Civil Services CSAT Exam : A Comprehensive Guide on How to Prepare [Updated for 2021]

Civil Services CSAT Exam : A Comprehensive Guide on How to Prepare [Updated for 2021]

In this article, we guide the UPSC Civil Service aspirants on how to prepare for the Civil Services CSAT examination in 2021.

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A part of the UPSC Prelims (Civil Services Exam – Preliminary) is the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). However, as per the Union Public Service Commission, it is referred to as General Studies (GS) Paper-II. 

Hence, in the context of UPSC CSE Prelims, General Studies Paper-II usually referred to as the CSAT while in context of UPSC Mains, General Studies Paper-II is the Polity exam, etc. Candidates are often advised to understand the complete UPSC syllabus and the syllabus of CSAT in UPSC Prelims to avoid any chances of uncertainties. 

UPSC CSAT Exam Pattern: CSAT was introduced in 2011 to test the aspirant’s analytical and logical skills. CSAT is the second paper in the UPSC Prelims phase. However, it is officially known as the General Studies Paper-II of prelims stage. 

The CSAT exam pattern for UPSC 2021: 

  • No. of questions- 80 Objective-Type (MCQ) questions
  • Negative Markings- Yes (1/3rd of the maximum marks for the question)
  • Time- 2 hours
  • Exam type- Offline
  • Date of CSAT exam- October 10, 2021
  • Language of CSAT exam paper- English/Hindi
  • Maximum Marks- 200
  • CSAT qualifying marks- 66 marks (33% qualifying as per the criteria)

CSAT Syllabus – General Studies Paper-II – UPSC Prelims 2021

Before starting your preparation for CSAT, one must go through the entire syllabus of CSAT previous year papers. The CSAT paper syllabus is divided into the following categories: 

One of the trickiest areas of CSAT paper is comprehension while Basic numeracy, General Mental Ability, and Logical reasoning are of more severe difficulty and may take time to solve if not practised. Considering the uncertainty of CSAT paper and the low cut off, aspirants can follow the below-mentioned tricks to qualify the exam. 

The CSAT syllabus for UPSC CSE 2020 as per the notification contains the following categories: 

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills and communication skills
  • Logical reasoning skills and analytical ability (to solve the uncertainties)
  • Decision-making skills and problem-solving skills
  • General mental ability test
  • Basic numeracy (that contains- numbers and relations, orders of magnitudes, etc.) (Class Xth level), Data interpretation (charts, bar diagrams, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. – Class X level

Note- Check your eligibility for CSAT- UPSC Eligibility Criteria 

UPSC CSE Prelims exam includes CSAT paper, i.e. GS carries 80 questions with a weightage of total 200 marks. As this a qualifying exam, aspirants usually overlook its importance. In this article, we have provided practical steps that will help to prepare for the CSAT paper. 

UPSC CSE Prelims Exam GS Paper-II is a qualifying paper, and one only need 33% marks in CSAT (GS Paper-II) Paper to qualify the Prelims exam and to attempt the next phase. However, as we all are well aware of the uncertainty of UPSC CSE, this paper should not be over-looked just because it a qualifying paper. Introduced in 2011 Prelims exam, the CSAT paper has a smooth syllabus and a fixed exam-pattern. 

But each year, the difficulty level of the CSAT is going up, and but there is no fixed pattern followed to frame the paper as each year papers comes with a distinctive level of questions. 

Note- Avoid reading so many books at a time, as they will take more time- so instead focus on the notes and mock tests. 

The Civil Services Aptitude Test (GS Paper-II), is a qualifying paper in the preliminary exam phase for the recruitment for Civil Services Exam, in the recent reports, the UPSC has recommended that the government should change the existing format of the prelims exam and remove CSAT, has been appreciated by the aspirants as they would have more time to prepare for Paper-I. 

Prelims phase consists of Paper-I and Paper-II (CSAT). While Paper-I consists of 100 questions with subjects like history, geography, social and economic development, etc., Paper-II (CSAT) on the other hand has 80 questions on aptitude consisting of basic numerical, general mental ability and logical reasoning skills. 

Candidates need to score the minimum of qualifying marks in Paper-II (i.e. 33%), and then only the marks scored in Paper-I would be considered for short-listing for the Mains Exam. Besides the time constraint, CSAT has been considered as disadvantageous to many candidates, who spend more time on preparation, unlike the urban and English-medium educated aspirants. 

Before you Prepare for CSAT Examination

Before beginning your preparation, you must go through the syllabus for the CSAT paper. The CSAT paper syllabus is broadly divided into the following categories: 

One of the trickiest areas of CSAT paper is comprehension while Basic numeracy, General Mental Ability, and Logical reasoning are of greater difficulty and may take time to solve if not practised. Considering the uncertainty of CSAT paper and the low cut off, aspirants can follow the below-mentioned tricks to qualify the exam. 

