“CSAT alone cannot get you into the bureaucracy but ignoring it can definitely stop you “

The preliminary examination of UPSC is popularly called as CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test. The CSAT is the second paper of General Studies introduced in 2011. SInce 2011 to 2014 marks of CSAT (GS paper-2) were also considered for declaring cutoff. However, after 2014, CSAT paper has only made qualifying i.e. one has to score 33% or 67 marks of 200. This change came due to general opposition from aspirants of Non-mathematics background. It was true that this paper used to give some crucial edge to aspirants of the engineering background in the preliminary stage.

Here is systematic representation of CSAT paper scheme-

GS (Paper-2): CSAT-No. Of Questions AskedMarksDuration
802002 hours
Qualifying marks67


Each question carries 2.5 marks and there is the provision of negative marking. i.e. for every wrong answer, the candidate will be punished by reducing 1/3rd, or -0.67 marks.

This paper is of qualifying nature as suggested earlier. A candidate needs to score only 33% (i.e 67 marks) to qualify this paper.



  • English/Hindi Paragraph Comprehension

Interpersonal skills including communication skills

  • Analogies
  • Critical Reasoning

Logical Reasoning and Analytical ability

  • Logical Reasoning based on Arrangement
  • Logical Reasoning based on Ranking
  • Team Formations
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Sequences and Series
  • Blood Relation
  • Direction Test
  • Puzzle Test

Decision-making and problem-solving

  • Hypothetical questions based on ethical dilemmas
  • Decoding facts logically into answers

General mental ability

  • Syllogisms
  • Logical Deductions
  • Statement and Conclusions
  • Statement and Assumptions
  • Assertion and Reason
  • Statement Courses of Action
  • Set Theory and Venn Diagrams
  • Network Diagrams
  • Verbal Reasoning Based on Binary Logic

Basic numeracy: numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.(Class X level)

  • Number System and Number Series
  • HCF and LCM of Numbers
  • Fraction, Simplification, and Percentage
  • Average, Ratio and Proportion, Partnership and Share
  • Mixtures, Chain Rule
  • Time, Work and Wages, Pipes and Cisterns
  • Profit, Loss, and Discount
  • Simple Interest and Compound Interest
  • Time and Distance, Trains
  • Clocks



UPSC examiner doesn’t write a lot of new passage himself. Mostly it cut-pastes the passages from prominent English newspapers and academic books. From their side, UPSC only designs the MCQs and gives Hindi translations. Therefore, irrespective of your medium in mains exam, you should try to read English newspapers and magazines.

Passages are the heart and soul of CSAT (paper-2). At least 30-35 questions are asked every year based on passage reading. This translates to minimum 75-85 marks from passage reading alone. So it makes sense to improve and fine-tune your passage solving skills. Passages are also the life savers of aspirants from the non-mathematics background.

Just because you finished college in English medium, doesn’t automatically make you master of English. Avoid such overconfidence. UPSC’s questions are not doles for anyone. You must have the excellent comprehending ability and ability to interpret correctly, to give the right answer.

The English textbooks you’ve read for engineering, medicine, pharma or commerce – they’re *NOT* the same English that UPSC passages will contain. Therefore, you’ve to get yourself familiar with the sentence flow and vocabulary of such academic / column type passages. For that, you need to read daily news papers regularly.

Otherwise, in the exam, you’ll take 15 minutes just to read one passage, while other players finish the same within 3 minutes. In past exams, many candidates failed to finish entire paper, only because of this reason. This also happened in this year’s CSAT paper, many founf paper was too lenghty tpo complete in 2 hours.

To get a taste of comprehension passages, the best place is the Book review segment within Hindu, Indian express, Frontline and EPW. Because they first talk about the book, then about the contemporary issue dealt in the book e.g. arts, economics, science, environment, Philosophy etc.


  • Read The Hindu editorials regularly because many passages are being asked from the editorials. So it becomes easy to relate things.
  • Do not assume things on your own or do not try to use your prior knowledge about the subject matter in case of the comprehensions. Try to focus on what is written in the passage and answer accordingly.
  • Class 10th level English Comprehension questions were removed altogether following a decision of the DoPT.

Let’s take a look into what kind of comprehensions are asked in CSAT Exam-

This passage was asked in 2017:

The man who is perpetually hesitating which of the two things he will do first, will do neither. The man who resolves, but suffers his resolution to be changed by the first counter Suggestion of a friend—who fluctuates from opinion to opinion and veers from plan to plan-can never accomplish anything. He will at best be stationary and probably retrograde in all. It is only the man who first consults wisely, then resolves firmly and then executes his purpose with inflexible perseverance, undismayed by those petty difficulties which daunt a weaker spirit—that can advance to eminence in any line.

