Why am I not scoring well in CSS written exams? You have written all that you know about a topic, but the examiner has still given you a low score? Or have you been told multiple times by our instructors to read the question well before answering?
Here is why that might be happening. There is a possibility that you are not paying attention to the tail words/ end words/ key words/ directive words used in the question.
What are directive words? These are words usually in the beginning of a question – such as explain, compare, contrast – that indicate to candidates what is essentially required from them in their answer. It is the guiding principle of how the answer of a question needs to be organized and presented.
Here are some commonly used directive words and some concrete points on how you can tackle them:
- Break an issue into its constituent parts
- Analyze each part by using supporting arguments and examples
- Conclude by summarizing major arguments
Example: Analyze the Madina Accord as a “Social Contract” in detail. (Islamiat, CSS 2020)
- Use logical reasoning and debate in your answer
- Support it with evidence
- State advantages and disadvantages wherever needed
- Provide a conclusion outlining your arguments
Example: Discuss the significance of renewable energy resources for Pakistan. (Pakistan Affairs, CSS 2021)
- Convey key points instead of going into excessive detail
- Cover aspect from all views
Example: Enumerate the measures adopted by Pakistan to spotlight on the plight of Kashmiri people in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir after 5th August 2019. (Pakistan Affairs, CSS 2021)
- Critically Evaluate
- Upto what extent is a statement true
- To what extent do you agree with it
- What’s your opinion on it?
- Provide evidence from a range of sources
- Give a final conclusion and explain what that is the most valid choice
Example: Critically evaluate the evolution of Muslim Separate identity in the Subcontinent. (Pakistan Affairs, CSS 2021)
- Provide as much information as possible on an argument
Example: China, Pakistan-Russia cooperation will find suitable support mechanism in Shanghai Cooperation organization (SCO). Elaborate. (Pakistan Affairs, CSS 2020)
- Clarify the topic as to how and why it occurs
- What is meant by terms included in the question?
- Define key terms wherever needed using relevant research
Example: Explain “Afghans` owned, Afghans` led” solution of Afghanistan crisis.(Pakistan Affairs, CSS 2021)
- Use different questions to elaborate on different aspects of the topic
- Put forward opposing views
- Reconcile opposing views wherever possible
Example: Islam provides better rights to men and women than all other religions. Explore with arguments. (Islamiat, CSS 2021)
- Give your opinion on main points of a subject
- Reemphasize your point with logic and examples
- Include your opinion whether for or against
- Support your opinion in either case
Example: Comment on the teachings of Islam regarding co-existence in a multi-faith society. (Islamiat, CSS 2021)
- Compare and contrast
- Identify similarities and differences between two or more events or personalities
- State which similarities or differences are important than the other
- Back them up using evidence and theorists supporting either sides
Example: Compare and contrast the different political philosophies of Hobbes and Locke. How are these philosophies implemented in present day political systems and policy making? (Political Science, CSS 2017)
- Give as much detailed explanation as possible
- Get into the details of why and how of the concept or event
Example: Describe Al-Mawardi’s theory of Imamate. (Political Science, CSS 2016)
Hope this clarifies and gives you a better understanding of how to attempt questions in exams. Practise what you learnt today to strengthen your grasp on directive words. Make outlines for the example questions given above and get them checked by our instructors.
Written by Ms. Usra Rasool (CSS 2021, PCS). To download in PDF format, click here.