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In the next 30 minutes, we will equip you with the broad strategy to handle CSAT paper 2 while busting some of the myths on which the coaching institutes make money and providing you the basic minimum gyan to crack the exam.



  1. How to know the amount of time needed for preparation?
  2. Which skill areas to work on?
  3. Book List
  4. Section-wise basic strategy
    • Comprehension
    • Interpersonal Skills & Logical, Analytical Reasoning
    • Decision-making
    • General Mental Ability & Data Interpretation
    • Basic Numeracy


Understanding that the pattern has changed now with CSAT being only a qualifying paper, we have written an article on how CSAT still remains relevant to your preparation – expected changes in difficulty level of the paper? We expect the difficulty level to go up this year. Scoring even qualifying marks can be an issue for a lot of aspirants.

Also, even though the strategy below applies to the old format (before CSP 2015) of the Prelims examination, we are not removing it. Because, the expert committee constituted by the government for examining the pattern of the Civil Services Examination, can rule in favour of reverting to the old format. 

If you are weak in a particular area of CSAT, the strategy will surely help you.

How to know the amount of time needed for preparation?

Do this exercise whenever you have decided to prepare for Paper-2. This period should ideally be at least 3-4 months before the exam.

Take up a UPSC CSAT previous year paper (any one of 2011-2014); close your room; and without any disturbance sit for 2 hours and find out how much you can score without practice.

Now, sit and analyze your shortcomings in those specific areas where you may not have scored well. 

      • If you are scoring less than 100, phewww!!! There is a lot of work to be done. Start practicing daily for 2-3 hours for the coming 5-6 months and even more infact.
      • If your score is somewhere around 100-130, then you are weak in some particular areas for e.g. comprehension or basic numeracy OR your speed may be less than required. Know those areas, and work on them on a daily basis for the coming months for getting conceptual clarity and speed.
      • If score is around 130-150, you may be weak in any one of the areas or your speed of solving paper may be slow. Whatever it is, you need some practice for lets say something close to 2-3 months.
      • If its around 150-170, you may either be slightly weak in any one area; or you may be making a lot of silly mistakes. It can be slow speed too. Whatever it is, you do not need months of practice. If you can spend 1 month or a little more, with 2-3 hours of practice every day; and you are there.
      • If you have scored around 170-190, know that you need not study for paper-2. Just 15-20 days before the exam, start solving mocks so that you can increase your speed; improve your accuracy and work out few areas where you may be making 3-4 mistakes regularly.
      • If it is more than 190, Dude stop wasting your time reading this and prepare Paper-1!!!  😉


Which skill areas to work on?

It ideally depends on your educational and professional background. This is not to say that only those with a specific background can score high in Paper-2; it is just that we all have been in touch with a certain skill set for a long period of time – which becomes our forte and need to work on the gaps.

For e.g. relatively speaking, engineers are more in touch with Mathematics (equations, calculations etc.) and Data interpretation than a Political Science graduate. Similarly, humanities graduates are more in touch with comprehension skills – reading large amounts of text, verbal reasoning; communication skills etc.

Therefore, no matter what background you are from, you will have an edge on a certain skill area; and at the same time, you will need to work on other skill areas. So, engineers will need to work more on comprehension and interpersonal skills; and a political science graduate will have to work more on Mathematics and Data interpretation.


Book List

The UPSC CSAT paper is of Easy to Moderate level. The questions can be solved easily with common sense, basic logic and language skills. But what people generally lack is –

  • Enough Practice
  • Accuracy
  • Speed

Practice is the key here – which brings both speed and accuracy (amount of practice that you need is mentioned in the section on – what is the right time and energy?).

Then you need to pick the right book. Here we are mentioning the sections of CSAT exam with some good books which will give you clarity on the topic; and contain enough questions for practice.

  • GS Manual Paper-II by TMH
  • Concise CSAT by Madhukar Bhagat – TMH Publications
  • Cracking the CSAT Paper 2 – Arihant Publications
  • Word Power – Normal Lewis


Section-wise Basic strategy


ComprehensionUse the book Concise CSAT by Madhukar Bhagat – TMH Publications.

To sharpen and improve your comprehension skills, the first thing that you need to do is to ‘read a lot’. Read the same editorials, magazines, articles, columns etc. with more attention. Do not be in a hurry to finish them – take time, otherwise you will lose time and yet not get the correct comprehension.

Work on your vocabulary by referring to pocket dictionary (can be on mobile too ); read the book Word power by Norman Lewis (it is very good for building vocabulary)

Spend time with passages in the TMH book to see in which kind of options you are making mistake. Learn the art of ‘objective reading’.

