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On the 21st of May, 1855, Her Most Gracious Majesty issued an Order in Council, appointing Sir E. Ryan, J. S. Lefevre, Esq., C.B., and E. Romilly, Esq., Commissioners for conducting the examination of young men proposed to be appointed to any of the junior situations in the Civil Establishments; and authorising them to give certificates of qualification before such young men entered on their duties.
The Commissioners immediately put themselves in communication with the heads of departments, and with their assistance arranged the scheme of examinations which will be found in page xx. to xxxvi.
The first examination was held on the 30th of June, 1855, and since that period, examinations have taken place nearly every week. On the 4th March last, the Commissioners presented a report of the results, from which we learn that out of a total of 697 candidates examined, 309 were rejected. The nature of the examinations to which the young men were subjected will be gathered from the papers given below. It has not been thought advisable to print the passages selected for translation from Latin into English, as these were merely extracts from Virgil, and Horace, Cicero, Livy, and Tacitus. We have also omitted the French and German extracts, principally from historical and poetical works, as they would not be of any use in directing the studies of future candidates.
For similar reasons, we have not given the passages to be translated from English into the classical and modern languages. It has been judged expedient to print only two sets of the despatches of which the candidates were required to draw up a précis, or to which they were desired to write a final answer. What we have given will be sufficient to show the nature of this portion of the examination. Further examples may be found in almost any of the Blue Books, particularly in those containing correspondence on the Poor Laws, Railway Bills, Colonial Government, Finances, &c. For commercial correspondence, we would suggest that Anderson's Mercantile Correspondence might be studied with advantage.
The only text books to which the Commissioners have given the weight of their authority, are those proposed by the Foreign Office for the Diplomatic Service, the unpaid Attachés in which are required to know so much of Ileeren's Historical Manual of the Political System of Europe and the Colonies, as treats of history from the year 1789; the fourth volume of Russell's Modern Europe (Latest Edition); and so much of McCulloch's Geographical Dictionary as relates to the country to which the candidate is about to proceed. The paid Attachés are required to have a competent knowledge of International Law, as laid down by Wheaton. For the Consular Service, the work recommended, is Smith's Compendium of Mercantile Law.
MODE OF EXAMINATION. The mode in which the examinations have been conducted in London has been the following :
-The arithmetic paper has in most cases been given on the first morning, the time allowed being three hours and a half, and the afternoon has usually been occupied with three or four sums in compound addition, with dictation, and exercises in orthography. From candidates nominated to clerkships in almost all the branches of the Customs department, and to various other situations, no further test of proficiency has been required. Others, whose examinations have included a greater variety of subjects, have occupied two days, and in some cases a third, and even a fourth.
In order to insure uniformity of standard, the provincial examinations are all under control of the Metropolitan Commission. The necessary papers are issued from the central offices, to which the candidate's answers, with specimens of handwriting, and certificates, are returned for inspection, the Commissioners deciding absolutely upon the documents then laid before them.
SUBJECTS OF EXAMINATION. The subjects of examination naturally divide themselves into two classes 1 Those which are indispensable to the proper discharge of
the duties of the office. 2 Those which testify that the candidate has received a
liberal education. To this may be added another class, namely :3 Subjects not in the “department" list, for which the can
didates voluntarily offer themselves to be examined, and for which they receive certificates of competency.
INDISPENSABLE. All persons appointed to any junior situation in a Government office are required
(a) To write a good hand.
(C) To be conversant with the elementary portions of arith
metic. (d) To be able to write a simple letter grammatically.
(a) Handwriting. This, say the Commissioners, should consist in “the clear formation of the letters of the alphabet. It should be rapid, neat, and of that even stroke which allows legible copies to be taken by pressing.”
It would appear from the Report, that candidates have, hitherto, been very deficient in this art, particularly in that bold broad style so necessary in public documents. For incompetence in this branch alone, 44 persons were rejected.
(6) Spelling.—The ability of the candidates to spell correctly is tested by their writing to dictation a passage of average difficulty. They are then allowed to look over their work, to correct any faults they may have committed, and yet (excluding the errors that may have been “sheltered by bad writing”) 41 candidates were rejected for deficiencies in this subject alone; 23 for deficiencies in both spelling and writing; 27 for deficiencies in both spelling and arithmetic; and 72 for deficiencies in spelling combined with other faults. The Commissioners observe that, “ where two or more causes of rejection are specified, each (had it stood alone) would have been deemed sufficient to prevent the granting of certificates.” The Commissioners are careful to state that, “ the failures have not been errors in words of rare occurrence or technical character, but discreditable mistakes in those of every-day use.” Where an additional test of orthography was desirable, the candidates were required to correct the erroneous spelling in a lithographed MS. altered for the purpose.
(c) Arithmetic.—The examination under this head includes two sets of papers—the elementary, given to tide-waiters and weighers, and to candidates for temporary employment; the higher, commencing with reduction and ending with decimals, given to candidates for permanent clerkships.