CSAT 2023 – Qualifying Marks, Syllabus, Exam Pattern, Question Papers

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test has been conducted on 28th May 2023. It is also known as Prelims General Studies Paper 2. It was introduced in the year 2011 as a part of the UPSC Prelims exam. The aim of adding CSAT to the UPSC CSE exam is to test the candidate’s analytical skills, interpersonal ability, decision-making, general mental ability, aptitude, and reasoning ability. It is a qualifying paper in the Prelims exam and aspirants need to score at least 33% to pass, which seems easy, but UPSC has been known for its unpredictable questions. It would take diligent preparation and a rock-solid strategy to get the minimum marks in the CSAT Exam.

It is crucial for the candidates to know everything about CSAT 2023 Exam so that they can stay updated on all recent events. Below we will be covering detailed information about CSAT such as the exam pattern, minimum qualifying marks, syllabus, and previous year’s questions to help the candidates ace this exam.

What is CSAT?

CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) is commonly known as the General Studies-2 in the UPSC Prelims, and it has been a part of the UPSC Syllabus since 2011. The CSAT 2023 is conducted on 28 May 2023 in the second shift after the GS Paper 1 from 02:30 P.M. to 04:30 P.M. Candidates preparing for the upcoming CSAT exam must be aware of these facts.

  • At first, the CSAT or UPSC GS Paper 2 marks were counted in preparing the merit list for the Prelims exam.
  • In 2015, the Commission made some huge changes in the exam pattern by making the CSAT paper qualifying in nature. As per the exam pattern, candidates only need 33% of 66 marks out of 200 marks to qualify.

As compared to the UPSC GS Paper 1, the CSAT Syllabus is less and candidates can easily prepare it with practice. If one devotes enough time to practice for this paper then he/she can easily crack this paper. However, a planned strategy is a must to cover each section of this paper.

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CSAT 2023 Highlights

Get the overview of the CSAT 2023 exam here for which the notification was released on 01 February 2023, and the last date to apply online was 21 February 2023.

Parameters Details
CSAT Full Form Civil Services Aptitude Test
CSAT Paper UPSC Prelims GS Paper 2
Number of Questions 80
Total Marks 200
Negative Marking in CSAT 0.83 (1/3rd Marks)
Qualifying Marks 66 Marks

CSAT Exam 2023

CSAT 2023 took place on 28 May 2023 in the second shift i.e. 2.30 PM to 4.30 PM. It is essential that the candidates qualify the CSAT Exam 2023 or they won’t be able to clear the Preliminary stage of the UPSC Exam. Candidates must check the exam pattern, and syllabus and come up with an effective strategy to fetch good marks in this paper.

You must remember that qualifying this paper shouldn’t be the sole purpose, you need to look forward to scoring big in this paper to be on the safer side. The qualifying marks for CSAT 2023 are 66 marks out of 200 marks.

CSAT Qualifying Marks

Without knowing the CSAT qualifying marks, candidates won’t be able to figure out an effective preparation strategy. That’s why we are going to cover the paper pattern in detail here. There will be a total of 80 questions in the CSAT exam and the time allotted for the paper will be 2 hours. Each question carries 2.5 marks, and the total marks will be 200.

For every wrong answer, 1/3rd of the total marks given to the question will be deducted which means 0.83 marks. However, there is no deduction for unanswered questions. Candidates need to score at least 33% or 66 marks to qualify for this paper.

CSAT Exam Pattern
Number of Questions 80
Time Allotted 2 Hours
Negative Marking Yes, 0.83 Marks
Total Marks 200
Type of Exam Offline
CSAT Qualifying Marks 66 Marks (33%)

CSAT Syllabus

CSAT or General Studies-2 Syllabus is designed to test the analytical, aptitude, and decision-making ability of the candidates. The CSAT 2023 syllabus covers basic numeracy, comprehension, general mental ability, etc. Candidates need to practice thoroughly to fetch good marks in this paper. The complete UPSC CSAT Syllabus is covered below.

