Govt Introduces MCQ-Based Screening Test Prior to Written CSS Exam

The federal cabinet has decided to introduce a mandatory screening test prior to the written part examination of the Central Superior Services (CSS).

This is to enable the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) to effectively select highly motivated candidates for the main CSS exam and reduce the CSS recruitment process from 20 months to 12 months.

Since FPSC has not issued any notification in this regard yet, it remains to be seen whether the screening test will come into effect from CSS 2022 or not. While official details about the screening test are scant, a notification doing the rounds on social media suggests that the screening test will consist of 200 MCQs.

Here is a breakdown of the reported format of the CSS screening test.

Sr. No. Subject Details Marks
1. Islamic Studies Non-Muslims may opt for Civics and Ethics 20
2. Urdu Grammar usage and translation 20
3. English Vocabulary, grammar usage, and comprehension 50
4. General Ability Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, logical problem solving, and analytical problem solving 60
5. General Knowledge Everyday science, current affairs, and Pakistan affairs 50

It is worth mentioning here that the former head of the Prime Minister’s task force on civil service reforms, Dr. Ishrat Hussain, had initially proposed a screening test before the CSS exams in 2019.

He had also proposed a psychometric test exam to determine the motivation of candidates towards civil service and domain-specific knowledge for serving in different service groups.

Dr. Ishrat was of the view that the current CSS mechanism, which consists of written examination, medical examination, psychological assessment, and viva voce, does not take into account domain-specific knowledge needed to aptly serve in 12 CSS service groups.

However, the federal cabinet turned down the proposal arguing that the screening test would put most of the CSS aspirants from underdeveloped areas of the country at a significant disadvantage.

Note that screening tests before competitive examinations are widely practiced all over the world. The practice is already in place for Provincial Management Service (PMS) exams in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


Since the MCQ-based test is a different ball game altogether, the screening test would help candidates who lack critical thinking and depend upon rote learning and cramming a lot of information to make it to the main CSS exam.

On the other hand, candidates who have sufficient critical, analytical, and writing skills but don’t depend on rote learning and cramming abilities would find it difficult to make the cut.

Since most candidates who would clear the screening test would belong to the first category, they would be unable to write a single paragraph that is logical and coherent and reflects critical and analytical thinking-something which is required to clear the written exam.

Although they would be able to muscle out most of the candidates belonging to the second category in the screening test, candidates belonging to the first category would not be able to clear the written part of the CSS exam.

As a result, the percentage of candidates who clear the written CSS exam and ultimately join the civil service each year would drop even more in the future and this trend is already evident.

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