Screening test proposed prior to CSS written exam


–FPSC submits annual report to parliament, conveys examiners’ demand to hold preliminary screening test

–Report highlights insufficient pass percentage, persistent failure in English, vacant posts, expansion of universities


ISLAMABAD: The Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) has proposed to hold a screening test or preliminary examination prior to the written exam of Central Service Services (CSS).

The commission made the following recommendation in its annual report of 2017 that was submitted to the parliament on Thursday.

The report suggests holding a screening test to filter out non-serious candidates, to improve the quality of competition, ensure objectivity in paper assessment, and fast track the entire process of competitive examination with the aim to reduce the timeframe from 18 to 12 months and reduce the financial cost.


The number of applicants for the competitive examinations is continuously on the rise. It has increased from 9,056 applicants in CE-2009 to 23,025 applicants in CE-2017.

The unabated increase results in delays in the examination process, difficulty in maintaining objectivity in assessing the answer scripts/papers and portrays a highly imbalanced ratio of passing candidates.

There has been a persistent demand from all quarters, including the examiners, to hold a preliminary screening test.

India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka among other SAARC countries are already holding screening tests before the main examination. Towards this end, a competitive screening test scheme was forward to the government.

The proposal was submitted to the former premier for approval. On desire of the then PM, the matter was placed before the secretaries’ committee which in principle agreed with the proposal; however, as per the direction from then premier, the matter was placed on the agenda of the cabinet and its decision is still awaited.

The FPSC has stated in its report that the civil service that once carried prestige, respect and social status amongst the university graduates and the society as a whole has lost that image in general for a variety of reasons.

Professionalism, changing lifestyles and cultural transition in the society as a whole has triggered a new set of expectations for the career choices. For a significant majority of high achievers from well-reputed universities and likewise the upper and upper middle class, private sector is the preferred choice, the report suggests.

Past three statistics on the competitive examination also show that among the CSS applications, the ratio of candidates from only lower middle class has increased over the time as their preferred career choice remains civil service.

Another common presumption is that there is a general degradation in the quality of the civil service. The commission is of the view that the issue of quality of civil service is multi-dimensional and needs to be addressed in totality.

The report also highlights other factors like declining percentage, reason of persistent failure, examiner assessment report, vacant positions and mushroom growth of universities.


Analysis of results of the last five years indicates that pass percentage has remained between 2 per cent to 3.3 per cent with the five years average at 2.81 per cent. There has been no drastic or abnormal decrease in the pass percentage.

The FPSC selects the best possible candidates as per their availability in the market, the report says and reasons that the shift from book reading to the internet for exam preparation results in erosion of creativity and written expression and hence a key reason for low performance.

It was added that CSS academies, reliance on guess papers, guidebooks and notes neither support the candidates in attempting papers nor enhance their critical or analytical abilities. Irrespective of the number of those who failed the exam, the commission does not comprise on quality and standards.


Statistics on the CSS results over the past few years indicate persistent failure in English Paper-I and Paper-II. The commission feels the need for improving competencies of students in general and proficiency in languages (English as a medium of communication) in specific. Excessive use of computers, auto spell and grammar check has somewhat eroded the writing skills of the candidates, the report finds.

Examiners’ assessment reports for CSS CE underscore that the performance of the candidates has been adversely affected due to declining standard of education in our institutions. Examiners’ assessment reports for CSS CE 2016 and 2017 observed that level of general knowledge was low and candidates, in general, had a poor understanding of literary sense, criticism or comprehension.  

The candidates from respective quotes are unable to pass the CSS CE. Under CSS CE 2016, 160 vacancies out of 351 remained unfilled. The commission is considering various proposals to address this issue.

Expansion in the private and public sector has led to increased enrolment, as there were 59 public and private universities in 2001, which has reached 187 in 2017.

in its recommendation, the FPSC has asked the government to improve the quality of education at all levels. Besides this, the government has been requested to take appropriate measures to fill the vacant post. The commission highlighted the need for realignment of recruitment rules with new qualification/disciplines, suggesting that there is a dire need for research and study on international best practices.