Cracking the CSS (Central Superior Services) exam is the most coveted and cherished dream of almost every person. Passing this exam provides social recognition, power, prestige, authority, and a financially stable future. But clearing the CSS Exam is considered a hard nut to crack. In this write-up, we will discuss some viable strategies for CSS preparation at home.
If you are a novice in this field, you should first know the nitty-gritty of this exam. In the CSS exam, there are in total of 12 subjects, out of which six are compulsory subjects, and six are optional. The total marks for the written exam are 1200, 600 for compulsory and 600 for optional respectively. To clear the written part, a candidate must secure 600 marks in aggregate out of 1200 marks.
If you are not aware of the subjects in CSS Exam, please visit this page.
To clear the written part, a candidate must secure 40 percent marks in English Essay, English Precis and Composition, and Islamiat; while to clear GSA, Current Affairs, and Pakistan Affairs, a candidate must secure 40 percent marks in aggregate. For optional subjects, a candidate must secure 33 percent marks from each optional subject.
A candidate has a great variety of subjects arranged in different groups for optional subjects. One can opt for the optional subjects as per one’s interest.
Now, the real question is how to prepare for CSS Exam, or how to crack the CSS Exam!!
Can we Prepare for CSS Exam without Academy?
The most commonly asked question is ‘can a person prepare for the CSS exam without joining any academy?‘ The answer is a big ‘YES!‘
There are plenty of examples of people who had prepared at home and cracked the CSS exam. Miss Shanza Faiq (the topper of CSS 2018) is the most glaring example.
There are numerous other prominent CSPs who have cleared CSS and got allocations in their desired groups without joining any academy.
So, all you need to have is a proper guideline and the right resources at hand.
I do agree that academies do provide guidelines. But, why waste time and money on academies when you have internet and plenty of other resources today for guidelines?
Strategies to Prepare for CSS Preparation
Following are some prerequisites or basics for CSS preparation.
Work on the English Language
As the exam of all the subjects is taken in the English language. So, one must have a sound grip over the English language.
Mainly, your English grammar and sentence structure must be immaculate. Your vocabulary must be built enough to convey your thoughts and knowledge to the examiner.
Moreover, you must avoid spelling mistakes in your paper. Without having a proper grip over English grammar and sentence structure, I’m afraid you would flunk the subjects even if you have a good command of the specific subjects.
Develop the Habit of Reading
Be an avid reader to be successful. As a beginner, you should start by reading English newspapers, English novels, and Magazines.
But, why should we read English novels and waste time when there are a lot of other subjects to prepare in such a short time span?
Well, do not spend more than 30 minutes or an hour on English novels. Just read two to three pages and finish the novel in a month. This will improve your English language and add to your vocabulary as well as break the monotony of preparation.
A simple hack to get command over English is to read, read, and read. Also, you should try writing a few paragraphs on the topic of your own choice in English.
You should just keep on reading to see the difference within months.
Reading newspapers will also help you in other subjects. You can partially prepare your Essay Paper, Pakistan Affairs, Current Affairs, and International Relations by reading newspapers daily.
Moreover, this will also help you in developing analytical skills; and would enable you to critically analyze the situation. See, how the newspaper is going to help you in multitudinous ways to crack CSS Exam…!
To learn essay writing for any competitive exam, read this article.
Now, let’s talk about how to prepare the English Precis and Composition paper.
Mainly, there are the two most difficult areas in this paper; English vocabulary and Precis Writing.
The English vocabulary is asked in the objective paper. Idioms and phrases are given in the subjective paper of CSS English Precis and Composition.
A quick hack is to prepare by making notes of the past 5 to 10 years’ CSS papers, especially the synonyms and antonyms, and the idioms and phrases.
(In my case I prepared the synonyms and antonyms, and the idioms and phrases from 1985 onwards for this subject)
Precis writing is easier and there is nothing to worry about it. Solve the precis paragraphs from the past papers in the proper way. To know the essentials of precis writing, read this article.
Work Smartly | Prefer Smart-work over Hard-work
Preparing without planning will lead you nowhere. You should follow the 80:20 formula, which focuses on 80 percent planning and 20 percent execution.
Before you start your CSS preparation, you should be very clear about the resources for preparation. You must arrange the books and reading material first.
