Declining CSS results leave top recruiter scratching its head

Published: October 12, 2016


ISLAMABAD: The disappointing results of this year’s competitive exam for civil services cast a pall over the education sector and left both students and the top recruiter shell-shocked. So much so that the Federal Public Service Commission, which conducts the exam for Central Superior Services, or CSS, decided to diagnose the problem. In an attempt to identify any flaws and failures in the system, the FPSC will begin consulting the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and academies.

In 2016, as many as 9,643 candidates sat the written test of CSS. Alarmingly however, only 202, or 2.09%, qualified, the rest failed the test. This is the lowest percentage of successful students since 2011.

“We have agreed to consult the HEC, education experts and people from academia to find out reasons for the increasingly disappointing results,” a senior official of the FPSC told The Express Tribune. The percentage of candidates qualifying the written test has come down from 9.75% in 2011 to 2.09% in 2016.

In 2015, a total of 12,176 sat the CSS written test, but only 439 passed, while only 377 qualified the interview. Similarly, 24,640 candidates applied for the written test in 2014 against 315 vacancies. Of them, only 233 managed to clear all tests.

“We will try to find out whether the problem is with the exam method, paper pattern or there are reasons other than that at play,” said the official who didn’t wish to be identified in the report. “We’ll make a thorough assessment to get to the bottom of the problem. The candidates might have been disturbed by group combinations for selection of subjects that were changed by FPSC, according to the official.

Interestingly, the number of posts against which the candidates applied has gone up from 185 in 2005 to 333 in 2015. Apart from that, the total vacant seats, including those reserved for minorities and women, are also increasing. In 2015, there were 95 vacant posts, while in 2014, 2013 and 2011, there were 82, 71 and 45 vacancies, respectively.

Moreover, the number of vacant posts reserved for minority candidates has also gone up as only five slots have been filled during the last three years. In 2013, there were 25 such vacancies, while in 2014 the numbers went up to 36 and to 44 in 2015.  Also, 82 posts reserved for women have been lying vacant since 2013.

In its annual reports, the FPSC keeps identifying the challenges it faces in the competitive exams and the way out. Two years ago, the top recruiter suggested that a compulsory screening test for appearing in the written test – but the suggestion has been pending with the Establishment Division since then.  The FPSC believes that the screening test will allow it to scrutinise the candidates at the initial step and pick out the serious ones only.

In its 2014 report, the FPSC depicted a depressing picture of competence of candidates which is now consistently being mentioned in every annual report. “The standard of performance reflected that the majority did not know the strategies of making precise and reproduced the original language of the passage,” it says in connection with the candidates’ proficiency in English.

Reports of the last three years have repeatedly been stating that the overall competence of candidates in General Knowledge is low and majority of candidates lack basic writing skills while their writing suggests crammed knowledge.

Moreover, the report adds that “very few [candidates] had a conceptual approach [about Pakistan Affairs]”.

The reports consistently carry subject-wise performance of candidates and point out flaws in the system which needs to be improved.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (34)

  • H.A.Khan
    Oct 12, 2016 - 9:45AM

    Even those who pass the quality is so bad that the entire bureaucracy is inefficient and corrupt. There is so much stigma in society against bureaucracy that good and intelligent candidates do not apply for CSS examsRecommend

  • Fahim
    Oct 12, 2016 - 10:24AM

    Cream of Pakistan wants to move abroad upto age of 28. They will never apply for CSS position. Age should be moved upto 35Recommend

  • Reader
    Oct 12, 2016 - 10:35AM

    CSS and bureaucracy is colonial system. This is the era of technocrats. New generation is increasingly irrelevant to the old system. Funny thing is CSS exam custodians are 60s generation which candidates are from 21st century.
    I know very talented people, graduates of world’s top 10 universities refusing their parents wishes to go for CSS examRecommend

  • AD
    Oct 12, 2016 - 11:01AM

    When CPEC is completed and Kashmir is part of Pakistan,then these things will improve.
    As we can get better economic climate and resolve the issue of KashmirRecommend

  • Shehryar Khan
    Oct 12, 2016 - 11:19AM

    I am a public sector college teacher and I am not surprised at all. Any competitive exam tests the analytical and critical ability of the candidates but the current generation of students are not interested to acquire these skills. Its true that our examination system is also rotten and outdated but our students too are to be blamed as they always go for shortcuts. I always try to persuade my students that they should try to develop their conceptual base and learn how to be analytical and critical in their approach and marks and grades would automatically follow. But not even one per cent of students comply. They just want to pass the courses with good grades without having to work for them. I know many a Masters in English students who are not able to write a single correct English sentence and the alarming thing is that they do not want to learn. When such students would appear as candidates in such exams then we should not be surprised at such results. Recommend

