What is CSS Examination


There are three tiers of Pakistan’s civil service structure

  • Federal Government-which has more than 25 Ministries looking after the functions allocated to them under the Rules of Business
  • Provincial Governments-of the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Federally Administrated Tribal Ares(FATA) have around 15/20 departments which run their affairs almost independently but in close coordination with their Federal counterpart Ministries
  • District Governments-which were given constitutional status in 2001 with maximum autonomy are now nominally independent, have 20 departments to look after

In order to run their various departments and ministries in the federal/provincial secretariats and in 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 Federal Parliament, has been mandated to recruit officers to be inducted at entry level in Grade 17 for 12 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 the written test, medical examination, psychological assessment and interviews. Written tests are normally held in the first quartet of every calendar year and are conducted simultaneously in all the big cities depending on the number of applicants for each canter. However, the medical tests, psychological assessment and interviews are held only at provincial capitals, usually in the third/fourth quarter.

Any Pakistani national or belonging to Azad Jammu and Kashmir, between the age of 21 to 28 years (with relaxation to certain persons) having at least 2nd class BA/Bsc degree can appear in the CSS Examination. Successful candidates are allocated to various occupational groups on the basis of their merit in the CSS Examination, provincial quota and their preference. Any eligible person can attempt to qualify for these examination three times before the age of 28 year

Appearing in the CSS examination is an extremely rewarding experience of one’s life. Success or failure aside, preparing for this most challenging examination will open new fields of leaning which will help you in your practical life.

Any examination is a science (there are rules to follow) as well as an art (practice makes you perfect).Here are some rules and suggestions to make this a memorable experience of your life

Why Civil Service?

Civil Service of Pakistan is an institution where you can serve, enjoy power and command respect-all in one. That is why, every year around 12 thousand candidates take this examination out of which nearly 400/500 pass the written examination; only 150/200 are finally selected. It is a thrilling to compete with thousands and be successful-accept the challenge.

Believe me, in the entire CSS selection process, merit still counts. Do not believe the cynics, the cowards who did not compete or those who failed to qualify. It is a thrilling to compete with thousands and be successful-accept the challenge. Even if you are not successful, the amount of hard work you put in and the depth and breadth of knowledge you would gain, will prepare you to face the challenges of life later on.

Am I Capable to be successful?

  • If you have been a consistently 70 % + student throughout your academic career
  • If you are passionate about it
  • If you are fairly confident about your capabilities
  • If you can put in 9 to 12 hours of daily study during the last 4 months

Then you are a perfect material for CSS

Which Subjects to Select?

For the written examination which carries 1200 marks, a candidate has to take all compulsory subjects (papers) which carry 600 marks as well as select subjects from optional subjects also carrying 600 marks. Each paper is of three (03) hours duration and consists of two parts:

  • Multiple Choice Questions(MCQs)- invariably compulsory question of 20 marks, it has to be attempted on computerized OMR Answer sheet
  • Subjective questions-traditional essay style is to be attempted on Answer Book in blue or black ink.

Compulsory Subjects

Following is the list of compulsory subjects, each carrying 100 marks

  • English Essay
  • English Grammar (Précis and Composition)
  • Everyday Science & Ability
  • Current Affairs
  • Pakistan Affairs
  • Islamic Studies OR Comparative Study of Major Religions (for non-Muslims)

A candidate who does not appear in any compulsory subject will not be allowed to appear in the remaining papers of the Examination.


Subjects carrying total of 600 marks are to be selected from the subjects divided into Groups. Kindly note that you are required to select optional subjects carrying a total of 600 marks, but not more than 200 marks from any one of the following groups.

GROUP 1. One subject out of following, each carrying 200 marks

  • Accountancy & Auditing
  • Economics
  • Computer Science
  • Political Science
  • International Relations

Group 2. (One subject of 200 marks/combination of subjects,equal to 200 marks out of following)

  • Physics 200
  • Chemistry 200
  • Applied Mathematics          100
  • Pure Mathematics 100
  • Statistics 100
  • Geology 100

Group 3. (One subject out of following, each carrying 100 marks)

  • Business Administration
  • Public Administration
  • Governance & Public Policies
  • Town Planning & Urban Management

Group 4. (One subject out of following, each carrying 100 marks)

  • History of Pakistan & India
  • Islamic History & Culture
  • British History
  • European History
  • History of the USA

Group 5. (One subject out of following, each carrying 100 marks)

  • Gender Studies
  • Environmental Studies
  • Agriculture & Forestry
  • Botany
  • Zoology
  • English Literature
  • Urdu Literature

