An Analysis of CE 2019 Result


An Analysis of

CE 2019 Result

WTI Team

Every year, after the result of Central Superior Services (CSS) examination is announced, there is a barrage of criticism against the system of examination and selection, based on some myths. This is unfair and counter-productive as well. It is unfair because criticism is not backed by any data and, therefore, the myths it leads to are ill-founded. It is counter-productive because it disheartens many candidates. The fact that criticism is itself not based on any substantive evidence makes the practice doubly counter-productive. With this background then, this article aims to show that the criticism is unfounded by dispelling the myths in a scientific manner, and to help the candidates by providing them an analysis of results through an investigative, qualitative and quantitative research.


General Myths and Criticism against the Examination and Selection Process

This section will put forward each myth, test it against the available data (both quantitative and qualitative) and show that the criticism is unjustified and the myths are false. It will, then, go on to tear down these myths with actual data-backed facts.

Myth 1: Pass Rate is Too Low


Candidates Appeared

Candidates Passed (%)



786 (8.67%)



788 (7.82%)



220 (1.93%)



377 (2.86%)



368 (3.02%)



199 (2.06%)



310 (3.30%)



567 (4.77%)



365 (2.51%)

The tabulated data for candidates who appear and who finally qualify the exam shows, no doubt, a declining trend but certain observations need to be taken into account:

  1. Candidate behaviour: the number of candidates declines after every exam, the most significant drop coming right after the essay paper as the post-exam self-evaluation disheartens many candidates who do not bother to appear in the rest of the papers. Such candidates are eliminated from the competition by default while their attempt is counted. Usually, the strength of candidates halves after the essay exam.
  2. CSS is a test of persistence and attitude: candidates focus on the knowledge component of the exam. Even though it is a significant component; it’s not the only one because the exam is not like the ones students have to take in schools, colleges and universities. CSS exam requires nerves of steel, ability to perform under pressure, the attitude to sit for two lengthy exams every day for a number of consecutive days and much more—all of these being skills that the civil service requires. Most candidates, especially those who leave revision for the last day (often from lengthy notes rather than short ones), and compromise on their sleep and diet, often find themselves underperforming.
  3. Non-serious candidates: as the job market has suffered increasing pressures, the number of candidates seeking a job through CSS has grown exponentially. But not all of them prepare well and seriously for the exam. Many take the exams to merely try their luck. All these points make it vividly clear that the actual number of candidates who take all the papers in CSS exam, and are also serious enough to be considered within the competing group, is much lower than the reported number of candidates appeared.
  4. Trends in the region: the most competitive of all examinations for civil service are held in India and China, and in both cases, the passing rate is less than even 0.1% which is far below the lowest passing rate seen in Pakistan in the year 2013, which means that the exams are meant by design to be highly competitive, not accommodating.

Myth No. 2: Candidates Belonging to Elite/Foreign Universities are Preferred

This is once again just a myth that has been in vogue for some years. Data taken from amongst the top 60 allocated candidates reveals that 77% of them belonged to public-sector universities, just a little above 20% belonged to Pakistani elite universities and a mere 2% belonged to foreign universities. It is obvious then that those who make such claims are misguided.

Myth 3: Gender Bias

Women have a 10% quota for them in the Competitive Examination system which means that they compete for the rest of the 90% seats as well but have 10% allocated specifically to them. The number of women being allocated showed an increase (as percentage of total candidates allocated) during the last few years, the high point being reached in 2015 when almost 45% of the allocated candidates were women—at a time when the FPSC panel had no female members in it. Over the past five years, however, the number has decreased to almost 38% (in 2019). This shows that FPSC does not have any bias as a policy per se.

Myth 4: Panel Awards Higher Marks in Interview to Those with High Scores in Written

This is a myth as well as a grievance of many candidates. Data analysis of a random sample of 80 candidates who got allocated in 2019 reveals that there is no significant correlation between the written and interview scores (value of the correlation coefficient being 0.2, signifying an absence of correlation). The graph of Interview Scores plotted against Written Scores helps to show this very clearly. Out of the 16 candidates who had a high score in the written exam (680 or above), only 4 managed to secure more than 150 marks in interview. On the other hand, out of the 11 candidates who scored 150 or more in the interview, 7 had marks below 665. This shows that candidates who did well on both the written and the interview (3 candidates only) actually had the skills to perform well on both rather than there being any bias

Conclusion – Myths Displaced by Facts

One can safely say after this analysis that the criticism and myths are invalid. Each one of them, in fact, needs to be replaced by a counter-fact. Firstly, the pass rate is not low; it reflects candidates’ behaviour and attitude and is still much higher than general pass rates prevailing in the region. Secondly, there is no preference given to candidates who are graduates of elite and foreign universities; the pass percentages in CSS reflect the general social makeup of Pakistan’s educational demographics as more than 75% of the qualifying candidates belong to public-sector universities of Pakistan. Thirdly, there is no bias rooted in gender; in fact, there have been years where gender-wise distribution of qualifiers has been almost equal. Fourthly and lastly, the interview scores are independent of written scores, with the latter having almost no effect on the former.