Qn 2: The keynote that seems to be emerging from the passage is that

(a) We should first consult wisely and then resolve firmly

(b) We should reject suggestions of friends and remain unchanged

(c) We should always remain broad-minded

(d) We should be resolute and achievement-oriented


This is a general essay which doesn’t require knowledge of economics or physics. But it requires with how much clarity you can comprehend the passage. If you read the Fifth line-It is only the man who first consults wisely, then resolves firmly and then executes his purpose with inflexible perseverance,…The answer is quite clear.

Let’s see another Passage-

During the summer in the Arctic Ocean, sea ice has been melting earlier and faster, and the winter freeze has been coming later. In the last three decades, the extent of summer ice has declined by about 30 per cent. The lengthening period of summer melt threatens to undermine the whole Arctic food web, atop which stand polar bears.

Question: Which among the following is the most crucial message conveyed by the above passage?

(a) Climate change has caused Arctic summer to be short but temperature to be high.

(b) Polar bears can be shifted to the South Pole to ensure their survival.

(c) Without the presence of polar bears, the food chains in Arctic region will disappear.

(d) Climate change poses a threat to the survival of polar bears.


Such kind of passages is most common in UPSC. UPSC loves to ask questions related to the environment, threats to biodiversity, changing the environment and its implication. It is also an example of a classic case where UPSC tricks you with options. Don’t get confused read the last line of essay carefully. It clearly suggests Choice “C” is wrong and correct answer is “D”.

Here is another one-

Why do people prefer open defecation and not want toilets or, if they have them, only use them sometimes? Recent research has shown two critical elements: ideas of purity and pollutions, and not wanting pits or septic tanks to fill they have to be emptied. These are the issue that nobody wants to talk about, but if we want to eradicate the practice of open defecation, they have to be confronted and dealt properly.

Question: Which among the following is the most crucial message conveyed by the above passage?

(a) The ideas of purity and pollutions are so deep-rooted that they cannot be removed from the minds of the people.

(b) People have to perceive toilet use and pit-emptying as clean and not polluting.

(c) People cannot change their old habits.

(d) People have neither civic sense nor sense of privacy.


This essay is also on very expected lines, with all the programs and compaign related to sanitation running around. Answer of this Passage can be derived by only reading all the choices carefully. Clearly, it is B.



CSAT paper-2 is not a very big challenge now. With right strategy and guidance, it can be easily qualified.

However, as said earlier we can’t take it lightly. A little mistake and there is a year of wait. No matter how well you were prepared for your Mains portion. So no one should leave any loophole here.

Basic Numeracy

Basic Numeracy includes the topics like square roots, factorization, simplification, LCM, HCF, type of numbers, divisibility rules, fractions, polynomials, unit digit calculation, remainder, the exponent in factorial, formula based problems, decimal base conversion to binary.

You will need a good practice to attempt these questions quickly since it is quite common to get stuck with some question resulting in the shortage of time to attempt other questions. In such a scenario it is always better to circle the question in the question paper to attempt it later if time permits. IAS Preparation is about efficient time management.

Here are few general observations from UPSC’s point of view:

  • Questions here are not difficult but are tricky in nature.
  • 1-2 questions from quantitative aptitude are of such nature that it requires theoretical knowledge for example.

Question: If for a sample data.  Mean< Median<Mode.  Then the distribution is-

a) symmetric b) Skewed to the right c) Neither symmetric nor

b) Skewed to the right

c) Neither symmetric nor skewed.

d) Skewed to the left.



Logical Reasoning and Analytical Ability

The analytical ability questions are asked from familiar areas and in familiar form. The questions in this section includes areas like relationships, direction, rank, critical path etc.

A proper practice of the section is required to develop the efficiency in solving the problems.

Logical reasoning is a standard topic in most objective-type exams and CSAT is no exception to this. The good part is questions on this topic are usually of moderate difficulty level and can be tackled with ease with some practice.

Problem Solving & Decision Making

As a civil servant you are expected to make quick, reasoned, logical and welfare oriented decisions. Once the decision is taken you should stick to your stand and should not bow down before political or industry pressure.

The questions based on this will test your decision making skills. You will also be tested on your sincerity, honesty, and integrity towards the civil services values.

This part of the examination measures your ability to use logic and common sense in solving of problems confronted in modern day today administration.The questions will generally relate to situations that require you either to take some action, to explain why an action has or would be taken or to interpret what the action implies.

