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English for CSS, PMS Comprehension

English for CSS, PMS Comprehension

Comprehension is another important part of English (Précis & Composition) paper for CSS. In this 20-mark question, aspirants are given a passage that is, according to FPSC’s syllabus for CSS, rich in substance but not very technical or discipline-specific. The paragraph is followed by five questions – each carrying 4 marks – that are to be answered by the aspirants. In this part of the series, we will discuss some important techniques to get maximum marks from this question also.


The word comprehension actually means ‘grasping with intellect’ and ‘understanding’. It is the ability to read and understand a given text and to answer questions based on that. You will be presented with passages drawn from a variety of subject areas, including humanities, sciences, latest happenings in society, and so on. The questions following the paragraph will ask you to analyze what is stated in the passage and would have to identify underlying assumptions and implications.

10 Steps to Follow

1. Read the passage at least twice and understand its contents well. This should not take more than five minutes for a small and ten for a long passages.
2. Do not read the questions first. This may tempt you to look for only particular information in the passage and consequently, affect full comprehension. It is important to first understand the passage before you go to the questions because if the questions are not very specific, you may commit a lot of mistakes. Generally, the passages have a mix of implied ideas and specific detail type of questions.
3. Eliminate regression, i.e., going back to the lines you have just read. This is out of habit developed over years of wrong or half-hearted reading. This must be done away with as the maximum time you should take to answer all the questions after reading a passage is about seven minutes. Regression is the result of lack of concentration and assumptions.
4. Do not let your own knowledge (or lack of it) interfere with the contents of the passage. Do not make any attempt to agree or disagree with the author.
5. Your principal task in attempting a comprehension passage should comprise:

i. Finding the topic. The topic must be precise. Generally the topic is found either in the first or in the last line.
ii. Finding the main idea. This can be a definition, a classification, a purpose or an elaboration of the topic; often the topic and the main idea are the same.
iii. Finding major supporting details. The supporting details modify, explain or elaborate the main idea. You should learn to recognize these supporting details that explain, illustrate, compare and contrast, show cause-effect relationship or merely restate the main idea in other words.

6. Underline the words you don’t know the meaning of. Try to relate them to the given context.
7. Resort to sentence analysis and break a sentence into parts, looking for answers to who, what, whom, when, where, which, why and how.
8. Locate reference words and check what they refer to.
9. Underline signal words and look for what they indicate.
10. If the passage contains more than one paragraph, resort to paragraph analysis in the manner given above (5 to 10).

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