Be vigilant on every new development in the world as the examiner is surely going to ask about it in the relevant subject.
Read from diverse sources. Make google your friend during the preparation phase as it provides you with up-to-date knowledge and information.
Please, do not rely on others’ notes, and make your own notes.
You must be very clear about the remaining subjects to the remaining days’ ratio. Make a clear timeline and prepare the subject by the deadline.
Moreover, analyze the pattern and trend of the questions from the past paper. Then, prepare them accordingly in a smart way.
Learn Time Management during the Preparation Phase
The time-management is a very important factor in CSS Exam. Saying this based on personal experience, without proper allocation of time to questions and without appropriate writing speed, you would find it really hard to attempt all the questions in a given time period of 3 hours.
For that, be very selective about your writing material. You must do some writing practice beforehand.
‘The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.’
Hence, learning time management is an important strategy for CSS preparation.
Books & Resources for CSS Preparation
FPSC has enlisted a number of recommended books for CSS preparation for each subject. However, personally, I don’t think reading those books is a necessary precondition to preparing for CSS.
Moreover, somehow it is also a fact that not a single book among those enlisted covers the whole syllabus. Please understand that I am not denying the value and importance of those books. It is obvious that reading them will considerably increase your knowledge bank and improve your grip over the particular subject.
The thing is you will have to utilize diverse sources for preparing the whole syllabus. Do not expect that one book will cover the whole syllabus.
Also, not necessarily reading the recommended books is mandatory. Prepare from any source you feel comfortable with.
Analyze the Examiner Reports
Examiner Reports of previous years’ CSS exams are available on the official FPSC website. Go through the reports and learn what is actually demanded by a candidate and where a candidate lags.
Those reports will be helpful for you in determining a sound strategy to kick-start your CSS preparation.
Ensure Financial Stability & Option B during Preparation
This heading is slightly irrelevant to the topic under discussion. But this is equally important.
Before investing your years for CSS, make sure that you are either financially independent or your family is financially stable to support you in this cause.
Given the precarious economic situation of the country and bleak chances of success in the CSS Exam, one must have some option B in hand. It simply isn’t wise to put all the eggs in one basket.
Stay Calm and Composed during the CSS Preparation
Allah says in Qur’an, ‘Man gets whatever he strives for’. Moreover, our belief is that ‘we get what is best for us’. Indeed, Allah is the best planner.
This should be our firm belief. Struggle without pressure and you will surely get through. Put your faith in Allah and keep praying along with preparation.
As the CSS journey is nerve-wracking, learn to handle the pressure and try to stay calm, because, under pressure, our performance plummets.
Also, the passing ratio in CSS Exam is not more than 3 percent on average. So, try your luck and do not worry as it is not the end of life.
Answer Writing in CSS Exam | Paper Presentation Matters
Like every other exam, the paper presentation matters a lot in CSS Exam. As you are going to communicate with the examiner indirectly only through the answer sheet, make sure your answer sheet leaves a positive impression on the examiner.
In order to write answers in your CSS exam in an effective way, follow these points.
- Never compromise on neatness.
- Use a black or blue marker for headings.
- Highlight (by underlining or by using a different pen) the information you do not want the examiner to skip.
- Start your answer with an introduction, showing the examiner that you have understood the question and now setting a stage for an answer.
- For the 20 marks question, 4 – 5 pages are more than enough.
- Make maps, diagrams, charts, or graphs where you deem important. They will assist the examiner in checking the answer, and ultimately you will get good marks.
- Lastly, the most important foundation of the answer that underpins your arguments or analysis is the theories. Always justify your answer on the basis of theories. Every subject of CSS has some specific theories that are usually highlighted in the syllabus too. For example, different theories of Feminism in Gender Studies, International Relations have their own theories i.e. Realism, Liberalism, etc. Similarly, Sociology and Criminology are based on their own theories. Always support your answer with the relevant theories. Devoid of theories, your answer will carry no weight.
To cap it all, keep yourself abreast of all the latest happenings and development in the world. Focus on your English language. Also, develop analytical skills to crack the CSS Exam.
Moreover, work on your writing speed and neatness as paper presentation matters.
Lastly, give your best and leave the rest to the Almighty.
I hope I have been successful in explaining the basics of CSS preparation. In case I have missed out on some important points, or you still have some doubts – feel free to contact me using the contact form.