Paper II (CSAT):

  • CSAT is a bid to discourage the practice of mugging up and rote learning.
  • Emphasis should be given on practice instead of learning by rot. It is more easy for such candidates whose thoughts are akin to a good administrator, i.e. those who can discriminate easily between good and bad and takes moral, logical and precise decisions

CSAT has mainly 7 parts

  • 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
  • English Language Comprehension skills (Class X level).
  • Comprehension: The main objective of this section is to assess reading interest, habit, ability to read, ability to reply quickly and analytical ability of the candidate rather than language ability. To enhance your comprehension skills you must read the topic voraciously. Read a daily newspaper, competitive magazines, different government reports, etc. Practice reading quickly. Enhance your vocabulary and ability to understand phrases and idioms, etc. Practicing questions will add to your ability and speed in answering such questions

You have to clearly understand the idea, information and associated facts from the given passage. The best way is to read the questions first before reading the text of the passage. In case there is a pictorial question, you must concentrate on the picture and try to find out an answer.

  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills: Interpersonal skills are also known as people skills or communication skills. One cannot express one’s thoughts,convince others or negotiate anything without good communication skills. These behavioural trails help a person in effective interaction with otner people in different kinds of social setups. These are equally essential for a person to be a productive employee in any organization. These skills are essential for effective speaking and listening and have great importance in work place and business. The purpose of testing Interpersonal and Communication Skills is to test the psychological disposition or attitude of a person towards other people, his work and the organization for which he works. Simultaneously, it also tests the positivity of a candidate, how he/she reacts to different situations, a reasonable degree of emotional quotient i.e. ability to manage his/her own emotion and not being overwhelmed by emotions, especially in adverse situations. Questions may also be put on various situations where you are required to judge the given situation and choose the option based on moral and social ethics. You must read some good books describing interpersonal skills and practice relevant questions.
  • Logical reasoning & analytical ability and General mental ability Logical reasoning and analytical ability are related in a way. The former measures your ability to understand and analyse and your skill to evaluate arguments while the latter determines the soundness of the former. Objective behind introduction of this section in CSAT is to assess the candidates ability to overcome complex problems in real life and work place. Logical thinking exercises help you to learn the process of elimination or deductive thinking.

While solving problems related to this section, you must read the complete question carefully and try to determine what has been specifically stated, draw inferences on the basis of the facts stated and determine the assumptions before jumping from evidence to conclusion. If you know logical principles in advance, it will be helpful. Always take up the facts stated in the question to be correct, even though they may appear to be different from or contrary to the commonly known facts. Besides, do not presume anything which is not stated in the question.

To master this section, you must develop skills to read effectively and think critically on the basis of a set of rules and analyse situations using common sense. To score good marks, you must try to understand the structure of an argument well, read the question with a purpose and form a perspective and apply your knowledge/ trick to it. You must pay special attention on the details present in the argument. To solve the most difficult logical reasoning questions, identify the wrong answers first.

  • Decision making and Problem solving: Introduction of this section in CSAT is aimed at judging candidates response in complex situations and their judicious approach to find out a suitable solution to the problem arising out of the given situation. The process of decision making also involves consideration of ethical and moral values. Therefore, qualities such as being concerned for the welfare of the society, values of respect, truth and trustworthiness, etc. can guide you in making the right decisions. Moral and ethical aspects of problem solving and decision making are judged on the basis of psychological factors like motivation, individual psychology, social psychology, conflict management, etc. The questions will generally relate to situations that require you either to take some action, to explain why an action should be taken or infer what the action implies. Questions will be based on real life law and order situations or administrative statements and you will have to reply these questions keeping in view ethical and moral values. You are required to understand every aspect of the given problem by perfect analysis of the problem step by step and apply mathematical, logical and verbal ability to solve such questions.
  • For the problem solving and decision making part of the question paper, you can presume yourself as an officer faced with different sets of problems where you will be required to exercise your decision making ability and find solutions to the problems in a creative and innovative way. Your answers should be practical and close to reality.
  • General Mental Ability: General Mental ability measures the mental ability or behaviour of the candidate. It can be grouped under: Test of Maximum Performance and typical performance. These types of tests accesses the performance of the candidate in given circumstances in a given time. It involves numerical, verbal, abstract or spatial reasoning (ability to interpret and make drawings, form mental images, etc.)

