CSAT Preparation for General Studies is one of the important components of Civil Services.

The IAS exam is one of the most prestigious exams of our country. Also, one of the toughest to crack. Yet each year lakhs of aspirants appear for the exam and the best among them make it to their dream destination.

CSAT Preparation for Paper II

STEP 1: CSAT Pattern 

The first step towards Civil Services is to familiarize yourself with the pattern of the examination.

IAS Preparation

The Civil Services Exam is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) each year. It is conducted in 3 stages:

Stage 1: Preliminary Examination (Popularly known as CSAT)

There are two papers in Prelims exams – namely Paper I and Paper II.

Paper I tests you on General Studies and Paper II tests you on Aptitude.

Qualifying Paper I lets you appear for the Mains examination.

Paper II is only to analyze you i.e it is only of qualifying nature. The marks scored in Paper II are NOT added for the overall merit of the Civil Services Preliminary Examination.

Paper I (General Studies)

200 Marks

Duration: Two Hours

Number of Questions: 100

Paper II (Aptitude)

200 Marks

Duration: Two Hours

Number of Questions: 80


Stage 2: Main Examination (Also known as Mains)

The Main Examination will consist of written examination. The written examination will consist of 9 papers of conventional essay type i.e descriptive in nature.

Stage 3: Personal Interview

Candidates who obtain minimum qualifying marks in the Main Examination as may be fixed by the Commission at their discretion, shall be summoned by them for an interview for a Personality Test.

STEP 2: CSAT Preparation Important Rules

IAS Preparation

1. The CSAT aptitude test or Paper-II of the Civil Services (Preliminary) examination will be a qualifying paper only with a minimum of 33% to be secured to sit for the Civil Services (Mains) exam.

2. The questions in both Paper-I (current affairs) and Paper-II (aptitude test) will be of multiple choice, objective type for 200 marks each and the time allotted for each paper is two hours.

3. It is mandatory for the candidate to appear in both the papers of Civil Services (Prelim) examination for the purpose of evaluation. Therefore a candidate will be disqualified in case he or she does not appear in both the papers of the (Prelims) exam.

STEP 3: CSAT Syllabus

IAS Preparation

  1. Comprehension
  2. Interpersonal skills including communication skills
  3. Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  4. Decision making and problem solving
  5. General mental ability
  6. Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude etc.) (Class X level), Data Interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level)

STEP 4: Topic Wise CSAT Preparation Strategy

IAS Preparation


As you can see passages are the heart and soul of paper 2. At least 30 questions are asked every year based on passage reading. This translates to minimum 75 marks from passage reading alone. So it makes sense to improve and fine-tune your passage solving skills. Go through the following post to tackle passages effectively.

In terms of Comprehension Candidate needs to improve their comprehend power as comprehension consists half of the paper. A comprehension exercise consists of a passage upon which questions are set to test to candidate’s ability to understand the content of the given text and infer information and meaning from it. For doing best in comprehension one should keep few points in mind while attempting this.

Firstly, read the passage thoroughly and carefully, if the meaning of the passage is not clear in very first reading then quickly go through the passage again. The meaning of the passage should be very clear and one should understand what the writer is trying to convey.

 Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal Skills are also known by the names soft skills or people skills. These are skills which you need while you deal with people, for better and healthy results.

A master of interpersonal skills knows how to deal with different people during different situations.

Basic Interpersonal skills can be briefed as below –

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Listening Skills
  3. Stress Management
  4. Assertiveness
  5. Decision Making
  6. Problem Solving
  7. Verbal Communication
  8. Non-Verbal Communication

This topic hasn’t received much attention from UPSC till now. In fact there are no questions in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 that can be identified from this topic.

So is this topic to be skipped? No. It just means UPSC can ask questions on this topic this year.So, it should be a part of your IAS Preparation though a less priority topic.

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.

Keep in mind that you will not be able to master this section unless your basics are strong.  Strengthen your basics from books like R.S Aggarwal’s Mathematics books for Classes 8th, 9th and 10th (CBSE).

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, exponent in factorial, formula based problems, decimal base conversion to binary.

You will need good practice to attempt these questions quickly since it is quite common to get stuck with some question resulting in 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.

Keep in mind that you will not be able to master this section unless your basics are strong.  Strengthen your basics from books like R.S Aggarwal’s Mathematics books for Classes 8th, 9th and 10th (CBSE).

STEP 5: Previous Year Question Papers

IAS Preparation

The most important aspect of General Studies Paper 2 is time management. If you haven’t practiced enough papers, you won’t be able to complete the exam on time. Try to solve as many practice papers as possible, in the time period of 2 hours, by setting a stopwatch.

This will help you increase your speed and enable you to complete the paper on time.

Going through the last five year papers (at least 5 years) will familiarize you with the kind of questions asked in the examination. One thing you have to understand here is that UPSC will NEVER repeat a question.

So don’t mug up questions. It’ll be of no use. What will be of use is the fact that the ‘type’ of question might get repeated.

Going through past year’s papers will will make you understand the scope of the questions being asked. This will help in your IAS Preparation for prelims.

IAS Exam is not just about hard work. It’s a combination of both hard work and smart work.

Practicing from mock tests and previous year exam papers is a must.


 STEP 6: Practise from Recommended Books

IAS Preparation

English Language Comprehension – UPSC Portal

Analytical Reasoning – M.K. Pandey

A Modern Approach to Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning – Dr. R.S.Aggarwal

How to Prepare Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension for CAT – Arun Sharma

Proficiency in Reading Comprehension – Ajay Singh

Reading Comprehension GMAT Prep Guide

UPSC Portal : General Mental Ability Logical Reasoning & Analytical Ability

Quantitative Aptitude for Competitive Exams -Dr. R.S. Aggrawal

Useful Links for IAS Aspirants





This article has been compiled using the best resources from the internet.