If you have ever wondered about what is CSS and why is it such a big deal, or if you have ever had a friend who was crazy about clearing CSS, or if you have been suggested to pursue the path of CSS by a friend, a relative, or your parents but you still do not what is this mysterious career path that everybody just goes gaga about then stop worrying. 
Because this blog post is going to be the end of all you confusions and queries. Here is a detailed overview of everything you need to know about CSS before embarking upon this journey that is adorned with roses and thorns alike. 
Following information will also save you from attending days long so called CSS orientation seminars at the academies.

All about CSS

Derived from the colonial legacy of the former Indian Civil Service, the civil service came into its modern formation immediately after the inception of Pakistan as "Civil Service of Pakistan”.
Abbreviated as “Central Superior Services “, -CSS is a competitive Exam- conducted by Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) Islamabad, each year, for the recruitment of candidates to posts (BS- 17) in the following Twelve occupational service groups under the Federal Government:
o   Pakistan Administrative Services (PAS)
o   Police Service of Pakistan (PSP)
o   Foreign Service of Pakistan (FSP)
o   Military Land and Cantonments Group (MLCG)
o   Inland Revenue Services (IRS)
o   Pakistan Customs Service  (PCS)
o   Information Group (IG)
o   Pakistan Audits and Accounts Group (PAAS)
o   Office Management Group (OMG)
o   Commerce and Trade Group (CTG)
o   Railways (Commercial & Transportation) Group (RCTG)
o   Postal Group  (POST-G)

Parts of CSS EXAM

It consists of the following four parts:
o   Written Examination (1200 marks)
o   Medical Test
o   Psychological Test
o   Viva Voce (300 marks)

Eligibility Criteria

An applicant must fulfill the following eligibility criteria for appearing in CSS Exam


The applicant must be a citizen of Pakistan or in case of Dual nationality the candidate will have to surrender his/her foreign nationality and inform the Govt. before joining Government Service.

Academic Qualification

A candidate must hold at least a Second Division or Grade “C” Bachelor’s degree in any faculty, or  minimum 14 years of education, from one of the Pakistani Universities or an equivalent degree or comparable educational qualifications of a foreign University recognized by Higher Education Commission, Islamabad.
In case a candidate reserves a Third Division (or “D” grade) in his/her Bachelor’s Degree will be eligible for the Examination only if he/she has obtained a higher Division in Master's Degree.


A candidate for admission to the examination must have attained the age of 21 years and not over 30 years on the cut-off date. For the preceding year the cutoff date to determine the age limit will be 31st December 2020.

Exam Schedule

Application Submission                                     1st October – 31st October (each year)
Exam Date                                                          February

Percentage of Regional/Provincial quota for seats/posts

            KPK=11.5%               Balochistan=6%    GB/FATA=4%
            AJK=2%                     Women= 10%        Minorities (Non-Muslims) quota = 5%
Note: Un-filled vacancies are carried forward to next examination

General Information

o   Only three attempts are allowed.
o   The candidates qualifying the written test will be shortlisted for further phases’ medical, psychological test and viva voce.
o   Candidate can apply for rechecking of his/her paper (recounting of marks is allowed only). Rechecking fee is Rs.500 per paper.

Details of Written Exam

o   The written Exam consists of twelve papers. Out of which six subjects are  compulsory and the rest optional. Each Paper has100 marks.
o   The written exam carries 1200 marks in total. 600 for compulsory and 600 for Optional.
o   Each paper has Part-I (Objective, 20 MCQs) and Part –II (Subjective, Descriptive).Time allotted for Part-I is 30 minutes.
o   Each paper has Part-I except Essay Paper in compulsory subjects and Mathematics in Optional subjects.
o   The minimum marks for qualifying compulsory paper is 40% and optional papers is 33%.
o   Candidates securing less than 50% marks in the aggregate, which means marks less than 600, will be considered to have failed the written examination.

Subjects Selection

Compulsory Subjects

Following 06 compulsory subjects have been prescribed by FPSC consisting of 600 Marks. Subjects at Sr. No. 1, 2 & 3 are required to be passed by minimum 40 marks in each subject whereas Marks of General Science and Ability, Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs are counted collectively, to clear these subjects  a candidate needs to score a total of 120 out of 300.


1. English Essay (100 marks)
2. English (Precis and Composition) (100 marks)
3. General Science & Ability (100 marks)
4. Current Affairs (100 marks)
5. Pakistan Affairs (100 marks)
6. Islamic Studies OR Comparative Study of Major Religions (For Non-Muslims) (100 marks)
Total Marks 600

Optional Subjects

Selection of subjects from seven groups prescribed by FPSC for CSS Exam is the perhaps the most important dividend of an aspirant’s performance in the CSS exam. Optional subjects of 600 marks are chosen by candidates to meet the cumulative total of 1200 marks. 
These subjects have been divided into different groups by the FPSC. Specific rules have also been declared by the FPSC that are to be followed while choosing one’s optional subjects. Complete list of optional subjects, and FPSC rules regarding optional subject selection can be found here.