Numerical Reasoning Test assesses your ability to reason with numerical information i.e. your ability to extract numerical information when presented in different ways. The questions asked in this test may be in the form of a series of questions containing numerical information or it can be in the form of a table, graph or chart, followed by a series of questions linked to these data.

Verbal ability test measures your ability to reason with information presented to you in Verbal format. Verbal ability test are of several types- test of spelling, test of word comprehension, test of word analogies, test of word formation, etc. In abstract tests your ability to identify pattern within diagram are assessed. Questions in this test consists of diagrams that follow specific rules and you are supposed to know and understand these rules. They do not contain any verbal or numerical information. To solve such questions you should break down every problem into small easily followed steps. If you know the rules and practice a lot, you can score well in this section.

  • Basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude etc.) (Class X level), Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. -Class X level): Basic Numeracy and Data Interpretation aims attesting the candidate’s knowledge on understanding of fundamental mathematical concepts or numerical proficiency through numerical problems and interpreting information on the basis of given information in the form of Graphs, Pie Charts, Tables, etc. This section involves topics like LCM and HCF, Divisibility, Base System, Unitary method, Percentage, Profit, Loss and Discount, Average, Time and work, Time, Speed and Distance, Mensuration, Basics of Algebra, etc.

The first step in preparation of this section is to know all the formulae and definitions up to Xth level While solving questions on simplification, you must always apply BO DMAS rule to it.

This part can be done only with thorough practice You can use Class X books of NCERT. You should aim at being thorough in these areas In Data Interpretation, you are provided with an information in the form of tables, graphs, charts and you are required to interpret it and then apply the appropriate logic to answer the questions. You must be well aware of the calculations, statistical tools used in solving such questions. Dl questions evaluate the test takers’ ability to interpret the given data one way or the other by forcing him to use mathematical calculations to reach the desired result. The questions are calculation-intensive and hence pose a lot of problems for individuals who cannot calculate and approximate the given data fast.

Tips to tackle Dl section

  • Read directions carefully to understand the information given in the table/chart or graph.
  • Do not ignore the units given for the variables (in million dollars, in thousands etc.). Sometimes examiner arranges the answer choices in such a way that there is always a strong possibility to pick up the wrong one if one does not consider units. Be careful in answering such questions.
  • Don’t confuse “change in the value of variable (production /sales /profit etc.)” with “percentage change in the variable”. You must understand that a change in the value is just the difference between the new and old value; on the other hand, percentage change is given by %age change = (Ratio of change in value of the variable with the old value) X 100.
  • Avoid lengthy calculations and try to solve questions using approximate value. You must use shortcuts to save time while calculating.
  • English Language and Comprehension skills: This test aims at assessing the English language comprehension skills i.e. the ability of the candidate to understand the essential ideas expressed in the given passage. Since there is emphasis on English language comprehension skills in the new pattern the aspirants need to pay more attention on honing up their comprehension skills in English language. It would benefit the candidates to read newspapers, magazines and watch good TV programmes to enrich their comprehension skills. The standard of English will be that of class X.
  • In comprehension skills, you are required to understand vocabulary in the given context, identify and understand main ideas or identify relationship between the ideas. For English language comprehension skills you can use IGNOU study material.

Winning strategy

The first step towards journey to success in the Civil Services Examination is conceived in our mind. It begins with a dream to succeed. From a dream it takes the form of a mission. When it becomes a mission, we canalize all available resources to make our dream turn into a reality. It becomes a single minded devotion. One becomes ready to do whatever it takes to ensure success. And that’s what really matters.

Besides a reasonable level of intelligence, firm determination, dedication, positive frame of mind, some of the essentials for success in Civil Services Examinations can be summed up as under:

Thorough knowledge and understanding of syllabus

Thorough knowledge of the syllabus of CSE is essential to know the specific areas of study before jumping into the fray. It will help you to properly plan and distribute your study time in a meticulous way. Periodic reference to the syllabus would save your time by skipping topics which are not covered in the syllabus. This is important because time at your disposal is limited It can also help you in identifying areas of study where you are comfortable and where not.

