Unless the UPSC addresses basic queries about the CSAT replacing the Prelims, it will lead to chaos among aspirants and legal issues for the government.

The Union gov ernment has recently announced that the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) will replace the Civil Services Preliminary Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) every year across the country. The Preliminary examination is the first in a three-stage examination process.

However, the Centre?s announcement has raised several questions with academicians pointing out that unless the UPSC addresses certain ?basic questions? the new initiative will lead to chaos among candidates apart from creating legal problems for the government.

Under the new system, candidates for the civil services exam will have to sit for two objective-type papers that will specifically test their ?aptitude for the civil services? as well as the ?ethical and moral dimension of decision-making?.

Both papers will be given equal weight and will be common to all candidates.

They replace the one common paper (general awareness) and one optional paper (any particular subject of choice) under the existing system, which lays greater emphasis on knowledge of the subject.

?In the ever-changing scenario of governance in India, how does one test the ?aptitude? of a candidate for the civil services? Even today, a majority of the students are not aware of the opportunity of a career in the civil service. In this context would it be fair to try to test their aptitude? If aptitude is equated with ?ethics and morals?, can a test be designed which would serve the purpose with reliability and predictability?? asks Mr V. Gopalakrishna, director, Brain Tree, a civil exam training centre in the state.

The change will be effective from 2011 and affects only the first stage of the Civil Services Examination (CSE), that is, the Preliminary examination. The second and third stages, namely the Main exam and the Interview, respectively, will remain the same till a committee of experts examines the whole system and submits its report.

?All examinations that are designed to test the required
aptitude, like the Common Admission Test for business schools and the Common Law Admission Test for law schools, have a dominant emphasis on English and are accessible only to the ?elite?. Can we afford to design an examination for the public services that is manifestly elite and keeps a majority of the aspirants with a desire for ?service? out of the reckoning? The new initiative may further widen the urban-rural gap and may be biased towards urban students,? said Mr C.

Venkateshwara Rao, a civils exam trainer.

Some academicians opine that a fair, competitive examination would be one that tests what has already been taught in the universities. This is the logic behind the optional at the exam.

They asked whether it would be fair to test what has not been taught. ?When there is no uniformity of subjects, teaching and standards for evaluation in the different universities, would such an aptitude test not give an undue advantage to aspirants from the ?golden mile? universities located in the metropolitan cities? Can a candidate from a rural background ever compete with his urban counterpart?? wondered Mr A.

Nikhil, a civil services aspirant.

Most State Public Service Commissions follow a similar examination pattern.

This has the advantage of providing the candidates with a ?backup? and also assures quality for the state public service as most of the candidates appear for both the state examination and the UPSC examination.

?If the examination pattern is changed it would disturb this equilibrium. Also, the gap between the direct recruit and the promotee would get accentuated as the recruitment patterns are different. In these days of demands for smaller states, can we afford such a gap? If the examination patterns of the UPSC and the State Public Service Commissions are different would it not accentuate the already existing gulf between the direct recruit and the promotee?? questioned Ms K.

Vishnu Priya, another civil service aspirant.

Unless the government finds suitable answers to these basic questions, it would be premature to introduce any change.


Sept. 21: The proposal to introduce the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) has been pending with the Centre for nearly a decade. Civil service exam trainers and candidates are hence doubtful if it will be implemented from 2011 as proposed.

The Alagh panel came out with this proposal in 2001.

In November 2009, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, made a statement on the introduction of CSAT at a UPSC-organised function in New Delhi.

But the debate on reforming the civil services exam goes back to 1974, when the UPSC appointed a panel under the chairmanship of Mr D.S. Kothari. It recommended a sequential system of examination based on the principle that the average quality would get richer as candidates proceeded from one stage to the next.

Sequences would improve the efficiency of the selection process and make it
more homogenous.

Accordingly, the examination was designed as a sequential, three-stage process: an objective-type Preliminary examination comprising Optional and General Studies (to prevent overloading the selection process by a large number of indifferent candidates), a Main examination which would comprise nine written papers (compulsory papers and optionals which would test the depth of knowledge of the aspirant) and a personality interview.

Subsequently, the Satish Chandra panel (1989) and the Alagh panel (2001) recommended several changes.

The Second Administrative Reforms (Veerappa Moily) Commission, 2008, recommended a major overhaul. It recommended that the Preliminary and the Main examinations should consist of compulsory subjects like the Constitution of India, Indian Legal System, etc.

But presently, these subjects are taught as part of the foundation training course.

Source: DC

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