Notes on the Civil Service examination in India


Civil services have existed since ancient times in India, but they lacked institutional arrangements and operational framework. The British rule introduced the present civil service system in India. With the advent of East India Company, Civil service consisted of only traders. They started assuming administrative functions, with the change in the functions of the Company from trade to administration and the British civil service became a model for Indian bureaucracy after independence in 1947.

Organization of Civil Service

States follow varying principles of organizing civil service. In some states certain categories of civil servants are appointed by the political executive. Posts are offered on the basis of friendship, relation or heredity as the employees are temporary. This type of recruitment is known as spoils system or patronage. But in most of the states, the civil servants are a permanent cadre and they are appointed though merit system based on the principle of open competitive examination. This examination is conducted by an independent Service Commission. This merit system was introduced in India in 1854.


The independence of the recruiting authority is considered essential for impartial recruitment. The Public Service Commission in almost every modern states enjoys an autonomous status and is not subject to executive or legislative control. In India, the members of Union Public Service Commission are appointed by the President and of the State Commission by the Governors. A member can be removed from office only by the order of the President on the ground of misbehavior after an enquiry and report by the Supreme Court. The Public Service Commission in India have been established under the authority of the Constitution and enjoy a distinct constitutional status.

Under merit system, there are four basic types of tests— written examination, oral examination or interview, performance test and physical test. The written examination test is designed to test the general ability and intellectual caliber of the candidates or their knowledge of specific subjects related to the nature of job for which recruitment is to be made. In India, the competitive examinations for all-India as well as for state services are held on the basis of the academic subjects taught in universities and colleges. The oral test is intended to test the presence of mind and the power of decision, vital for successful administrator.

Performance tests are used to select personnel for skilled trades and crafts- electricians, typists etc. All these above tests are followed by physical tests when the selected personnel have to produce a medical certificate of physical fitness before they are appointed to a post. In some cases psychological tests are also made. They are of two kinds— the intellectual test and aptitude test. These tests are to measure the mental ability of the candidate and to discover his ability to learn some special work.

Classification of Civil Service


There are three principal categories of classification. At the top, there is an executive class to shoulder greater, responsibility. Below them is the administrative class, which consists of highly competent personnel who provide the necessary leadership. At the base there is a clerical class of people who have to perform purely routine work. In India, the classification is also made between ‘gazetted’ and ‘non-gazetted’ services. Generally class-I and class-II posts, both under central and state governments are gazetted, though there are some low-paid posts which are also gazetted and some highly paid ones which are not. In India, the civil services have been categorised into three categories- All India Services (for both centre and states), Central Services (for purely central subjects) and state services (for administration of subjects under state jurisdiction). Thus civil service in India is a many layered system where different ranks and grades coexist.

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