Note- For more details, check- https://www.upscsyllabus.in/cse/csat-civil-services-aptitude-test#:~:text=Civil%20Services%20Aptitude%20Test%20(CSAT,as%20IAS%2C%20IPS%2C%20etc  

How to Prepare for Civil Services CSAT Examination:

  1. The Preparation – Each year, lakhs of aspirants attempt the CSE to achieve the goal of becoming a civil servant for India. Each year the number of applicants, competitiveness, and pressure also increases. And rightly so, because this examination requires not only immense patience, perseverance, resilience but also regular practice, and ‘smart-work’.

    When someone makes his/her mind to take this exam, they should know they won’t be able to lead their normal life again, and they should be ready to make the necessary efforts. A certain amount of change in personal habits is required to go through the preparation phase. Aspiring candidates, have to go through many changes, starting with their lifestyle habits, and their circle they stay in touch with; the social pressures. Serious aspirants are well aware and prepared for the fact that this journey would require them to sacrifice a lot of things- personally and professionally.Note- For more updated notification on UPSC 2021, visit- https://www.upsc.gov.in/examinations/Civil%20Services%20%28Preliminary%29%20Examination%2C%202021

  2. The Burnout-  It’s common for CSE aspirants to sit up late at night and prepare for their exam, day after day, which makes the adage ‘burning the midnight oil’ sound right. Aspirants also have let go of their sleep so that they can cover an ‘extra chapter’ or revise. No doubt, utilizing the highest possible number of hours in a day is essential to include a vast syllabus but what aspirants have understood is that they don’t have to compromise their health.

    Always know that to increase our efficiency, we also at the same time need to let the body rest properly. A healthy body that is well-rested and a mind that is free from stress; therefore, two of the foremost requirements for any CSE aspirant- are stress management and a proper rested mind.

  3. Time management –  Time is the most crucial factor for all UPSC aspirants.  But, most aspirants end up making tight schedules and try to ‘squeeze-in-squeeze-out-time’ whenever possible. They start to compromise their health, and that reduces the efficiency of a candidate, and it can also increase the stress level within one’s body. Always remember the old saying- health is wealth – apply it accordingly in your daily routine- exercise to keep your mind and body in sync.

    Another thing to remember is that when our body doesn’t sync with your mind- your efforts go in vain, we end up spending more time in unproductive things. So, first, candidates should know how much time they can invest at a time effectively? What strategies or methods works for them? What time their minds work the best?

    Burnout, as per the dictionary, refers to the concept where a person is unable to concentrate on their work or learning- the constant feeling of frustration, exhaustion, inefficiency and cynicism are the significant symptoms of burning out, which is very common if you don’t pay attention to your mental and physical self while preparing for an exam. For example, after studying for long hours at a stretch, you might feel physically and emotionally drained. Suffocation, helplessness, recurring headaches, are some of the other symptoms of burnout.Note- For detailed UPSC Syllabus, click on- UPSC CSE Syllabus

  4. Acknowledge The Situation- There are so many emotionally draining experiences for a UPSC aspirant, like peer pressure, anxiety, the inability to maintain a balance between personal/professional lives and constant surges of frustration/anger, etc.

    The essential thing to do is to identify the symptoms early in your body, and then you have to take care of it accordingly. It is essential to understand that the issue to take the corrective measures and start taking precautions. 

  5. Candidates shouldn’t avoid preparing for the CSAT paper, thinking it is only a qualifying paper.
  6. If candidates think they need to work on their general English comprehension and the basic math, then they should create a strategy accordingly as per their requirements for the CSAT paper.
  7. For those who are familiar and comfortable with the CSAT pattern, should prioritize focusing on UPSC previous years’ question papers only. Because if they do not practice for the CSAT question papers, it would be very difficult for them to complete the 80 questions in the prescribed time limit of two hours. (It requires to practise)

    Note- Candidates needs to score at least 66 marks in the CSAT exam. Because if they do not qualify in CSAT, even high marks in the GS paper-I won’t help them clear the IAS prelims stage, which is essential to appear for the Mains. For candidates who need practise to increase their speed in solving questions in the CSAT, they can take help from well-used maths tricks. Questions from DI, logical reasoning, etc. are generally easy in nature, but if the candidate is unfamiliar with them, he/she needs to practise to get used to the methods. Most of the CSAT questions are lengthy in nature and very time-consuming. Note- SWOT Analysis is an analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. 

Books for CSAT Preparation:

Summary/Overview

CSAT- Civil Services Aptitude Test is a part of the UPSC Prelims (Civil Services Exam – Preliminary). However, as per the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), it is referred to as General Studies (GS) Paper-II. 

Hence, in the context of UPSC CSE Prelims, General Studies Paper-II usually referred to as the CSAT while in context of UPSC Mains, General Studies Paper-II is the Polity exam, etc. Candidates are often advised to understand the complete UPSC syllabus and the syllabus of CSAT in UPSC Prelims to avoid any chances of uncertainties. 

Areas covered in this article

  • What is the CSAT
  • CSAT Exam pattern 
  • Books for CSAT Preparation 
  • How to prepare for CSAT examination

Note- For more details, click- https://www.upsc.gov.in/examinations/Civil%20Services%20%28Preliminary%29%20Examination%2C%202020  

This post was last updated on September 28th, 2021 at 02:43 pm

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