The 1.48 million people who qualified to take the exam marked an increase of 90,000 over last year, while the number of positions offered－27,000－remained almost the same. The number of people who actually took the exam is yet to be released.
Last year, only 930,000 of the 1.39 million qualified finally entered the exam halls.
According to exam questions and some test-takers' feedback posted online after the exam, the difficulty of the questions was moderate and hot political and social issues, such as the Long March rockets, China's foreign affairs, the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) lunar rover and entrepreneurial efforts by college students, were mentioned.
The exam, consisting of writing tests and interviews, is a requirement to be hired by the central government to work as a civil servant, often considered a stable line of work with a good salary.
The interviews were expected to be held in February or March, after the writing test results come out in January.
This year, for the most hotly contested position－one at the Central Committee of the China Democratic League's reception office－there were about 10,000 competitors.
People's interest in taking the exam recovered this year, after declining the previous two years.
Peng Zhongbao, an official of the State Administration of Civil Service, said the fluctuation is normal, as "the number of people registering for the exam is affected by a series of factors, including the number of young people entering the job market each year, the fairness of the civil servant recruiting system and so on."
People dubbed this year's exam "the most stringent one in history", as a series regulations took effect in October, stipulating that those cheating or being involved in cheating will permanently lose their qualification to become a civil servant.
What's more, those caught cheating could face a prison sentence of between three and seven years, according to an amendment to the Criminal Law that took effect in November last year.