Group 6. (One subject out of following, each carrying 100 marks)

  • Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • International Law
  • Muslim Law & Jurisprudence
  • Mercantile Law
  • Criminology
  • Philosophy

Group 7. (One subject out of following, each carrying 100 marks)

  • Journalism & Mass Communications
  • Psychology
  • Geography
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Punjabi
  • Sindhi
  • Pushto
  • Baluchi
  • Persian
  • Arabic
  1. There will be two papers of 100 marks each of the subjects which carry 200 marks. In other subjects there will be only one paper.
  2. The Question Papers in Urdu or other Pakistani regional languages (Punjabi, Sindhi, Pushto and Balochi), Persian and Arabic should be answered in the respective languages or in Urdu/English unless otherwise directed in the question paper.
  3. The question paper in Islamiat is to be answered in English or Urdu only.
  4. All other papers must be answered in English unless otherwise directed in the Question Paper.
  5. Contravention of these instructions will result in the cancellation of the papers and award of ZERO marks in the paper(s) concerned.
  6. You must secure at least 40 % marks in any compulsory subject,33 % in any of the optional subjects and 50% in the aggregate and 100 marks out of 300 in interview to be eligible for appointment.
  7. In fact you lose all credit in all those subjects where you fail to cross the threshold.
  8. Illegible hand writing, irrelevant writing and superficial knowledge entail punishment in the form of marks deduction


How to Select Subjects?

All subjects are equally easy or difficult if you are going to study for the first time. Competition is very intense in case of so called “easy subjects”. Try to have International Relations in any combination you choose as it will help you in broadening your overall comprehension of the issues. My suggestion is to select those subjects

1.which you have studied in your  BA/MA

2.in which you have passion/interest

3.and they reinforce one another

If you are still confused, here are my recommendations

  1. Group 1-One of these from this group -Economics/Political Science/International Relations, in that order= 200 marks
  2. Group 3- Business Administration if you have selected Economics from Group 1; otherwise, Public Administration
  3. Group 4- European History if you have selected IR in group 1; otherwise, American History
  4. Group 5- Gender Studies or Environmental Studies; both are equal in terms of difficulty
  5. Group 6- International Law if you have selected IR in group one; otherwise Criminology is OK for being short and easy
  6. Group 7- If language is your forte, select any regional language; otherwise opt Journalism or Psychology in that order


How much Time is needed for Preparation?

If you have one year or so, then 3 to 4 hours daily of focused and continuous study is enough

If you have six months or so left for the written examination ,then .6 to 8 hours of daily study is compulsory

During the last 3 months before the examination, take leave if you are employed and devote at least 12 hours daily with suitable intervals. No compromise on that.

Remember to prepare all the subjects concurrently and never fall into the trap of Semester system of completing one or two subjects completely and then preparing other subjects in batches.


Kindly read my article “How to Prepare for CSS Written Examination?” for further details


When to take the Examination ?

If you have all the three chances, do not waste any one by appearing earlier than due

Concentrate on finishing your studies first and then prepare for the CSS examination. Do not try to ride two boats simultaneously.

Best time to avail the first chance is to  take the CSS examination  soon after your MA/MSc examination


 Medical Test.

Candidates who qualify the written examination will be medically examined by the Medical Boards constituted for the purpose to ensure that candidate is in good mental and physical health and free from any physical defect likely to interfere with the discharge of their duties.

However, there is quota for Disabled candidates who must submit a certificate of disability issued by the competent authority designated for the purpose by the Federal/Provincial Government. Disabled candidates will be provided helper such as Writer, if so requested by them in their application forms.

Disabled candidates in the categories of physically impaired, hearing/speech impaired (deaf & dumb) and visually impaired (blind) are allowed to compete for Competitive Examination against four Occupational Groups/Services viz:

  • Commerce & Trade Group
  • Pakistan Audit & Accounts Service
  • Information Group
  • Postal Group



Each candidate who qualifies written part of the examination will be interviewed by a Board usually at a provincial headquarter. Every member of the Board, consisting of 5 to 7 eminent persons will ask you questions and give you marks out of his given allocation, normally 75. Results are then tallied and aggregate marks are given by consensus. However any member giving extraordinarily high or low marks to any candidate has to justify his criterion

Kindly read my article “How to prepare for CSS interviews?” for further details


CSS is all about passionate commitment, focused study, cool nerves and a bit of good luck. Take it seriously. Do not say I am not interested in civil service or I am appearing in the CSS for fun, or I was idle so I decided to take it etc.If you do not make it, do not say I couldn’t make it because I didn’t cheat or I didn’t have sifarish etc

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