How Are the Questions for Recruitment Exams Developed?

The Exams Content Research and Development Center (ECRDC) is tasked with researching and developing recruitment exam questions, based on the positions’ Terms of Reference (ToR) and needs of the agencies. Hundreds of national and international sources and references are utilized in researching and developing recruitment exam questions.

The ECRDC was established almost two years ago. So far, more than 35 thousand common function and specialized questions have been recorded in this center, a number which is increasing by the day.

The exam questions are developed to assess the knowledge, skills, and other competencies of civil service positions’ eligible candidates. The exam questions are developed based on the civil service competencies framework, executive competencies, common-function competencies, and development skills and competencies.

The questions are developed, finalized and added in the question bank, after going through the following steps: position’s ToR analysis and identification of necessary competencies for a position in consultation with experts of the field, determining credible sources and references relevant and appropriate to the level of applicants, experts developing  questions, reviewing questions made by a group of experts and standardizing the exam questions, translation of the questions (Pashto to Dari and Dari to Pashto) and finally added to the question bank.

Frozan Amiri, director of the ECRDC, assuring the commitment and efforts of the center in improving the quality of exam content, says: “the center, having in mind the views of applicants and participants of the recruitment process through computer-based exams, strives to provide effective services in the field of content quality, utilization of reliable and accessible sources for all and other relevant issues.”

The references and sources used in the ECRDC must be credible – author and publisher must enjoy a certain level of credibility. Also, using national sources are prioritized and if there national resources aren’t available or are not as credible, international sources are utilized. The sources should be relevant to the subject and in line with applications’ ability.

The study resources section in the official website of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC) lists common-function and professional categories. The study resources in the professional category are listed based on the line ministries and agencies.  Applicants’ of civil service positions finds the study resources for the certain positions’ recruitment exam by looking up the ministry/department in the list.

When the list of civil service position’s applicants is shared with the ECRDC, the center generates a unique username and password for each applicant. On the exam day, applicants, after receiving their username and password, are directed to the room where they are going to take the computer-based exams. After entering their unique username and password, applicants are presented with the randomly generated questions from the question bank by the electronic exams system. There is no human interference in selection and grading of exam questions.

Najib Quraishi is one of the applicants who participated in the computer-based exam for a grade four position in one of the government agencies for the first time. Mr. Quraishi expresses his happiness at participating in an exam which does not involve human interference in selection of exam questions and says: “when I participated in the computer-based exams, I felt a sense of reliance on my knowledge, talent and abilities.”

Mr. Quraishi further added: “The questions selected by the electronic exams system were very precise and relavent, except that the general questions and questions on management were above 50% of the overall questions while the professional questions were less than 50%, which I think creates problems in identifying those candidates who have better professional  knowledge than those who doesn’t.”

The computer-based exam questions are selected from a pool of common-function and professional questions by the system. The percentage of each section is determined based on the grade of the positions. There are more questions on management for senior civil service positions, the minimum percentage of management questions for senior civil service questions is 50% and it may increase to 60%. And for positions with lower grades, the share of professional questions is higher and may cover up to 70% of the questions. The system also selects questions based on the positions ToR and specialization which have already been identified for position by the relevant department and experts of the field. If the ECRDC does not have an expert in a field of specialization, the center consults experts from outside.

The ECRDC operates in a constant quarantine environment and access to it is subject to prescheduled meetings. The IARCSC in order to protect the exams content, have put in place the following measures: there is no network connection to the outside, the computers and content development section in the center cannot be accessed without authorization of responsible authorities, it is strictly prohibited to take USB, mobile and other electronic devices inside the center, all of the rooms of this center are equipped with security cameras which are recording 24 hours a day, and taking an oath to comply with specified behavioral principles by all members of the center.

Currently, the IARCSC has established two computerized exams centers in Kabul and 11 computerized exams centers in the provinces. The computerized exam centers in the provinces are connected to the Exams Center in Kabul through a unified, secure communication system. Exams’ participants at provincial centers receive their usernames and passwords from Kabul’s exams center, moments before the exam. As the exam begins in the provincial exam centers, the exam questions are provided to participants from the Kabul’s exams center. The duration of exams in the provincial centers is monitored by a control room at the Kabul’s exams center. Participants will receive their results immediately after the exam.

The applicants in the provincial exams centers, receive the exam questions from the IARCSC’s question bank, through a secure intranet network. The provincial exams center cannot store the questions. The questions are graded and the results are announced to the applicants by the central exams system in the IARCSC in Kabul.