Approach for clearing CSAT

Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) has been introduced few years back as an area of evaluation to decide upon the eligibility of a candidate to take up the Civil Services Mains examination. This paper tests the ability of the candidate to interpret numbers as well as his/her ability to comprehend the English language.

What is the level of expertise required to qualify this paper?
The syllabus loosely translates to that of high school level Mathematics and English. In the beginning few years of its introduction, the CSAT was a scoring paper and a high level of expertise in Maths/English significantly increasing the chances of a candidate clearing the prelims exam. However, in the later years this paper has been reduced to be just a qualifying paper. A score of 66 out of 200 is the qualification criteria for this paper. Hence, clearing the exam reduces to the task of identifying the questions that the candidate is confidant of getting right and getting them right!

What are the categories that the questions in CSAT fall under?
The questions in the CSAT paper can be broadly classified into the following three categories,

1. Reading Comprehension and Grammar
2. Data Interpretation/Pattern Recognition/Decision Making
3. Quantitative Aptitude

What is the best strategy to prepare for the exam?
Each individual has his/her own way of tackling this paper and hence it’s difficult to pin point an approach that can be labelled as the best one. An aspirant has to discover the approach that works best for him/her through the process of trial and error. There are many factors at play here – relative level of comfort, interest and disposition with the individual categories to name a few. Hence, rather than suggesting a strategy, we propose an approach that enables each individual to discover the strategy that works best for him/her.

What is this 3 – 2 – 1 approach and how does one follow it?
A daily dose of 3 questions from Category 3, 2 questions from Category 2 & 1 passage from Category 1 as enumerated above, defines the 3 – 2 – 1 approach. By following this approach for six months, one should be able to identify ones strengths/weakness and arrive at the best strategy to tackle the paper.
The point to be noted here is that it’s not just the matter of solving the problems, but it’s about analyzing them through one’s own lens. It’s about identification of the method of solving that comes naturally to the individual. Analyzing what makes a question easy or what makes it difficult throws light one’s natural abilities or shortcomings in the subject.

3. Questions from Quantitative Aptitude
As it applies to the strategy, even the steps to take solve a problem varies from individual to individual. If one individual takes a formula based approach, another individual may take an empirical approach while somebody else may be confident with elimination approach or a mix of these approaches. Just pick three questions randomly and don’t give up till you arrive at the answers to these questions on your own. Don’t worry, most of the questions are aimed at checking your reasoning ability and not your expertise in Mathematics. Once you are able to solve the problem, try to build different variations of the questions and solve them. If you carry the belief that Maths is difficult, these 3 questions may take few hours in the beginning, but over a period of 6 months, you will be surprised see this duration shrinking to few minutes.

2. Questions from Data Interpretation/ Pattern Recognition/ Decision Making
These questions tend to check less of your mathematical abilities and more of your observation and decision making skills. Pick any 2 questions randomly from a question bank and follow the same approach as above.
For decision making questions, there is no definite right answer, choose your answers and analyze them at depth as to why you chose that, in terms of your values. Values in this context refers to Sincerity, Loyalty, Righteousness, Compassion etc. Try to discover your innate values and align them with the requirements of the job, without losing your own self in the process.

1. Passage from Reading Comprehension
Take one passage randomly from a question bank or past year papers and answer the questions simulating the examination environment. “Should I read the questions first and then the passage” or “Should I read the passage and then the questions” or if I take the middle path are the questions that keep coming into your mind. Only thorough practice can give you the best answer to your doubt.

How does this approach work?
This approach enables one to discover one’s natural strategy to tackle the exam through practice, analysis and introspection. If one follows this approach for six months, he/she would have solved around 540 Cat 1, 360 Cat 2 & 180 passages in detail, which should be enough for one to feel confident about clearing the paper.

Does this approach really work for someone who thinks Mathematics/ English is extremely tough?
If you are able to understand this article your level of competence in English is good enough to start with. W.r.t Mathematics, if you are able to answer this question the above works for you – If you were to be born five years later, in which year would have passed your SSLC examination?
All the best!