Subject-wise Analysis: Compulsories

This section will present the score distribution of each compulsory subject and present an analysis for the reasons that can be deduced for such a distribution. The aim will be to help candidates prepare better for their exams.

Compulsory Subject


Minimum – Maximum (Marks)*

Range of 68% candidates**

English Essay


40 – 61

40.0 – 47.8

Précis and Composition


40 – 70

42.9 – 58.3

General Science and Ability


41 – 80

48.8 – 66.6

Current Affairs


33 – 64

40.1 – 54.3

Pakistan Affairs


41 – 66

48.2 – 60.8

Islamic Studies


42 – 77

56.2 – 69.2

*The lowest and the highest scores in each subject.

**The range of marks within which 68% of the candidates lay—the narrower this range, the lesser the competition—while a wider range shows that those with higher marks got a significant advantage over others. This range shows the distribution of marks within one standard deviation.

English Essaycover story1

The exam had a low average of 43 as is usually the case with the English Essay. Due to narrow 68% range though, it shows that higher marks in essay were infrequent as the graph too shows, and that almost no one was able to gain any significant advantage in the essay exam. Those who did extraordinary in it (only 5 candidates in the sample) must have displayed a complete understanding of the topic, structured it properly, developed their arguments fully, refrained from ambiguity in their arguments and stance, and managed to avoid mistakes of English.

Precis and Compositioncover story2

Candidates secured mostly average marks in this exam as well but the 68% range of the exam was much wider, almost double than that of the essay exam which meant that the 12 candidates within our sample who secured higher than this range (above 58) gained a significant advantage over the majority who remained confined within the lower bracket. It goes on to show the importance of this particular exam if candidates wish to be competitive.



Current Affairscover story4

This subject too had a low average and a wide 68% range, as shown in the graph. Those lying at either end of the graph (almost equally distributed between the higher and lower rungs) either had a significant advantage or a great disadvantage due to most candidates being clustered in the centre. But the fact that even those candidates who got allocated had low score in the subject—as low as between 33 and 40—was revealing. Given that overall the result was fine, it shows that even serious candidates at times take a subject or two non-seriously, putting themselves at a loss – those who scored below 40 can be said to have fallen almost 20-25 marks behind the higher scoring candidates, a huge difference in CSS.

Pakistan Affairscover story5

It was surprising to see that despite the similar nature of Pakistan and Current Affairs (same attitude of mind) and overlapping syllabi, the candidates performed much better in Pakistan Affairs as the rightwards shifting graph shows i.e. most of the candidates were clustered in the higher range of marks. High scoring candidates cannot be said to have gained an edge in this case but low scoring candidates damaged their totals. This shows that these two subjects are especially punishing for those who score low in them. Furthermore, it also reveals that candidates need to learn to differentiate how similar seeming questions in the two subjects need to be attempted

General Science and Abilitycover story3

It is one of those few subjects in CSS which have the potential of giving candidates very high scores as the highest score of 80 (within the sample) shows. With proper preparation and attempting methods, candidates can try to maintain their edge in this exam or make-up for any disadvantage they may have incurred elsewhere. Despite that however, it was surprising even disheartening to see that most candidates (almost 70% in the sample taken) failed to go beyond the 60% mark in this exam too. This could be either because of a disinterest in the subject (which should not matter to a CSS candidate) or because of an over-confidence in one’s abilities due to one’s educational background.

Islamic Studiescover story6

Unexpectedly, candidates were able to score high marks in Islamic Studies, which has been the case since the syllabus got revised to reflect a more holistic approach towards Islamic Studies. The exam has been geared to test the knowledge of not just the basic tenets and rote memorization abilities but also of the philosophical underpinnings of those tenets, their practical utilization, and their relevance to Muslims today. It is also an undeniable fact that over the past few years, candidates have shifted to reading better books and texts on Islamic Studies which reflects in their results. Where previously the candidates used to aim for passing marks in Islamic Studies, now they must aim to score around 55 marks to not lose out in the competition.

