Tips to Prepare for CSAT with Non-English Background

The Civil Service Aptitude Test commonly known as CSAT is a qualifying paper in the UPSC-CSE. In this paper, aspirants need to score qualifying marks(33%). Scoring 33 % marks in a paper might seem like a cakewalk. But UPSC-CSE is known for its unpredictability. So, the Preparation of CSAT is important for candidates both from Maths and non-Maths backgrounds, and crucial for non-English backgrounds.

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)

Get the detailed UPSC Syllabus in the linked article.

Tips to clear the English section in CSAT

To learn how to prepare for CSAT’s English section, follow the below-mentioned tips:

  • 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.

Also See:

Previous year CSAT question papers Tips to Prepare for Reasoning Questions in UPSC CSAT
How to solve Blood relations-Logical Reasoning questions in GS Paper II Trend Analysis of IAS Prelims GS Paper II (CSAT)

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