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CSS exam: a civil servant’s view

June 02, 2012

THIS is apropos of Abdul Saboor Nizamani’s letter ‘CSS exam: the official view’ (June 1).

He says the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) does not employ any biased approach in examining candidates and that the FPSC ensures uniform assessment of all candidates by engaging one examiner for one subject.

I beg to differ with his clarification on the following grounds: there is no denying the fact that some subjects in Central Superior Services (CSS) examinations are very low-scoring and others are high-scoring. For example, many science students never opt for their previously studied academic courses and rely on subjects pertaining to history, regional languages, Arabic and geography.

A cursory look at the latest marking trends proves that certain subjects which are not very relevant to a civil service are highly rewarding while subjects like economics, public administration, statistics, computer science and law. which have a growing application in civil service, are comparatively low-scoring subjects. I have never heard of anyone scoring above 70 per cent in Economics, and yet every Tom, Dick and Harry scores 75 per cent and above in regional languages.

The favouritism practised by some subject specialists and the apathy shown by others during marking of optional subjects of the CSS is in marked contrast to the policy of fair and transparent FPSC so acclaimed by the writer.

To quote another example, I would like to know which post-graduate university in Pakistan, apart from UET, Lahore, includes in its syllabus tensor analysis as a course on applied mathematics.

I have yet to come across a single teacher who knows how to solve partial differential equations with Monge’s method. The crux of my argument is that it is time the FPSC adopted a uniform system of compulsory and optional subjects by identifying subjects bearing significance in policy-making like economics, sociology, information technology, public administration, professional ethics, logic, and administrative law. And then devise an advanced system of online examination whereby any number of candidates could be examined in real time. The GRE international examination is one such model to follow. The FPSC needs to remove the role of luck factor by adopting technology-based comprehensive assessment of candidates. Quizzes posted by FPSC interview panels remind one of Qudratullah Shahab's satirical remarks on ICS vivas.

Reliance on antonym, synonym, pair of words, etc, usually filter out quite brilliant candidates (50 per cent candidates flunk English precis and composition) because they don’t know that ‘Cajun’ is a French-Canadian descendant or ‘veld’ is a South African grassland.