  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)

The CSAT Syllabus is a part of the UPSC Prelims Syllabus as GS 2. The syllabus provides an overview of the topics to be covered for the upcoming exam. Aspirants must solve UPSC Previous Year Question Papers for CSAT to identify the question trend and prepare accordingly.

CSAT Books

CSAT books are an essential part of exam preparation. By choosing the right set of books, candidates will be able to fetch good marks in the exam. There are so many UPSC Books available but one must choose only the right ones in order to have an effective preparation. Below we have compiled a list of highly recommended CSAT books.

  • Analytical Reasoning- M K Pandey: This one has been one of the highly popular books for analytical reasoning because of its simple language, and ability to explain the concept in a clear manner. It would definitely help the candidates solve maths questions easily. Additionally, it has sample questions covered to help out the aspirants.
  • The Mantra of CSAT Paper II by Gautam Puri- Those who are searching for a CSAT book that covers the previous year’s questions, then this is the right one for them. It comes with sample working exercises as well to enhance the analytical and logical skills of the aspirants.
  • Cracking the Civil Services Aptitude Test Paper-II by Arihant- Just like its name suggests, this book has covered all things that would help one to crack the CSAT paper. Here the topics like Data Interpretation, Analytical Ability, Problem-Solving Skills, Decision Making,- General Mental Ability, etc. have been discussed clearly.
  • A Modern Approach to Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning by R.S. Aggrawal- This book clearly explains basic analogy, non-verbal reasoning, and analytical reasoning. Candidates will find the latest trending question and also solving techniques in this book.
  • General Studies Paper-II for UPSC Preliminary Examination by Tata McGraw Hill- It is another popular CSAT book, where short comprehensions are also included, and it offers a detailed analysis of the previous year’s questions as well.

CSAT 2023 Preparation

Since the introduction of the CSAT in 2011, many candidates find this paper highly challenging. However, the commission decided to make it a qualifying paper, still the candidates shouldn’t take it lightly. Since 2015 the paper has been tough, and the UPSC aspirants are feeling nervous about attempting this paper. But the CSAT paper can be easily handled with a little effort and practice, and we are going to cover how you can ace this paper.

  • Don’t take Civil Services Aptitude Test lightly – Since CSAT is qualifying in nature, many aspirants don’t take it seriously and they end up disqualified. So make sure you are giving enough time in the preparation. Taking UPSC CSAT seriously is the first step toward having effective preparation. No matter how much you score in the GS-1, you will be exempted from the merit list without qualifying for CSAT. So, don’t aim only to qualify this paper, make up your mind to score more than 120 marks.
  • Evaluate your level – It is crucial to know where you stand before beginning your preparation. Find out your strengths and weaknesses in the CSAT paper. To analyze your level you can attempt UPSC previous year question papers. By the end of it you will figure out your weaknesses and then you can start working on them.
  • Choose the right books – You would need the right study materials for CSAT preparation. The CSAT manual by Tata Mc Graw Hill is a highly recommended manual that will allow you to revise and practice each topic in a short period of time. You can also refer to other books that we have covered above.
  • Mock Tests – You can only be able to clear the CSAT paper by devoting your time to practice. Mock tests are the best way for you to practice the CSAT questions, you will encounter some possible questions from the UPSC exam point of view. Additionally, it will help you enhance your time management skill, and accuracy as well.
  • Practice is the Key – The questions from the logical reasoning, data interpretation, etc. are scoring but if you are not familiar with these, then answering the questions would be very tricky. That is why practice is the key, and the more your practice the better you will be able to finish the paper within the allotted time.

CSAT Exam Preparation Tips for English and Decision Making

Candidates find the English and decision-making section challenging in the CSAT exam, but we will share some tips below that will help you to score big in this section.

  • Revise the basic concepts of English grammar, and read English grammar and composition by Wren n Martin.
  • Find time to read the Hindu Editorials regularly to develop good comprehension skills and reading skills for RC passages.
  • Improve your vocabulary which can be done with extensive reading or vocabulary modules.
  • If you find time then read English novels as it will help you with your comprehension, reading, and vocabulary skills.

