabha – by a majority of not less than two-thirds of its full membership
    • Rajya Sabha – by a Simple majority of its entire membership
    • Rajya Sabha – by the majority of not less than the two-thirds of its members present and currently voting.
  2. There has been a persistent budget deficit repeated year by year. Which the actions of the following nature can be taken by the government to reduce the deficit?
    • Reducing Revenue Expenditure
    • Introducing a new welfare scheme
    • Rationalizing subsidies
    • Reducing import duties

      Select the correct answer using the code below:
      • One only
      • 2nd and 3rd only
      • 1st and 3rd only
      • 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th
  • The questions, as mentioned above, are conceptual. For instance, consider the first question, without having a clear understanding of the parliamentary proceedings and legislations, one cannot answer the question.
  • For the second question, the aspirant needs to know – what deficit is, how it is affecting the Indian economy, and how it can be tackled, etc.
  • The Polity, Economics, science and geography comprises of several concepts and theories compared to history. Aspirants can use basic reading books such as NCERT textbooks to concrete their basic conceptual ideas. While reading, they can make notes regarding each concept.


The UPSC Civil Services Exam in general sounds terrifying to many people as they don’t know how to answer the different kind of questions. Those two main types of questions asked in the UPSC Civil Services Examination are the Conceptual and Factual questions. Candidate’s needs to understand the exam pattern and the nature of questions asked to succeed in the exam.

Areas covered in this article

  • Tips on how to tackle factual and conceptual based questions.

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