Lessons to Learn from CSS 2019 Examination
Written part of Competitive Examination CSS 2019 is over. As always, it’s time to analyze this year’s question papers and exam trends. As for their content and style, it cannot be denied that these question papers nonplussed most of the candidates, especially those who thought they would get through by relying on traditional stuff like notes and guidebooks. Exam trend seems to have changed significantly as there was many a question that jolted the aspirants, especially in the Essay and Current Affairs papers. Since the objective of the CSS exam is to look for generalists with a certain level of intellect, it is now almost impossible to pass this exam if you are not creative and innovative.
How we got into this sticky situation?
Answers are pretty simple and the biggest reason for this degeneration is the poor results witnessed during the recent years – ratio of successful candidates has dropped over the past four years; with 3.3 percent in 2014, 3.1 percent in 2015, 2.06 percent in 2016 and 3.3 percent in 2017, with a slight increase in CSS 2018 (Written Part) with 4.79 percent.
Even more perplexing is the fewer number of candidates appearing in the viva voce (interview). It suggests that the interview process is kept lenient to fill in the vacancies as many as possible as there are fewer written-qualified candidates to select from. It is obvious that standard and merit are compromised on. Resultantly, those who win allocations to various occupational groups are – of course, with some exceptions – not as brilliant as a CSP officer is expected to be. Interestingly, most of the successful candidates – including top position-holders – in the recent years are those who are either foreign qualified or have graduated from Pakistan’s top universities. This situation also puts a big question mark on the performance of Higher Education Commission. So, keeping in view this situation, it was all tenable for the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) to call attention of concerned authorities to the poor standards of higher education in Pakistan.
In its annual reports, the FPSC has been lamenting the low quality of education of the candidates, and urging the government to work expeditiously on ameliorating the situation. For instance, FPSC’s Annual Report 2016, asserted: “… higher education system in the country requires urgent attention of the policymakers for a comprehensive review to identify the gray areas.” It also recommended “overall revision of syllabi at all levels of education … improving the general ability of students and proficiency in languages (i.e. English or Urdu as a medium of communication).”
And, this is the very situation Jahangir’s World Times has been consistently highlighting for the past many years – with a difference, though. We believe if poor standards of education are responsible for this recurring fiasco, the aspirants, too, cannot be exonerated of this blame.
The FPSC, on its part, seems totally oblivious to the ground realities pertaining to the quality of education in our universities. The papers it sets are far above the master’s-level education; let alone the graduation – the minimum threshold of educational qualification for CSS. On the other hand, most of the aspirants are also non-serious as they do not prepare well and just look for shortcuts to pass this prestigious competitive examination. I often tell students that the examiner does not know if you are a Harvard graduate or hold a degree from a local university; he judges your mental faculties only from what you have produced on the answer sheet.
Besides making solemn appeals to the government to expedite the process of reforms, especially in higher education, JWT has been consistently urging the prospective aspirants to acquire high-quality knowledge and hone their analytical skills. They must develop the coveted traits of building arguments from multiple angles, presenting comparative analyses and structuring answers with logical reasoning and research-based facts, while maintaining coherence all the time. In fine, the aspirants should be creative and ingenious. In February 2019 issue, I published an article entitled “Success in CSS Made Easy” wherein I discussed techniques and strategies to stand head and shoulders above other aspirants, one needs to be innovative. I advised the aspirants: “This is an age of innovation and improvisation, and the two terms hold true for CSS exam as well. Now you have to adopt a strategic approach right from the selection of optional subjects to making solid preparation. You must know how to actually attempt the papers. The exam really tests your analytical skills and mental prowess to dig deep into the issues. Merely memorizing some stuff and reproducing it on the answer sheet robotically is a thing of bygone days now. The examiner wants to see a piece that reflects your analytical skills, critical thinking and grasp over the relevant information.”
Those who do not possess these traits are virtually out of the race right from the very beginning. And, CSS 2019 papers have proved my assertions.
So, to cut the long story short there are two basic lessons we must learn from this year’s papers: One, FPSC needs to set papers that are not out of this world; they must be matching the educational standards in our country. This will give a bigger lot of written-qualified candidates to put into a rigorous process of psychological assessment and interview. It is in this process that the mental abilities and analytical skills of a candidate can really be tested and only the best and crème la de crème would carry the day. Moreover, it is very encouraging that Chairman Higher Education Commission, Dr Tariq Banuri, took the dismal result of CSS 2017-18 as “a shocking indictment of my sphere of responsibility,” and suggested to treat this decline as a ‘national crisis’. The FPSC must work in close coordination with HEC for drawing up pragmatic policies in order to steer the system out of the multifarious crises it is mired in today.
And, second, only those aspirants should enter the CSS arena that are intelligent, have strong mental abilities and can take it as a real venture; those who cannot endure the pressure of extensive study should stay away.