Decoding The Qualifier In Civil Services Exam: CSAT

The paper evolved into its current form in August 2014 when the Central government decided to make it a qualifying paper, keeping pattern same.


Understanding the qualifier paper

The General Studies Paper-II is a qualifying paper in Civil Services Examination with minimum qualifying marks fixed at 33 per cent. Why it is important to discuss this 200 marks paper is the fact that anything above 66.66 marks will fetch you the same result, which is leading you to the next stage of the exam, while any score below that will cost the civil services aspirant an attempt. 

The topic of this articles' discussion can be put into perspective with an analogy. Researchers world over have conducted various studies to understand the difference in the attention given by parents to the first child and the second one. Undoubtedly,  there is a charm about the 'firsts', the first job, first salary and more so in case of the first child. With time, the charm usually wanes with 'seconds'.

A second child syndrome describes a situation in which the second is affected by the presence of an elder sibling.  

The preliminary stage of Civil Services Examination has two parts - General Studies Paper I and General Studies Paper-II or CSAT.

Paper I, in this case, is the elder child and Paper II is the younger one which tends to suffer from second child syndrome due to its qualifying nature and causes a lot of anxiety among aspirants. 

Both the papers are of 200 marks each. Paper I has 100 objective questions with four answer choices. 2 marks are awarded for a correct answer, -0.66 for a wrong answer and 0 for leaving a question. 

Paper-II consists of 80 objective questions with four answer choices and 2.5 marks are awarded for a correct answer, -0.83 for a wrong answer and 0 for leaving a question.  


The syllabus prescribed by the Union Public Service Commission for Paper II is as follows:

• Comprehension  

• Interpersonal skills including communication skills  

• Logical reasoning and analytical ability  

• Decision making and problem-solving  

• General mental ability  

• Basic numeracy (numbers and their relation, the order of magnitude etc. of Class X level)  

• Data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc of Class X level)  

CSAT's history and its evolution

To understand the anxiety associated with the paper, let us take a look at its history and evolution. Origin of civil services examination dates back to the 19th century when it was officially called Imperial Civil Services under British Raj and was popularly known as Indian civil services. Compared with the history of the examination, CSAT becoming a part of the examination is a proximate event. It became a part of the preliminary stage in 2010. It was not a qualifying paper in its initial avatar and had the same weightage as GS Paper 1.  

Since Mathematics and English language were primarily tested in the paper, it was reckoned to give an edge to aspirants primarily from English medium and engineering background, considering them adept in subjects like Mathematics.  This made students from humanities and Hindi medium background anxious and subsequently the CSAT paper resulted in a country-wide revolt, with North India as its epicentre. 

The paper evolved into its current form in August 2014 when the Central government decided to make it a qualifying paper, keeping pattern same.  

How to strategise for Paper-II

Nine years down the line since the paper was first conducted, the foremost strategy should be to go through these past year papers to understand the kind of the questions being asked. Solving these papers would lead students to contrive individual plans as they identify their weaknesses as well as strong areas. 

While students should work on their weak areas way before the examination, working on strengths is advised to the aspirants when examination date is approaching. Like every other paper, practice engenders confidence in students. 

What makes attempting the Paper-II challenging is its timing. It is conducted in the afternoon after Paper I with a long break in between.  

The timing for General Studies Paper 1 is 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM and for Paper 2, it is 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM on the same day.  

With the hangover of Paper 1, students generally find it difficult to concentrate which leaves them struggling with calculations and analytical puzzles. It is therefore advisable to solve the mock tests prior to the actual examination in similar circumstances in order to train your brain accordingly. Besides, keeping the body well hydrated helps a lot with concentration. 

To put it in a nutshell, this second child CSAT should not be neglected and needs to be dealt with care. From my personal experience as a second child, I can say that not all kids suffer second child syndrome.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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