Thousands of aspirants preparing for UPSC Civil Services examination are in quandary as confusion prevails over the pattern of examination, writes G. Naga Sridhar

A statement by UPSC Chairman about a month ago indicating that the pattern would be changed to a new mode based on common papers and aptitude tests has come as a surprise for the candidates who are awaiting the notification for the preliminary examination this month.

“The current pattern is based on two optional subjects and a common general studies/essay paper. But UPSC's statement about change of pattern did not mention any time frame which is troubling us,'' Mr Manidhar Reddy, a graduate from Nizamabad who is preparing for the exam said .

The current pattern of examination is based on Satish Chandra panel's recommendations and is in vogue for nearly last two decades. While there has been a talk about changing the pattern of highest examination of the land for a while, the first official remark was made by UPSC Chairman D. P. Agarwal last month when he said the emphasis would be on providing a level playing field for all candidates by introduction of common papers last month.

He, however, did not provide any details as to the notification for Civil Services Examination 2010 which is to be issued in this December would provide for the changes. “This is intriguing because there are candidates who take the success in the exam as a mission. Generally, a candidate tend to prepare for about one/two years prior to taking the exam and continue to attempt the exam for two/three years for success or better rank. So, there needs to be clarity,” says K. Mahender Reddy, director, Kanishka IAS, a Hyderabad-based training centre.

Setting aside the debate on merits/demerits of the proposed change, the confusion can hit a serious candidate.

“I have been preparing for this exam since July 2009 in the current model. I don't know what to study as there is no clarity on the pattern,” avers N. Janardhan, a software professional who is aiming at a bureaucrat's position.

The confusion is on a ‘wrong timing' according to some experts. “Due to fears about economic slowdown and resultant insecurity in private jobs many youngsters from IT and other sectors are also planning to take the exam this year and are losing valuable time,” K. Priyadarshi, a faculty in a Delhi-based coaching institute.

“Everybody who is interested in the exam is awaiting either the notification or some announcement from UPSC on the issue to clear the air,” he adds. About 1.5 lakh candidates from across the country take the exam every year.