CSS Tips & Tricks by: Muhammad Azmat Farooq (CSP)

CSS Tips and Tricks

Sailing through the most prestigious competitive examination of the country is a dream for every one aspiring to serve the country as a CSP. The most important motivational factor that is attached with this exam is the honor & prestige that our society attaches with the civil service. Unfortunately, there are many popular misconceptions attached with this examination. The painful fact is that most of these popular misconceptions have been deliberately created & propagated, especially by the academies etc. who claim to enjoy a monopoly over success in these competitive exams. My success story is like most of the resilient candidates, who leave no stone unturned in order to achieve their dream & for whom success is a hard fought battle & not merely a fluke of luck. The purpose of inditing these lines in this prestigious journal is to remove those misconceptions that exist in the minds of aspirants who harbor this wish in their hearts but feel handicapped due to lack of resources.

I am presently working in the Motorway Police as a Senior Patrol Officer. In 2006, I took the exam for the first time. I secured 185th position in the final merit list and fortunately or unfortunately, due to the retrospective application of the women’s quota (10%), I missed the allocation. But I took it positively and I thought it as an opportunity blessed by heavens to evaluate my performance; to identify my strengths & my weakness; to plug my weaknesses & to reinforce my strengths & to again strike with full zeal. Alhamdulilah, this year I have managed to secure allocation in Foreign Service of Pakistan. But it took a continuous march on a hectic path, with dedication & devotion that lead me to podium.

“The definition of insanity is to keep doing same thing over & over but expect different results”  -Einstein

I have developed my own comprehensive technique that will surely help the candidates. For the convenience of readers, I have divided this technique into number of stages such as for written examination the stages are:

  • Stage 1: CSS Subject Selection
  • Stage 2: Self Evaluation in CSS Exams
  • Stage 3: Preparation of Notes for CSS Exams
  • Stage 4: Preparatory Tests for CSS Exam

Stage 1: Subject Selection for CSS Exams

This is the most important phase of preparation. Candidates must thoroughly consult the syllabus of a wide variety of optional subjects and carefully select their subjects. A simple guiding principle is to select those subjects which are in line with one’s interest. Moreover, many subjects give positive reinforcement in other subjects and such combination proves to be of immense utility as a comprehensive preparation of a particular subject largely covers many topics of other optional or compulsory subject. For example, International Relations & International Law give positive reinforcement in Current & Pakistan Affairs. Similarly, a comprehensive preparation of Geography gives such reinforcement in a wide variety of both compulsory & optional subjects.

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In order to broaden one’s outlook about any particular subject or a combination, I strongly recommend making a trip to CSA (Civil Service Academy) in order to seek guidance from the successful candidates. But I strongly advise the candidates to keep applying their own mind & keep a realistic appraisal of their abilities in their mind so that they must not lost their way due to plethora of advices.

Time factor is also very important in selecting any subject because one must select those subjects which offer quick preparation in shortest possible time especially if one is having limited time at his disposal. But if any candidate can spare one complete year than I think this limitation stands null & void. He is free to choose any subject or combination in which he can excel.

Stage 2: Self Evaluation in CSS Exam

After you have successfully gone through the first phase move onto the next one which is evaluating your own potential & also expression of written English language. It must be remembered that in CSS, language, especially English language is a sort of a convenient tool that can catalyze your success or failure.

Therefore, one must take the help of a proficient teacher if he/she feels handicap to write a well organized response on any topic. More credit will be given to a polished expression. Remember, in competitive exams especially CSS, mastery over written & spoken expression ensures a quick & shortcut way to success.

Moreover, candidates show a poor turnover in first two papers, which are English Essay & English Comprehension.

Similarly, one must consult subject specialists to seek their help in any or all of the optional subjects.

Stage 3: Notes Preparation for CSS Exam

This is, as I call it, a “take off stage”. In this stage, prepare your own notes from the recommended books. But before preparing them, thoroughly consult the past papers and understand the requirement of the examiner. Outline the important topics & then go on to prepare your brief notes keeping in view the tough schedule of the written examination (Two papers in a day). I recommend the preparation of notes in point wise form so that one must be able to easily consult them in 1 or 2 hours.

Pick out striking quotations of eminent writers on all the important topics of any particular subject, thoroughly memorize them and extensively quote them in your paper. This strategy will convince the examiner that you have consulted a wide variety of sources to formulate your own point of view on the topic.

