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Is the CSAT going to be a Boon or Vain?

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Dear Civil Service aspirants,

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.

Recently we received lots of enquiries about the proposed change in the Civil Services Preliminary Examination. Many future aspirants are eager to know about the changing examination pattern and require clarification on, whether the proposed change will be easier or difficult. I wish to throw some light on the possible changing pattern of Civil Service Examination.

Aspirants for the civil services will be facing a different pattern of examination from next year (2011). Since the government has approved a proposal to introduce an aptitude test in place of the existing optional subject paper in the civil service preliminary exam to shortlist candidates for the main exam. Currently all the candidates will have to attempt two papers with a General Studies Paper and the other one is the Optional paper in which the candidate will have to select one subject among the 23 subjects listed by UPSC. After giving effect to the proposed change in the Preliminary examination in 2011, Candidates will have to appear in two objective-type papers, which will be a General Studies Paper and the other one will be the General Aptitude Paper. The Aptitude paper will replace the previously existing Optional subject paper. On effecting this model, Civil Services Preliminary Examination will be called as Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT).

This change will be effective only for the Preliminary examination and the Main examination will remain unchanged until a expert committee gives a detailed report for changing it.

Now, lets compare the features of the Civil Services Preliminary Examination and Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) to have a better understanding on the proposed new pattern

S.No Civil Services Preliminary Examination Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT)
1 Two Objective Papers with one General Studies and One Optional out of the 23 subjects given by UPSC Two Objective Papers with one General Studies and One General Aptitude Paper
2 More weightage for optional with 300 marks for Optional subject and only 150 marks for General Studies Equal weightage for both General Studies as well as General Aptitude paper. Both carrying equal marks
3 Advantageous for people who completed masters degree and having a grip on Academic Subject Equally good for All kinds of graduates creating a level play ground.
4 No Transparency in terms of Assessment and disclosure of Preliminary marks Complete Transparency in terms of disclosure of marks
5 High amount of disparity between one optional subject and the other, creating sense of biasedness on few particular optional subject. No disparity, Equal game to be played by all in a equal platform
6 Easy for Candidates who studied in high caliber institutes compared to a student with Rural background. All the students have equal opportunity, since everyone has to prepare in similar patterns.
7 High Competition due to people cramming with the subject knowledge in Optional. Infuses fresh blood in the examination arena such that all the people have to prepare a fresh.

Why is the Change: Various committees including the second Administrative Reforms Commission, in their reports submitted over the years suggested the changes and laid greater emphasis on the 'aptitude' of candidates than their knowledge of a subject. The committees argued that specialists or experts in any particular subject might not necessarily be good civil servants. Moreover the preliminary exam which does not discloses the marks , Cut off to select the candidates for main exams or the method which they use to compare various optional subjects is repugnant to the Right to Information Act 2005. It is criticized in various directions and dimension that there is no transparency in the current format in which preliminary exam is conducted. To overhaul the current process and create more transparency in the selection process this General Aptitude paper is introduced in the place of the Optional Paper.

Introduction of Negative marks was the last change in Civil Services Examination. Introduction of Aptitude paper will be the major change after the introduction of Negative marking pattern. UPSC was talking about the System of Online Application Procedure (SOAP) that was successfully implemented in the Indian Forest Service Examination 2010.

What is an Aptitude test: Aptitude tests are designed to assess your logical reasoning or thinking performance. They consist of multiple-choice questions and are administered under exam conditions. They are strictly timed. UPSC conducts various examinations in any given year and they name those test papers with various names such as General Studies in Civil Service, General Ability in Combined Medical Exam, General Knowledge in Combined Defence Service, General Ability and Intelligence in Central Police Force Exam. But they have never used the nomenclature General Aptitude; this is the first time UPSC going to have an Aptitude test. Attempting maximum question under exam condition in the given time is the key for success in a normal Aptitude test. The most common Aptitude test pattern are

  1. Verbal Aptitude,
  2. Quantitative Aptitude,
  3. Abstract Reasoning,
  4. Spatial Reasoning,
  5. Mechanical Reasoning,
  6. Data Checking,
  7. Fault Diagnosis.

We wish to hear Good news, but we cannot interpret and fit the information received as per our preconceptions. We should do a deep dive analysis. The above given aptitude test pattern are just for your information and no were UPSC have given any details about the content of the aptitude test. Hence we cannot conclude that the General Aptitude paper may contain the above-mentioned list of aptitude test. The only hint received from the Government about the content of General Aptitude test is “Greater emphasis will given to test the aptitude for civil services as well as on ethical and moral dimension of decision-making”.

The above line makes it clear that the aptitude test will be heavily leaned towards the Psychometric Testing pattern rather than a normal clerical aptitude test. The ethical and moral decision making test is already in vogue at various International organizations. This kind of Aptitude test will create a uniform ethical standard for the Civil Servants. General Aptitude test will check whether the candidate is having integrity and a strong sense of social responsibility also willing to reflect on and learn from their actions.

There is no formula or algorithm for moral decision-making. It is not a process, which can easily be based on a determinate set of rules. It is also important to see that good moral decision-making involves more than just acting on hunches or intuitions. Good moral decision-making involves a) knowing the facts of the situation, and b) careful consideration of the moral values that are relevant to a given situation. Importantly, it involves sensitivity to the moral dimensions of everyday situations, and an awareness of the range of interests involved in specific decisions.

Is the Aptitude Test a Combination of Public Administration, Psychology, Sociology and Anthropology

NO, This is a General Aptitude test and no subject will influence or be infused in this paper. May be the above combination of professionals like Administrators, Psychologist and others can be used to set a question paper. But for sure the above-mentioned subjects (Theoretical and Purely Subjective) will not play a part in the Aptitude test.

Can a person be trained in the Aptitude test: A person grown up with a sense of moral and ethical values with consideration towards humanity being logical and taking sensible decisions will find this Aptitude paper easy. But still, fine-tuning the skills with the assistance of professional trainers will enhance the success ratio of a candidate. As a word of caution I wish to request all the candidates to wait until UPSC gives clear directions about the subject content of the General Aptitude test paper. Since the change can be utilized by various people for false propaganda to sell their books and training programme, which is of no use for the candidates. Until then the candidates can prepare for their General Studies paper, which remains unchanged.

It's not that some people have willpower and some don't. It's that some people are ready to change and others are not.

- James Gordon, M.D.

The above quote of James Gordon gives the conclusion such that we shall equip ourselves to face the change and achieve our ambition. Leave away all the doubts and fears, prepare yourself to embrace the change. Time is very near to rise and shine. For sure CSAT is going to be a boon for aspiring candidates.

All the best for giving your best efforts, to get the best results


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