my best shot and rushed to Delhi ,” he says.
Exam, the format
Entry into India’s civil services happens through an annual screening process conducted by the Union Public Services Commission. The process includes three phases: Preliminaries, Mains and an interview.
Till 2011, the preliminary examination had two papers: one on general studies carrying 150 marks and another on an optional subject carrying 300 marks. In the revised format, the number of papers at the preliminary level are still two, but applicants can no longer choose subjects. Both papers are of 200 marks each.
The first Prelims paper tests students on their knowledge of current events, history, politics and governance, economics, environment and general science. The second paper is CSAT or the Civil Services Aptitude Test (though UPSC doesn’t use the term) and has questions on communication skills, logical reasoning and analytical ability, decision-making and problem-solving, general mental ability, basic numeracy (Class X level), data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc. of Class X level), English language comprehension skills (Class X level). The last section of this paper has questions to test the English comprehension skills (Class X level). Both papers have multiple choice, objective-type questions.
At the second level, the Mains, there are two qualifying papers — one in any Indian language among those included in the Eighth Schedule, the second on English. Apart from the qualifying papers, there are seven papers, each carrying 250 marks. Four papers are
on general studies, two are on an optional subject and one essay paper.
The interview carries 275 marks.
Why are students protesting?
In 2011, UPSC introduced the CSAT as part of the preliminary exam. The CSAT paper quizzes students on logical reasoning, communication skills, problem-solving, decision-making, data interpretation and English language comprehension skills. This is where most protesters have a problem. They say it discriminates against students from regional backgrounds or with no professional degrees.
Students also allege that the Hindi translation of comprehension passages in CSAT is poorly done. They say the weightage given to CSAT questions is more than for the general studies ones.
Demands of protesters
They want the civil services examination, scheduled for August 24, to be postponed. They want CSAT to be scrapped or made optional or turned into a qualifying paper. They also demand that the applicants should not be quizzed on their English language skills at any level in the screening process, saying it discriminates against students from regional backgrounds. Protesting applicants say UPSC can provide an English proficiency course to those who qualify in the examination and interview.
In a recent communication to the Department of Personnel and Training, the UPSC opposed any move to either postpone or cancel the Prelims on August 24. The DoPT had asked about the possibility of the CSAT paper being scrapped or its marks not being tabulated at all during evaluation. The UPSC said a postponement of the exam was difficult given the number of students enrolled to write it, and also warned against any tinkering with CSAT at this time because of the possibility of …continued »