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*In examinations which are not competitive the exercises in Languages are restricted to translation.
GOVERNMENT SITUATIONS ARE NOT IN THE GIFT OF HER MAJESTY'S CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSIONERS: -The functions of these Commissioners, as regards first appointments to the Civil Service, are never exercised until after a nomination has been made to some vacant situation. It has been imagined that the power of making appointments is now taken away from the Crown and its officers, and transferred to a body of examiners. This is not the fact. The conferring of certificates of eligibility is not patronage, but a judicial act. The examiners for honours at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, or London, have not the patronage of honours any more than the Lord Chancellor, when he decrees an estate to one person instead of another, has the patronage of the estate. THE DISTINGUISHING FEATURE OF THE PRESENT SYSTEM OF NOMINATING TO THE CIVIL SERVICE IS MERELY THAT APPOINTMENTS ARE NO LONGER BESTOWED BY THE INDEPENDENT EXERCISE OF UNRESTRICTED PATRONAGE, BUT ARE RECEIVED SUBJECT TO THE LIMITATIONS AND CONDITIONS SPECIFIED IN THE FOLLOWING EXTRACT FROM AN ORDER IN COUNCIL, DATED 21st May, 1855 :—
"And it is hereby ordered, that all such young Men as may be proposed to be appointed to any Junior Situation in any Department of the Civil Service shall, before they are admitted to Probation, be examined by or under the Directions of the said Commissioners, and shall receive from them a Certificate of Qualification for such Situation. "And it shall be the duty of the Commissioners in respect of every such Candidate, before granting any such Certificate aforesaid, "1st. To ascertain that the Candidate is within the limits of Age prescribed for the Department to which he desires to be admitted; "2d. To ascertain that the Candidate is free from any physical Defect or Disease which would be likely to interfere with the proper Discharge of his Duties;
"3d. To ascertain that the Character of the Candidate is such as to fit him for Public Employment; and,
"4th. To ascertain that the Candidate possesses the requisite Knowledge and Ability for the proper Discharge of his official Duties."
The standards of qualification are fixed by the various heads of departments, acting in co-operation with the Civil Service Commissioners, and the list of prescribed subjects is in every instance liable to alteration. In all cases, whether of success or failure of candidates, the Commissioners reserve to themselves alone the duty of granting or refusing a certificate; and for all acts done under their authority they hold themselves exclusively responsible.
There are two sorts of examinations in use at the Civil Service Commission. The one of these is the competitive or maximum examination, which has been twice approved by resolutions of the House of Commons, and the object of which is to select the best of a given number of candidates; the other is the standard or minimum examination, the object of which is to ascertain that every candidate possesses, at the least, a certain prescribed amount of knowledge. The first of these, for example, is such an examination as determines who is senior wrangler at Cambridge; the second is such an examination as that of candidate for a common pass degree at Oxford. By which of these two methods a candidate's fitness is tested, is not determined by the Commissioners, but depends solely upon the nomination he receives from the authorities. COMPETITIVE EXAMINATIONS are not open to all comers, able to fulfil the requisite conditions as to age, health, and character, but are limited to such persons as are nominated by the authorities, who have the duty of appointing to the vacant situations.* A competitive examination being fixed, the Commissioners, instead of, as in the case of a simple nomination, conferring a certain guarantee of efficiency, are required to select the best among the candidates nominated to compete. The examiners receive from the Commissioners clear and precise instructions, and carry them into execution with rigid fidelity. As far, therefore, as the matter can be settled by answers to questions, the comparative intellectual proportions of the candidates are determined with unerring precision, and their selection reduced to the simplicity and certainty of an arithmetical problem. Marks are given for each subject (see page 36), and the successful candidate is the one who obtains the greatest number of marks in the aggregate, provided he has done sufficiently well in all the prescribed subjects. The last Report of the Commissioners shows that this is not always the case, and that it sometimes happens that
* See "UNDER GOVERNMENT."
the candidate at the top of the list does not obtain the appointment, because he has failed to exhibit a minimum of proficiency in some one of the subjects.
The ordinary examinations are instituted for a double purpose :First.--To ascertain the candidate's fitness for the actual duties which he will be called upon to perform upon his first admission into office.
Secondly. To test his education and general intelligence.
For the first of these purposes he is almost invariably tested in Writing, Orthography, and Arithmetic, a lower or higher degree of proficiency being required according to the situation to which he ist appointed. In this class of subjects may also be included, in certain departments, Book-keeping; in others, the power of making a Précis of correspondence and official papers, or some acquaintance with English Composition. For the second purpose of the examinations, various subjects have been selected by the different Heads of Departments; amongst them are the outlines of History, Geography, Latin, or, as an alternative, some foreign language, either previously defined or left to the option of the candidate. Some of these prescribed subjects have not a direct relation to the business to be transacted, but are intended as tests of education and intellect. The Commissioners consider them extremely useful, both in determining the positive merits of a nominated candidate and in ascertaining the relative merits of candidates in a competitive examination.
In all examinations, whether competitive or otherwise, the marks of merit are so arranged as to give due weight to excellence in strictly practical acquirements, as contra-distinguished from the subjects denoting intellectual cultivation; and it may be added that, apart from actual information or the knowledge of particular facts, the general intelligence, good sense, and good taste of the candidate, as manifested in his manner of treating the subjects proposed to him, are not without weight in the assignment of marks.
The examination in extra subjects is an important item in the existing arrangements. The Commissioners consider it of advantage, both to the public service and to the candidates themselves, that in addition to the subjects prescribed by the departments to which they are appointed, opportunity should be afforded them of showing their ability and acquirements in other branches of knowledge.