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60 Days to Crack Prelims -
Base Level Preparation Strategy for CSAT Paper II

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CivilsThe paper II of CSAT intends to test aptitude of the candidate to be in civil services. It is comparatively easy paper than the first paper, but more challenging too.

When this paper was introduced a few years back, there was a lot of hue and cry saying that this paper will be of huge advantage to engineers and people who have already cleared CAT or MAT. But ultimately when the paper came out, it was very easy and almost all the candidates could attend it irrespective of their educational background.

This paper tests the aptitude and not knowledge
More surprise was hidden in the bag and when the results came many engineers who had qualified previous Prelims failed, and those people without any experience got through. That was the level of challenge it posed to even experienced, and that was the level of opportunity it offered even to the freshers. Summing up from these experiences we can really conclude that this paper tests the aptitude and not your knowledge.

Civils Numerical Ability at class X level
One of the most important parts of CSAT paper II is General Mental Ability and Numerical Ability. UPSC specifies that the Numerical Ability will be of class X level only. But the issue you will face is - there is no single book which you studied in school would summarise the requisite knowledge for facing these questions.

What the Board expects from the candidates is is to have enough insight from schooling and handle the questions.

The book ‘Quantitative Aptitude’ by R S Aggarwal provides all thex things you need. It is a neatly arranged book with all the formulae and methods needed to solve the problems to practice on. The second section in this book provides you enough inputs for handling the questions related to another important area in this paper called ‘Data Interpretation’ which is about reading and understanding charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency etc again specified to be off Class X level.

Write down formulae for quick revision
I would advise you to write down all the formulae from different chapters in five or six sheets of paper and keep it in your pocket so that you can have a quick revision when you travel, or when you are sitting idle. Such quick looks etches the formulae into your minds and keeps it handy when needed. You can also revise them a day before exam.

Solve the questions and correct your mistakes
Studying the formulae alone will not help you to tackle the questions in the right time when you need to. You also have to practice questions. Do all solved sample questions without looking into the solutions and cross check with the solutions afterwards. Correct your mistakes and keep the formulae in the mind. Do practice questions that were given in earlier years also, before the introduction of CSAT as a part of General Mental Ability in General Studies.

Collect and classify previous year’s questions
There is one more important thing which you should do before studying the topics from Quantitative Aptitude. You have to collect few previous year question papers, classify the questions into different chapters and mark the chapters from which questions are regularly asked. Your study should be started from those chapters which have more questions repeated, so that even if you fail to finish the preparation, you will make sure the important chapters are done.

Comprehension, an area were most seniors failed
Comprehension is another important area of this exam in which you have to read a given passage and answer the questions based on the passage. This part is in turn divided into two types, one is English language comprehension in which no Hindi translation is provided and other is General comprehension which has a translation provided in question paper. English comprehension part gives you comparatively easier questions. Apart from this minor difference, both the parts are similar and needs same approach of preparation.

This part is quite challenging and charming as this is the part which caused the failure of most of the experienced candidates in CSAT in recent past. Unfortunately there is no simple single book out in the market that I can suggest you to cover all aspects of comprehension.

The following is the strategy to handle the questions of comprehension with success:
First of all you have to understand comprehension in detail. The passages provided in this part can be grossly of three types based on language and content. You should have a grasp of these three types of passages to handle these questions.
  • First type of passages has simple language and simple content. This is easiest if you use language regularly and is well versed with language. But the questions accompanying such passages may confuse you a little because they may ask you something about the principles or philosophies projected by author, or about theme or topic of the passage. In such questions you have to answer based on passage as a whole depending on your complete understanding, rather than based on certain sentences or a single paragraph of the passage.
  • The second type is passage with complex language, but talking about some simple things. Here vocabulary will be the main constraint in comprehending the passage. You have to develop your vocabulary to the desired level and depend on context clues from nearby sentences to get the meaning of many things. These passages may offer twisted sentences also which confuses you a lot, like usage of double negative making the overall sentence or passage positive. Read them carefully.
  • The third type of passages gives you technical content in technical language. They seem to be the toughest of the comprehension questions. But the questions posed usually will be straightforward and you will be able to answer them easily if you have some habit of reading such things.
Improve reading skills
Now coming to the preparation strategy, the Key to comprehension is in developing faster reading skills. When I say reading, it is not about mechanically reading through, but about understanding what is said. To develop reading skills, you have to practice reading with conscious efforts to improve reading skills.

You have to choose three different books for reading practice, one with simple language and simple content, may be ‘Discovery of India’ or ‘Story of My Experiments with Truth’, another one with simple content in complex language i.e. collection of Hindu Editorials published in name The Hindu Speaks on ..., and the last one with some technical content i.e. any encyclopedia, may be Britannica.

Regular practice of conscious reading
Second stage of preparation is to make passages of equal size as it is asked in CSAT Paper II. If you count the number of words in previous year questions, you can see that the passages are more or less around 300 to 350 words in size. In each book you have to separately count 350 words and note down how many lines cover 350 words. Now you have to keep a regular schedule of half hour every day when you just take these books, read random passages of already counted number of lines and try to understand in 5 minutes. Keeping this regular practice of conscious reading helps you to develop fast reading skills and easy answering of Comprehension questions.

Try not to overdo Logical Reasoning and Analytical Ability
Logical Reasoning and Analytical Ability is another part of CSAT Paper II which can be tackled by another book from R S Aggarwal ‘Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning’. Have the same approach we used in case of Mental Ability with this book also. This book is quite big, so try not to overdo it and waste your time for this section.

No specific preparation for Decision Making and Problem Solving
Decision Making and Problem Solving is the last area of CSAT Paper II. Though Interpersonal Skills including Communication Skills are mentioned in the syllabus, the examiners have not asked any question specifically from this part and we have to assume that they are testing this also through the decisions we make. This part carries no negative markings for wrong answers and it is better not to waste too much time for specific preparation on this part. Follow your intuitions and choose the answers which you feel most appropriate. One word of caution here is to think about the real beneficiaries of your action in manner similar to Gandhiji’s Talisman.

60 Days to Crack Prelims - Base Level Preparation Strategy for General Studies
Published on 6/18/2014 4:12:00 PM

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