UPSC CSAT Prelims Strategy 2021 | How to prepare for UPSC CSAT 2021

UPSC CSAT is officially the General Studies-II in the UPSC Civil Services Prelims exam. Although it is a qualifying paper, you need to have a rock-solid UPSC CSAT Prelims Strategy to ace this paper. Now, to qualify for the 200-mark CSAT Prelims paper, you need to score more than 33% or 66 marks. Hence, a thorough knowledge of the weightage of each topic and subsequent preparation tips can help you sail through it smoothly.

Let's straight get into “How to prepare for UPSC CSAT”! First and foremost, it is important to know the syllabus, exam pattern, and marking scheme.

UPSC CSAT Exam Pattern & Marking Scheme

  • The UPSC 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 a total of 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 Exam Syllabus

The UPSC CSAT Exam syllabus as prescribed by the UPSC in their notification consist of the 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)

Step-by-Step Guide to prepare for UPSC CSAT

#1 Take UPSC 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. Dedicate a day in a week, preferably Sunday to CSAT preparation. On this day, glance through your notes or solve a CSAT mock to keep yourself up to date.

  • Otherwise, despite scoring high marks in General Studies Paper-I, you will be exempted from the merit list. Make it a point that you need to score atleast 120+ in all the mock tests. 

#2 Assess your level before beginning the preparation

  • 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 minimal to 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. 

  • Start working on the weak areas immediately.

#3 Buy a comprehensive UPSC CSAT Manual

  •  There are various CSAT manuals published by distinguished publications. However, the most recommended one is the CSAT Manual by Tata Mc Graw Hill. 

  • Each topic is presented in a very comprehensive manner in this book. It will allow you to practice and revise each topic in a very brief period of time. 

  • So, if your score is less than 100 or you think you need a revision manual, this one should be the go-to CSAT manual for your CSAT preparation.

#4 Solve UPSC CSAT Mock Tests

  • In both the cases mentioned above, solving CSAT mock tests is compulsory, it will help you in the efficient revision of topics in the stipulated time. This is the most important part of the overall CSAT strategy for UPSC Prelims.

  • Mere knowledge of topics is not sufficient, you should be able to solve the questions in the fixed time frame. Hence, practice is the key! And the best way to practice relevant is to solve mock tests. 

  • Keep solving mock tests every Sunday to enhance your speed and accuracy!

UPSC CSAT Exam Trend Analysis | Weightage of topics in UPSC CSAT (2011-2020)

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


Maths & Basic Numeracy

Logical & Analytical Reasoning

Decision Making

Reading Comprehension

Data Interpretation





























































Additionally, 05 questions from data sufficiency were also asked in UPSC CSAT 2020. It can be clearly seen from this table that throughout 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.

Most Important Maths Topics For UPSC CSAT Prelims

Most aspirants face extreme difficulty while preparing Maths for CSAT prelims and find it time-consuming to prepare all the topics. However, you do not need to prepare all the topics. Strategize your Prelims preparation by using the table below and 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 UPSC 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 is the most important element in the UPSC Prelims CSAT strategy. 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?

CSAT stands for Civil service aptitude test. It is officially known as General Studies Paper 2 and is included in the UPSC civil service prelims exam.

2. How many marks the UPSC CSAT paper carries?

CSAT is of 200 marks, consisting of 80 questions of 2.5 marks each.

3. Is there any negative marking in the UPSC CSAT paper?

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

4. What are the qualifying marks for the UPSC CSAT paper?

You have to score a minimum of 66 marks or 33% to qualify for the CSAT paper.

5. Do the CSAT score include in the final score?

No, it is qualifying in nature so the score will not be added; however, without qualifying for CSAT you can’t make it up to mains, even if you are 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 qualifying in nature, many candidates neglect the CSAT and lose the opportunity to crack the exam. Read the syllabus carefully and know the topics that 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 to check out the course.

Get UPSC Topic-wise Syllabus PDF worth Rs. 299 FREE

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