(Tips) WINDS OF CHANGE : In the May Issue of Competition Success Review By V.P. GUPTA

In the May Issue of Competition Success Review

There was a lot of speculation about the pattern of changes in the Civil Services Examination since long, but no one was aware, as to when and what kind of changes will be there?  This speculation was ended by the UPSC Chairman, Prof. D.P. Agrawal himself,  while participating in the UPSC Foundation Lecture Series on the “Governance and Public Services”.  He said that UPSC is convinced of the need for important changes in the method of recruitment to the higher civil services.  The Commission has recommended to the Government that a Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)  replace the exiting Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, he added.   Confirming this change for the first stage of Civil Services Examination, Minister of State for Personnel, Mr. Prithvi Raj Chauhan told the Lok Sabha on 10th March, 2010 that Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has approved the proposal for introduction  of CSAT  in place of  the existing Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination.  He said that CSAT is expected to come into effect from 2011.

As per the new pattern,  at the Preliminary Examination stage, there will be two objective type question papers common for all the candidates.  Both these papers will have equal weightage.  The emphasis will be on testing the aptitude of the candidate for the demanding life in civil service, as well as, on the ethical and moral dimensions of decision making.  The upcoming scheme will have the advantages of : (a) testing candidate’s decision making skills and aptitude for civil services, and (b) providing a level playing field for all the aspirants, since all the candidates will have to attempt two objective-type papers, which will be common for all.

To decide the exact content and syllabus of CSAT, UPSC Chairman, Prof. D.P. Agrawal, has constituted a high power committee under Prof. S.K. Khanna, former Vice Chairman, University Grants Commission, to work out the details of  the syllabus for two papers. The committee is expected to submit its report by the end of  April, 2010, after which  UPSC will formally announce the contents of the syllabi of the two objective-type papers of CSAT stage.

For the first time, the Civil Service Aptitute Test (CSAT) was advocated by Dr. Y.K. Alagh in his Civil Services Review Committee Report, 2001.  He recommended major changes  in the structure of  examination system.  He favoured testing the candidates in a common subject rather than on optional subjects. According the Alagh Committee Report the structure of CSAT contains the following  contents -

(1) Basic Awareness (Nation and the World)

The general awareness of current affairs having a bearing on public life in India.

(2) Problem solving and analytical skills

Logical reasoning and decision making skills (Situations from civil service arena be taken to test reasoning and undertanding of problems related to the same).

(3) Elementaty Arithmetic

  • Data analysis ability

  • Data Interpretation / graphics / charts etc.

  • Quantitative

The above mentioned syllabus of CSAT was a proposal to UPSC.  The final shape of the syllabus will be decided after the Prof. S.K. Khanna Committee report.

As of  now, the change will be effective only for the first stage of  the Civil Services Examination.  The nature and pattern of the second and third stages, viz. Civil Services Main Examination and Interview will remain the same.  Most of the committees / commissions constituted by the Government/UPSC  have advocated laying greater emphasis on the apptitude of the candidates than their knowledge of the subject, arguing that specialists or experts in any particular subject, may not necessarily be a good civil servant. 

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has also argued that the recruitment process, apart from being transparent, objective, fair and equitable, should also ensure that the right type of persons join the Civil Services. 

Since the announcement of the change, there has been a lot of discussion, and also fear & anxiety amongst the civil services aspirants regarding the nature of CSAT.   Ever since the announcement about CSAT.  I have frequently been asked questions as to what would be its pattern?  Whether it wiil be on the lines of CAT or MAT, or will there be a new format, altogether?

My advice to Civil Services aspirants is : Do not have any adverse apprehension about CSAT.  The basic difference between CAT/MAT and CSAT is that the former is a test for admission to an educational course, that is preparatory to a future job.  Whereas the latter is a recruitment test, where once successful, placement is guaranteed in a secure and stable government job, and that too an elite one.

I feel these changes would impart the present scheme of Civil Services Examination a fresh and new look, which was already over­due. At the same time, the recommendations of this committee would do away with some other anomalies as well, which were there in the existing system.

 A final word! Whether or not this facelift of the pattern of the Civil Ser­vices Examination gives a new direction and purpose to our bureaucracy, it will definitely make the whole system of selection more objective, humane and transparent.