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Once again the age limit is scheduled to be reduced? Is it hampering students to plan well?

Civil services examination is undoubtedly one of the most prestigious examinations in India. Over the past couple of years, this exam has seen rapid changes. While the year 2011 saw the change in the pattern of preliminary to the CSAT format, 2013 marked the beginning of a new pattern for Mains. This year, in 2014, we again saw an increase in the permitted number of attempts and consequentially age limit.

Though all the above changes have been initiated by the Government with an aim of fine tuning the selection process for selecting the best bureaucrats for the country, the uncertainty caused alongside cannot be ignored.

The statistics this year showed that a total of around 9 lakh had applied for the Preliminary exam of which around 4.5 lakh actually appeared. This shows the amount of competition that exists. The huge gap in the number of applicants actually appearing for the exam can also be attributed to such uncertain changes and the lack of preparation thereof.

Civil services exam takes on an average of 3-4 years of meticulous preparation. As the gamut of areas that need to be covered is vast, the process of preparation is time consuming and spans years altogether. Such rapid change made to the system not only leaves the candidate clueless, but also distracts him/her too.

The period of preparation is one that is filled with anxiety, frustration and uncertainty. There is a constant fear of failure that grips even the toppers. In such a situation it is better if the pattern of examination is kept stable at least. This relieves the candidate of the ordeal of keeping track with the minute changes and therefore maintaining concentration. It is well evident how the last minute changes to the total marks of CSAT-Paper II in August 2014 had created a whole lot of confusion not only to the candidates but also to officials conducting the exam.

It is learnt that Government is now planning to lower the age limit. The most affected by this decision would be the candidates now bordering the age 26 who was just relieved that they would get 6 chances and time till they turn 32. They gained breath but would be losing it soon, if the decision gets implemented.

Incidentally it needs to be mentioned here that the majority of candidates who have qualified prelims this year are the seasoned ones.

A stable and fixed pattern of examination would help the candidates to be focused, concentrate on the preparation and thereby fare better in the various phases of the exam. It is worth mentioning that in midst of all the changes, the total marks secured by the candidates who made it to the final list in the 2013 exam was substantially low compared to their older counterparts.

It is also pertinent to mention here that among the 9 lakh aspirants each year, a total of around 1000 only make it to the final lists. The idea of preparation for civil services exam is not to waste the valuable youthful years of candidates, but to transform them to better individuals and knowledgeable persons. This preparation entails them to contest various other exams as well, be it, RBI Grade B exam, PSU or IBPS exams. Thus considering the favorable demographic dividend of the country, the pattern of the civil services exam should be in line with identifying the most suitable for the country's leading job but at the same time not leaving the rest feeling lost/ dejected and bereft of options.

Thus, the need of the hour is to finalize on the pattern of the examination once for all. This needs to be done taking all the stakeholders into confidence, be it the UPSC, the candidate or Government itself. This not only provides clarity of purpose to the candidates, but also to the government to plan and execute the examination well.

-Radhee Krishna