After going through the syllabus and ascertaining the study time available at your disposal and identifying areas of your strength and weaknesses vis-a-vis importance of these areas of study from the examination point of view, you can plan your time scheduled.

Get organised

Getting organised means having clear concept of what you need to carry out your preparations in an undisturbed and uninterrupted way It also means you must get what you need for your study as and when you require. For this you have to keep your books, magazines, notes, etc. in an organised way so that you do not waste your precious time in locating things. Getting organised also refers to being disciplined. This will help you in making your plan work successfully.

Make best use of all available resources

Before you begin your preparation you you must identify the required study material and procure it. Read one of the newspapers like the Hindu, The Times of India, the Economic Times, and magazine Frontline, Yojana, Kurukshetra, etc For list of suggested books, refer to the ‘Suggested Reading’ on page no. 175

You can also make good use of electronic media – internet, television and even radio for your preparation A lot of information including text books of NCERT, India Year Book, Economic Survey and Union Budget with complete details, etc. is available on the internet.

Begin early, stay ahead

The best time to start preparing for Civil Services is from the school stage itself because the UPSC expects the candidates to have cumulative knowledge For example, the level of questions related to Mathematics and English, asked in the Preliminary stage of CSE, are of tenth standard. Similarly, if you have studied calculus at the school stage it would be helpful in enriching your analytical powers. Besides, one also needs to develop the power of comprehension and assimilation for which one can prepare right from the senior classes of school.

For those who decide to go for Civil Services Examination (CSE) after completing school studies or graduation, in general, the CSE requires a concentrated study of 8-10 hours for at least one and a half years.

Ideally, one should start preparation one year before the Preliminary examination.

Preparation for the Mains should start immediately after, preferably before, the result of Prelims are announced.

Your preparation strategy should be such as not to result in paucity of time for Mains preparation. Preparing late will not allow you utilise your time in an optimum manner. In fact, you need at least 8-10 months for preparation before the preliminary examination.

Plan well, prepare well!

Planning is important because it tells us how to reach our destination or goal In the context of the CSE, planning acquires greater significance because one has to cover a comprehensive syllabus in a limited period of time. Good planning really implies maximum results with minimum efforts. And effective planning means that you work out your own mechanism for checking whether you are spending your time effectively or not. In fact, no meaningful time management is possible without having a study plan.

Plan your studies keeping in view your strengths and weaknesses i.e. identify your strong and weak areas clearly. You must know in which subjects you have a strong base and which are the areas where you need to study more.

To check your adherence to your study schedule every week, one day should be kept for revision work so that you could review the progress made and see what you have completed and how much more still needs to be covered And then adjust your pace accordingly. To be really effective and useful all the study and learning must be finished well before the examination. According to one of the toppers, the process of preparation should be taken as a dynamic opportunity for learning. Your preparation may give you immediate result or it may be delayed but one thing is certain that right preparation done with sincerity enhances your knowledge and adds to your personality.

Effective time management

A proper time table is essential for effective time management. There are plenty of advantages of studying according to the time table. It saves your precious time and enables you to have a disciplined approach as well inculcates good study habits. However, there will be no use of framing a time table, if you do not stick to it.

You should plan your time table in such a way that you utilise much of your day time for studies as during this time we have more energy and we feel less lethargic. Give extra time to difficult subjects During study time, margin should be kept for rest and refreshment. Strike the balance between the number of study hours and your capacity to sit at a stretch.

The power of Concentration

Concentration is the ability to direct your thinking. No matter if you are studying mathematics or playing cricket, you have to focus on the task at hand and eliminate distractions. Concentration is absolutely essential for study and better performance in exams.

