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How to prepare for UPSC civil services Preliminary General Studies II paper (CSAT)?

Updated on December 20, 2016

How to prepare for UPSC civil services Preliminary General Studies II paper (CSAT)?

The second paper of the Civil services General Studies exam is commonly called CSAT or the Civil Service Aptitude test. It is designed to test the general aptitude of a candidate for suitability in the Civil services. It consists of topics like Comprehension, communication skills, Logical reasoning and analytical ability, Decision making and problem solving, General mental ability etc. The rationale behind inclusion of CSAT in the UPSC syllabus is to identify candidates who would be better suited to meet the needs of a rapidly changing and globalised India with a complex and modern administration with evolution towards e-governance. For 4 years, from its inclusion in 2011 till 2014, the CSAT paper largely decided the fate of most candidates and the weightage of CSAT in the overall Prelims score was drastically high. Many candidates used to score 2/3rd marks from CSAT out of overall score. From 2015, CSAT has been made qualifying which means that a minimum of 33% marks is required in the CSAT paper. Roughly, this translates to around 27 out of 80 questions. Hence, this can be achieved rather easily with proper planning and optimal hardwork

How to prepare for General Studies II (CSAT) paper?

For most candidates who have prepared for CAT, the CSAT paper should be a cakewalk. The standard of the CSAT paper is somewhere between the toughness level of CAT and the toughness level of Bank clerical/PO examinations. However, the CSAT is unique in its own way. That’s why it’s called the Civil services aptitude test. The questions asked are specifically formulated to test the skills required for a future civil servant. Presence of mind is more important for this exam rather than specialized skills like mathematical skills.

Look at the below question:

A society consists of only two types of people Warriors and priests. Two priests are always friends. A Warrior and a priest are always enemies. Warriors are indifferent to one another. If A and B are enemies, C and D are friends, E and F are indifferent to each other, A and E are not enemies, while Band F are enemies.

Which of the following statements is correct?

(a) B, C and F are priests.
(b) A, E and F are Warrior.
(c) B and E are in the same category.
(d) A and F are in different categories.

Such questions do not require any special knowledge

In CSAT paper, questions are asked in only English and Hindi. Therefore, non-Hindi candidates have to compulsorily face the paper in English only

Roughly 40%- 50% of the questions are of English Comprehension type. Superior knowledge of English is not required for Comprehension. There is a general perception that candidates from urban and engineering background are favourable placed to handle comprehension. According to me, this is not true. Basic English knowledge with decent vocabulary is more than enough. Comprehension is more about understanding the passage than dealing with English. UPSC wants future civil servants to have the ability to read, understand and interpret various policy documents, official orders etc efficiently, more so in an era of liberalization and globalization. Hence the need for the CSAT paper. Therefore, with some hard work, even candidates from non-English background can handle the comprehension questions with considerable ease.

Newspaper Reading: Daily Newspaper reading is essential to be up-to date with Current events for General Studies- I paper. This will automatically help in English comprehension for CSAT as well. Therefore one need not spend much time in going through complex English books.

Read whatever you get: Whether it’s a political pamphlet or an advertisement, read through and improve your knowledge of English comprehension. It will also help enrich your vocabulary. Ensure that you learn at least 3 new English words every day. Reading will eventually become fun. Listen English news on TV as well.

Books to buy: You can get standard books from the bookshops like R L Gupta for aptitude. However, such books are elaborate and you need not study everything from it. Study only the important topics that are relevant to the syllabus ie, Logical reasoning, analytical ability etc. Within this, try to understand the concepts rather than working out all the problems. Tata McGraw Hill CSAT manual is an excellent guide too. Apart from these books, you need to solve model question papers. Before the exam, you should workout atleast 15-20 papers. Monthly competitive exam magazines like Competition Wizard, Chronicle, Pratiyogita Darpan etc contain many model papers from different exams like CRPF assistant-commandant, Railways, Banking PO and these are all very helpful for CSAT paper

How to master the individual Topics?: You must plan a schedule and complete different topics one by one. For example, first start with non-verbal reasoning. Solve the related problems for 3-4 days. Then move on to Mathematics. The problems asked in Mathematics for CSAT are of 10th standard only. Here, you have sub topics like Distance-time, Men-work, Ratio-proportion, Simple interest/compound interest etc. Solve these problems for 7-8 days. Then move on to Decision making and so on. Remember that the CSAT paper is unique. So do not waste time solving all types of problems which people usually do for Banking exams.

Time management is most important: In CSAT, time management is more important. You have 2 hours to complete the paper and you have negative markings as well. So, Speed is most important. Spend lot of time working out problems so that you could increase your speed. Writing down is better than reading for this paper.

Similarly, choose the questions smartly. First, solve the topics which you are good at. If you are good at comprehension, solve it first. If you are good at reasoning, solve it first. The difficult topics will need time and must be solved at the end. This way, you can manage the paper better. Use the rough work papers provided at the end of the question papers.

Easy way to solve aptitude questions courtesy: youtube


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    • JvicIndia profile image

      John 16 months ago from India

      Prelims 2016 is expected to be similar as 2015 pattern. There could be minor changes. The number of comprehension questions may be reduced and analytical/logical reasoning questions may be increased. Its advisable to have a proactive approach and be prepared for any change.

    • JvicIndia profile image

      John 20 months ago from India

      wish you all the very best for your exams...