Change is coming to the civil services examinations. From 2011, aspiring civil servants may be checked for aptitude, instead of subject knowledge, at the preliminary stage, according to a cabinet minister’s statement. As many would agree, this is a welcome move, but one which throws up some posers.
“The government has approved the proposal for Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) in place of Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination. In CSAT, one of optional subjects that a candidate could have chosen out of 23 optionals is being replaced with a common paper on aptitude,” the minister of personnel, public grievances and pensions, Prithviraj Chavan, said in response to a question in the Rajya Sabha recently.
The government is soon going to notify the general public about the new scheme of the examination with details of the syllabus.
The competitive exam has so far included a paper each on general studies (GS) and on an optional subject chosen from a list of 23.
Does the GS paper stay on? “Silence means status quo,” ventured Sriram Srirangam, faculty member, Sri Ram’s IAS, Delhi.
But Ved Prakash Gupta, director, Rau’s IAS Study Circle, wonders if GS is intact. The minister has not said anything about the GS paper, noted Gupta. “Does this mean the GS will remain the same? There’s a doubt over that.”
Second, how will the authorities evaluate test-takers’ moral and ethical traits through a quantitative test? “It’s difficult to frame questions to evaluate ethical aspects in a written test. It could be done better at the interview stage,” said Gupta.
Srirangam echoed the same query but said there are experts in the country who can do it and “it’s not an impossible challenge”.
Coaching industry professionals say the aptitude test is a much-needed change.
“It should have happened earlier,” said Ved Prakash Gupta, director, Rau’s IAS Study Circle. “The idea behind this is that if you are applying for a job, then all candidates should appear for the same paper. That makes sense.”
Srirangam said aspirants could be groomed to be civil servants “right from the preparation stage. They can select administrators (more) accurately.”
Also, this may remove many candidates’ misgivings about the secretive evaluation and moderation process for students picking different subjects. “All this equalisation and neutralisation thing which is kept under wraps may go,” said Srirangam.