Introduction of the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) – Good or Bad?

The examination conducted for selecting candidates for the civil services in India is among the toughest tests in the world. Every year almost a million candidates fight it out for a few thousand seats. The preliminary or qualifying exam for the civil services is also called the CSAT, which has faced opposition right from its inception in 2011. The exam which consists of two objective papers has questions from English, reasoning and quantitative aptitude along with general studies. Due to its syllabus this test does become quite difficult to clear for students from a rural background or for the average graders. Students who have graduated in social sciences or similar art subjects have been demanding the scrapping of CSAT right from its inception, because they fear to lose their chances to get in, due to addition of verbal and quantitative aptitude.

The examination has both it’s share of supporter and detractors. While some students have applauded the inclusion of quantitative and verbal aptitude others have argued that inclusion of these subjects favours the science graduates and English medium students, while putting the other students at a disadvantage. Students who don’t have an English medium education are even more vocal in their protests as they view the comprehension and verbal aptitude part of the paper as a tough nut to crack. Other students however argue that the inclusion of new subjects in the CSAT exams allow only the best and the most analytical students to be selected.

The CSAT or civil services aptitude test doesn’t contain as many questions from general studies as did its predecessor. The students opposing the CSAT argue that knowledge of the history and geography of this country should be given more importance in the examination. They feel that the CSAT provides an unfair and undue advantage to students having a science background and an English medium education. This accusation has some truth in it as art students are surely going to have considerably more difficulties in solving the aptitude section of the paper when compared to science or engineering graduates. But, learning never ends, so irrespective of all the difficulties the deserving candidates will achieve the success.

While the argument that CSAT is a bit more favourable for science graduates is correct, nevertheless even art graduates these days have ample opportunities like coaching classes to improve their logical and quantitative aptitude scores. It is necessary for civil services employees to possess analytical and decision making skills in order to perform their jobs better. On the other hand the plight of students who don’t have an English medium background shouldn’t be ignored as well. The government has earlier formed committees who have suggested changes in the CSAT in order to give all the aspirants an equal and fair chance in the civil services examination. The translation of the English passages in the reading comprehension section of the papers has faced criticism in the past as the translations have been found to be very misleading and unclear.

While the CSAT is a good preliminary examination and it also has its share of benefits, slight changes in the civil services examination test can be made in order to give an equal chance to all the students that belong to rural areas. The civil services aptitude test is a positive addition and shouldn’t be removed completely, instead, slight adjustments in the pattern and syllabus of this examination should be able to remove the misgivings of the protesting students.