Choosing Optional Subjects

Selecting optional subjects can be a matter of great distress and anxiety. Few of the logical drivers behind subject selection are as listed below. These must be kept in mind while selecting optional subjects. 
o   Interest and general understanding of the subject
o   Analysis of the syllabus and past years’ question papers of the shortlisted subjects
o   Availability of study material
o   Availability of guidance
o   Your educational background
o   Scoring trend
o   Overlapping subjects
Listed below are a few famous subject combinations made while keeping in view the background knowledge and subjects that compliment/overlap each other. 
The combination can be completed by taking a regional language from group seven or any subject of one’s personal choice after making sure the length of the syllabus and availability of books and other reading material in the market.

Candidates with Degrees in Pure Sciences

o   Physics/Math/Chemistry, Town planning, Geography, Environmental Science
o   Math, Stats, Environmental Science
o   Physics, Geology, Geography/Environmental Science

Candidates with Degrees in Social Sciences

o   Political Science, Constitutional Law, Public Ad/ Governance & Public Policy
o   International Relations, International Law, US /European/ British History
o   Candidates with Degrees in Business Studies
o   Audit & Accountancy/Economics, Business Administration, US /European/ British History
o   Economics, Mercantile law, Journalism & mass com
o   Candidates with Degrees in Law
o   IR, I.Law/Law/Criminology, Psychology

Preparation Sources

o   It is pertinent to mention here that nearpeer.org provides specially curated course packs to its students. These course packs include FPSC recommended books, instructors’ notes, and other preparation related material that the instructor and the students can be of any help in the journey of CSS.
o   Broad guidelines are available on FPSC website
o   FPSC recommends 25+ books and readings for each subject it is advised to consult at least 2 books for each subject by making a combination of one general book by a local author available in market covering all the syllabus and one recommended book by FPSC providing a comprehensive insight to most of the topics mentioned in the syllabus
o   Other Books and Notes available for general reading
o   News Papers; Dawn or Express Tribune, Reports; , Magazines; The Economist or The Washington Post, and Research Articles; IPRI or Pakistan Bureau of Statistics for gathering relevant facts and statistics regarding current affairs and relevant social issues.
o   Self-study, Academies, Websites for online learning such as Nearpeer. 

Who should take the exam and why?

Anyone who has obtained their bachelor’s or master’s degree (minimum 14 years of education are required) with a second division from HEC recognized university or equivalent from abroad is allowed to take exam, provided they fit in the age bracket, the criteria for which is mentioned above. 
Moreover, people filled with the spirit of patriotic fervor ready to serve the nation, to prove self-worth to themselves, by joining the most disciplined, systematic and organized services of the country, should accept the challenge of the exam at least once in their entire life. 
Since, it’s a time taking and lengthy process so the whole journey could be arduous therefore, people with strong determination, who enjoy learning about different fields, and can dedicate 6 months to 1 year focusing on preparation should take it.

Do Social Sciences students get an edge over Engineers or Doctors?

Anyone who has earned a bachelor’s degree in IR, Pol sci, Math, or Chemistry will get the advantage of that particular subject they have studied as their major, rest of the subjects will be equally new for them.
 After the revised syllabus (2016), rules, and with the introduction of new subjects, the exam is now a level playing field for every candidate whether from sciences or humanities., since each candidates’ abilities of critical thinking and analysis are tested in the light of basic concepts of each subject.

How to start preparation?

As you embark on the magical journey of CSS preparation you need to do the following in order to make sure your journey progresses with considerable ease and structure

Note: If you are in your bachelors and want to pre-prep for CSS, here are 4 ways you need to follow to start your preparation. 

1. Visit FPSC's website and download the list of optional subjects and their syllabi. Direct download link for that file has also been given in this blog under the heading of Optional Subjects
2. Develop a habit of reading newspaper first thing in the morning
3. Decide how you're going to go about your preparation. Are you going to go to an academy? But joining academies comes with an additional cost and time factor. Another option is exploring the world of online coaching. In this realm nearpeer.org can be helpful, since it is an organization that has been working tirelessly to make the journey of CSS preparation easier and smarter. You can explore the complete list of offered courses, watch demo lectures by simply clicking here.
4. Once you're done with steps 1 to 3, you can start with making a time-table. Make sure you include regular breaks in your time-table. Also, make sure to not go too hard on yourself.
Remember: CSS is not a sprint race, it is a marathon. Those who maintain steady pace throughout, are the ones who finish first.
5. For further guidance and regular updates, stay tuned to Nearpeer.org's Facebook page about CSS.

How much time is required to prepare for CSS Preparation?

Every person does things at his own pace. People claim to have prepared and cleared the exam with flying colors in less than 3 months. On the other hand people keep preparing for more than a year and still fail to clear the examination. 
The truth is, there is no rulebook when it comes to CSS. But a handy piece of advice is that you are never going to be satisfied by your preparation completely, because you’re never going to complete your preparation, BECAUSE, there is no end to the depth of the syllabus when it comes to CSS.
So, how do we tackle that? It is very simple. You see, each exam has 7 questions, out of which you have to attempt only 4, that is 60% of the question paper. So, a good rule of thumb is just to go for it if you feel that your preparation is about 70% complete.
Now, coming to the next part of this predicament i.e. time. As stated earlier, each person works at his own pace. Most people take 8-9 months after their graduation, others take a year and half. Frankly, it all depends on you, and your pace. 
Your goal shouldn’t be to take the exam in 8 months or a year or even 3 months. Your goal should be to prepare for the exam as much as you can, and as much as you want. And that is how you decide, how much time you have to take.

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