Group-wise Analysis of Popular Optional Subjects00055

This section will follow the same pattern as that of the above section for the most popular optional subjects (for which enough data was available for such an analysis to be presented) with the same aim – to help candidates prepare better for their exams. However, subjects belonging to the same Group of Optional subjects as per the groupings done by FPSC in its syllabus will be presented and analyzed simultaneously.

Optional Subject


Minimum – Maximum (Marks)

Range of 68% Candidates

International Relations


66 – 118

77.8 – 105.3

Political Science


93 – 148

106.4 – 132.2

International Law


33 – 70

33.5 – 52.6



36 – 84

52.8 – 74.4

Environmental Science


40 – 68

44.3 – 58.4

Gender Studies


35 – 64

44.4 – 56.8



40 – 81

60.1 – 78.0



40 – 76

54.5 – 71.7

History of USA


37 – 81

49.6 – 69.1

International Relations and Political ScienceIR

The distribution of both subjects was almost similar with both having same standard deviations. But the main difference was in the average marks with candidates scoring relatively lower in IR than in Political Science. The number of candidates however who scored in the upper range of IR (more than 105) was more than that of those who scored in the lower range (below 78). For political science, those scoring in the lower range outnumbered those scoring in the higher range. This shows that competition within political science is quite tough and that those going for IR need to read quality material (incorporating post 9/11 and New Cold War – US vs. China – perspectives on IR) to make their mark.

International Law and CriminologyIL

The same applies to these two subjects as well, where candidates were generally able to score well on criminology (80% scored 58 or above) but were unable to score competitive marks in international law (only 12% scored 58 or above, and 76% scored below 46). This was probably because of the more technical nature of international law as a subject which demands that candidates read books of international standard rather than those written by South Asian writers which are seldom updated to incorporate new case laws and perspectives. Criminology on the other hand being a new subject has fresh material to offer in most of the books available. But with every passing year, candidates opting criminology will have to shift towards better reading material on it, as locally written books often fail to include updates and modern perspectives which seem to be growing in criminology rapidly.

Environmental Sciences and Gender StudiesGendr

Both subjects followed the same distribution more or less, with the graph of Gender Studies being smoother due to the larger number of candidates who opted it. Average marks for both were approximately 51 and even the range within which 68% of the candidates lay were similar from 44 to 58 marks. This comes as no surprise since both subjects are relatively new (thereby similar quality reading material being available for both), require their own specific skill set and aptitude, and are opted by candidates as per their own abilities rather than the flawed trend mentality that prevails among candidates otherwise – this should be the criteria for opting any subject rather than looking for trends that do not exist. The results also show the benefits of this – candidates performed equally well on both and were neither at an advantage nor at a disadvantage because of their decision. This goes on to show that FPSC is indeed discouraging trend mentality and encouraging candidates to go for subjects based that are more suited to them personally.

Punjabi and Sociologycriminology

Both subjects once again yielded good scores overall. The scores for Punjabi remained concentrated at the higher side with almost 90% of the candidates scoring more than 60 marks in it, which is true of languages in general as candidates go only for the language that they have a good grip on. Sociology on the other hand presented a very different picture. Candidates were concentrated at extremes rather than around the average marks which shows that preparation mattered a lot and the exam sifted the well-prepared candidates from the less-prepared ones quite clearly.

History of USA

Among all the subjects of history, most candidates choose the History of USA because of simple facts – its syllabus is shorter than those of other history subjects and the length and depth in which other history subjects need to be prepared is not justified by the 100 marks that have been allotted to them (they require the time given to a 200 marks subject but are worth only 100 marks). The number of candidates who opt US history is astounding and therefore its curve follows a smooth normal distribution with a high average of almost 60. This is probably because candidates have updated their reading materials and changed their approach to preparation of US history after the bitter experience of 2018 exams when those preparing from typical substandard texts of the subject failed to even pass the exam. Moreover, very few students lie on the curve’s extremes which shows that amongst those who opted US history, not many were able to create an advantage or suffered a disadvantage.

Note/Disclaimer: The given data reflects the score distribution among candidates who qualified the Competitive Exam for 2019 (CSS 2019). Moreover, the purpose of the analysis is not to promote any subject but to identify the score range for the subjects from a scientific point of view and to highlight that there are high scorers in every subject. Other optional subjects have not been commented on because the data available for them was insufficient to draw any significant and meaningful conclusions, though it must be said that almost every subject had candidates scoring more than 60% marks. Lastly, it must be kept in mind that this is a research endeavor and like every other research work, it is investigative in nature and not conclusive.

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