Like previous years, 5this year, too, World Times Institute conducted Mock Exams, for CSS 2019 aspirants. During this exercise, we received 7000 + papers to assess. One thing that I and my team noted vividly was that most aspirants could not manage time properly, ergo failed to solve the required number of questions. They did not cite references, didn’t prove the stance taken with authentic data, whereas quotations and other ingredients were also not there. So, keeping in view the greater benefit and interest of all the CSS aspirants, I decided to publish this write-up wherein I have discussed a number of issues they face, and have addressed them one by one.
Over the years, the nature of CSS exam has changed a lot. It now really tests your mettle and takes a lot of smart work to get through, especially its written part. Merely memorizing some stuff and reproducing it on the answer sheet robotically is a thing of bygone days. 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 preparations, to actually attempting the paper, and so on.
So, what you need to do? What are the things you have to bear in mind to achieve the coveted success?
Let’s first talk about some general things that are applicable to compulsory as well as optional subjects:
Impress the Examiner
The biggest key to success in CSS is: impress the examiner.
Write quality stuff and present it in a consummate style. The examiner does not know if you are a Harvard graduate or hold a degree from a local university. He judges your mental faculties from what you have produced on the answer sheet.
So, never underestimate yourself nor you should fall prey to inferiority complex.
What examiner expects?
Here are a few things you should do:
- Answer all parts or aspects of the question asked. Only a few know that if you, even inadvertently, miss one, you will get fewer marks. So, comprehend the question fully and answer it the same way.
- Talk to him in his language, that is, the jargon of the subject. This reassures him that you have a profound knowledge on the topic or theme you are writing on.
- Spice up your answer with comparative analysis of your viewpoint so as to makes it sapid and savoury. Insipidity kills your answer, ergo chances of your success.
- Impress him with your ingenuity and resourcefulness; don’t be a robot to simply reproduce what you have memorized. You know, all aspirants read almost similar books but what sets a few apart? Definitely, innovation and creativity!
- Prove your stance with supporting evidence, i.e. relevant and authentic facts and figures, flowcharts, quotations, diagrams (where necessary), and so on.
- Giving references from books included in “Suggested Readings” published by the FPSC along with Syllabus for CSS.
- Quote reports of international institutions, e.g. the United Nations, International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Oxfam, PEW Research Center, World Economic Forum, and others.
After these general things, let’s now move on to compulsory subjects.
1. English Essay
There is no denying the fact that the English Essay is a stress point in CSS.
However, it is not as tough as it seems, in order to clear the exam, following points should be kept in mind:
- Start off by going through all 10 topics given in the question paper. Choose the one that is the most explicit in its meanings. Never go for a topic on which you have even a grain of doubt.
- Write the number of the essay and the topic on the answer sheet before you start writing; else, the examiner won’t even read it.
- Make a comprehensive outline on the back of the answer sheet in rough, making sure you cover all major dimensions of the topic. Once you are done, copy it on the front page, keeping in mind that it should not span more than two sides of a page.
- From the next page, start writing you essay with an impressive introduction. This should cover all the aspects mentioned in the outline. Introduction is to be a reflection of what the essay entails. If the essay demands a stance, it needs to be taken in the introduction, as it will add clarity to your essay.
- For the main body, start all paragraphs with an indentation. Do not leave a line after a paragraph.
- Make sure that each paragraph presents one argument given in the outline, and is backed by proof (qualitative or quantitative). Every point in the outline ought to be given in a separate paragraph in the main body.
- Avoid excessive use of connectors, i.e. however, moreover, furthermore, besides this, firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc. Try linking the concepts together to make your essay coherent and well connected.
- Once done with the main body, conclude your essay on a holistic tone with a final substantiation of your stance and arguments. Don’t add any new points in the conclusion.
1. Using diagrams, charts and maps, Urdu poetry is STRICTLY PROHIBITED!
2. Always write in the third person.
3. Avoid adding too many quotations (use only those that are relevant). The examiner wants to know what you have to say, not what others have said.
2. English (Précis and Composition)
This crucial paper tests your command over the English language. The biggest problem with this paper is that the aspirants fail to solve all the questions. So, what to do to get maximum score in this paper?
- Solve all questions; if you fail to solve question(s) of, say, 20 marks, you will have to score, at least, 50 percent of the remaining marks.
- Manage your time wisely. Most aspirants consume too much time on writing the précis without knowing that it will cost them dearly.
- Improve your vocabulary as passing this paper without performing well in the objective is almost impossible.
- You may also manage time well by solving the questions, which are not time-consuming, e.g. correction, direct & indirect, translation and vocabulary, first.
