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Subject Selection in CSS

“Selection of the right combination is the most important factor in determining the success as well merit of the candidates.”

Tumultuous Events Leading to Pakistan Resolution
Monday, March 01, 2010

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The aspirants of CSS always need proper guidance at the various stages of their preparation. The first stage in this regard is the selection of the optional subjects, carrying 600 marks. In my opinion, selection of the right combination is the most important factor in determining the success as well merit of the candidates. Keeping in view the various academic backgrounds of the candidates, the selection of the subjects on the basis of their aptitude and background becomes even more complicated. As a result, most of the students remain confused, not only in the beginning but even after selecting the subjects. They keep on switching over from subject to the other and ultimately find themselves in a mess. On the other hand, those who get proper guidance at the time of selecting their optional subjects, they remain very comfortable throughout their preparation and also get the desired result in the long run. So the subject selection must be given due consideration in the beginning.

As a matter of fact there are there factors, which must be considered during subject selection. These three factors are:

a.    The academic background of the candidate.
b.    Personal interest and aptitude.
c.    Scoring potential of the subjects.

But the most important of all these is the scoring potential of the subjects. In the list of optional subjects, there are some subjects, which are conventionally more scoring than the rest. There is more than one reason for which the candidates are advised to go for the scoring subjects. First of all, CSS is a competitive exam in which one has to compete with thousands of other candidates across the country. Unlike the other exams, the purpose here is not merely to get the degree; rather the candidates compete with each other to stand high on the merit. So they need to secure each and every aspect including the selection of the subjects. Secondly, the compulsory subjects do not give very high marks usually. The average on the higher side in the compulsory subjects is roughly between 55 to 60%. Almost all the candidates, qualifying written exam, fall in this bracket as far as their score in compulsory subjects is concerned. The real difference in the marks of written exam in created on the basis of optional subjects, only if the subjects chosen are high scoring.

There can be two approaches for the selection of the subjects. In the first approach, the candidates can enlist those subjects in which they have interest and aptitude or which are relevant to their academic background. Then from that list, the subjects carrying 600 marks can be taken which are known to be high scoring. The second approach is vice versa. In this approach, the student can first make a list of those subjects which are scoring. They will have a list of about 15-20 subjects. From that list they can choose subjects, which coincide with their academic or aptitude. I would personally recommend the second approach because in this way the candidates will have more variety of subjects to consider. This was the approach which I followed.
Those who get proper guidance at the time of selecting their optional subjects, they remain very comfortable throughout their preparation and also get the desired result in the long run. So the subject selection must be given due consideration in the beginning.
Here, I would like to add that academic background and interest / aptitude must be secondary consideration in the subject selection. I would quote my own example. I did Masters in English Lit. and LLB. But I neither took English nor any subject of law as my optional. I went for entirely new subjects, the subjects in which I had the interest. My combination included Islamic History, Urdu, Sociology and Journalism. It was mainly because if these scoring subjects that I managed to score 76% marks in optional subjects and hence secured 2nd position overall.

Some people argue that it is difficult to study altogether new subjects. My point of view is that most of the candidates take the attempt of CSS after Masters or 16 years of education. At that time, they are mentally mature, their knowledge-base is strong and their vision broad. On the other hand, the course of most of the subjects is of Hons. Level. So having 14 or 16 years of education at their credit, it must not be difficult for them to prepare a new subject and get command over it.

There is another commonly found myth that the subjects carrying 100 marks are more scoring them those carrying 200. I would totally disagree with this. There are many subjects of 200 marks which are very high scoring. So there must not be any discrimination among the subjects on this basis.

Many candidates appearing in CSS every year have the science background. They are naturally inclined towards science subjects. But unfortunately, the subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Zoology, which are scoring otherwise, are not a very good choice as far as CSS is concerned. During last 5 years I have come across a very few students who selected science subjects. Those who selected, with a few exceptions, could not score good marks mainly because of the reason that coaching and resources related to CSS syllabus of these subjects are scarce. However, if someone still wants to opt an unconventional subject with the belief that he can perform well in that, he is advised to go through the past papers of that subject before taking a final decision.

It is true that trend regarding scoring potential of the subjects varies from year to year, but still there are certain subjects like Sociology, Journalism, Geography, IR, British History, Islamic History, US History, Public Administration, Muhammadan Law, Constitutional Law, International Law, Urdu and regional languages which have been fairly high scoring in recent years. Besides these, Political Science, History of Indo-Pak, Business Administration, Arabic, Accounting and Forestry are also not bad choices.

In my opinion, an ideal combination may include one subject from history, one from Urdu, Geography or Arabic and two subjects of 100 marks each from Sociology, Journalism, IR, Public Administration or the subjects of law. A subject of history can also be combined with four subjects of 100 marks to make a scoring combination. In the end, I would reiterate that candidates must not compromise on the scoring subjects even if they have to put extra efforts for it. Only in this way, they will be able to get a good score in the written exam.

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