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. 


Comprehension – Use 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.