There’s some reshuffling, some reduction, and some addition in the Civil Services Examination’s Main part (which follows the preliminary test). The total number of papers in the Main examination has been reduced from nine to seven. The exam will assess ethics, integrity and aptitude as well. The score alloted to the interview has been slashed from 300 to 275 marks.
In 2012, the Main written examination consisted of nine papers of conventional essay type in specified subjects.
Now, marks scored in all the Main papers are to be counted to determine a candidate’s rank.
The English paper’s weight has come down from 300 to 100 but the marks you get in it will be used to calculate your final rank. Earlier, it was a qualifying paper, that is, its score did not count in the final ranking. In other words, it did not affect your final rank. But not clearing it would disqualify you from the competition. After the announced changes, some are contending that making English a compulsory paper would put rural applicants at a disadvantage. The counterview is that since marks in all the Main papers are to be counted for the merit rank, scoring a zero in English may not disqualify you as you could make up by doing well in other papers.
The new 300-mark paper 1 is now divided into Section 1 essay of 200 marks and Section 2 English comprehension and English précis of 100 marks. Previously, it was worth the same weight (300) but was on one of the Indian languages selected by the candidate from those included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution. And it was paper 2 which was on English, with the eponymous title, and worth 300 marks.
Earlier, the papers on Indian languages and English were of qualifying nature, that is, the marks obtained in these were not taken into account for the final rank.
Till last year, paper 3 was the essay, while now it is a part of the paper 1.
The share of GS goes up
The share of general studies (GS) has gone up from two papers to four. While earlier paper 4 and 5 were on GS, each with 300 marks, now paper 2, 3, 4 and 5 are on GS, each for 250 marks.
Another new feature is paper 5 (GS 4) on ethics, integrity and aptitude. It is learnt that former president APJ Abdul Kalam suggested that civil services aspirants be tested on ethics, when the Nigavekar committee, which finally recommended the changes in the CSE, met him in June last year.
Fewer optional papers
Optional subjects are down from four papers to two. The new plan includes two papers (paper 6 and 7) on optional subjects, each allotted 250 marks as opposed to 300 marks to each of the four papers in the old scheme. The number of optional subjects – specifically, group 2 which comprises literature of various languages – has been slashed from 30 to 23. In this, the authorities have scrapped the options of Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Pali, Persian, and Russian languages.
Rider on medium of exam
There’s also a change in the language in which the answers can be written. In the old scheme of exam, test-takers could opt to answer all the question papers, except the language papers (then papers 1 and 2) in any one of the languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution or in English. The latest notification has added a rider that this language should have been the medium of instruction in their undergraduate course as well.
It says, “Candidates will have the option to answer all the question papers, except section 2 of the paper 1 (English comprehension and English précis) in English or Hindi.” However, those who have received their first degrees in any of the specified language mediums can opt for that particular language to answer all the question papers, except section 2 of paper 1 (English comprehension and English précis). However, there must be at least 25 applicants opting for a specific language medium for answering the papers in that language medium. If the number is fewer than 25, then such candidates will be required to take their exams either in Hindi or English.
The changes, especially regarding the English paper and regional language medium, has polarised opinion.
All for it
Awnish (who did not wish to give his full name) gives the thumbs-up to the new system of exam which he is preparing to attempt for the second time this year. Regarding the English paper, he says, “You have to have a common language for administration at the national and even international level.”
On the other hand, terming the measure exclusionary, Sriram Srirangam of Sriram’s IAS academy in Delhi, says 100 marks for English are the “difference between success and failure.” He says that it will not be inclusive when it comes to the rural students for many of whom the study material of other subjects is taxing. “English has been a problem in India.”
Sriram is of the view that candidates can learn the language after selection. He is also not happy with the restriction in the medium of the exam in regional languages. “Access to regional languages has become restricted.”
He does not complain about reducing the weight of optional papers which can help level the field between students from what are called scoring and not-so-scoring disciplines. Though the authorities’ “rationale is not clear,” he says it suggests the “levelling process is going further.”
As for the interview which has a decreased share in absolute terms but increased in percentage terms, he says, “What point are you (authorities) trying to drive home, I have no idea. What’s this 275 (and not 250 or 300)?”
On the positive side, bringing in ethics, integrity and aptitude is “wonderful”, says Sriram. So is the decision to now explicitly mention certain topics including land reforms, globalisation, public distribution system and NGOs.
Change in the IFS
This year, the government has changed the pattern of the Indian Forests Service (IFS) examination as well by introducing a component of screening mechanism through civil services (preliminary) examination. IFS aspirants are required to take and clear the civil services (preliminary) examination to qualify for the second stage of the forests services main examination (written and interview)
* Candidates need to apply online through www.upsconline.nic.in
* The online applications can be filled up to April 4, 2013, till 11.59pm after which the link will be disabled
The ethics paper is a much-awaited step that the authorities have taken. You have to have some motivation from inside --Awnish, a civil services aspirant
Access to regional languages has become restricted. English is being wooed. This is non-inclusive -- Sriram Srirangam, founder, Sriram’s IAS, Delhi