In Problem Solving and Decision Making there is a classic five step approach which would enable you to solve most the questions easily. The steps are:

  • Identify the problem
  • Identify the possible solutions
  • Select the best solution
  • Eliminate other solutions
  • Make the decision

General Mental Ability

General mental ability section includes the topics like Average, Percentage, Profit loss, Time speed & distance, Time & work, Venn Diagram, Problem on ages, Clocks, Simple & Compound interest, Ratio proportion & Mixtures, Partnership, Mensuration, Permutation & Combination, Probability, Logarithm, Linear equations, Quadratic equations.

Few questions from this section are very easy to tackle. You should be able to identify them and take on.

Resources to refer:

  • GS Manual Paper-II by TMH
  • Cracking the CSAT Paper 2 – Arihant Publications
  • Word Power – Normal Lewis.

Here is what we would recommend for this portion-

Choose high yielding areas like blood relations, sitting arrangements, syllogisms, coding and decoding. Order and ranking, puzzles etc. Practice these at home from suggested standard books.

Don’t waste much time on questions where you get stuck just go with the flow and try solving other questions.

Questions from areas like Basic numeracy, General Mental Ability,and Logical Reasoning are also of a higher difficulty level these days as compared to past years. We cannot expect freebees from UPSC, so never be ignorant to any area. But with practice and right guidance those questions can be dealt with easily.

After decoding the syllabus, lets move on to our apprehensions, what kind of problems generally we face in this paper-

Problems faced by the aspirants:

  • Some Candidates think that they belong to Hindi medium and they cannot solve the comprehensions. It’s absolutely wrong to think that way because it’s all about practice.
  • Some think since they are from the non-mathematical background, so this paper is a kind of UPSC’s strategy to harass them. This is not so. UPSC provide a level playing platform for everyone.
  • Some think that Engineers can easily solve numeracy questions without practicing which is again a wrong notion. Although it is relatively easy for candidates with Mathematics/Engineering background, but questions are from mathematical reasoning and aptitude, which are equally challenging for everyone.

Some Suggestions

  • You don’t have to gain mastery to qualify for CSAT Paper. Focus on your strong areas, if you are from the non-mathematics background then choose some simple topics from the syllabus and practice those properly. Besides preparing thoroughly for the comprehension sections.
  • If you are from mathematics background then you just have to keep in touch with basic formulae and concepts and practice comprehension portions in a better way.
  • While in the exam hall, do not get struck by a single question and waste your time if you are not able to solve it.
  • Do not bring your ego that you have to compulsorily solve the question as you have practiced a lot for the topic. Just move on to next question, your challenge in the examination hall is exam itself and not your ego. Surely, you can challenge yourself in practice paper while at home 🙂
  • Since this paper has been made only of qualifying nature, one does need to take an extra headache for this paper. But still, no one should take this paper as lightly as scoring 33% seems. Because many candidates from engineering background also have failed this year’s (CSAT-2017) paper.
  • You need to prepare some topics like Numbers / Fractions, Directions, Coding Decoding, Cubes etc. and gain mastery over them.
  • Regular practice keeps you acquainted with the changing trends as there in no fixed pattern of the paper.


There is no “best” strategy for preparing CSAT (paper-2)p, and if there is any then it would differ from people to people. So here is what we would suggest:

Take 2–3 previous year question papers and solve those papers within 2 hours as you are attending the exam. Correct your answer sheers get the total marks scored.

I divide the scores into 3 category.

(A) 120+,

(B) 80 to 100

(C)less than 80

  • If you fall into category A, don’t worry about CSAT! you will clear it easily. Take 3–4 tests 2 months earlier than an exam. You can spend little time 1–2 months before the exam.
  • If you are in the category B, you are safe! But need little work to get into the comfort zone.
    1. Analyze your paper. Find out the weak areas. Try to improve those areas.
    2. Probably you can spend 10–15 hours/month for CSAT-2.
    3. Take regular tests to measure your performance.
  • If you are in category C, you have to work a little bit harder to bring yourself to safer zone! Don’t worry it is very much possible. These are the steps you can follow:
    1. Analyse your answer papers in detail. Find out section wise, subsection wise score of yourself. Find out your weak and strong areas.
    2. Get the details of how UPSC asking the questions. What are the areas focus? etc.
    3. Prepare 1 hour/day on specific sub topic. ( Eg: Syllogism, profit, and loss, age related, work related etc.). Ensure that you are well-versed with favorite topics of UPSC.
    4. Once you finish subtopic, take subtopic wise test. There are many online websites give free tests for each of those subtopics.
    5. Make sure that you read news paper editorials every day. It has a multiplier effect. You will get comprehension very easily.
    6. Don’t worry if you are not good at few subtopics (For example probability, combination). You just have to pass this exam.
    7. Take mock tests regularly to ensure you can complete (at least 75% ) the paper within a specified time.

So, this is all from our side. We will be there for you in our Online Cources-CSAT section 🙂 Come and learn with us 🙂






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