This segment is rather easy to pass as you have to score a total of, at least, 120 marks in its three papers. But, if you plan wisely, you can get outstanding marks in them and, hence, boost your chances of success. I personally know many aspirants who have scored 80+ marks in GK papers.
Let’s discuss these one by one:
3. General Science & Ability
- While attempting this paper, be illustrative.
- Take drawing diagrams in support of what you write as essential because they contain marks – in a 5-mark question, the diagram contains 2-3 marks.
- Do not write lengthy answer. Solve all parts of a question keeping in view their weight in total marks.
- Be strictly to the point!
In General Ability portion:
- Give all the steps you have taken to solve the question.
- Do not jump to the answer; you have to solve the question, not answer it abruptly.
4. Current Affairs
- Divide each answer into headings and subheadings.
- Do support your arguments with the authentic, up to date data.
- Drawing maps and giving diagrams adds beauty to your answer and embellishes your presentation which, in this paper, means a lot.
- Be positive while analyzing various aspects of a question.
- Your answer should be brimming with pessimism and a hope for the better future, as well as patriotism.
Never write anything that may be considered anti-state.
- Giving comparisons is also highly important, e.g. while writing your answer on topic, say, education, terrorism or economy, compare the situation with data from other countries like China, India, USA, and so on.
5. Pakistan Affairs
Pakistan Affairs has become almost similar to the Current Affairs as most questions of this paper are related to Pakistan-specific current happenings. It also tests your strong memory. To score excellent marks in it, you must:
- Memorize dates, names of places and personalities, causes and consequences of important events, etc., as much as you can, and write them correctly.
- Use data from authentic sources like Economic Survey of Pakistan, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, and other institutions.
Note: Comparing things is important in this paper as well.
For presentation and other ingredients of the answer sheet, follow the guidelines given in the Current Affairs portion.
6. Islamic Studies
This is another important paper because with low pass percentages over the years, this is a real hard nut to crack for a large number of aspirants. Reason? They fall prey to sectarian tendencies and write stuff that depicts their particular sect!
- Your answer should present you as a Muslim, not as a representative of a particular sect.
- Give as many Quranic verses and Ahadith as you can in support of your answer.
- Quote four works by renowned scholars like Dr Hamidullah, Maulana Shibli Nu’mani, Allama Iqbal, Abul Aala Maudoodi, et al., as well as some towering personalities from history.
- Do not add your own views unless the question is about Islam or Muslim Ummah in the contemporary world.
- Being conservative is the key to success in this paper.
All the approaches and guidelines discussed above are applicable also to all optional subjects. Use of headings and subheadings, managing your answer aptly, answering all aspects of a question asked, drawing maps, adding illustrated diagrams, and providing authentic facts and figures to support your stance are the things that depict your brilliance and consummate mental faculties.
Solve All Questions
In most papers, you are required to write answers to four questions. So, give equal time and weight to all four of them. If you spend more time on the first question, you are actually compromising on the quality of the other three. This creates bad impression on the examiner. It is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot as you kill your chances of success with your own hands.
I would explain this point with an example.
Suppose you are going to a cinema to watch a movie. Just imagine the start of the movie is not so impressive. What opinion will you make? Then, you find its end abrupt and unappealing. Will you still give thumbs up to that? No, not at all! Similar is the case with your answers. If one is good and other three or either incomplete or exhibit that you have hurriedly concluded them, should you expect the examiner to award you good marks? If yes, I do not subscribe to that idea!
You have a total of 150 minutes to answer four questions of the subjective part. It comes out to be 37.5 minutes per answer. So, you should spend 35 minutes at the most for an answer, not even a second more. This way you will complete your paper in 140 minutes. The remaining 10 minutes are to be spent on revision, which, again is of critical importance.
Things to Remember
1. No diagrams, no maps, no Urdu poetry, just not anything that distracts an examiner from the text.
2. Use simple, yet correct vocabulary. Avoid excessive repetition of words as much as you can.
3. Do not make spelling and grammar mistakes.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
You have to take 12 papers and all of them, except one, i.e. English Essay, contain MCQs of 20 marks – 220 for 11 papers. Score maximum of them to boost your chances of success and of being among the toppers. Solve MCQs from past papers for all the subjects you will be appearing in, and practice them as much as you can.
A Secret of English Essay
Most aspirants seem perplexed by the issue that once they start writing the essay, they soon lose their focus on the topic and go astray of the original ideas they had brainstormed. This is hazardous, to say the least. To avoid any such situation, sufficiently brainstorm before you start writing the essay. Spending enough time at this stage can save you from a lot of trouble.