How to Solve Data Interpretation Questions in CSAT?

Data Interpretation or DI for short is an important part of the CSAT paper in the UPSC civil services prelims exam. It is a part of the quantitative aptitude segment in the paper. It basically assesses a candidate’s ability to read and interpret a good amount of data and extract meaningful information from them. When you think about it, it is an important quality to be had for civil servants as their job involves among other things handling numbers and figures. This article offers a few tips on handling DI questions that are asked in the UPSC prelims CSAT paper.

Statistics is an important part of a civil servant’s job as mentioned before. It could be anything from unemployment rates in the country/state to the yield of various crops in a quarter. As officers, you are expected to understand these figures in the form of tables or charts or graphs and also fish out usable information from them.

In the IAS prelims exam, data can be provided to you in the form of tables, bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, etc. You will also be given some information and instructions. Based on them, you must answer the questions asked. Usually, there would be multiple questions based in the same data.

Note: To candidates not used to it, the data might look scary, but it really isn’t. Just follow a procedure and you will be able to solve the questions pretty easily.

Data Interpretation Questions for IAS

Study the following table and answer the questions (6 – 8) based on it.

Expenditures of a Company (in Lakh Rupees) per Annum Over the given Years


Item of Expenditure


Fuel & Transport


Interest on Loans

































Q. The total amount of bonus paid by the company during the given period is approximately what percent of the total amount of salary paid during this period?

  1. 0.1%
  2. 1.0%
  3. 1.5%
  4. 0.5%

Answer: b

Total bonus paid = 17
Total salary = 1710
Percentage = (17/1710) X 100 = 0.99% = 1%

Q. The ratio between the total expenditure on Taxes for all the years and the total expenditure on Fuel and Transport for all the years respectively is approximately?

  1. 5:6
  2. 2:3
  3. 10:13
  4. 12:15

Answer: c

Total spent on taxes = 451
Total spent on fuel & transport = 586
Ratio = 451/586 = 10/13

Q. Total expenditure on all these items in 1998 was approximately what percent of the total expenditure in 2002?

  1. 54%
  2. 60%
  3. 69%
  4. 50%

Answer: c

Total spent in 1998 = 495.4
Total spent in 2002 = 713.36
Percentage = (495.4/713.36) X 100 = 69%

As you can see from the above example, solving DI questions involve reading the question with an eye for detail and being able to do simple calculations. Generally, with good practice, you should be able to gain enough proficiency in these questions.

Tips to prepare for DI

You should start out by reading a lot of articles which contain many figures and graphs. You can also read business reports and analyses. This should familiarise you with how data are presented in the form of tables and graphs. You will also understand what each type of representation means. For more on this, check the BYJU’S data interpretation basics article.

Tips to solve DI questions

  1. Read the title of the graph/table carefully.
  2. Read each question carefully and understand what is asked.
  3. Check for the data in the right place. Double-check the column/row and then spot the data required. It is easy to get confused and commit careless mistakes here. Avoid them with practice.
  4. If you are reading a graph, make sure you understand what the X and the Y axes stand for. Also take care to note the units of the data mentioned. Sometimes, the question can have data scaled as 1:100 or 1:10. Observe all these minute details and write them down distinctly in the working space for more clarity.
  5. Always check the units in the question. Learn the conversion rates beforehand.
  6. Also don’t forget to take the required information from the footnotes, etc.


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