UPSC proposes aptitude test removal from civil services exam

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The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) wants the government to do away with the mandatory aptitude test in the civil services exam, which tests candidates’ comprehension, communication and decision-making skills, ThePrint has learned.

In its vision document shared with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) in June, the UPSC has proposed removing the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT), and bringing in a penalty for widespread absenteeism from the exam, sources in the commission said.

The CSAT or Paper II, which was introduced in 2011, has resulted in widespread protests by some aspirants, who say it gives an advantage to those with English, maths and science backgrounds.

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Why CSAT is controversial

Paper I of the civil service exam tests candidates on issues such as current affairs, history, economics, environment, etc. Paper II, the CSAT, seeks to evaluate the candidate on their aptitude by testing them in areas of comprehension, decision-making, reasoning, basic math, etc.

However, the CSAT faced massive protests for putting candidates at a disadvantage, because of which the government decided to make this part of the exam only ‘qualifying’ in nature in 2015. Now, only the marks scored in Paper I are used for selecting candidates for the second round; however, it is necessary to score 33 per cent in Paper II to qualify.

Candidates who appeared for the CSAT between 2011 and 2015 are still protesting, believing they were put at a disadvantage.

The UPSC is of the view that students who perform well in Paper I invariably perform well in Paper II as well, an official said. “Candidates end up wasting time in preparing for this exam, and it doesn’t really serve a purpose,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

However, a young IAS officer, who did not wish to be named, said that the CSAT is important to evaluate skills such as problem-solving, decision-making, leadership etc., which are key to being a successful civil servant. “It has its problems, but it also tests you on certain things that the regular exam does not,” the officer said.

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Penalty to tackle absenteeism

Additionally, the commission has also proposed that the government ensure that there is some penalty for widespread absenteeism from the civil service exam, the UPSC official quoted above said.

Earlier this year, ThePrint had reported that the UPSC wanted the government to consider any application to the civil service exam as an ‘attempt’, and it is learnt that the proposal has been sent to the government again.

The UPSC believes cracking down on absenteeism would ease the strain on its resources, because about 10 lakh candidates apply every year for the civil service exam on average, but only half of them actually attempt it.

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