CSS review exposes FPSC flaws again
“Defenestrate” was the first word that popped up when I took a look at the objective portion of the Precis and Composition paper, the first paper in the CSS review. Having passed the CSS exam earlier, I was sure I was browsing the CSS net with great ease this time around. However, to my dismay, the first article struck a blow not only on my expectations, but also on the expectations of thousands of other aspirants.
Reading the synonyms and antonyms given in the precise document, aspirants were surprised, shocked and irritated by the way the first paper was conceived. It was obvious that the motive was not to test the candidates’ abilities but to cast a spell on them with all the wrong strategies.
CSS reviews have been under the control of opinion makers for a long time, but the problem remains unresolved with colonial fingerprints everywhere.
The articles were not designed correctly this time. Most of the optional papers were analytical and aimed at testing candidates’ cognitive abilities. This bodes well and the practice should continue. However, the problem is that some documents have been drawn up with the aim of frustrating aspirants. The governance and public policy paper is a good example to confirm that the Federal Civil Service Commission (FPSC) appears to be testing the knowledge and skills of its own paper makers, but through candidates.
The bigger question is how the reviews are conducted. Typically, CSS exams are conducted in the way that a candidate has to pass two exams of three hours each per day. This practically means that an aspiring Babu (think of Babu as a non-sexist term) has to sit for six hours at a stretch every day. This practice is continued for six consecutive days most of the time.
Obviously, even after studying 12 topics extensively for over a year, each topic should be reviewed before the exam. However, what part of the schedule for the next day’s two exams can be revised after completing the exams at 5:00 p.m. Without any revision, the preparation spanning more than a year can go down the drain. This fear of losing the review due to lack of time frustrates candidates even before taking the exam.
The FPSC can claim that two papers per day are designed to complete the process quickly, but what if the process takes 12 days instead of six or what if it takes nine days ( one compulsory paper each day for six days and two optional papers per day for three days). The FPSC completed the exams in nine days in 2018 and it was a relief for the aspirants.
Frankly, the FPSC seems to lack innovation. The test paper filters thousands of candidates each time. Why can’t this essay convert to an entrance test for the next CSS exam? If this practice is adopted, the FPSC can complete the essay exam months before the regular exam. Candidates who pass the essay should then be allowed to write the exam for the remaining 11 subjects. This method would not discriminate against anyone as the essay must be taken by each candidate.
The stumbling block to the MCQ-based entrance test for CSS was the fact that most applicants would face discrimination. The essay as an entrance test can provide a level playing field for everyone. By screening the candidates, the FPSC would ease its own burden and announce the results of the remaining candidates sooner.
The process of selecting bureaucrats should not be easy, but readjusting things slightly in terms of exam timing and applying a filter would lighten the burden on the FPSC as well as the applicants. A positive aspect of the CSS exam this time was a better-written objective paper of 20 points for each subject except the essay.
After testing candidates with an intense routine and mind-blowing vocabulary, the FPSC must do some soul searching for the next CSS exam. Make it analytical and rational. Regarding the third attempt, the FPSC must review it. According to its own report, very few candidates who fail two attempts show up for the third time. The third attempt should only be given to candidates who have erased the written portion of one of the first two attempts.
Reforms are also needed in the interview process where the focus remains on body language. However, let’s leave this debate to another day with the conclusion that the high-level review needs innovation and that there is much to be done at the end of the Federal Public Service Commission.