Change is inevitable and the sooner one adapts to it, the better it is for learning and improvement. After a very long time, finally the FPSC has come out of hibernation to revise the scheme of syllabi for CSS examination; Pakistan’s most prestigious competitive exam. This is a welcome change as it can be expected that now the truly talented people will enter into the Civil Service of Pakistan which is undoubtedly the most cherished dream for every young student.
Like all subjects, the FPSC has introduced some structural changes to the syllabus of English Précis and Composition Paper as well. The new syllabus will make students work hard in all fields of English ranging from grammar and punctuation to translation and so on and so forth. Here is a detailed analysis of the new syllabus:
Division of Syllabus
The FPSC has actually divided the syllabus into two parts:
1. Subjective Part, which comprises Précis Writing and Reading Comprehension.
a. Précis Writing (20 Marks)
In the previous exam pattern, the précis contained 25 marks but now it will contain only 20 marks with 15 for précising the text and 5 for suggesting a suitable title. As the précis has been an integral part of the syllabus of Composition paper, it will be quite easy for the students to master this skill in a short time.
b. Reading Comprehension (20 marks)
A carefully selected passage that is rich in substance but not very technical or discipline specific shall be given, followed by five questions, each carrying 4 marks.
2. Objective Part, which consists of Grammar & Vocabulary, Sentence Correction, Grouping of Words, Pair of Words and Translation.
a. Grammar & Vocabulary (20 marks)
This portion will be used to assess candidates’ abilities and skills in the correct usage of Tenses, articles, prepositions, conjunctions, punctuation, phrasal verbs, synonyms and antonyms etc. In new syllabus, the contents of this section have been clearly defined which means the students have a clear-cut idea as to what the actual paper will look like.
b. Sentence Correction (10 marks)
In this part the students will be asked to correct the sentences given as each of them will have a clear structural flaw in terms of grammar or punctuation or both. Again, this portion was frequently asked in the old pattern and students have a fair idea of its nature and subtleties.
c. Grouping of Words (10 marks)
Now, this is the new inclusion. In this part, candidates will have to group the given words having similar or opposite meanings as required by the examiner. To learn this art, the students will have to work hard on vocabulary, especially synonyms and antonyms.
d. Pairs of Words (10 marks)
This segment has also been there in the paper, though intermittently. Candidates will have to define seemingly similar words with different meanings and then use them in sentences to bring out the difference in their meanings. For this, homonyms should be learnt with great diligence.
e. Translation (10 marks)
Another new addition! Although the students who have appeared in PMS or other competitive exams may have an idea of translation techniques, the CSS candidates can also master this skill with proper guidance and some smart work.
How to Prepare?
Changing trends do demand continuous alterations to the strategies so that one may tackle new problems that surface with the passage of time. Same is the case with this paper where the hallmark of the old syllabus was abstraction but that of the new one is explanation. So, the candidates must also make necessary changes to their strategies so that they attempt the paper in a way that they may get maximum scores.
As the new Précis & Composition paper has tried to separate the subjective and objective sections, yet the predicament of the subjective section is still the same that it leaves assessment of a candidate’s performance at the mercy of examiner’s mood. Nevertheless, following strategy to prepare for this crucial paper can be helpful for the students:
This paper should be divided into four parts:
It consists of the mathematical portion which the FPSC has introduced with the intention to give confidence to the candidate that he can get good scores. It is like the objective portion of the precious paper which has a great potential to yield good score. This section can be further divided into two parts:
a. Grouping of Words. This section is modelled on the pattern of analogy section that is based on standardized tests like SAT, NAT, GRE, etc. It may also contain similar and opposite relationships between different pair of words.
b. Pairs of Words. This section can be prepared from dictionary and other useful books.
First of all, it contains the Précis question; the most important segment of this paper. This single question leaves your lasting impression on the examiner. It would not be wrong to say that this question is the soul of CSS. As they say “Practice makes a man perfect,” this is the only strategy to crack this question and also to get good score in it. So, do practice précising as much as possible during preparations.
This portion consists of Reading Comprehension. This also has been a part of the Précis paper and most students would be quite familiar to its requirements and the strategies to crack it. Here again, practice, practice and practice!
This portion which consists of Grammar and Vocabulary, Sentence Correction and Translation, can serve as a windfall for the students.
It is to be noted here that the short essay (comprehensive note) has been omitted in the current syllabus. It was a great source to enable a candidate to build solid foundations for writing long essays. Nevertheless, its replacement with the Translation and Grouping of Words may add to the productive capacity of a candidate.