• 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:

    PaperTotal marksDurationNumber of questions
    General Studies Paper I2002 hours100
    CSAT Paper II2002 hours80

    Both the papers have negative marking and both are of a qualifying nature.


    • 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.

    • 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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