T.K. Ngaihte has talked about just one dimension of the multifaceted Civil Services examination (“Only crammers need apply,” Nov. 24). He is right in saying there is “no optimum time for thinking.” But those selected through this examination practically run the government. It is, therefore, important for them to be tested under difficult circumstances. The UPSC examination pattern cannot be rejected outright. We need to take a balanced view as perfection is only an ideal.

Tejaswani Gautam, New Delhi

All examinations come with their challenges and improve with time. The UPSC examination pattern has changed to include an aptitude test in the preliminary stage. There are plans to remove optional papers from the mains. The time crunch, of course, is severe and does not allow for quick thinking. But the three-stage exercise is one of the most difficult examinations and definitely prestigious.

Rishi Das, Kolkata

The job of a civil servant has become extremely difficult today. With elected representatives vying with one another to exploit their position in questionable ways, the administrators cannot afford to remain lethargic. They should have the presence of mind and the capacity to grasp a situation quickly. Anyone aspiring to become a civil servant should necessarily understand the question paper quickly. What better way to test a person’s capacity to respond to a situation?

The sample questions cited by the writer are quite complex. Let alone prepare answers, coaching centres wouldn’t even have thought of them. A crammer will surely find it difficult to answer such questions.

V. Rajagopalan, Chennai

The questions aim at testing the decision-making ability of candidates. A person who writes very detailed answers may not be good at taking instant decisions during a crisis. Also, too many arguments (‘analysis’) divert attention from the real issue. The Civil Services examination is not like a university examination; it is competitive. The selection procedure, therefore, should be such that it chooses the most efficient.

Piyush Tripathi, Allahabad

The writer’s arguments do not substantiate his claims. He says the questions asked in GS papers are not easy and require nuanced and complex arguments. How, then, will cramming help? Cramming may help in answering the optional papers as the syllabus is limited and the questions are usually confined to it.

Shakti Singh, Shimla

It is wrong to say that only crammers need apply for the Civil Services. There is a 200-mark compulsory essay paper in the mains, which tests your depth of understanding and analytical ability. The contention that candidates depend on guides and Wikipedia for readymade arguments for lack of time is not right. Smart candidates prepare well in advance and write their own views too.

Deepinder Singh, Patiala

One need not think in the examination hall if he or she is up to date on current events. Ready-made study material was irrelevant to this year’s main examination. In-depth knowledge and understanding of any issue can be achieved by regular reading and analysis. One must have the ability to answer all questions within a stipulated time in competitive examinations.

M. Sendhur, Kollidam

My father used to say a civil servant is made not overnight but over the entire 23 years before he appears for the exam. I know of several aspirants who had never read a newspaper until they started their preparations. A candidate starts preparing 12-13 months before he or she appears for the prelims. In this short time, he/she aspires to master the skill of understanding and analysing the entire breadth of world events. Not surprisingly, the candidate finds it impossible and resorts to shortcuts such as readymade guides.

True, the exam puts tremendous pressure on time, but so does life today. To think critically when hard-pressed for time is a skill that the UPSC deems essential in a civil servant. How much time is enough time?

Nithya Nagarathinam, Coimbatore

Increasing the time given to answer the main papers will surely help to test a candidate’s in-depth understanding better. But even the present system produces good officers. Those who mug up answers are only a few. Most aspirants use their preparation time on analytical study of issues.

Sahana Kondeti, Hyderabad

The civil service examination is not a forum to ascertain academic excellence. The candidates are expected to tackle time constraints. While it cannot be denied that selection is a gamble among peers, the best tolerable do pass muster.

V. Gopal, Chennai

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Only crammers need apply November 24, 2012

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