Civil Service Aptitude Test or CSAT is a qualifying paper needed to clear the civil services Prelims stage, along with the GS paper. Unlike the GS paper, CSAT has a fixed cut-off, and the marks obtained in the CSAT will not be taken into consideration for the final result as long as you have secured the cut-off mark. To pass the CSAT, an aspirant has to secure 33% of the total marks of 200. Hence, the qualifying mark for the CSAT paper is 66 marks. The CSAT paper has 80 questions (unlike the GS paper, which has 100 questions), and the time allocated is 2 hours. Each question carries 2.5 marks, making the total marks 200. Like in the GS paper, there is a negative marking for an incorrect answer which is 1/3rd of the maximum marks for the question that is answered incorrectly. There is no negative marking if the questions are not attempted. The CSAT paper, in general, tests an aspirant’s general mental ability, decision making & interpersonal ability, quantitative aptitude, logical reasoning & analytical skills, basic numeracy, data interpretation and reading comprehension.
Compared to the Prelims GS syllabus, the CSAT has a clear and precise syllabus and hence, if an aspirant puts in enough time, success is guaranteed. But, there have been instances where aspirants have cleared the GS paper but not the CSAT paper because of the lack of time allotted for it.
How are Questions Framed for CSAT?
- For the mental ability section, the questions are usually asked from topics such as time and work, time and distance, permutations, combinations, percentage, etc. For handling the quantitative aptitude, memorize key formulae, theorems, and tables. On a piece of paper, write down the crucial ones that you need to remember. Also, there are tricks available to solve the problems for every chapter, whether it’s time distance, number system, profit and loss, or equation. When solving mathematical questions, use a systematic approach. Start with topic-based practise and then go on to solving sample papers. This covers all of the topics and shows where your expertise lies.
- In the case of logical reasoning & analytical skills, the usage of formulae is scarce, while an aspirant can attempt the questions if one is strong in reasoning. The flip side here is that it may take away your time if the question is complex. Hence, allocate time accordingly as per your strength.
- For basic numeracy and data interpretation, the questions are based on numbers and their relations, while data interpretation consists of questions based on charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc.
- For the comprehension section, make sure that you read it calmly while you underline the keywords. For this, daily reading of newspaper articles will improve your language skills and reading speed.
In order to make sure you clear the CSAT, attempt the previous years’ question papers and try to solve them. Identify the areas of strength and weakness by attempting the last years’ questions and cement your preparation. Click here to go through the UPSC CSAT questions papers that have been asked over the years. When you appear for the CSAT, start with your strong areas and build your confidence through this. Once you are done with your respective forte, you can proceed to your weak areas. Kindly keep in mind that CSAT is a qualifying paper, which means you need to score only the minimum marks. Hence, if you are confident that you have comfortably crossed the minimum cut-off, you need not attempt questions from your weakest areas. Keep practising questions to make sure that CSAT is not a roadblock in your attempt to clearing the Civil Services Exam.
Emphasis must be given to identifying your strong and weak spots. Unlike the GS exam, the CSAT has a clear syllabus which helps in the analysis of how questions are asked. And there are always areas where formulae can be applied to get quick answers. Do take time out to memorize the formulae for “often asked” type of questions. I wish you well for the upcoming Prelims 2021.