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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 Ox. ford. 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
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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 ad
mission 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 is 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. Candidates are therefore allowed and encouraged to offer themselves voluntarily to be examined on subjects with which they may believe themselves to be well acquainted, and a statement of the result of such examinations, if satisfactory, is added to their certificate of competency.
There is scarcely any limit to this permission ; even in the csse of a candidate possessing purely professional knowledge, such as an acquaintance with the principles of Civil Engineering, provision has been made by the Commissioners to duly test his proficiency, and the result has been recorded on his certificate: but it must be remembered that these are merely honorary subjects, and neither compensate for failure in a prescribed subject, nor receive marks in a competition.
HINTS TO CANDIDATES.
It is now proposed to give a brief general notice of the principal subjects in which candidates are examined. The various standards of qualification prescribed for admission into each department will be found in the Table of Contents (page 1), which is so arranged as to enable the reader to turn at once to any specimen of the Examination Papers to which he may have occasion to refer.
Writing. Good handwriting is officially defined as “consisting in the clear formation of the letters of the alphabet;" it should also be rapid, neat, and of that even stroke which allows legible copies to be taken by pressing. The candidate's fitness in this subject is tested by his writing from dictation, and by the degree of proficiency he displays in copying his orthographical exercise. As this qualification is of great practical importance in the business of an office, no candidate should neglect to take means to ensure competency.
Spelling Is tested by dictation (which in examinations for the lower offices is invariably short and easy), and by the submission of a paper purposely misspelt, which candidates are expected to correct.
of the candidate much in the same manner as that which is dictated addresses itself to the ear, and the Commissioners consider that, far from adding to the risk of failure in the case of a candidate moderately conversant with the rules of orthography, it diminishes that risk by giving him the opportunity of showing what he can do when his attention is expressly called to the matter, and when he is free from the nervousness which may sometimes be occasioned by dictation. The orthographical exercises set to candidates for clerkships and similar positions frequently consist of from twenty to thirty lines of misspelt English or General History, which they are requested to copy clearly and legibly, correcting mistakes of spelling and grammar, but not otherwise altering either the words or their order.
The course pursued to test the candidate's proficiency in this subject is, to select a passage of average difficulty, to read it through in the first instance with ordinary rapidity, in order that its general purport may be understood, afterwards to read it more slowly, so as to allow of its being taken down, and then either to read it once more, or to give the candidate time to correct his performances. The exercise for the lower offices consists of about a dozen lines of the simplest English, and in the case of Letter-Carriers is restricted to three or four lines. For Clerkships and similar offices, from twelve to twenty lines are read by the Examiner from some English Classic. Candidates are cautioned, by a notice printed at the top of the paper on which they write, that attention must be paid to clear and legible handwriting, to correct spelling, and to proper punctuation.
Arithmetic. This is regarded as one of the most important of the prescribed subjects, and a considerable preponderance is assigned to it in the distribution of the marks of merit. In the examinations for the lower offices the arithmetical questions are of the very simplest character, and in no case do those prescribed reach beyond vulgar and decimal fractions; further, as will be seen from the examples hereafter given, the Examination Papers are so framed as to present nothing to the candidate of a puzzling character, being merely sufficient
to ascertain whether he understands the principle and is acquainted with the practice in the portion of arithmetic to which the questions belong. In the lower offices the examination is restricted to Addition, Multiplication, Subtraction, and Division (in Money, Weights, or Measures); and in the case of Letter-Carriers it is confined to Addition and Subtraction. In the examination of candidates for clerkships and similar offices Compound Addition is made a special subject, for which separate marks of merit are assigned; the other questions, where a “knowledge of Arithmetic, including Vulgar and Decimal Fractions,” is required, commence at Reduction, and extend as far as Decimal Fractions.
Book-keeping. In some departments“ book-keeping” simply, in others "bookkeeping by double entry,” and in others again a “knowledge of the principles of book-keeping,” is required. The various papers are adapted, as far as possible, to these distinctions of phraseology ; and in decisions on doubtful cases regard is had to the degree of proficiency which the departmental authorities require. From candidates for situations in the Inland Revenue Department, for example, a higher degree of proficiency is exacted than in some other cases is deemed sufficient. In some instances the questions include the ruling a set of books. No erasures are permitted ; but if any entries are thought to be wrong, they may be cancelled by drawing a pen through them, so as to leave the original clearly visible. The candidate is not allowed to make a fair copy of his answers; and if, in answering his Paper (when “ double entry” is prescribed), he finds that so long has been taken by the first part as to render it unlikely that the whole can be finished in the time allowed, so much only must be proceeded with as can be completed, it being important that at least a portion of the Paper should be carried through all the books.
English Composition. The candidate is not, in general, required to write anything in the nature of a formal theme or essay ; but some very familiar and simple subject is selected-such as the Great Eastern steam-ship, or the Crystal Palace-upon which he is to write an imaginary letter to a friend. In other cases, the candidate is required to give his written