Candidates in reserved categories — SC, ST and OBC — fare somewhat poorly in the Civil Services Examination compared with candidates in the general category — and this is true for both the written and interview stages of the exam, according to an analysis of marks by The Indian Express.
The analysis of marks of the last four years — 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012 — also shows that ST candidates often do slightly better than SCs, and sometimes even OBCs, in the interview, called ‘Personality Test’ in Union Service Public Commission (UPSC) parlance.
Final rankings in one of the toughest competitive examinations anywhere in the world are based on an aggregate of marks obtained by candidates in the written exam and the personality test. Since 2013, maximum marks in the written test has been 1,750 and that for the interview, 275 — until 2012, these were 1,800 and 300 respectively.
The results of CSE 2015, the latest exam, were declared in May 2016.
In 2015, the average marks obtained in the written exam by successful candidates in the general category was 729 — a little less than 739 in 2014. In 2013, the average marks of successful candidates was significantly lower than both these years — 629. In 2012, it was higher — 786.
In the same years — 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012 — average marks of successful OBC candidates in the written test were 698, 708, 607 and 775 respectively.
SC candidates got average marks of 681, 697, 586 and 724; STs got 672, 676, 572 and 740 respectively.
A similar pattern was seen in the personality test. Candidates in the general category got, on average, 171, 177, 180 and 191 marks in 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012 respectively; in the same exam and in the same sequence of years, OBC candidates got 165, 171, 169, and 179; SCs got 163, 167, 167, and 171; and STs got 162, 170,168, and 180 marks. (See chart)
A separate cut-off list is prepared for each of the reserved categories, but it matters when a candidate does well enough to rank among the top 90 overall. Lower interview marks pull down their ranks, and they lose the chance to be considered as general category candidates in the allotment of service and cadre of their first choice.
In 2015, just 9 OBC and 4 SC candidates reached the top 90 ranks; no STs made it to this bracket. In 2014, there were 11 OBCs, 2 SCs and 1 ST among the top 90. In 2013, there were 77 general category candidates and 13 OBCs in the top 90, and in 2012, there were 19 OBCs, 2 SCs and 1 ST.
In the personality test, 165 marks out of 275 — 60% — is considered good. Among the selected candidates in 2015, 66.33% in the general category crossed this threshold, while only 55.10% of successful OBC candidates, 51.14% of SCs and 50.56% of STs could make it.
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The same gap between the general and reserved categories was seen in the three previous years: in 2014, while 76.10% general candidates got 165 marks and above, only 54.12% ST candidates were able to reach this level. In 2013, these numbers were 80.08% and 58.82%, and in 2012, 85.78% and 63.31%.
Satyananda Mishra, an IAS officer of the 1973 batch who retired as DoPT (administrative department for UPSC) Secretary and later became Chief Information Commissioner, said, “Performance in both written (test) and interview depends on the education and atmosphere (in which the candidate’s personality develops). The difference is obvious in the written exam as well as in the personality test. A candidate from a rural background and educated at a small place finds it difficult to compete in communication skills before the interview panel with those who are from cities, and have been educated in a better atmosphere.”
Prof K S Chalam, who was UPSC member from 2005 to 2011, said, “We initiated a system wherein a candidate’s caste was not disclosed to the interview panel. To avoid any distant possibility of caste bias, reserved and general category candidates can be shuffled together when called for the personality test.”