Tips to Prepare for CSAT with Non-English Background

Ever since the government introduced CSAT as part of the UPSC civil service prelims in 2011, there has been some apprehension in the minds of candidates who are from a non-English background or those candidates who feel their English is not up to the mark. There had also been protests against the CSAT with students demanding that the CSAT be scrapped.

If you are a civil services aspirant and feel nervous about your English language skills, don’t worry. The English section of the CSAT can be handled with a little effort and practice. Remember you have to score 33% at least to qualify for the UPSC mains.

UPSC Prelims Pattern

Paper

Total marks

Duration

Number of questions

Nature of paper

General Studies Paper I

200

2 hours

100

Merit ranking

CSAT Paper II

200

2 hours

80

Qualifying

Both the papers have negative marking.

UPSC CSAT Syllabus

  • 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)

Tips to clear the English section in CSAT:

  • Get a good basic grammar book and read it. Ensuring you have the correct grammar usage is important for you to understand the given text.
  • Improve and expand your vocabulary so that you don’t have difficulty in comprehending the meaning of the passages.
  • Specifically, learn common idioms and phrases. This will help you not only in understanding but will also expose you to a lot of new words.
  • Read newspapers daily. Of course, you would be doing this already for your general studies and current affairs sections of the UPSC exam, but make sure you refer to a dictionary when you come across a new word or phrase. Your daily newspaper reading (preferably The Hindu) should be an opportunity for you to improve your vocabulary and sentence construction.
  • For the comprehension sections, there are specific techniques you can adopt to increase your speed. For more on effective comprehension passage solving, read Tips to solve Reading Comprehension in English Compulsory Paper of Civil Services Exam.
  • There are a lot of books and essays by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru that are in good and simple language. Read them and try to understand them. It will serve you the twin purpose of improving your English and also giving ideas for other papers.
  • You cannot start speaking the Queen’s English overnight. Everything comes with practice. Read a lot. Practice a lot. Overcome your fear of English.

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