UPSC :Non-English medium aspirants face a challenging journey due to difficulty of the CSAT

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One of India’s most renowned and challenging exams, the UPSC Civil Services Examination draws lakhs of candidates each year. But in their quest for success, non-English speaking applicants frequently encounter particular difficulties.

Following the release of the results for the UPSC CSE 2023 preliminary examination group of interested candidates has raised objections and demanded the removal of the CSAT from the pattern of the civil services examination. This group has also approached the court seeking attention from the central government regarding their concerns. In response to their distress the students have taken their grievances to the media through press conferences.

The Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) a component of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Exam was part 2011.UPSC to assess applicants aptitude, analytical skills, and reasoning power.

Many aspirants, particularly those who are non-English medium candidates, expressed strong criticism towards this decision, as the CSAT now included questions that tested English comprehension skills.

The number of students taking exams in Hindi and other regional languages has drastically decreased over time. (According to information from the UPSC’s yearly reports).

Year English Hindi Gujarati Marathi
2015 11790 2433 1120 168
2016 13457 1318 279 87
2017 11719 1065 210 87
2018 9109 888 199 75
2019 10708 570 67 49
2020 9711 584 44 43
2021 8362 470 20 30

Enhanced CSAT Difficulty

The CSAT introduced in 2011 as a qualifying paper, aims to evaluate the aptitude and reasoning abilities of candidates. Over time, it has evolved to become more challenging, posing difficulties for aspirants with a non-English background. The language barrier, complex comprehension passages, and intricate logical reasoning questions can create additional hurdles for non-English medium candidates.

UPSC :Non-English medium aspirants face a challenging journey due to difficulty of the CSAT –Credit-Getty image

Language Barrier

Non-English medium aspirants often encounter difficulties in comprehending complex English texts and expressing their thoughts effectively in English. This language barrier can hinder their performance in the CSAT which heavily relies on English language proficiency. Limited exposure to English language learning during their educational journey adds to the challenges faced by these candidates.

Limited Study Material

Another significant challenge for non-English medium aspirants is the scarcity of study material specifically designed for their linguistic background. Most standard study resources predominantly cater to English medium candidates, making it challenging for non-English medium aspirants to find comprehensive and accessible study materials that align with their language proficiency and learning preferences.

Parliamentary Standing Committee

The concerned Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel Public Grievances Law and Justice has recently recommended the establishment of an expert committee to evaluate whether the current recruitment plan for civil service examinations provides equal opportunities to candidates educated in both English and non-English mediums. This step was taken in response to the concerns raised by urban and non-English medium-educated rural candidates.

Nigvekar commitee

The Nigvekar committee, which was established to look at the changes to the exam format, also noted that the CSAT exam format favoured English aspirants more. Following this, the CSAT was made qualifying exclusively through the Commission in 2015.

    The level of difficulty in the CSAT examination this year, particularly in terms of the questions, is comparable to the Common Admission Test (CAT) .

Petition to the Central Administrative Tribunal

A lower CSAT qualifying cut-off was requested by multiple applicants in a petition to the Central Administrative Tribunal because of the exam’s increased difficulty.

Additionally, the UPSC student petitioned the Central Administrative Tribunal for a lowering in the CSAT qualifying requirement from 33% to 23% in line with the 2019 UPSC-CDS exam. In addition to the aforementioned issues, they also emphasised the alleged unfair treatment of applicants with backgrounds in Hindi and vernacular languages, the necessity of revising the requirements for the UPSC-CSE CSAT 2023 exam, the need for compensatory attempts for applicants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the requirement for an expert committee to evaluate applicants for the GS paper.

      While non-English medium aspirants may face initial challenges, they possess inherent strengths that, when nurtured, can propel them towards success in the UPSC Civil Services Examination. By embracing their linguistic diversity, harnessing language enhancement strategies, accessing tailored study material, and honing test-taking skills, non-English medium aspirants can overcome obstacles, level the playing field, and emerge as successful civil servants.

   The UPSC ecosystem must continue to provide support, resources, and opportunities to empower and encourage non-English medium aspirants on their journey towards achieving their aspirations.


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