Solve 20-30 previous year CAT passages too. Solving tough passages will give you additional insights into comprehension abilities; and it becomes easy then to handle relatively easier CSAT passages. As the saying goes, tame an elephant, and a monkey becomes easy.

Refer to the Detailed Strategy section to understand more about the above and scoring high in comprehension.

In the long run try to learn 10 new words a day. These words can be the ones which puzzle you while you go through the Hindu, Economic times,Frontline et al or you can directly pick them from the standard books.


Interpersonal skills including communication skills; Logical reasoning and analytical ability:

You will face questions like the one from CSAT 2014 (we are giving only one here – refer to the detailed strategy for a comprehensive guide on this section)

Given the statement:

“Buses are the cause of more accidents than cars, and trucks cause fewer accidents than buses”, which of the following conclusions can we draw?

(a) There are more buses on the road than trucks.

(b) Car drivers are more careful than bus drivers.

(c) Truck drivers are more skilled than either car or bus drivers.

(d) None of the above 

Answer: (d)

You need not apply too much thought. Just the skill of ‘objective reasoning’ is needed. Unless and until something , the questions in this section are pretty basic in nature.

With some practice from the book GS Manual for Paper 2 – TMH, it is easy to crack. The book covers questions 2 notches above UPSC level. Do not ignore these relatively harder questions. Practicing them makes the actual CSAT exam very easy.


Decision-making and problem-solving:

Use the book Concise CSAT by Madhukar Bhagat or GS Manual TMH.

Solve 40-50 questions to get an idea as to what UPSC demands from you.

Take a choice based on both Ethics and Prudence.

Being blind ethically will cost you marks as we have seen in the past.

For example :

Questions will be like (this is from CSAT 2014):

While travelling in a Delhi-registered commercial taxi from Delhi to an adjacent city (another state), your taxi driver informs you that he has no permit for driving in that city, he will stop at its transport office, pay the prescribed fees of Rs. 40 a day. While paying the fees at the counter, you find that the transport clerk is charging extra Rs. 50 for which no receipt is being given. You are in a hurry for your meeting. In such circumstances, what will you do?

  1. Go up to the counter and ask the clerk to give back the money which he has illegally taken.
  2. Do not interfere at all as this is a matter between the taxi driver and the tax authorities. 
  3. Take note of the incident and subsequently report the matter to the concerned authorities.
  4. Treat it as a normal affair and simply forget about it.

It is a situational dilemma. If you act ethically with pragmatism, your answers will be correct. You can choose either (1) or (3).


General mental ability; Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc. – Class X level):

Refer to the syllabus to know the sub-categories of the topics here. For these refer to GS Manual by TMH – covers the topics comprehensively. Instructions are given at the beginning of each exercise to make you understand. First understand the concept and then the techniques of each kind of sub-category (Let us say blood relations, set theory etc.).

A sample question (CSAT 2014):



Practice is the key here. The more patterns and types you would have practiced, the easier it gets in the exam hall. You will be able to quickly identify the right technique for solving each pattern.

Data Interpretation will be very basic in nature. A sample question (from CSAT 2013):





You need not practice Data Interpretation a lot. Just glance through a few examples. Understand all the types of DIs. Solve 30-40 DI passages. This much practice is sufficient.


Basic Numeracy

As we have already stated in the “Syllabus & Exam Pattern”, this section does not carry a lot of weightage (7-10% questions). For this section, refer to the Cracking CSAT- Arihant Publications or GS Manual TMH. Any one will do. See the kind of questions UPSC has asked over the years and practice accordingly considering the difficulty level. We will be giving you a gist of the Basic Numeracy questions solved from all the years (2011-14).

A sample question (CSAT 2014):

A group of 630 children is seated in a row for group photo session. Each row contains three children less than the row in front of it. Which one of the following number of rows is not possible?

  1. a) 3
  2. b) 4
  3. c) 5
  4. d) 6

Solution: d)

It is a question based on sequence and series. You can even apply common logic to solve the question. Even in basic numeracy, there are several sub-categories (as mentioned in the “Syllabus & Exam pattern section”), make sure you practice several questions from each type for e.g. time & work; clock; ratio and proportions etc.


Refer to Comprehension Strategy now. Click on the tab below 🙂    


  • Rishabh Singh

    Of 7-8 Mock tests of CSAT i gave, i evenly scored 130-140. Do i really need CSAT practice?

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