  • Hassan
    Oct 12, 2016 - 12:19PM

    Why it is always the Education system is to be blamed. Why not FPSC checking methodology? The process needs detail vetting. Recommend

  • citizen26
    Oct 12, 2016 - 12:40PM

    How do you expect 28 year old to have knowledge of affairs of Pakistan? For rest of the problems quality of primary schooling has to be improved to see any better results.Recommend

  • Najaf
    Oct 12, 2016 - 1:01PM

    The whole examination system is based on cramming. People even memorize essays from the last 10 years and those who memorize the best get the top position. Result is: slightest change in the syllabus and people fail miserably.Recommend

  • nadeem
    Oct 12, 2016 - 1:03PM

    “Falling standard of education” and “losing battle with private sector for top talent”. I guess that would explain the sorry state described above. Recommend

  • Ali S
    Oct 12, 2016 - 1:22PM

    Reason being that most people who sit for CSS are those who have the outdated mentality that ‘civil service is a relaxed, guaranteed job’ – not because they want to excel professionally. I suppose that most people who sit for CSS are not from big cities. Academically strong, talented graduates (cream of Pakistan’s universities) either look for highly paid private sector work or opportunities abroad. CSS is an outdated system which only attracts those who have an outdated mentality of working. The system needs to be overhauled if they want to attract high-quality candidates.Recommend

  • Ali
    Oct 12, 2016 - 1:52PM

    Most of the students from upper middle class, middle class and upper class tend to move abroad leading to a brain drain.
    Like in Karachi I have witness most of the bright a level students go abroad to pursue a bachelors degree. Those who are attending elite institutions like IBA,LUMS, GIK,AKU etc majority of them tend to go abroad for further education or job prospects and hence never return back.

    This is a very alarming situation. If the smartest and brightest of the minds move abroad then who will run Pakistan in the coming decades. Recommend

  • Ali
    Oct 12, 2016 - 1:58PM

    Most of the students belonging to middle class, upper middle class and upper class move abroad leading to a brain drain.

    Like in Karachi I have witness that most the brightest A level student move abroad to prusue a bachelors degree. While those attending elite institute like LUMS, AKU,GIK etc move abroad for further education or job prospects.

    This is an alarming situation for Pakistan if the smartest and brightest people move abroad then who will run Pakistan in the coming decades.Recommend

  • FAZ
    Oct 12, 2016 - 2:19PM

    Give the control of Federal Comission to the likes of Ex chairmain BSEK or BIEK, see how the results sky rocket!Recommend

  • Shahid Bhatti
    Oct 12, 2016 - 2:44PM

    I think the government is nomore employer of first choice as the perks and benefits it offers is no more competitive with the Multinational companies. The government is able to attract only 2nd and 3rd degree candidates. The government as an employer needs to revise perks and benefits to attract the cream once again. Recommend

  • Shahid Bhatti
    Oct 12, 2016 - 2:47PM

    I think the government is nomore employer of first choice as the perks and benefits it offers are no more competitive with the Multinational companies. The government is able to attract only 2nd and 3rd degree candidates. The government as an employer needs to revise perks and benefits to attract the cream once again. Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Oct 12, 2016 - 2:47PM

    Elementary my dear Watson; people abroad like Mr Tenpercent will run the country ! Only the ‘brightest’ minds can be up for the job.Recommend

  • Medical student
    Oct 12, 2016 - 3:14PM

    Cream of our society joins medical profession if not then engineering. Only candidates who cannot get admission in medical colleges and also fail to get into engineering go for CSS with B.A English. . This year cutoff merit of medical colleges will be 87.8. Also age limit for CSS should be increased to 30 years.
    Those who become good doctor and engineer leave country to serve abroad to earn more.Recommend

  • Muhid
    Oct 12, 2016 - 10:54PM

    The problem is the fact that the candidates are expected to rote learn things from History to Sciences whereas they should be tested for technical prowess in their fields’ relevant subjects. At this level why are candidates still giving Islamiyat, History and Geography papers? Seriously? History might be relevant for those going into Foreign Services or Public Administration but why should a candidate for, say, the Accounts and Auditing Group care about science???Recommend

  • Sara Shahid
    Oct 13, 2016 - 1:08AM

    Most probably there is a lack of proper guideline plus CSS is not a child’s play.1200 marks actually demand hardwork in the right direction. Recommend