To gain concentration, the following hints can prove useful:

  • Create a congenial study environment in which you feel comfortable. For example, have proper space, desk, chair and lighting. Nothing should not distract you from the work at hand. Disturbing factors like a telephone, mobile, radio or TV (if you feel disturbed because of these) should be removed from the room. You can put up ‘Don’t Disturb!” sign outside your room.
  • An environment which is free from disturbance like a library is a good place for study. A good library provides you the right study environment, suitable company, inspiration and even opportunities for discussion, besides useful reference material and books.
  • Before you start feeling monotony, you should change your subject of study.
  • Continuous study stretching over too long hours at one go may not prove as useful as studying with little breaks in every two to three hours but regularity is a must. You can even tempt yourself with incentive i.e. if you complete your work, you will treat yourself
  • It also helps in increasing concentration when you rely on your own method of study believing that this is the only right method. For example, if you like to study silently, do accordingly. If you prefer a particular spot for your study, it is better to sit there.
  • As Michael Leboeuf says, a pen and pencil are excellent concentration tools.It is proved by the fact that when you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few, if any of us, can write one thought and think another at the same time.

Self-belief and confidence in one’s abilities

It is believed that although faith can do nothing for you, you can do nothing without faith. One after another toppers have emphasized the role of having confidence and belief in one’s ability. So much is the impact of confidence that what Marcus Garvey said about confidence seems quite convincing. “With confidence, you have won even before you have started.”

Always believe in the best Remind yourself of what Henry Ford said about it:

  • Believe in the best,
  • Think your best,
  • Have a goal for your best,
  • Never be satisfied with less than your best,
  • Try your best, and in the long run
  • things will turn out for the best.

Strong inner motivation

We all know hard work and consistency in our efforts is indispensable for acnieving success and there is no substitute for hard work Being irregular or devoting uneven hours for preparation cannot make us win. However, during the course of preparation, owing to different reasons, one may tend to become lethargic and inconsistent in study. In such moments there is need for strong inner motivation. Inspiration could be a big source of motivation. One may get inspiration from spectacular success by one’s parents, teachers, friends or colleagues. Even joining the coveted civil services in itself can inspire you. Motivation exhorts you to do hard work whenever you get tired or frustrated. It also encourages you to keep aside tiredness or fatigue and work towards achieving your goal.

Patience and perseverance

Success in the very first attempt cannot be guaranteed. As we often say failure should be taken as a stepping stone to success. Failure does not mean you are a failure”, it just means you haven’t succeeded yet. Maintain your natural self, poise and cheerfulness to continue with your enthusiasm for a fresh trial even if you fail in the first one. Once you decide to go for CSE there should be no looking back. An oft repeated feature of CSE is need for perseverance, to exercise patience, persistence, steadfastness, patience and to remain committed to your aim even in the face of obstacles or discouragement. As a topper advised the aspirants of the IAS, you should keep your zeal to achieve success alive and not to give up after one failure.

The Right Preparation Strategy

Strategy is the most crucial element in Civil Services Examination. The importance of defining your preparation strategy can scarcely be exaggerated. This calls for discovering yourself by an objective analysis of your strengths and weaknesses and identifying the likely challenges. A realistic assessment of your abilities and potential is necessary before you decide to go for the CSE The basic thumb-rule that operates all the time is that you have to compete on the basis of the strengths that you possess, and minimize the relative weaknesses that you may be having.

Quality, not Quantity of study is important

The basic criteria of study should be the quality of study and not quantity It is not the number of books, the variety of study material or the number of pages you have gone through but the quality of your study i.e. the relevance and the depth of knowledge you have gained which makes the difference. It is more important to focus on certain key areas which are vital for study than studying all

Selective and reflective study

You should not lay emphasis on just reading more and more books, magazines and journals but reflect on your subject and try to master it You should develop your rational faculty to assimilate relevant information and analyse problems dispassionately

Your reading must be purposeful Distinguishing between the important and the unimportant reading material, you must keep in mind what is useful from the CSE point of view.

Clarity of thought

All human beings have been gifted with the power to think. But many a time our thoughts are cluttered and confusion creeps in Clarity of thought is important to the CSE aspirants in two ways. First, they should be clear about their decision while choosing civil services as their dream career and secondly, in the context of their preparation for the examination. It is the latter issue which is more relevant here. To understand, grasp what you study or observe and present your ideas in a relevant, meaningful, and logical sequence you need clarity of thought Of course, this is highly necessary while writing your essay, paras or at the time of interview.

