Preparation for English Paper - CSS Exam
English (Precis and Composition) Paper

It is a common notion that those students score high in CSS exam who are well versed in the English language. It is a fact because most of the times CSS exam is topped by the students who also earned a gold-medal in their Master in English. It does not necessarily mean that the students from other disciplines cannot score high in CSS exam. Students from disciplines, other than English, have also topped the CSS exam many times.

I am just trying to tell you two things: Firstly, having good skills of written and spoken English is indispensable for success in CSS exam. Secondly, acquiring these skills is very easy for everyone. Even if you have to start from the scratch, you can achieve your desired score in English paper provided that you work whole heartedly. In this article, I will share the experience of students who scored high in CSS exam.

Despite a lot of preparation, why most of the students fail in English paper?  The answer is that they make preparation but they do not make preparation in proper lines. 

The preparation guidelines for English paper are as follows:

   Understanding the format of Paper

The first thing, to start with, is to understand the format of the paper. Without understanding the format of the paper, it is like to struggle to reach a destination without have a road-map. Understanding the format gives a proper direction to your preparation as well as builds your confidence during attempting the paper. Read the format thoroughly to familiarise yourself with it.

English paper comprises the following questions:

  1. MCQs                                                                            
  2. Précis Writing                                                                   
  3. Answer questions at end of a passage                            
  4. Sentence Correction (5 out of 8)                                     
  5. Punctuation of Sentence                                                  
  6. Analogies question (5 out of 8)                                       
  7. Re-writing a dialogue in Indirect Narration                      
  8. Differentiation of similar words (pairs) (5 out of 8)          
  9. Usage of words or phrases in Sentences (5 out of 8)     
  10. Translation from Urdu to English                                      
Guidelines for Preparation:

   Précis Writing

You are given a combination of a few passages. You are required to write its précis. The term ‘précis’ means a concise summary. It means you have to re-write the given text in a short and comprehensive form. You have to summarize the given text in your own words. As directed in the question, your précis should of about 120 words. Apart from précis writing, you also have to devise a suitable title for the given passage.

  1. Précis writing requires having good literary skills. You have to transform the 700 to 800 into précis of 120 words in such a way that the précis reflect all the ideas of the passages. You have to express all the ideas and information of the passages in the shortened précis. Apart from having good writing skills, you should be able to accommodate many ideas in a short sentence. 
  2. Paragraphing of précis depends on the nature of given passages. As you have to shrink the text, the number of paragraphs of précis should as less as possible, i.e. one or two paragraphs. Sometimes the passages hold ideas which cannot be expressed in a single paragraph. In such a case, you should use more paragraphs because the rules of paragraph writing apply here.
  3. Learn the correct structure of a paragraph. Start it with an introductory sentence. The next sentence of the same paragraph should elaborate the first introductory sentence. This is a rule for paragraph writing. It means that a paragraph discusses a similar idea and is not a mixture of varying ideas. You can avoid this rule in some cases where it challenges the other purposes of paragraph writing. For instance, in précis, you have to accommodate many ideas into a single paragraph but there should be a harmony and integrity in your writing style to accommodate many ideas into a single paragraph.
  4. Use a wide range of vocabulary (i.e. sophisticated words) as well as wide range of grammatical structures in sentences; rather than repeating words and structures.
  5. To suggest a title, you should focus on the center of the discussion in the passages. Reading the passage, you will come to know that the ideas of the writer revolve around a common thing – that is the title of the passages.
  6. Never write a single word title. The title should be a sentence or a phrase. The title should be appealing one.

   Questions on Passages

It is another question having 3 to 5 passages. You have to read the passages and answer the question given at the end of the passages.

  1. You should have good reading skills to read text swiftly and grasp the ideas contained in the sentences.
  2. Read the paragraphs thoroughly and speedily. Have a pencil to underline specific parts of sentences while reading them. It will help you to get back to them while attempting the question.
  3. The passages may have varying information regarding the same thing. Hence, for answering a question, choose the required information carefully to answer correctly.
  4. Never answer a question with the help of your own ideas and emotions. The passage may have a very different view towards a thing. The question should only be answered in the light of information given in the passages.
  5. Some information may not be given directly in the passage. For answer such question, you would have to associate one idea to another or to base your answer on a given linked idea.
  6. One of the questions is usually about meaning a word as used in the passages. Here, they asked about the contextual meaning, not the literal meaning. A word may have many meaning depending on its usage in passages. Hence, you should focus on the contextual meaning.

   Sentence Correction

After studying papers of last years, I have concluded that these sentences have following error which you should improve

  1. Wrong usage of a word – part of speech i.e. noun, verb, adverb and conjunctions
  2. Error of subject-verb agreement
  3. Error of dangling-modifiers
  4. Errors of redundancy
  5. Errors of punctuation

If you master the above five areas of English Grammar, you will very easily point out the errors and correct the sentences.

   Punctuation of Sentence

Learn the usage of basic punctuation marks such as period, comma, colon, semi-colon and hyphen. Each of these marks has a diverse use for punctuating words, phrases and clauses. If you master them, it will help you for punctuation question as well as improve your general literary skills for the paper.

Analogies question
Identify the correct relationship (i.e. synonymous, antonymous or others) between the pair of words to select the relevant pair from the option. You should practice them as much as possible to understand their underlying science. Having a good vocabulary will help a lot.

   Writing the dialogue in indirect narration in a passage-form

Learn the rules for conversion of direct narration into indirect narration for positive, negative and interrogative sentences; and imperative and exclamatory sentences. Separate rules apply each of them. It involves a change of verb, pronouns, and structure depending upon the sentence.

You have changed in the narration of the dialogue into indirect as well as to re-write it in a paragraph form. It means it will adopt a form a story. Story writing also requires a bit practice as it involves presenting it in a way different than a dialogue.

Note. You can learn direct and indirect on this website as explained in very easy and simple way by clicking on its link in English Basics in the navigation bar.

   Usage of words or phrase in sentences

You are given words or phrases to use them in a sentence. These phrases include a diverse range of words including specific jargons or terminologies, idioms and phrasal verbs. You have to learn the commonly used idioms and phrasal verbs. Idioms are specific expressions usually have a meaning different than its literal meaning, e.g. pull someone’s leg, hit the sack. Similarly, a phrasal verb is a combination of a verb with other words usually expressing meaning different than their literal meanings, e.g. chicken out, put off, bring up.