  • css aspirant
    Oct 13, 2016 - 3:51AM

    Sorry to say but none of the above comments explain why so less students passed. This is an open secret known by css aspirants that FPSC targets one paper every year to filter out most of candidates. Its a deliberate policy on part of FPSC which purposefully pass only specif number of candidates so that it would be easier to conduct their interviews. Pre 2013, 7-8% + passed and suddenly for past four year it has dropped to 2 %. FPSC’s slaughtering policy is to blameRecommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Oct 13, 2016 - 5:59AM

    Jokes aside, I agree with you. In fact CSS should just scrub all their current tests and instead use the US based GMAT aptitude test plus one GRE equivalent paper (though not necessarily US based) to test achievement in a relevant field of study, ie Accounting or Public Administration + the interview…Recommend

  • Zoe
    Oct 13, 2016 - 7:30AM

    Problem is not with students or education.. problem is with fpsc..they deliberately fail the candidates. There r flaws in examination system.. stop blaming students n work on ur own flaws.Recommend

  • Zubair
    Oct 13, 2016 - 10:32AM

    The reason is private institutions commercializing education (especially though connection with boards) resultantly students getting above 95 percent marks in Matric and FSC. This has made student get into a false believe in themselves that they are excellent while the reality is opposite. Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Oct 13, 2016 - 10:39AM

    a few days ago i saw the textbook of my nephew who is now in fsc and the syllabus and even the sequence of chapters was exactly the same as it was when i did my fsc arond 10 years agoRecommend

  • Abumahmud
    Oct 13, 2016 - 11:00AM

    The CSS exam is a good thing, but it is outdated with old people sitting and examining you with an equally outdated mindset.

    If one were to look around, people who have had access and exposure to updated knowledge and study systems have a high failure rate in CSS as opposed to people who have studied in local schools. The CSS exam currently actively promotes rote learning.

    Lets analyze the results – most people failed in English Essay. Does a candidate from a rural area know better English than a foreign graduate? – most likely it is that the rural candidate memorized the essay by heart.

    The CSS system should stay – but needs to update itself to attract top talent of the country.Recommend

  • Khan
    Oct 13, 2016 - 11:13AM

    When You ask biology question from a computer science students the result will be 2.09%Recommend

  • Sara
    Oct 13, 2016 - 11:27AM

    Actually ,they are CSS aspirent who are scratching their head for sheer disregard of merit by FPSC. FPSC deliberately cut numbers and target papers of Essay and English, just to achieve its “predetermined percentage”. They fail even potential candidates, who have full capability to is it possible that in previous year candidate get 65+ in English and next year shows high inconsistency and flaws in FPSC system.FPSC is taking the back of “declining educational standards” to hide its inefficiency and ineptness.
    GOVT. and SUPREME COURT should take notice,and order to recheck papers of CSS written result 2016 by impartial checkers. Because FPSC is no more transparent now.Recommend

  • Sana
    Oct 13, 2016 - 1:45PM

    A notable fact is that, the old ages CSP officers did not want to leave their job even they are over aged. In order to save their job and authority they ordered FPSC to fail candidates with high margin so the students won’t be able to compete with them. Recommend

  • Muhammad Tanveer
    Oct 13, 2016 - 2:38PM

    agreed with saraRecommend

  • imran ali
    Oct 13, 2016 - 2:52PM

    this is due to unjust quota system by passing meritRecommend

  • Mujtaba Gujjar
    Oct 14, 2016 - 1:49PM

    The system of CSS exam is very much complicated, this not only the fault of education system.Recommend

  • Ameen Dastagir
    Oct 14, 2016 - 10:55PM

    It is truly unfair with students of Competitive examination. Every year a number of students appear in these kinds of exams but resulst are unfortunately low and unpredictable. Heavy students get fail in Essay despite the fact that by having vast preparation for Essay students can not pass it. It is not failure of students, it is failure of paper-cheackers. They demand experts or authors of Essay knowing that exam attempters are students
    It is great appeal to bring change.Recommend

  • Umair Abbas
    Oct 16, 2016 - 12:02PM

    Poor evaluation standard by FPSC is responsible. Education system may be faulty but how would FPSC explain these issues: One year 900plus candidates qualify written exam, the coming year the number comes down to 300. Has educational standard declined sharply in a single year? One year s candidate gets 60 marks in essay, the next year he fails to get even minimum pass marks. Have his English skills deteriorated in a few months? FPSC must revisit evaluation methods.Recommend

  • imran
    Dec 16, 2016 - 12:14AM

    I want to go till IGPRecommend

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