Some hints to get clarity in thoughts can be summed up as:

  • The basic thing is to focus your attention on a singleidea at one time.
  • To come out of a confused state of mind it is better to write down in points This will avoid repetitions. With the help of these points you can put the ideas or options in a logical sequence.
  • In case there are several options, you can draw a table and compare these.
  • This will help you to leave out the weak alternatives and go for the better ones
  • Similarly, drawing a diagram will enable you to put different scenarios at a
  • glance to work simultaneously on these
  • Clarity in thought can also be possible by putting your ideas before one of your
  • colleagues, friend or a family member
  • Good habits, reading good books and consulting with academicians etc help us to remove the confusions and think clearly.

Preparing notes

Writing notes is very helpful in preparing for the examination, particularly when you study from different sources Firstly, while writing notes you focus your attention in a more concentrated manner and many of these points remain in your memory. Secondly, notes help you in quick revision.

For writing effective notes do not start making notes in a hurry i.e. when you are reading the material for the first time. Without understanding what you read, you are likely to write down too much which may amount to simply reproduction of the material. After understanding the text look for the main points and sub-points. Try to write in your own words rather than using the same language. When you do this exercise get sincerely involved and write short notes preferably in points.


You should keep one day in a week for revision work so that you could review the progress made and see what you have done and how much more or quicker pace is needed.

Periodical analysis of what you have studied and its consolidation is necessary. It will make you realise your weaknesses and your strengths. Without this periodical stop-over, you will keep on learning and you may forget what you piled up in your mind earlier.

Mock Test

After completing your syllabus and revision, you can go for a mock test. Conducted in a proper way, a mock test makes you feel the environment and experience of the real exam It is useful in reviewing your knowledge of the subjects and judging your weak and strong areas of preparation. Through mock test you can also test your ability of time management. Do not miss the opportunity as and when any institute conducts mock test. You can take mock test online.

Selection of subjects for Mains

Select optional on the basis of aptitude that you have for the subject and not because a certain subject is perceived to be more scoring than the others. You should choose subject in which you have also an interest and you feel comfortable Preferably, the subject must be scoring. It is better to choose a subject, in which your base is strong For science graduates/engineers, science subjects, are unquestionably helpful. You may also consult your senior or teacher but the final decision has to be yours. Once you have selected on a specific subject you should think no more and start working. Do not choose optional based on seasonal flavour that this year this optional has worked and so it should be the formulae. An analysis of the question papers of the mains would reveal that some of the questions are repeated in one form or the other after some gap. Such an analysis would help in preparing quality answers to these questions

Answering questions

Coming to the issue of writing answers, one of the crucial thing is mastering the writing skills. Lack of writing skills becomes a big hurdle in writing answers in a coherent and logical manner. To make your answers compact and articulate you should be selective in your study. Ordinarily, the time factor is of essence in a competitive examination. The answers should always be to the point and substantivo. Keep in mind the word limit, wherever prescribed Answers should contain some extra bit in them – be it some extra fact or extra information or extra piece of analysis or whatever And this ‘some extra’ requires a lot of extra reading. The total time should be pragmatically distributed between all questions, and a quick revision.

Equally important is the need to develop writing skills for writing your answers. To ace CSE one must frame one s own writing style instead of following someone else’s. This can be done when you write answers for the main examination, particularly keeping an eye on the time factor. This type of practice will pay you handsomely in the exam.

To score good marks you should master the technique of sequential and systematic style of answering. This would require thorough analysis of standard answers and a good amount of practice. At the same time you must practice adhering to the word limit.

Even the best of answers and unique writing style will not fetch you the score you deserve if your handwriting is not legible. With regular practice you can certainly improve your handwriting, if there is any need to do so. While writing your answers in the examination hall maintain uniformity. Don’t let the quality of your answers diluted as you progress attempting questions under time pressure. There is need to highlight or underline the points which are important. It is an accepted norm to start a new paragraph, if there is a new point you are going to write about.

If the question needs answer in point form, give it in a bullet format. Keep sufficient space between two lines.