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Preparatory Tests for CSS Exam

Spare the last month before the commencement of the written examination for taking preparatory tests, if possible, under real conditions (that means two papers in a day). This will help you familiarize yourself with the tough sequence of the papers that you will have to come across in the actual exams.

Psychological Tests & Interview

For this stage, improve your spoken language. Off course, it is not compulsory to give interview in only English language “one can also be interviewed in Urdu or any regional language but only if the candidate will express his inability to  express his/her thoughts in English language” but the commission will definitely take a serious notice of this inability. Moreover, it will make a very bad impression in psychological test during group discussion & command task, when one is suppose to conduct the task in English language.

In order to improve the spoken language, I recommend group activity. A group of 7 or more individuals will help its members to improve their confidence level and will enable them to articulate themselves in public, as required in psychological tests.

The basic requirement of interview is to express oneself in a positive & assertive manner to convince the commission that one is capable to discharge official duties in civil service.

The key to success in CSS is “how a candidate positively distinguishes himself/herself from the rest of the lot. According to me, this cardinal point is equally important for all the stages & for all the papers in the CSS.


In addition to an unprofessional appearance, here are six factors that can help you remain in the unemployment line:

Being unprepared for the interview. Prepare, plan, and practice! In today’s tough competition, you MUST do everything you can to give yourself an edge… preparation is the key.

Not being able to communicate clearly and effectively. This is important during the interview. Being nervous can really mess up your communication skills, so being well prepared and practicing what you’re going to say are always your best bet.

Being Aggressive, arrogant, or acting in a superior way.  No one wants to hire or work with people who think they’re better than everyone else. Be careful with your attitude, even if you think that you’re surrounded by incompetent fools (especially in group discussion or command task). Being confident is good. Being an arrogant jerk is bad. Believe me I’ve seen many prodigies failing even though they scored very lucratively in written exams.

Making excuses for failings. In the grown-up world, you have to take responsibility for what you are responsible for! You’ll never earn respect by blaming others when things go wrong. This is particular important for those candidates who are already serving in private or public sector. If there is any dark side that the commission or the psychological board have traced out than fully face it and accept your fault, if any, since no body is perfect in this world but only by comparison. During my personal interview with the psychologist & the interview panel, I clearly stated that previously I was employed in Pakistan Army but unfortunately I was withdrawn just 28 days before my passing out. I fully claimed the responsibility but just mollified its effect by stating that “during retrospective analysis, I see my failure as negative confluence of unfortunate events, but I got a million-dollar worth of experience due to that episode.”

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Giving Incomplete or merely superficial Answers without taking account of the unanimous or popular views”¦ Most of the candidates tend to distinguish themselves (which is a positive strategy) but they end up making a laughing stock of themselves due to various reasons; & one such reason is giving incomplete or incomprehensive reply. A simple technique is to analyze the questions asked by the panel thoughtfully & imagine its different possible angles. I remember that one of the members asked me that “what is the significance of the Gawadar Port?” I took some time in analyzing different possible angles of this simple question & then I replied “Sir there are both negative & positive aspects of Gawadar project. On the positive side, this project will tremendously improve the economic standing of our country by attracting FDI; it will generate massive employment opportunities; it will serve the hinterlands of Central Asian Republics, Russia & China etc. On the negative side, it will trigger many issues like “NFC (national Finance Awards)”, “Migration”, & “Demographic Transition” etc.

If you DON’T want to FAIL, don’t let any of those traits apply to you!

Finally yet importantly, I have divided the interview into different parts such as:

Intellectual Caliber (CSS Interview Preparation)

  • Intellectual & Mental Alertness
  • Awareness of current National & international issues

Personality (CSS Interview Preparation)

  • Confidence
  • Dress up
  • Enthusiasm
  • Polished sense of humour

Emotional Quotient (CSS Interview Preparation)

  • Balanced personality
  • Judgment & sense of proportion
  • Maturity & stability

Communication Skills (CSS Interview Preparation)

  • Articulation
  • Conciseness
  • Fluency

Leadership abilities (CSS Interview Preparation)

  • Whether submissive, aggressive or Effective (Assertive)
  • Meaningful interaction with others
  • Ability to positively influence others.

Analytical ability (CSS Interview Preparation)

  • Ability to analyze a situation
  • Present pros & cons of an issue under question
  • In depth knowledge etc.

Courtesy: Jahangir’s World Times

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