CSAT Preparation Tips: Maths and Logical Reasoning

Candidates can only fetch marks in these sections if they practice enough. Glance through the previous year’s CSAT question paper and understand the complexity level, important topics, and depth of covering a topic. Build a solid foundation for each topic, and after that keep practicing consistently to apply the concepts.

CSAT Previous Year Question Paper

One of the most important resources for CSAT exam preparation is the UPSC GS-2 previous year question paper. UPSC has been unpredictable when it comes to framing the questions. That is why it is vital for the aspirants to take a look at the previous year’s question paper to understand the complexity level of the question, exam pattern, paper pattern, recent trends, and important topics from the CSAT Syllabus, etc. Below we will provide the UPSC CSAT previous year question paper, and candidates can download them directly from the given link.

Candidates can take a look at the CSAT question paper from Prelims 2022 to 2014 below and download them from the given link.

Year CSAT Paper PDF
2022 – Set A Download PDF
2022 – Set D Download PDF
2021 – Set A Download PDF
2021 – Set D Download PDF
2020 – Set A Download PDF
2020 – Set B Download PDF
2020 – Set C Download PDF
2019 Download PDF
2018 Download PDF

CSAT Trend Analysis (2011-2020)

Candidates can check the number of questions that came from different categories from the year 2011 to 2020 below. It would help the candidates to find out the important sections from the CSAT exam syllabus, and they will be able to prepare accordingly.

Year/Topics Reading comprehension Data Interpretation Math & Basic numeracy Decision making Logical & Analytical reasoning
2011 39 5 11 8 17
2012 40 0 3 9 28
2013 33 9 11 6 21
2014 31 6 20 0 23
2015 30 2 30 0 18
2016 28 0 31 0 21
2017 30 0 28 0 22
2018 26 14 18 0 22
2019 30 0 32 0 18
2020 26 0 42 0 12

In 2020, five questions were from data sufficiency, and you can see from the above table how important is to give time to reading comprehension in CSAT. Additionally, Maths and Basic numeracy become another crucial section from the examination point of view. So if a candidate prepares for these two sections thoroughly then he/she will be able to qualify for the CSAT paper easily.

When and How CSAT started in UPSC?

Let’s discuss the pattern of CSAT all over the years below.

  • Prior to 2011, the Kothari Committee was in the charge of UPSC Prelims, and there were two papers in the Prelims exam – GS with 150 marks and Paper II- one of 23 optional subjects.
  • In 2010-2011 the exam pattern got revamped by UPSC and there were two papers worth 200 marks, and a CSAT paper was introduced.
  • After the introduction of CSAT, it was counted similar to GS paper 1 in the UPSC Prelims. But there was a controversy as the rural background candidates alleged that this paper is hampering their chances of clearing the Prelims.
  • Due to this in 2014, August the commission decided to make the CSAT paper qualifying, and from 2015 onwards the paper became qualifying in nature in which a candidate was required to score 33%.
  • After that, there have been no changes in the CSAT paper.

CSAT Answer Key

Above we have covered the CSAT previous year question papers. Candidates who are solving these papers would also require the answer key for that particular year to self-evaluate themselves. Below we have provided the direct link to download the UPSC Answer Key for CSAT, and candidates can download them directly from the link below.


Often beginners get confused between CAT and CSAT. While CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) is an exam conducted by UPSC, Common Admission Test (CAT) is an all-India test conducted by the IIMs (Indian Institutes of Management) for MBA Admissions.

CSAT is also known as the General Studies-2 paper in the UPSC Prelims round. It tests the analytical, problem-solving, aptitude, and decision-making ability of the candidates. It is qualifying in nature, so the candidates only need to score at least 33% (66 marks) to clear this paper.

Candidates who crack the CAT exam will be eligible for admission to the IIMs or other business schools in India. CAT focuses more on the aptitude test and the verbal part so you need different strategies to prepare for these exams.

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