Author: Chandan Vishwakarma
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) is an independent constitutional body in India responsible for recruiting candidates for various civil services, including the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Foreign Service (IFS), among others. The UPSC conducts a three-stage selection process for these services: the Preliminary Examination (Prelims), the Main Examination (Mains), and the Interview.
The UPSC Preliminary Examination is the first stage of the selection process and is held annually. The Prelims is an objective-type exam, and its main objective is to screen out candidates who are not serious about the examination or those who do not have a basic understanding of the subjects.
Papers in Preliminary Examination
The Prelims consists of two papers: General Studies Paper 1 (GS 1) and General Studies Paper 2 (GS 2), also known as the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). GS 1 covers topics such as Indian polity, geography, history, economics, science and technology, and environment, while GS 2 tests a candidate's aptitude and comprehension skills.
Evolution of the UPSC Preliminary Examination
The evolution of the UPSC Preliminary Examination can be traced back to the British Raj era in India. The first civil service exam in India was held in 1855 by the British East India Company to recruit candidates for the Indian Civil Service. The exam consisted of a written test and an interview. The written test was divided into two papers: English and Indian languages. Candidates who passed the written test were called for an interview.
The exam underwent several changes over the years, but the basic structure remained the same. In 1922, the Indian Civil Service was rechristened as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), and the exam became known as the Indian Civil Service Examination (ICSE).
In 1947, India gained independence from British rule, and the exam was renamed as the Civil Services Examination (CSE). The exam was conducted in three stages: the Preliminary Examination, the Main Examination, and the Interview. The Prelims consisted of two papers: General Studies and Optional Subject.
In 1979, the Optional Subject paper was replaced with a paper on Essay Writing. In 1985, the Prelims was made objective-type, and the Optional Subject paper was reintroduced. In 2011, the Optional Subject paper was again replaced with the CSAT paper.
Issues with CSAT
The CSAT paper has been a controversial issue since its introduction. Many candidates, especially those from rural areas, have criticized the paper for being biased towards candidates with an English medium education. The paper has also been criticized for testing a candidate's aptitude rather than knowledge of subjects.
In 2015, the UPSC announced that the CSAT paper would be of qualifying nature, meaning that a candidate would need to score only 33% marks in the paper to qualify for the Mains. This decision was taken after protests by candidates and political parties demanding the removal of the CSAT paper.
The UPSC Preliminary Examination has undergone several changes over the years, but its objective has remained the same: to select the best candidates for the civil services. The exam has become more inclusive over the years, with more and more candidates from rural areas and non-English medium backgrounds appearing for the exam.
In conclusion, the UPSC Preliminary Examination is a crucial stage in the selection process for the civil services. The exam has evolved over the years to become more inclusive and objective. The introduction of the CSAT paper has been a controversial issue, but the UPSC has taken steps to address the concerns of candidates. The UPSC Preliminary Examination is an opportunity for candidates to showcase their knowledge and aptitude, and those who clear the exam can look forward to a fulfilling career in the civil services.