The Modi government on Wednesday retained the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) paper in the civil services (preliminary) examination but turned CSAT into a qualifying paper.
An official statement issued on Wednesday also announced that English comprehension skills would be excluded from the CSAT paper at the preliminary exam.
For candidates who clear the preliminary screening exam and appear for the Main examination, the Modi government requires candidates to score a minimum of 25% in English and Indian language paper. Earlier, candidates had to score 25% in English and 30% in an Indian language paper.
But the examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission to select officers for premier administrative, police and foreign services would undergo a major overhaul next year.
The government announced that an expert committee would be set up to comprehensively examine various issues relating to the eligibility, syllabus, scheme and pattern of the civil services examination.
Nearly 940,000 candidates applied for the examination in 2014. A little less than half of them, 450,000, sat for the preliminary exam.
This time, the UPSC expects the applications to exceed over a million due to two extra chances announced by the government last August. UPSC has consequently increased the number of exam centres from 2,137 to about 3,000.
How does the change in CSAT impact candidates?
This means the marks scored in CSAT, or the General Studies II paper as it is officially called, would not be counted, provided the candidate scores a minimum of 33% marks in this paper.
Instead, it is their performance in the General Studies I paper – essentially a general knowledge paper – that will determine if they clear the first-stage preliminary examination and are allowed to appear for the second stage, civil services (Main) examination.
Is the 33% qualifying marks-rule new?
Not really. UPSC has had qualifying marks for individual papers for years. In the 2013, the cut-off marks for the preliminary exam was 246 out of 400 for general category candidates, 222 for OBC, 207 for scheduled caste, 201 for scheduled tribe and 199-163 for physically handicapped aspirants.
In addition, candidates had to score a minimum of 70 out of 200 marks in the GS II (CSAT) paper and at least, 30 out of 200 in the GS-I paper.
At the civil services main examination too, candidates had to score at least 10% in each paper or ran the risk of being disqualified.
The last overhaul
Till 2010, the preliminary objective-style screening test comprised two papers. The first was a general studies paper and the second, an optional subject, selected by the candidate from a list of 23.
The UPA launched reforms in the selection process in 2011, when it replaced the second optional paper by a second general studies paper that tests the aptitude and assess candidates’ understanding rather than memory. This paper is commonly referred to as the civil services aptitude test.
But CSAT ran into trouble with candidates from a rural background and humanities students, who felt CSAT was biased in favour of technical and management students.