What are the solutions?
Does the decision to drop English comprehension from the merit in the CSAT offer any kind of reassurrance to the agitating candidates? Is this the best possible solution?
According to Rajesh Saraf, course director (CSAT), TIME Hyderabad, “Poor quality of translation, a large number of questions related to comprehension, and questions favouring technical and management students are some issues. Under the existing circumstances, the solutions should be devised taking into account all concerns. The UPSC must provide good quality Hindi translation, which should not put the candidates from any background at a disadvantage. The number of questions from any test area should not be dictated by any candidate or group of candidates. The new format, if created, will still have to test the candidate of the skills which are being tested in the existing format. There may be a few technical changes in the paper every year so as to retain the surprise element in the exam. This can be best served in multiple ways... one of them being changing the weightage of questions in different test areas in CSAT (while retaining the total number of questions).”
Vijay Agrawal, academician and retired civil servant of the 1983 batch, says that more importance has been given to English and Hindi and other Indian languages have been neglected. Agrawal also suggested the removal of the section on English comprehension completely. “There is a full 300 marks paper in the main exam that tests candidates on their English skills so there is no need to disqualify candidates prematurely. Another option could be to have four passages each in English and Hindi in comprehension. The UPSC must also extend the exam date by at least a month. The Commission should stop thinking as an administrator and start thinking as a parent,” he says.
The UPSC needs to make the exam standardised and uniform for all the students. “If the CSAT exam is considered as a real test to select candidates who would be able to meet the challenges of a globalised India, as outlined in the YK Alagh Committee report? Then the UPSC should specify what levels of skills are required and set a benchmark (ie) qualifying marks in English language, logical reasoning and numerical ability. The current practice of tallying the CSAT score to arrive at the final set of cut-off should be done away with. The general studies score only helps us understand whether a candidate has good grasp over social, political, and economic issues and subjects like history, geography and environment issues. The general studies paper places everyone on an equal footing, be it a student from English or regional medium, or a student from an IIT or humanities background,” says K Muthukumaran, an aspirant from Chennai.
The civil services main exam, says Muthukumaran, should also be revised so that more weightage is given to performance in general studies while selecting candidates. Candidates with a GS score are able to finally get selected because they balance their GS marks by scoring more than 60% in their optional subjects. “If the main exam is revised so that the selection process is only based on the GS paper and essay, there may be candidates who excel on all aspects. The current process of selection only helps people who are good in their academics, at the cost of a candidate who is very good in general knowledge. Scores of GS both at the prelims and mains stage should be taken into account while finalising candidates,” he adds.