Thousands of aspirants appeared for the civil services aptitude test conducted by the Union Public Service Commission in the city on Sunday.

With Chennai being a major coaching hub for the civil services exam, the city was chockfull of young, enthusiastic men and women, many of whom have been staying here for years, going through the coaching process.

In addition to a few free coaching centres, over 20 other centres spread out across the city and suburbs, train aspirants for the exam, mostly at affordable prices.

Groups of aspirants from across the State stay together in neighbourhoods such as Anna Nagar, Adyar, Perungudi, Tambaram and CIT Nagar, where there are a number of institutions including the Manithanaeyam Free IAS/IPS Coaching Centre.

“Most of the candidates were quite happy after the exam. Many questions on history, Indian economy and polity this year seemed to test a basic understanding of the subjects,” said Premkala Rani, principal of All India Civil Services Coaching Centre, a free academy run by the State government.

“But the cut-off may be high this year, and this is causing some anxiety,” she added.

Sathya, director of Sathya IAS Academy, said, “The cut-off is likely to increase by five to seven marks this year, based on the assessment of the city’s aspirants.”

Candidates who secure more than 215 out of 400 are likely to confidently begin preparing for the main exam, said Ganesa Subramanian, director of Ganesh’s IAS. “Last year, the cut-off was over 209 for open category candidates, 194 for OBC and around 10 marks less for SC and ST candidates,” he added.

“Aspirants who spent time reading textbooks brought out by the National Council of Educational Research and Training, were able to answer more questions in paper I this year,” said S. Bala, director of Bala IAS Academy.

D. Sudarvizhi, who stood at the 342 rank last year, said the test this year focussed more on basic concepts. There were fewer questions on current affairs, she said. Ms. Sudarvizhi hopes her rank will be better this year.

Another candidate, M. Vijay Anand, said, “Questions from the business, science and technology pages of newspapers were prominent this year,” adding that in paper II, time management was a challenge.