CSAT stands for Civil Services Aptitude Test. It is a part of the UPSC Prelims (Civil Services Exam – Preliminary). However, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) refers to the exam as General Studies (GS) Paper-II. Hence, in the context of UPSC Prelims, GS Paper II refers to the CSAT while in the context of UPSC Mains, GS Paper II is the Polity (etc.) paper.

CSAT as A Qualifying Paper in UPSC Prelims

The full form of CSAT is the Civil Services Aptitude Test. It was introduced in the year 2011 as a part of the UPSC Civil Services Exam (Preliminary) to test the analytical skills, reasoning ability, and aptitude of IAS aspirants.

Ever since the government introduced CSAT as part of the UPSC civil service prelims in 2011, there has been some apprehension in the minds of candidates who are from a non-English background or those candidates who feel their English is not up to the mark. There had also been protests against the CSAT with students demanding that the CSAT be scrapped.

UPSC Prelims Pattern

The Prelims Round weighs a total of 400 marks and has two compulsory papers that candidates have to sit for. Both papers are objective type with multiple-choice questions that the candidates have to solve in the given amount of time.

Also Read: All You Need to Know About Your UPSC Prelims Preparation

Paper Total marks Duration Number of questions Nature of paper
General Studies Paper I 200 2 hours 100 Merit ranking
CSAT Paper II 200 2 hours 80 Qualifying

UPSC Prelims CSAT Syllabus

  • Comprehension
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability
  • Decision-making and problem-solving
  • General mental ability
  • Basic numeracy and  Data interpretation

Marking Scheme

CSAT is the qualifying paper while Paper I is known as the Merit Paper. Thus, it is enough for candidates to just clear this paper with a passing mark to qualify for their Mains without them affecting their Merit marks which ultimately decides their rank.

The paper is objective type with 80 questions and a total of 200 marks.

The paper judges the candidates analyzing power and logical reasoning skills. The candidates have to score 33% to qualify for the next round in this paper. Negative marking ⅓ is applicable for each wrong answer.

Tips on How to Prepare for CSAT

  • Work on your grammar. Having a good foundation of grammar is extremely important for this paper.
  • Improve and work on your vocabulary. Don’t only learn words but also try to incorporate them into use.
  • Learn and try to use idioms, proverbs and phrases.
  • Read newspapers and follow good current affairs columns and blogs. The whole Module of UPSC CSE is based on current affairs so it is equally important for this paper as well.
  • Read good essays by significant people like famous freedom fighters, sportspersons and other influential people. These help with comprehension and also give you a good idea about how to write well.
  • Learn to speed read. Avoid moving your lips when you read as this helps reading speed and also helps memory power.
  • Solve past questions papers and frequently give mock exams.

Also Read: CSAT Syllabus For UPSC 2020

Recommended Books for CSAT

CSAT judges your comprehension level and having a good grasp over English obviously helps in this paper. Learning English is not a child’s play and cannot be done in one day, however, you can try your best. The three books recommended by IAS toppers for acing the UPSC Prelims – CSAT (GS Paper II) are books that candidates practically swore by for their CSAT Paper II preparation.

  1. CSAT Paper – 2 Manual by TMH
  2. Analytical Reasoning – M. K. Pandey
  3. Verbal & Non-Verbal Reasoning – R. S. Aggarwal


The UPSC Prelims CSAT Paper has faced and still faces a lot of controversies and criticism since it was introduced in 2011. This is because it makes English a compulsory subject when only a privileged section of society can afford English medium education or lack the aptitude for it. Thus, many candidates find it difficult to score in this examination. However, this paper still thrives and is part of the examination process with seemingly no plans from the UPS Commissions part to stop the usage of this paper. Thus candidates can only tighten their belts and try their best to prepare for the challenge and take care to remove the obstacle in their path to becoming a civil servant.

Also Read : Best Career Options after 12th Arts: High Salary Courses after 12th Arts

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What is CSAT in UPSC? Check-out the CSAT Syllabus for UPSC Examinations
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What is CSAT in UPSC? Check-out the CSAT Syllabus for UPSC Examinations
CSAT is also known as GS Paper II and is the second compulsory paper that candidates have to give during their UPSC Prelims to qualify for the Mains. Learn more about this controversial Paper.
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