Don’t count words after every answer. If you have practiced well, you can count “how many words do you write in a line and how many lines in a single page and the total words per question”.

Maintain your confidence and calm during the exam.

Tackling Essay paper

The essay should contain the clarity of substantiations with grammatically correct English. It also should have proper segmentation and analysis. The beginning and conclusion of the Essay will decide 50% of the total marks in it So both should be very attractive and effective For this Section you must develop a good writing ability which is possible by writing a few essays from previous question papers and getting that corrected from your friends/mentor. Always develop a style which is soothing to the reader. Never reflect any radical views in an essay. You must frame your ideas on any broad area / topic. You must remember an essay is the best thing which will reflect your personality. Keep on updating yourself on burning topics.

Preparing for Interview

The final and the most important factor in selection process of Civil Services Exam is the interview It is the final stage and it has enormous effect on the final ranking The duration of the interview is short (nearly 20-35 minutes on an average), and you need to show your best side to the board It entirely depends on the candidate whether he/she is able to show them what he/she has or not. The “dare to bare” attitude should be there. Confident but polite, sure-footed, bold and able to think analytically, is what an ideal candidate should be. There is no harm in saying ‘I do not know’. Never try to bluff. Have respect for and faith in the board’s judgement and you would do very well.

While preparing for interview you can update yourself with prominent daily newspapers like The Hindu, The Economic Times, magazines, besides practicing mock interviews.

The right guidance/Coaching

In the case most of the freshers jumping into the fray it might be simply baffling giving rise to questions like where to begin from, what to read, where to seek guidance from, etc Joining a coaching institute which is committed to CSE proves helpful. Choose the coaching which conducts tests every week and give extra time to students for improvement

As far as the question of joining a coaching institute for your preparation is concerned, there are quite a few significant factors which must be considered before taking a decision.

  • Joining a coaching institute without identifying specific areas in which you feel you are weak and need coaching is just like going to a shop with no particular item jn mind In other words, unless you know your specific requirement joining a coaching institute may not give you return for your money and time. It is but natural that you will realise your strength and weaknesses only after going through the syllabus carefully and when you actually start your preparation
  • Coaching might be necessary if say two months before the exam you feel lagging behind or a particular subject appears too difficult to you Further even after one or two attempts, if you are getting very poor marks despite your best efforts it appears there is something radically wrong with your approach In such cases, you must seek guidance from an experienced teacher or attend a coaching institute.
  • Once having decided to go for coaching you have to decide which is the right institute. Past performance is one of the decisive criteria in this regard. It is wrong to judge the past performance of a coaching institute on the basis of catchy advertisements in newspapers and magazines and lofty claims made by them To cite an example, sometime back there was a plethora of news reports in the press revealing the dubious activities of a coaching institute which duped a number of IAS aspirants in the garb of providing coaching
  • The real source to know about the performance of an institute is by consulting some of the past and the present students of the institute Another important consideration in choosing an institute is the credentials of the members of its teaching faculty i.e their qualifications, experience and specialisations For example, a senior retired professor from a reputed university like University of Delhi having specialisation in a particular field, with teaching experience and published work to his credit would be sufficient basis for you to be his student But. in fact, there are institutes having so-called tutors teaching not only what they had read and taught but also subjects alien to them.
  • (iv) Coaching by itself may prove helpful in making you regular in your preparation. It is also beneficial since it provides you an opportunity to interact and discuss your preparation strategy and your problems with your classmates and also with your professional teachers In order to take full advantage of coaching you must revise regularly at home whatever you learn at the coaching institute It is better if coaching is over at least a month before the examination so that you are left with sufficient time to make revisions and do practice

Group Study helps

Study with a fellow or a group of friends who are also preparing for the CSE Regular discussions with such friends are very helpful. This way you not only revise what you have studied but also learn many points which you might not have covered or did not know. Such a company happens to be of supplementing nature to each other. Besides, it makes your study more interesting and competitive.

Supporting factors

Your family, close friends and teachers can provide you support One of the IAS toppers statement was, “I attribute my success to my profound faith in God, strong will power, encouragement and blessings of parents, inspiration from the failure in the first attempt and cooperation from younger sister…”