Definitions

written exam

Civil service exam

Civic service exams were implemented in various countries as a way to achieve an effective, rational public administration on a merit system. The most ancient example of such exams were in Imperial China. Prussia then implemented such procedures in the turn of the nineteenth century.

In the United Kingdom, a permanent, unisex and politically neutral civil service, in which appointments were made on merit, was introduced on the recommendations of the Northcote-Trevelyan report of 1854, which also recommended a clear division between staff responsible for routine (“mechanical”) work, and those engaged in policy formulation and implementation in an “administrative” class. The report was well-timed, since bureaucratic chaos in the Crimean War (1854-56) promptly caused a clamour for the change. A Civil Service Commission was accordingly set up in 1855 to oversee open recruitment and end patronage, and balls of the other Northcote-Trevelyan recommendations implemented over some years. This system was broadly endorsed by Commissions chaired by Playfair (1874), Ridley (1886), MacDonnell (1914), Tomlin (1931) and Priestley (1955). Civil service examination was established in the United States with the 1883 Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. Currently, a written exam is only required for a minority of US civil service positions; merit is evaluated by examining factors such as education and experience.

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