National Recruitment Agency & Common Entrance Test: Everything You Need to Know

In what the Central government claims as a ‘paradigm shift’ in recruitment for central government jobs, the Union Cabinet on 19 August, 2020, approved a proposal to establish the National Recruitment Agency (NRA).

What is the rationale behind this move? Here are the main points, as per a press release issued by the Centre:

  • On an average, 2.5 to 3 crore candidates appear in these (about 50) examinations, applying for around 1.25 lakh advertised jobs.
  • Candidates seeking government jobs have to appear for separate examinations conducted by multiple recruiting agencies for various posts, for which similar eligibility conditions have been prescribed.
  • Candidates have to pay a fee to multiple recruiting agencies and also have to travel long distances for appearing in various exams.
  • These multiple recruitment examinations are a burden on the candidates and the respective recruitment agencies, involving avoidable/repetitive expenditure, law and order/security-related issues and venue-related problems.

“A common eligibility Test would enable these candidates to appear once and apply to any or all of these recruitment agencies for the higher level of examination. This would indeed be a boon to all the candidates,” notes a press release.

What will the NRA do?

The NRA will be a Society registered under the Societies Registration Act and headed by a Chairman of the rank of Secretary to the Government of India. It will have representatives from the Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Finance/Department of Financial Services, the Staff Selection Commission, Railway Recruitment Board and Institute of Banking Personnel Selection. Meanwhile, over three years, the Centre will spend sanctioned funds to the tune of Rs 1,517.57 crore for the NRA.

The NRA will conduct a Common Eligibility Test (CET), which will shortlist candidates for Group B and C (non-technical/non-gazetted) posts. Usually, these are middle-management and clerical work in central government ministries, departments and PSU banks.

The NRA shall conduct a separate CET for candidates across different levels of educational qualifications — Matriculate (Class X Pass), Higher Secondary (Class XII Pass) and Graduate.

Unlike earlier, when exams for recruitment to central government jobs were held only in Hindi and English, the Centre announced that the CET would be held in 12 different languages. More importantly, the curriculum for this test will be the same, and the government claims this will “ease the burden of candidates who are at present required to prepare for each of the examinations separately as per the different curriculum”.

This online test seeks to shortlist candidates at the first level of vacancies that are currently filled via various exams conducted by agencies.

“Based on the screening done at the CET score level, final selection for recruitment shall be made through separate specialised Tiers (II, III, etc.) of examination, which shall be conducted by the respective recruitment agencies,” read a statement issued by the government.

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For representational purposes only.

Where will the CET be conducted for candidates?

The government proposes to set up examination centres in every district with a special focus on building this infrastructure in the 117 ‘Aspirational Districts’ affected by poor socio-economic indicators. Reports indicate that 1,000 exam centres have been proposed nationwide.

This is a departure from the current scenario where candidates have to appear in multiple examinations conducted by multiple agencies in different cities.

Having an exam centre in their home district cuts down any money spent on exam fees, boarding, travel, food and lodging, etc. This could improve the chances of candidates from low-income households and rural areas who want to take this test. Applicants are required to register on a single registration portal for CET.

For what duration will your CET Scores remain valid?

Scores are valid up to three years from the time results are declared. The best of these scores will be presented as the candidate’s current score, and there are no restrictions to the number of times anyone can attempt the test, although this is subject to an age limit not yet specified by the government.

As is the norm for such exams, the upper age limit will be relaxed for SC/ST/OBC candidates. According to the Times of India, the government is looking to conduct the first CET next year, “possibly towards the end of the first quarter”.

Who will access this CET score?

Initially, it will be used by the SSC, RRB and IBPS.

“However, over a period of time, it is expected that other recruitment agencies in the Central Government would adopt the same. Further, it would be open for other agencies in the public as well as the private domain to adopt it if they so choose. Thus, in the long run, the CET score could be shared with other recruiting agencies in the Central Government, State Governments/Union Territories, Public Sector Undertaking and Private Sector. This would help such organisations in saving costs and time spent on recruitment,” the government release notes.

In fact, some Central government departments have reportedly indicated their desire to get rid of any second or third level tests and go ahead with recruitment solely based on CET scores, a medical examination and physical tests to shorten the recruitment cycle.

Why is this an important announcement?

In a report released earlier this month by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), a private think tank, nearly 50 lakh salaried persons lost their livelihoods in July itself taking the total number since April to 1.89 crores.

Quite naturally, there is an even greater premium on government jobs, and by seeking to streamline the process, the government is looking to ease the burden on recruitment agencies.

(Feature Image courtesy EduAdvice)

(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)

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