This letter refers to the article “Only crammers need apply” by T.K. Ngaihte (Nov. 24) and Ruchika Sharma’s response to it (Nov. 28). Both dwell into subjective issues — how tough the questions in the Civil Services examination are and what should be the time permitted if candidates are to answer them to their satisfaction. Both Ms Sharma and Mr. Ngaihte are right in their own way. Ms Sharma is right in arguing that since there is no minimum cut-off, what counts is relative performance. And Mr. Ngihte is right in emphasising that if the UPSC wishes to test the genuine depth of knowledge and skills, more time should be given to candidates.
The real issue is this. There is no way of knowing how well we have answered the questions as the UPSC does not provide even key themes central to the answers, let alone model answers. It is the subjective judgment of the examiner which decides how well we have answered the questions. Again, there is no way we can ask for a review of the marks awarded to us. There are enough curious cases — to state one, 12/200 in essay for someone as good as capable of making to the top 10 next year (again by the UPSC’s own standards). All issues are but mere branches of the core malaise of lack of transparency in the system.