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Why The Government Must Digitize The UPSC Exams

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By Apoorv Pathak:

upsc-examEvery year around 10 lakh graduates undertake one of the world’s toughest exam to get selected in the Indian civil service and fill up one of the 1500 odd vacancies in the top services that together govern the largest democracy in the world. For an exam of such significance and stiff completion one anomaly stands out. In an increasingly digitalized world, this three stage exam is entirely conducted through pen and paper by UPSC with no use whatsoever of computers. It is as if UPSC is caught in a time freeze. Like many other avenues linked to the government, the pattern of this herculean exam has been slow to evolve with time. The influence of various lobbies makes change a difficult proposition in India. Yet going digital, especially in the mains by allowing applicants to first choose from two options (that of pen and paper and that of computers) and then gradually phasing the ‘back-dated’ version, is a promising step to reduce the anachronism of the system.

Creating Administrators Of Tomorrow

We live in a time where proficiency of computers is essential for our administrators to function efficiently. As such they are seldom required to write even now as most of the work today is being done through mail, word, PowerPoint, etc. on an array of digital devices. One can confidently presume that the dependency of machines will gradually increase in the future, with our beloved pen and paper becoming obsolete. In such a scenario it makes no sense to burden candidates with the added task of writing neatly and speedily, maneuvering tools of yester years.

Rather, it makes more sense for the exam pattern to demand proficiency in computer skills from the aspiring candidates in which they are required to improve typing and overall understanding of computers. The current hesitancy to accept the digital world will be greatly reduced as in the preparation phase applicants are eager to do anything it takes to qualify. Digital literacy in India will derive a significant boost from such a change.

Reduce Unnecessary Role Of Handwriting In Selection

Handwritten answer scripts often disadvantage many perfectly capable and deserving candidates. Not that it has much to do with competence to administrate anyway. If the exams turn digital this unfair difference that is created due to handwriting will be eliminated, thus permitting selection on more relevant criteria.

Reduce Examiners Effort And Time

Since writing is distinct for each person, the problem with hand written copies is that the examiner has to spend greater time going through each answer-sheets. This is because they have to make an extra effort and devote more time to understand the different writings of different candidates. Also, given the paucity of time on which these answers are written their legibility is all the more a challenge. The examiner who has to unnecessarily make efforts to understand different handwriting is then unable to focus on his core job of evaluating the content. These issues can be comfortably resolved on a digital portal where the text will be available in standard form.

Save Paper And Cost

For such a large quantity of applicants, humongous amounts of paper is used each year. Also, during preparation, many of these applicants undertake practice tests. So the total consumption of paper because of this exam is rather hard to calculate. One easily forgets the ecological and economic implication of such consumption. Also, the safe transit of papers is another task which requires spending a large amount of money and manpower. If the exam goes digital, these issues can also be solved saving the government a lot of money. Digital copies will be far less taxing on the environment and will be way cheaper.

Allow Lesser Span Of Selection Period

Currently, the UPSC selection process spans well across a year with prelims being conducted in August, mains in December, interview in March or April and results being declared as late as July. If the exams go digital, then at the least, the four-month gap between prelims and mains can be curtailed to less than a month as the exams are objective, and matching of digital answer-sheets with correct answer keys doesn’t require much time. This is how others large exams in the country function – such as JEE mains and CAT.

To conclude, for the sake of creating administrators better suited to thrive in an increasingly digital world; for saving paper; for reducing the cost and manpower associated with these exams; to make selections more transparent by reducing manual impediments like ‘writing’ and for speedier conduction of exams,the UPSC must move towards making civil services a digital exam at the earliest.

You must be to comment.
  1. upsc

    Very shallow reasoning…some of d argumnts r valud…but ovrall..not gud enuf…

  2. Rama Mishra

    At this juncture its not fair to digitalize considering the rural populations, hope after a few decades digitalization will be possible.
    But this tradional style has got its own merit. I dont support this idea as of now.

  3. rana bhadra pratap

    kya re pagle kuch bhi likega kya .YE India hai ,yahan aise hi select hote hai IAS officers

  4. rk

    there is a vast difference bewteen upsc and anyother exam as such cat, gre etc . as upsc is trying to find future leaders
    he is mandated to find suitable candidate with right attitude , sound knowledge and good communication skill.as pen and paper
    based exam is the only way to check once thinking,awareness ,articulation capability related to the challenges any society is facing.
    upsc is not choosing candidate for a particular course ,admission or a job which require just manual work where employee will be trained for
    a particular work but finding future leader with broad mindset and knowledge .

  5. Praful Nigam

    Disagree… How will regional medium candidates type, they’ll have to learn everything from scratch… Handwriting will never go out of fashion… As for bad handwriting, all upsc expects is legibility…

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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