UPSC Civil Services exam: How exam pattern changed over the five years

The syllabus for Mains was made much more specific and defined in 2013 with a lot of major changes.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: March 1, 2017 12:27:42 pm


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In the recent five years, there have many major and minor changes in Union Public Service Commission’s civil services examination pattern and syllabus. In all those changes, only the CSE Mains exam has been affected. There has been no change in the number of attempts, age limit and exam pattern for preliminary exam.

In 2012, UPSC decided to make the syllabus for CSE mains more generic with completely different pattern. Keeping two optional papers with two exams for each, 2012 pattern also included two general studies paper with one essay.

Also, both GS and CSAT marks used to be counted in preparing the merit list in prelims exam.

The syllabus for Mains was made much more specific and defined in 2013 with a lot of major changes. UPSC added another paper in general studies (‘general mental ability’) shifting it from the paper 1 with introduction of entirely new subjects like ethics, integrity aptitude. Redefining the optional paper from two to one in the mains section was another major transformation done by the UPSC.

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Prelims exam would consist of a general studies paper and an optional subject of one’s choice. To test the aptitude of the aspirants, UPSC replaced the optional subject with CSAT (Civil Services Aptitude Test) at the prelims stage. And looking at the trend since 2013, the number of questions has been increased with a shortfall in the word limit for the essays.

In 2014, there were no remarkable changes made to the mains pattern except in the essay papers, the essay write ups changed to 1 or more (which was generally 2 as per the continuing trend). The total number of attempts permitted for the exam was increased from four to six and the maximum age limit for general candidates was increased from 30 to 32 years.

Read | UPSC Civil Services 2017: Official notification out, prelims on June 18

For many years civil services aspirants have been voicing concerns over, what they allege, urban bias in Civil Services Examinations. Since the CSAT paper is dominated by English comprehension and mathematics, many argued that the introduction of this paper has put aspirants from rural and Hindi background at a disadvantage.

The government has taken the step to have the General Studies Paper – II as a qualifying subject in the Civil Services (preliminary) examination and shall continue to exclude English Language Comprehension from CSAT.

Also read | Govt experimenting on us: UPSC aspirants

The author AK Mishra is Director of Chanakya IAS Academy 

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