CSAT Strategy for UPSC IAS Prelims 2021

By Saroj Singh|Updated : March 13th, 2021

In this article, we are providing you with a complete strategy to clear CSAT Paper for UPSC Prelims. This will also include UPSC CSAT Paper Exam Pattern; UPSC CSAT Previous Question Paper analysis; Books for UPSC CSAT and Tips to clear UPSC CSAT Paper.






CSAT means the Civil Service Aptitude Test. It was introduced in the year 2011. The objective behind the Civil Service Aptitude Test is to check the analytical skill, reasoning ability, and the quantitative aptitude of IAS aspirants. Since CSAT was made qualifying exam in 2015, candidates need to score only 33% to qualify for Mains, provided they score above the cut off in UPSC Prelims – GS Paper I. 

CSAT Strategy for UPSC IAS Prelims

In 2015, the CSAT was made a qualifying paper. This has reduced the required attention for the subject among the aspirant. This has been the biggest reason for the past few years that many candidates fail to clear CSAT Paper out of Overconfidence resulting in negligence of this paper altogether. Even some aspirants who manage to clear the cutoff of the Difficult Paper i.e. Paper-1 (General Studies) have been unable to clear the CSAT Paper leading to their disqualification. The major purpose of this post is just to make you realise the importance of this CSAT Paper and how by just a little effort, this paper can be easily tackled. 

UPSC CSAT Exam Pattern

Under the present UPSC examination pattern, candidates have to score a minimum of 33% i.e., 66 marks out of the 200 marks for CSAT paper to write the Civil Services Main Examination.
Provided the candidate has scored more marks in General Studies-1 than the cutoff. 

Number of questions in CSAT

80 Objective-Type (MCQ) questions

Maximum Marks


Negative Marking in CSAT

Yes (1/3rd of the maximum marks for the question)

Time for CSAT exam

2 hours

Type of Exam

Offline exam like UPSC general studies



CSAT qualifying marks

66 marks (33% qualifying criteria)

UPSC CSAT Syllabus

  • Comprehension;
  • Interpersonal skills including communication skills;
  • Logical reasoning and analytical ability;
  • Decision making and problem-solving;
  • General mental ability;
  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level),
  • Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. — Class X level);

Previous year UPSC CSAT Paper Analysis








Data Interpretation







Decision making







Logical Reasoning







Math and basic numeracy







Reading Comprehension







Subject Wise Strategy for UPSC CSAT Paper:

Comprehension and Interpersonal Skills including the Communication skills

  • For the Comprehension section, Practise regularly. Read Daily Editorials from the newspaper which will be helpful for CSAT as well as General Studies paper also.
  • Read weekly or monthly magazine like Kurukshetra or Yojana
  • In the beginning, it might be difficult for you to understand the essence of the paragraph or maybe an aspirant finds difficulty in understanding the vocabulary. But with the sincere effort, it will become easy with time. During the exam, vocabulary and daily practice help in solving questions.
  • Along with the reading newspapers, watch videos from Lok Sabha TV, Rajya Sabha TV, and mark the keywords in the comprehension for better and quicker understanding.

Logical Reasoning

  • The key to understand logical reasoning is to practice, practice, practice, and the best source to start is to do previous year questions. The previous year's question helps you to understand the demand of the UPSC from aspirants.

General mental ability

Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. — Class X level);

  • For math-related problems, no need to worry, problems are simple. As mentioned by UPSC, the difficulty level is of 10th Standard. 
  • First of all, learn the basics of the topic mentioned, such as time and work, time, speed, and distance.
  • Then go through the UPSC previous year papers, understand the demand of the UPSC.
  • The next step is to learn how to solve all the types of questions asked in the UPSC previous year.
  • The last step is to practice questions by giving mocks and reduce the time taken to solve the question.

Books for UPSC CSAT Paper

The best book or guide is UPSC previous year's questions.

For practice and reducing time to solve the problem. The books recommended by Experts and previous year IAS toppers for acing the UPSC Prelims – CSAT (GS Paper II) are given below:

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

Tips to Prepare UPSC CSAT Paper

Don't take CSAT lightly

  • Some candidates have failed to pass CSAT. As a result, despite scoring good marks in GS, these candidates didn't qualify for the Mains examination.
  • So, aspirants must take it seriously - you must clear this paper at all costs.

Evaluate yourself before you start preparation

  • By attempting last year's UPSC CSAT paper, you will understand what your strengths and weakness are.
  • If your score is very high, then start preparing for CSAT in the last 2-3 months. If you are on the borderline or your marks are not good
  • Then start doing CSAT early. Let say 6-8 month before the exam.

Practise is the Key

  • Practise is the key to improve efficiency, better time management, and to boost confidence.

Attempt mocks regularly

  • Mocks help in identifying the strong and weak areas after identifying the strong and weak areas.
  • Work on the strong areas to make it stronger and reduce the weakness in the weak area
  • Time to time mock helps in reducing the time to solve the question and the exam-related environment for pressure handling in the exam.

Jot down important formulae

  • Writing important points and tricks to solve the questions helps the candidates for last days' revision, reducing the chance of error in the real exam. The more you revise, the better you remember

Don’t take any question on your ego

  • Most candidates stick to one question, take it to their ego, and waste most of the time on one question. So don't stick to one question.
  • Give equal respect to all the questions as all question is of equal marks. 


UPSC Scholarship Test Registration

 IAS 2021 Crash Course for Prelims

A Complete NCERT Module for Civil Service Examination (English) (Batch-5)

UPSC EPFO 2020- A Revision Course

IAS 2022 Foundation Course For GS (Pre cum Main)

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