Common test for railway, bank, Central government jobs from 2021
Minister for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh announced on 13th March Applicants for jobs in railways, banks and lower levels of Central government will now write a common eligibility test (CET) from 2021.
In a bid to streamline the hiring process for government agencies as well as the 2.5 crore candidates who apply each year, the Centre will set up an autonomous National Recruitment Agency (NRA) to conduct this online test.
NRA proposal, which had been in the works for about six months and was announced in the 2020 budget speech, would soon go for Cabinet approval. The CET will replace the first level tests conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) and the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS).
Note: “They are wasting half their lives applying and travelling from place to place, writing these examinations for similar positions,” said C. Chandramouli, Secretary to the Ministry. He said common entrance examinations such as the JEE for engineering colleges or the NEET for medical colleges had already streamlined the admission process. “We are now bringing the same concept to employment,”
- Currently, there are about 1.25 lakh vacancies in the Central government, at the Group B and C level, often known as non-gazetted officers. About 2.5 crore young men and women apply every year for examinations to fill these vacancies, also appearing for 50 other recruitment tests for positions at public sector banks, railways, police, paramilitary forces and other State and Central government bodies. The recruitment cycle takes at least 18 months and is often marred by clashing dates, leaked papers and examination scams.
- Under the new NRA system, candidates will apply through a common registration portal, paying a single entrance fee. They will prepare from a common curriculum. Examination centres will be set up in each district, with the Centre committing to invest in the necessary infrastructure for 117 aspirational districts. A standardised question bank with multiple questions of similar difficulty levels will be created in a central server. An algorithm will be used to jumble and dole out different questions, so that each candidate receives a different question paper, reducing the chances of cheating and paper leakage.
- Scores will be generated quickly, delivered online and be valid for a three-year period. Students can write the test multiple times as long as they are within the eligible age limit, with their best score being taken into account. Ultimately, the aim is to allow examination by appointment at the convenience of candidates. For now, however, the examination will be held once a year.
- For the recruiting agencies, the savings in terms of logistics are huge, said Dr. Chandramouli. “Currently, for these three agencies alone, we are effectively conducting the exam for 7.5 crore candidates each year. There are 20 other central agencies which can be brought on board.
- For police and paramilitary recruitment, the CET scores plus physical assessment is all that is required, potentially reducing the recruitment cycle to three months. For more specialised positions, the CET will act as the preliminary elimination level, which can be followed by further testing by the separate agencies.
- “We have spoken to the State governments about using the CET for their own recruitment, but they want to wait and see how it works for the Centre first… One of their big concerns is language,” said Dr. Singh, adding that the Centre planned to make the test available in multiple languages including all those notified under Schedule 8 of the Constitution. “Ultimately, we hope that CET may also be used as a referral parameter for the private sector as well.”
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