Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examinations are the key for the aspirants to get a role for Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) or Indian Police Service (IPS). The examinations involve several subjects and topics, for which an aspirant has to start preparing a year before.

The UPSC syllabus is so vast that sometimes even the aspirants can get confused. One such part of the UPSC examination is CSAT, about which many aspirants get confused as they wonder what is CSAT in UPSC? So let us explain what CSAT is.

CSAT Explained

CSAT stands for Civil Services Aptitude Test. It is a part of the UPSC’s Civil Service Preliminary Examinations. CSAT was introduced in the year 2011 to test a UPSC aspirant’s aptitude, ability of reasoning, and analytical skills.

The preliminary exams are the first stage and have two papers, General Studies Paper 1 and General Studies Paper 2. The UPSC refers to the CSAT exam as the General Studies (GS) Paper 2. Some aspirants consider CSAT an alternative term for the whole Civil Service Preliminary Examination, i.e., General Studies Paper 1 and General Studies Paper 2.

Candidates are advised to understand the whole syllabus of UPSC so they are not caught in confusion while studying. The aspirants have to understand that GS Paper 2 means different in both Preliminary and Mains examination.

In the preliminary examination, the GS Paper 2 refers to CSAT, whereas in the mains examination, GS Paper 2 is considered the Polity, Governance, Constitution, Social Justice and International Relations paper.

CSAT Controversy and Changes

To qualify for the main examinations, the marks of both GS Paper 1 and GS Paper 2 were considered from 2011 to 2014. After considering both the marks and calculating them for UPSC CSE prelims ranking, an individual was qualified for the mains examination.

Some sections of students protested against the rule of considering CSAT marks for UPSC prelims ranking. In response to the protest, the Centre asked the UPSC to make the required changes. So in the year 2015, the CSAT was made a qualifying exam for the aspirants.

CSAT Preparation for UPSC

The CSAT paper is segregated into various sections, and for each section, an aspirant has to be prepared. The passing percentage for CSAT is 33%, i.e. 66 marks out of 200. The time duration for the paper is only 2 hours. You would have to answer 80 questions from all the sections within 2 hours, which is difficult if not planned properly. So here we discuss what these sections are in the CSAT syllabus and help you formulate a CSAT strategy for UPSC.

CSAT Syllabus

#1. Comprehension

There are about 6 to 9 comprehension passages in the CSAT question paper. Each comprehension passage has 2 to 7 questions that should be answered after reading the passage. As the timespan is only 2 hours, you can’t dedicate more than 3 minutes to every passage. So to crack the reading comprehension passage, an aspirant should build the habit of fast reading. You will need to practice reading comprehension a lot of times if you want to be precise in time management.

#2.Interpersonal Skills with Communication Skills 

Interpersonal skills don’t require the knowledge of any special subject. A person just has to be fluent in their communications. The aspirants can practise the questions from any workbook, which would be enough. They must read and practice their communication skills to get better and faster for the examination.

#3. Logical Reasoning & Analytical Ability 

Logical reasoning is a scoring section, where again, you need more and more practice instead of reading a subject. The logical reasoning questions in the paper aren’t tough. One can opt for any workbook of their choice and start solving it. An aspirant should also read and understand all the important topics and concepts for the section. But nothing would be more helpful than practising as many questions as possible.

#4. Decision Making & Problem Solving 

The Decision-making section has around 8 questions to solve. The questions are generic and situation-based, and not technical. To answer that, aspirants need a lot of practice before the examination. It is suggested that the aspirants should solve this section first, as it has now negative markings, and amongst all four options, two are correct. This section helps identify the use of logic and common sense by the aspirant in solving problems confronted during administration.

#5. General Mental Ability 

Students who are also preparing for bank examinations will be familiar with this section. This section mainly deals with the concept of reasoning with topics such as percentages, averages, ratios and proportions, direction sense, blood relation, clock, time and work and permutation.

#6. Basic Numeracy & Data Interpretation 

The basic numeracy section of the paper is easy, as the questions are mostly from the matriculation level. Logical reasoning would need more practise by solving 50+ questions every day. Practice regularly and understand the basic concept. It will help you get better.

To score better in data interpretation, an aspirant must simply learn and study statistics and its concepts. Like basic numeracy, this section isn’t difficult either. Questions are mostly based on data tables and graph tables, and one just needs to understand these concepts, and it would be easy to attempt.

Tips for CSAT Preparation

#1. Evaluate Yourself Before Preparation 

Before you begin the preparations for CSAT, evaluate yourself by solving the CSAT question papers of previous years.

It will be helpful for you to know your strengths and weaknesses in the CSAT paper. You can analyse your weaker areas and work on them for better results.

After solving previous years’ CSAT papers, if your score is above 100, you can put CSAT on the back burner. But if your score is less than 100, then you should start the preparations immediately.

#2. Take CSAT Seriously

There have been instances where students scored high marks in General Studies Paper 1 but didn’t qualify for the mains examination as they failed in CSAT.

Give an ample amount of time for the preparation of CSAT too. You can opt for one or two days in a week to solve CSAT, like Saturday and Sunday, or only Sunday.

If you don’t take CSAT seriously, then during the time of examination, you will regret it and will be exempted from the merit list for not cracking CSAT.

#3. Get a Comprehensive UPSC Manual 

There are many CSAT UPSC manuals available for preparation. But the one which is recommended by many is the CSAT Manual by Tata McGraw Hill.

The manual has every CSAT topic in a comprehensive manner, which one can practice. You don’t need to go through every page of the manual. You can pick on the major topics and keep practising them.

Attempt the mock question papers found in the book once a week, analyse your results, and work on them.

#4. Solve Mock Tests 

You need to devote more time to General Studies Paper 1, but it is important to attempt mock tests for both CSAT and GS Paper 1.

Attempting mock tests will help you manage your time for the final paper. You will be able to adapt the habit of solving the paper in the given time with the right solutions.

Aspirants who are struggling with the CSAT should devote 1 hour daily to CSAT, and those who are good at it can practice the mock test once every week.

Books for CSAT

Here we are suggesting some of the best books to ace the CSAT (GS PAPER 1):

#1 Analytical Reasoning – M. K. Pandey

#2 Concise CSAT by Madhukar Bhagat – TMH Publications

#3 Cracking the CSAT Paper 2 – Arihant Publications

#4 Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning – R. S. Aggrawal

#5 Word Power – Norman Lewis


The CSAT paper is not so difficult, but it also shouldn’t be neglected by the aspirants. Manage the time well to devote enough time for all the 80 questions in 2 hours. Mock tests should be a regular practice in every aspect of UPSC. To learn online with better resources, apply at UPSC Pathshala today. You can also opt for UPSC Pathshala’s free demo class.

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CSAT Preparation for UPSC: Explaining What is CSAT in UPSC Examination?
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CSAT Preparation for UPSC: Explaining What is CSAT in UPSC Examination?
Aspirants might be confused about what is CSAT in UPSC and its syllabus. Read this article to know everything about CSAT and take your preparation up a notch.
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Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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