A topper right through her school days, Tina Dabi stuck to her winning habits when she topped last year’s Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT), the results of which were declared recently. A graduate from Delhi University’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women in political science, she is interested in international relations, history and public policy. Cracking the CSAT in just her first attempt, Dabi shares her exam strategy with us.
Preparing for CSAT
CSAT has two papers. Paper one is about general studies and paper two is about logical reasoning and aptitude. The marks of paper one are counted while paper two is qualifying at 33% of the total marks. Preparation for each paper requires a different strategy. While the first requires memorising content, the second requires practice.
“For paper one, I read all the foundation books three times before the exam and attempted a lot of mock tests to perfect my strategy since there is negative marking in this paper. I also kept myself well updated on current affairs since 50% of the paper is current affairs based. For paper two, I solved one mock paper every third day. Since math was my weakness, I practised mathematical questions for one hour every day. Reading comprehension questions were my strength, so I practised a lot to score more in this section,” says Dabi.
While attempting the test
For paper one, read each question carefully. “Sometimes, we miss important words in the question when we are in a hurry and choose the wrong answer. To avoid it, read every question twice and first mark the answer in the question paper itself. After cross checking it, then mark it on the OMR Sheet. Also, try to attempt more than 65 questions. However, be wary of negative marking and attempt only those questions of which you are 85% sure,” suggests Dabi.
For paper two, Dabi advises that the reading comprehension portion be attempted first as it requires a fresh mind. “If you attempt it towards the end, there is a probability of getting it wrong since the mind is exhausted. Secondly, attempt those portions you are most comfortable with where you know you will score. Focus on your strengths in this paper as it help you qualify (for the test) and its marks won’t be counted,” she says.
Preparing for the Mains
The CSAT lays down the foundation for Mains. The four months after prelims have to be carefully devoted to Mains. “A proper planning exercise has to be followed in which you cover one topic daily of both general studies and the optional subject, and take one mock test every week. Practice for answer writing and time management is paramount for clearing Mains,” says Dabi.
Now is the time for revision. Allocate each day for each subject and revise your notes and all the important stuff you have underlined.
“Keep one day for revising all the important portions of current affairs. Nearly 50%-60% of the paper will be current affairs based, so this very important. Don’t forget to go through India’s map and the world map from the Atlas in detail. In environment and ecology, revise national parks, wetlands and the red book data. For the science and technology portion, don’t forget to revise the current developments in the field. For economics, revise the concise notes of the economic survey of this year,” says Dabi.
Revise all the important questions from the mock tests you have given. Also, analyse your mock tests to find out why and where you score more or less. Identify your own strengths and use them to your advantage.
“Read each question on the paper very carefully. Often we read in a hurry, miss crucial words and then mark the wrong answer option. A good way to tackle this is by reading each question twice before even looking at the answer options. Always mark the answer on the question paper first. After ascertaining once that you have chosen the right option, only then mark on the OMR Sheet. Don’t worry, you will have ample time to check and cross check,” she adds.
For those 30%-40℅ questions that you are doubtful, encircle them and go back to them after you have done those questions you are sure of. Among these doubtful questions attempt only those where you are at least 85% sure.