• CSAT stands for Civil Services Aptitude Test. It is a part of the UPSC Prelims (Civil Services Exam – Preliminary). However, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) refers to the exam as General Studies (GS) Paper – II.
  • Hence, in the context of UPSC Prelims, GS Paper II refers to the CSAT while in context of UPSC Mains, GS Paper II is the Polity (etc.) paper.
  • Candidates are advised to understand the complete UPSC syllabus and the syllabus of CSAT in UPSC Prelims to avoid confusion.

What is Prelims exam in IAS?

The IAS Prelims/UPSC Prelims exam is the first stage of the Union Public Service Commission Civil Services Examination (CSE).

Candidates can check the 2021 syllabus below based on the official 2021 CSAT syllabus as per the official notification released on 4th March 2021.

The UPSC CSE comprises three stages:

  1. Preliminary Exam – 2 objective type papers
  2. UPSC Mains – 9 theory papers
  3. IAS Interview

Check your eligibility for CSAT (UPSC Eligibility Criteria).

The two papers in the UPSC Prelims are:

  1. General Studies Paper – I
  2. General Studies Paper-II or CSAT

Refer to the UPSC Prelims Syllabus for a detailed analysis.

CSAT Exam Pattern:

CSAT or Civil Services Aptitude Test was introduced in 2011 to test candidates’ analytical skills. It is the second paper in the UPSC Prelims. Officially, it is known as General Studies Paper-II.

The CSAT exam pattern for UPSC:

  • Number of questions: 80 Objective-Type (MCQ) questions
  • Negative Marking: Yes (1/3rd of the maximum marks for the question)
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Type of Exam: Offline exam
  • Date of CSAT exam: 27th June 2021
  • Language of CSAT exam paper: English/Hindi
  • Maximum Marks: 200
  • CSAT qualifying marks: 66 marks (33% qualifying criteria)

Candidates have to apply for the examination through the UPSC Online Application 2021, details of which are mentioned in the linked article.

CSAT Syllabus – GS Paper II – UPSC Prelims 2021

The CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) syllabus for UPSC 2021 shall comprise the following broad categories:

  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)

Best books for CSAT (GS Paper II):

The books recommended by IAS toppers for acing the UPSC Prelims – CSAT (GS Paper II) are given below:

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

However, since the CSAT exam in UPSC CSE was made qualifying 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. Aspirants can practice CSAT Questions while visiting the linked article.

The qualifying nature and the level X standard questions in CSAT mean that serious candidates do not need to memorise or go through multiple books.

First, all candidates should try to solve UPSC previous year question papers for CSAT and then decide on a preparation strategy.

CSAT marking scheme:

  • The CSAT paper consists of 80 questions which the candidate has to finish in the allotted time of 2 hours only.
  • Each question carries 2.5 marks in the CSAT paper making the total to 200 marks.
  • Candidates must remember that there is negative marking in the CSAT paper.
  • For every incorrect answer, the candidate is penalised 1/3rd of the total marks allotted to that question, i.e., 0.83 marks will be cut.
  • If a question is not attempted, i.e., the candidate leaves it blank on the OMR sheet, no marks will be cut for that question.

Check our UPSC 2021 page for UPSC preparation.

CSAT strategy for IAS Prelims 2021:

  • Candidates should not ignore the CSAT paper thinking it is only a qualifying paper.
  • If candidates feel that their general English comprehension and basic math skills are not up to the mark, they should spend a decent amount of time on the CSAT paper.
  • This holds true especially for aspirants from the humanities and arts background who have not been in touch with such subjects ever since their school days.
  • For those candidates who are at ease with the type of questions asked in the CSAT paper, practising the adequate number of UPSC previous years’ question papers for CSAT will do.
  • But if candidates do not practice the CSAT question papers, it would be very difficult to complete the 80 questions in the prescribed time limit of two hours.
  • Remember, candidates should score at least 66 marks. If they do not qualify, even very high marks in the GS paper I will not help them clear the IAS prelims stage.
  • For candidates to increase their speed in solving math questions in the CSAT paper, they can take help from certain well-used maths tricks. Refer to this article  Maths Tricks to Break the CSAT Bricks for the same.
  • Questions from data interpretation, logical reasoning, etc. are generally easy but if the candidate is unfamiliar with them, answering them can be a tricky affair. This is where practice becomes essential.
  • Also, some of the CSAT questions are lengthy and rather time-consuming. It becomes doubly important for candidates to practise mock test papers or enrol for a reliable CSAT test series.

CSAT in UPSC Prelims: a brief timeline

  • Prior to 2011, the pattern of the UPSC Prelims was as per the Kothari Committee recommendations in 1979.
  • Back then, the UPSC Prelims comprised two papers:
    • GS – 150 marks
    • Paper II – on one of 23 optional subjects – 300 marks
  • In 2010-2011, the UPSC revamped the Preliminary stage of the Civil Services Exam. There are still two papers. However, both papers are now worth 200 marks.
  • The GS Paper II in UPSC Prelims became a test to gauge IAS aspirants’ analytical abilities. Commonly, the GS Paper II is referred to as the CSAT ( Civil Services Aptitude Test).
  • Upon its introduction, the CSAT paper was counted similar to GS Paper I in UPSC Prelims.
  • However, there was widespread controversy as candidates, primarily from rural backgrounds, alleged that the CSAT paper is unfairly hampering their chance of qualifying the UPSC exam.
  • Hence, in August 2014, the Central Govt announced that the marks in CSAT will not be counted and it became only a qualifying paper (33% qualifying criteria) from 2015 onwards. The 2011 candidates were also given a second chance.
  • Since 2015, the pattern of CSAT in UPSC Prelims has remained the same.