How to prepare for CSAT: Syllabus, Exam Pattern & Preparation Strategy

CSAT is the General Studies Paper-II in the UPSC Civil Services Prelims scheme of papers. Introduced in the year 2011, CSAT is the qualifying paper which means the score of this paper is not included in the merit. In order to qualify the 200-marks CSAT Prelims paper, you need to score 33% or 66 marks. It is extremely important to note that your strength in GS-I will not make up for your weak concepts in GS-II or CSAT paper. Hence, here’s your chance to know how to prepare for CSAT effectively!

Hence, if you do not qualify CSAT, you will not be eligible for Mains no matter what your score is in the General Studies-I paper. Thus, the strategy to ace the CSAT paper differs a lot from the General Studies-I paper.

Let's now straight into “How to prepare for CSAT”! First and foremost, it is important to know the syllabus, exam pattern, and marking scheme. Let us discuss it below followed by the preparation strategy.

CSAT Exam Pattern & Marking Scheme

  • The CSAT paper consists of 80 questions and the time allotted for the paper is 2 hours. 

  • Each question carries 2.5 marks in the CSAT paper making the total to 200 marks.

  • There is a penalty for incorrect answers. For every incorrect answer, the candidate is penalized 1/3rd of the total marks allotted to that question, i.e., 0.83 marks will be cut. 

  • However, if a question is left unattempted/unanswered, no marks will be deducted.

UPSC CSAT Syllabus

The syllabus as prescribed by the UPSC in their notification consist of following broad categories:

  • 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)

How to prepare for CSAT for UPSC Exam

#1 Take CSAT seriously

  • Since it is qualifying in nature, most students take it lightly only to get disappointed at the time of the exam. 

  • Hence, ensure that while preparing for Prelims, you give a sufficient amount of time to CSAT preparation as well. 

  • Otherwise, despite scoring high marks in General Studies Paper-I, you will be exempted from the merit list. 

#2 Assess your level

  • Before starting the preparation for CSAT, it is important to know your strengths and weaknesses in relation to the CSAT paper. 

  • Hence, solve the previous year’s paper and check it to analyze your weak areas. If your score is above 100 marks, you need no preparation as you are well above the qualifying marks. 

  • However, if your marks fall below 100 marks, you should identify the weak areas and then look for topics that can be easily prepared. 

#3 Solve CSAT Mock Tests

  • In both the cases mentioned above, solving mock tests is compulsory, it will help you in the efficient revision of topics in the stipulated time. 

  • Mere knowledge of topics is not sufficient, you should be able to solve the questions in the fixed time frame. 

  • Hence, keep solving mock tests to enhance your speed and accuracy.

CSAT Trend Analysis | Weightage of topics in CSAT

Here’s the topic-wise weightage of topics in CSAT paper:


Maths & Basic Numeracy

Logical & Analytical Reasoning

Decision Making

Reading Comprehension

Data Interpretation























































It can be clearly seen from this table that across the years, reading comprehension is extremely important for CSAT. Maths & basic numeracy is another important topic from which a lot of questions are asked. Hence, even if you get questions from just these two topics right, you’ll be able to qualify the CSAT paper very easily.

Priority Area For Maths For CSAT Prelims

Most aspirants face extreme difficulty while preparing Maths for CSAT prelims, hence, use the table below to prioritize the high priority topics in order to prepare this topic. Use the previous year paper for assessing the difficulty level of the questions.

Highest Priority For CSAT Prelims Medium Priority For CSAT Prelims Low Priority For CSAT Prelims

Linear Equation Number System %, profit loss, SI-CI Ratio Proportion Variation Speed Time Distance Work Averages, Alligations Data Interpretation Geometry: Area Volume Perimeter

Arithmetic Progression Polynomial Factorization Coordinate Geometry

Permutation Combination Probability Statistics Trigonometry

Booklist for CSAT preparation 

Adopt a smart approach and work on topics that seem doable for you. Any standard book by TMH publication, Arihant publication would suffice for the preparation of CSAT.
Consistent practice is the key for this paper, hence practice as many questions as you can from these manual-like books. However, be careful of the wrong answers in these books. You can alternatively opt for CL’s CSAT Prelims course that has the best tips and tricks to solve the questions in the shortest span of time!

Career Launcher brings to you the UPSC CSAT course to strategically cover all the topics in the syllabus with much ease. Check the details of the CSAT course here. Get in touch with our course counselors to know more about our course deliverables.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is CSAT?

Civil service aptitude test, It is general studies paer-2 in the UPSC civil service prelims exam

2. How many marks it carry?

Total marks 200, it carries 80 questions, each question carry 2.5 marks.

3. Is there any negative marking?

Yes, for every wrong answer there is ⅓ rd negative marking; however there is no negative marking for the unattempted questions.

4. How many marks I have to score to qualify?

You have to score minimum 66 marks or 33% of the maximum marks.

5. Does CSAT score include in final score?

No, it is qualify in nature; however without qualifying in CSAT you can’t make it up to mains, even though you qualified in GS paper -1.

6. What is the syllabus for the CSAT?

As per UPSC notification these are the topics mentioned in the notification

  • 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

7. How to prepare for CSAT?

Even though it is qualified in nature, many candidates neglect the CSAT; loose the opportunity to crack the exam. Read the syllabus carefully and know the topics those are more familiar to you, do more practice on those topics, attempt more mock exams to boost your confidence.

8. Does career launcher providing any course for CSAT?

Yes, you can through this link provided below

Current Affairs analysis