How to Prepare for CSS Written Examination?
To run their various departments and ministries in the federal/provincial secretariats and the field, both, the Federal and the Provincial Governments of Pakistan recruit officers and subordinate staff through various means including annual competitive examinations.
Federal Public Service Commission, established under an Act of the Federal Parliament, has been mandated to recruit officers to be inducted at entry level in Grade 17 for federal ministries according to the vacancies indicated by them. It accordingly holds a competitive examination, known as Central Superior Services (CSS) Examination for recruitment to posts in basic Scale-17 for 12 Groups/Services under the Federal Government.
CSS Examination consists of a written test, medical examination, psychological assessment, and interviews. Appearing in the CSS examination is an extremely rewarding experience in one’s life. Success or failure aside, preparing for this most challenging examination will open new fields of learning which will help you in your practical life.
Any examination is a science (there are rules to follow) as well as art (practice makes you perfect). CSS is all about relevant, consistent, and focused study. You cannot read all the prescribed books, nor you can remember everything you have read in the course of your preparation. Accordingly, I suggest keeping these guidelines in view when making out your strategy
- Syllabus and Past Papers: CSS is all about focused study for which syllabus and past papers provide excellent guidelines. Go through these two at least once a fortnight to ensure you are not reading irrelevant material. Try to answer the questions which appear regularly in past papers to have firsthand experience. Prepare a guess paper of your own and solve those in simulated conditions for practice
- Guides and Notes: Do buy them and go through them when starting the preparation. They will give you an overview of the subject matter of the paper. However, these are just what they say-guides and notes-and that’s all. You must supplement your study with other relevant material
- Internet: The Internet is now what used to be libraries in our days. There are virtual libraries everywhere on the net. But there are three problems-information overloads, biased views, and surfing temptation. Be very selective-start with Wikipedia and browse the websites and sources suggested there. Cross-check the facts, figures, and opinions given by an author with other sources. Avoid surfing when studying-the biggest time waster of modern times
- Newspapers and Magazines: Despite the availability of information on the internet, these have not become irrelevant. You must have a subscription to one good English newspaper and a weekly one. Do keep clippings of relevant articles in files. Make notes from these magazines as you will be doing on the internet
- Prescribed Books: Most of the books prescribed are textbooks and can be used for background knowledge about a subject. You must thoroughly read two books out of all the books prescribed for a subject. However, buy their new editions if published. Also, buy one or two relevant books which have not been listed as suggested reading
How to Study
Everyone has his or her way of studying and should not be abandoned simply for the reason that someone else did well by using a different style. Success or failure in the examination is a complex issue depending upon several constants and variables. Having said that I am re-producing below the method I used throughout my academic career for preparing myself for the examinations. Go through it and if you like any idea, give it a try
- Reading and Highlighting
Depending upon your retention power, less than 25% can be retrieved if you just study a text. However, highlighting important points increases this to more than 40%. Be very selective in your highlighting as too much underlining will defeat the very purpose of the exercise. Do not undertake this activity in the first reading, rather do it when rereading the same. Rule of thumb-do highlight the first, the middle, and the last sentence of a paragraph
2. Summarizing and Note Taking
If highlighting increases retention and retrieval by 40%, then preparing notes of the text will increase it still further to 60%. Summarizing and note-taking should be done after at least third reading of the text and must be supplemented by additional reading from other sources. The rule of thumb-summary of the text should be one-third of the text and end in bullet points of the main ideas
3. Self-Lecturing and Teaching
An excellent way of remembering a text is to explain what you have read to your colleagues. It will not only improve your learning and retention but will also increase your knowledge base when your colleague, in turn, teaches you what they have learned. If no colleagues are available, then try to lecture yourself in front of a mirror
4. Acronyms Making
An acronym is an abbreviation pronounced as a word that is formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. Usually, these components are individual letters (as in NATO or laser) or parts of words or names (as in Benelux). Take out the first letter of the main ideas of the text and try to build a word, even a meaningless one. For example, in physics, the colours of the visible spectrum are ROY G. BIV (red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet
5. Framework Analysis
Frameworks analysis is the technique of using one framework in different subjects for understanding and also for remembering complex issues. All subjects are now becoming multi-disciplinary as they use the terms and analytical framework of one another with suitable adaptation
6. PowerPoint and Infographics
PowerPoint presentations and Instagraphs have become extremely useful methods to jot down your ideas in a very presentable form for remembering. They serve as the outlines of the entire text which can be used for quick revision near examinations
7. Blogging and Commenting
The best way of learning is to share your opinions and thoughts with others by starting a blog of your own. Commenting on the articles written by others on the topic you are studying will also help you in improving your grasp of the topic. Please do write something every day, even a short paragraph of 10/15 lines. It is only by writing every day that you can keep your writing power intact. Visit the website Quora.com. Wikipedia is the best source of information for anything under the sun. I will advise you to write for Quora. Even a small paragraph in response to any question asked on Quora is worth your effort.
8. Concurrent Study
Remember to prepare all the subjects concurrently and never fall into the trap of the Semester system of completing one or two subjects completely and then preparing other subjects in batches. Chalk out a daily program of studies in which every subject must find time for study. Known as Harvard System, it will force you to study even those subjects in which you are not particularly interested.
For example, you can devote the morning session (from 6.00 AM to 1.00 PM with appropriate breaks for tea/coffee) to compulsory subjects. Start with English Grammar (one hour) followed by Science (45 minutes), Then go for Islamiat for 45 minutes, and so on.
Evening Sessions should be devoted to optional subjects in the same way as above while after-dinner time should be for internet search and note-making
Keep on changing this schedule every month i.e. optional subjects in the morning and compulsory in the evening as well as their internal priorities.
Now see this video for further guidance
9. Handwritten Notes
Every technology is disruptive; the same is the case with computer technology. It has no doubt made our lives very comfortable but one negative fallout is our too much dependence on it as a tool for the storage of information. Consequently, we are relying less and less on handwritten notes. Believe me, writing your notes by hand, no doubt time-consuming and laborious is still worth the time and effort.
Get hold of 10/12 copies. One copy for each subject including the Essay. In every subject, there are normally 20/25 very important topics. Right? Now in the copy for that subject write the title of the first topic and leave the next 4/5 pages blank. Then write the next topic and leave the next 4/5 pages blank. Do it for all the subjects.
When you are studying or doing an internet search, as soon as you come across a good point, write it under the relevant topic. Information sticks better when you handwrite notes. However, do keep on reviewing and revising these notes because if you aren’t going to review them, why bother taking them I’m the first place; just wasted energy and effort if you aren’t going to make use of them.
Revising your notes will give you the chance to cement in the information you do know and remind yourself of the parts that have been more easily overlooked or forgotten. It will also allow you to link the weaker pieces of information to the stronger ones through connections that may not have been so evident when you were taking the notes.
Finally, how do revise notes? Do it by answering questions. If you get the question wrong or it is incomplete, refer back to your notes to read through again or add information that you missed out.
I hope you have that Voltaire under-confidence (the more you study, the less confident you become?). I will be glad that you have this feeling that you know little. That is the essence of success in life. It pushes you towards greater efforts. Overconfidence is the killer; underconfidence propels you towards hard work. So, do not panic. Just keep on studying and making notes