Preparing for English papers – Essay and Précis & Composition – of CSS examination appears to be a gigantic task for most of the aspirants as we have, over the years, seen that only a few candidates get good marks in these two papers and a vast majority of even the top position-holders secure score between 40 and 50 marks. Examiners reports published by the Federal Public Service Commission also suggest that most aspirants’ level of knowledge in English language is poor. This means they seriously need to work on improving their grammar and vocabulary. In the following paragraphs, some useful suggestions are being presented so as to help the CSS aspirants.
Having a large stock of words makes you a better writer, helping you through the CSS examination and also giving you the edge if you choose another profession. Knowing and understanding a large number of words will make you better understand what you hear or read, and also convey what you know in a more effective manner. So, if your English is weak, you need to improve it and for that purpose, taking formal courses is probably the best option. But make sure these courses are of decent quality. However, if taking a course is not possible, here are some tips for self-learning.
Read Editorial Pages
Start reading the editorial pages of a good newspaper. Spend 30 to 45 minutes doing this each day. The more you read, the more words you will come across, both familiar and unfamiliar ones. Don’t ignore the unfamiliar ones and move on. Pause and read the sentence again. Make sure you understand every word (you may also keep a dictionary with you) and sentence you read. If this means being very slow in the beginning that is absolutely fine.
The more you read, the more words you will come across, but you will only learn new words when you make the effort to find their meaning and usage. Reading will also have the added benefit of being a source of information, knowledge and introduction to different styles of writing.
After you finish reading something, try to summarise the content in your own words, or make an attempt at clearly articulating what you think was the argument in the piece you read.
Develop the Habit of Listening
Start listening to conversations in the English language. Watching English movies is one way of doing this but for CSS aspirants it is better to regularly watch news channels that broadcast talk shows in English language. This will not only help you hone your skills in the usage of English language but will also be highly beneficial for papers like Current Affairs, International Relations, Political Science, International Law, and so on. But, again, this has to be done in a way where you understand every word and sentence that is uttered. You may also download such a programme in audio or video format so as to listen or watch it again and again unless you fully comprehend every bit of that.
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