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You cannot read all the prescribed books nor you can remember everything you have read in the course of your preparation for your CSS examination. Accordingly, I suggest keeping these guidelines in view when making out your strategy.
- Syllabus and Past Papers
CSS is all about focused study for which syllabus and past papers provide excellent guidelines. Go through these two at least once a fortnight to ensure you are not reading irrelevant material. Try to answer the questions which appear regularly in past papers to have firsthand experience. Prepare a guess paper of your own and solve those in simulated conditions for practice
- Guides and Notes
Do buy them and go through them when starting the preparation. They will give you an overview of the subject matter of the paper. However, these are just what they say-guides and notes-and that’s all. You must supplement your study with other relevant material
Internet is now what used to be libraries in our days. There are virtual libraries everywhere on the net. But there are three problems-information overloads, biased views, and surfing temptation. Be very selective-start with Wikipedia and browse the websites and sources suggested there. Cross check the facts, figures, and opinions given by an author with other sources. Avoid surfing when studying-the biggest time waster of modern times
- Newspapers and Magazines
Despite the availability of information on the internet, these have not become irrelevant. You must have a subscription of one good English newspaper and a weekly. Do keep clippings of relevant articles in files. Make notes from these magazines as you will be doing from the internet
- Prescribed Books
Most of the books prescribed are textbooks and can be used for background knowledge about a subject. You must thoroughly read two books out of all the books prescribed for a subject. However, buy their new editions if published. Also, buy one or two relevant books which have not been listed as suggested reading
How to study
Everyone has his or her own way of studying and should not be abandoned simply for the reason that someone else did well by using a different style. Success or failure in an examination is a complex issue depending upon several constants and variable.
Having said that I am reproducing below the method I used throughout my academic career for preparing myself for the examinations. Go through it and if you like any idea, give it a try
Reading and Highlighting
Depending upon your retention power, less than 25% can be retrieved if you just study a text. However, highlighting important points increases this to more than 40%.Be very selective in your highlighting as too much of the underlining will defeat the very purpose of the exercise. Do not undertake this activity in the first reading, rather do it when rereading the same. Rule of thumb-do highlight the first, the middle and the last sentence of a paragraph
Summarizing and Note Taking
If highlighting increases the retention and retrieval by 40%, then preparing notes of the text will increase it still further to 60%.Summarizing and note taking should be done after at least a third reading of the text and must be supplemented by additional reading from other sources. Rule of thumb-summary of the text should be one-third of the text and end in bullet points of the main ideas
Self Lecturing and Teaching
Excellent way of remembering a text is to explain what you have read to your colleagues. It will not only improve your learning and retention but will also increase your knowledge base when your colleague, in turn, teaches you what they have learned. If no colleagues are available, then try to lecture yourself in front of a mirror
An acronym is an abbreviation pronounced as a word which is formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. Usually, these components are individual letters (as in NATO or laser) or parts of words or names (as in Benelux). Take out the first letter of main ideas of the text and try to build a word, even a meaningless one. For example, in physics, the colors of the visible spectrum are ROY G. BIV (red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet
Frameworks analysis is the technique of using one framework in different subjects for understanding and also for remembering complex issues. All subjects are now becoming multi-disciplinary as they use the terms and analytical framework of one another with suitable adaptation
PowerPoint and Instagrphics
PowerPoint presentations have become extremely useful methods to jot down your ideas in a very presentable form for remembering. They serve as the outlines of the entire text which can be used for quick revision near examinations
Blogging and Commenting
Finally, the best way of learning is to share your opinions and thoughts with others by starting a blog of your own. Commenting on the articles written by others on the topic you are studying will also help you in improving your grasp of the topic
Every technology is disruptive in nature; the same is the case with computer technology. It has no doubt made our lives very comfortable but one negative fallout is our too much dependence on it as a tool for storage of information. Consequently, we are relying less and less on handwritten notes. Believe me, writing your notes by hand, no doubt time consuming and laborious, is still worth the time and effort.
Get hold of 10/12 copies. One copy for each subject including Essay. In every subject, there are normally 20/25 topics which are very important. Right? Now in the copy for that subject write the title of the first topic and leave next 4/5 pages blank. Then write the next topic and leave the next 4/5 pages blank. Do it for all the subjects.
When you are studying or doing an internet search, as soon as come across a good point, write it under the relevant topic. These copies will be very handy in revision and during the examination days
Remember to prepare all the subjects concurrently and never fall into the trap of the Semester system of completing one or two subjects completely and then preparing other subjects in batches. Chalk out a daily program of studies in which every subject must find time for study. Known as Harvard System, it will force you to study even those subjects which you are not particularly interested.
For example, you can devote the morning session (from 6.00 AM to 1.00 PM with appropriate breaks for tea/coffee) for compulsory subjects. Start with English Grammar (one hour) followed by Science (45 minutes), Then go for Islamiat for 45 minutes and so on.
Evening Session should be devoted to optional subjects in the same way as above while after-dinner time should be for internet search and note making
Keep on changing this schedule on a monthly basis i.e. optional subjects in the morning and the compulsory in the evening as well as their internal priorities.