How to Prepare for CSS Written Examination?

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: 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 overload, 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 internet, these have not become irrelevant. You must have subscription of one good English newspaper and a weekly. Do keep clippings of relevant articles in files. Make notes from these magazines as you will be doing from the internet
  • Prescribed Books: Most of the books prescribed are text books and can be used for background knowledge about a subject. You must thoroughly read two books out of the 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 own way of studying and should not be abandoned simply for the reson that someone else did well by using a different style. Success or failure in examination is a complex issue depending upon several constants and variable. 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 of the 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
  • Summarizing and Note Taking: If highlighting increases the 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. Rule of thumb-summary of the text should be one third of the text and end in bullet points of the main ideas
  • Self-Lecturing and Teaching: 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 learnt. If no colleagues are available, then try to lecture yourself in front of a mirror
  • Acronyms Making: An acronym is an abbreviation pronounced as a word which 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 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
  • 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
  • Power Point and Infogrphics: 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
  • Blogging and Commenting: Finally the best way of learning is to share your opinions and thought 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 After Wikipedia, it is the best source of information for anything under the sun. In fact, I will advise you to write for Quora. Even a small paragraph in response to any question asked at Quora is worth your effort.
  • 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 programme of studies in which every subject must find time for study. Known as Harvard System, it will force you to study even those subjects which you are not particularly interested in.
  • For example, you can devote the morning session (from 6.00 AM to 1.00 PM with appropriate breaks for tea/coffee) for compulsory subjects. Start with English Grammar (one hour) followed by Science (45 minutes), Then go for Islamiat for 45 minutes and so on.
  • Evening Session 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 the compulsory in the evening as well as their internal priorities.

Now see this video for further guidance


Handwritten Notes

Every technology is disruptive in nature; 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 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 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.
  • In fact, 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 to 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. Over-confidence is the killer; under confidence propels you towards hard work. So, do not panic. Just keep on studying and making notes

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