css optional subject

Written by Fiza Bibi Ameen 4:16 pm Articles, CSS/PMS, Current Affairs, Pakistan

Choosing Physics as an Optional Subject in the CSS Exams

The appeal of a career as a Civil Services of Pakistan (CSP) officer doesn’t always translate into optimistic outcomes, as many applicants don’t even appear for exams. The choice of subjects is nearly as crucial as the attempt itself. Physics, a subject with a conceptual flow but a probable exam pattern, has proven to be a high-scoring subject in various entrance and academic exams. Does this trend find resonance in CSS results as well? Fiza Bibi Ameen evaluates the merits and demerits of choosing physics and provides research-based tactics to streamline the process, making it less time-consuming.
Subscription banner youtube
About the Author(s)
+ posts

Fiza Bibi Ameen is a gold medal qualifier in BS Physics from Riphah International University, Islamabad. She also contributed a prize-winning submission to the HEC inter-university essay writing competition held in 2022. She enjoys researching and writing about science, technology, and informative topics in various niches. She is a freelance writer and may be contacted at [email protected].


The Central Superior Services (CSS) exam attracts nationwide attention because it promises the youth an impact that hardly any other permanent career could. Aspirants with motivations ranging from deep influence on the patterns of the country to financial stability to the prospects and potential in a particular CSS field delve into this career. Despite the deepest desire to pursue it as a career, the results are not all optimistic.

See, for example, the CSS exam results for the year 2023. Out of 28,024 candidates who applied, 13,008 took the exams. The past percentage was found to be 3.06%, with 398 candidates passing. The small percentage of CSS qualifiers owes itself to different factors in different flavors; experts recommend it has something to do with the subject choice and approach to a subject or topic and their attempt at a paper. In other words, the failed or passed story revolves somehow around relevancy.

Selecting the optional subjects is an important first step after the decision to pursue this career. Labels such as “high-scoring subject” easily offer a warm temptation. However, different trends in CSS exam results have been reported by aspirants, as if to attest, yet again, that there is no single universal solution to subjective problems. Thus, it goes without saying that the choice of a particular subject and the result that follows are quite pertinent to the candidate’s approach. If gender studies, for example, has been found by one to be a high-scoring subject, it might not be reflected in other aspirants’ results. The individuality of one’s academic background and, of course, the direction are the defining parameters.

Submissions 2023

Physics as a CSS Optional Subject

Physics is a 200-mark subject, encompassing two papers, as a CSS optional. Like everything, choosing physics has its pros and cons, but as mentioned above, for the most part, it depends on the aspirant’s approach and background in the subject. Before deciding whether physics is the right subject for you, please have a look at the syllabus for two CSS physics exams and recommended books here.

CSS Physics Paper I (Marks: 100)

  1. Mechanics
  2. Fluid mechanics
  3. Waves and oscillations, optics
  4. Heat and thermodynamics

CSS Physics Paper II (Marks: 100)

  1. Electricity and magnetism
  2. Modern and quantum physics
  3. Solid-state physics
  4. Nuclear Physics

Each course’s section has a list of specified topics as well. The sections are encouragingly familiar to an aspirant with undergraduate, graduate, and advanced degrees in physics and to those with other natural sciences as an academic ground. 

Who Can Opt for Physics?

  • A candidate with graduate, undergraduate, master’s, and other degrees in physics
  • Aspirants with basic and applied sciences as a background who have taken interdisciplinary courses
  • Students with an interest in physics (however, the journey is easy and almost probable with a relevant degree).

Reasons in Favor of Physics as an Optional

Physics is an applied mathematical subject. Unlike literature and other theoretical subjects where the student’s exploration and take is so strictly analyzed, it is a highly secure subject. Two graduate students in literature and physics, respectively, will differ in their marking standards. And many attest that gaining more marks in physics at college is easier, provided the right direction is taken. However, graduate studies and CSS exams differ in essence, and one might not expect the same degree of variance here.

A CSS candidate has to choose a subject with the potential to help him stand out among thousands of other aspirants, which is to say, CSS is the exam of choosing the demands of a situation. The aspirant must first know the demand of the topic—no matter what their chosen subject is—while selecting from a plethora of information. While attempting the exam, it is highly important to identify the real asks of the question. This is the road to success in all endeavors, generally. Put another way, you must keep up with the requirements.

Physics as a High-scoring Subject

All in all, thus, Physics is a top-scoring subject for those who understand what the topic demands of them and who have found the right resources to prepare well. The students succeeding in satisfying the pressing factor (the course and paper’s big and deep asks) have found it a successful subject.

Almost Equal Quota of Subject-specific Mathematics & Theory

The physics paper has an almost equal share of theoretical and mathematical parts. This gives an edge to all students, as some find the theoretical part easier than the mathematical and vice versa. See in the 2023 paper 1, almost every question has a numerical part, a theoretical part, and a general mathematical part. The mathematical and numerical part, if answered well, secures definite marks for the aspirant. 

This is not just the case for this paper; almost all physics papers are set along similar lines. Thus, the predictability of the physics paper makes it easier for the aspirants to plan the subject-study well and translate this plan into real, solid marks.

A Sprinkle of Simple & Repetitive Questions as Evidenced by Past Papers

The repeated questions are such a blessing, as aspirants might have already revised them and formed cohesive thoughts beforehand, which helps them secure well in those questions and spare more time for the tricky ones. Just like any physics exam, be it ECAT, MCAT, NTS, or other undergraduate and graduate exams, some questions are recurrent, sometimes fully, and other times with a similar or at least predictable approach. This saves time as well.

Furthermore, some questions could be labeled as quite easy or from an intermediate physics course. In the CSS exam 2023, paper 1, the aspirant would find such examples. Some questions have been found to repeat from the intermediate. This, additionally, makes physics a good choice for an aspirant with a background in it.

Demerits of Choosing Physics as an Optional Subject in CSS

There are some reasons why choosing physics is a good choice, as well as some reasons why it is not. Some of them include:

  1. Physics is Time-consuming

Whatever the subject’s predictability weightage is, it goes without saying how safe and important it is to fully prepare for the exam. The physics course covers nearly all of the course content studied in undergraduate programs, as well as some from graduate and master’s programs. As a result, a student requires time to revise and prepare for topics that they may or may not have not covered in their academic career (as every institute’s approach to teaching physics could be proved differing).

Both theory and mathematics pertaining to physics need practice, and without sparing time, that is difficult. Now, out of the limited time, sparing more time for one subject implies robbing another subject of its fair share. For an aspirant with an educational background in physics but a career outside of academia, revising the course will take even more time.

  • Waning Interest amid Changing Topics

A mere passing interest in a subject might help students pass a degree course. However, CSS exams do not work this way. The aftermaths attest that if one does not delve deeply into each topic and its weightage (as revealed by past papers), one’s chances of standing out diminish.

  • Lack of an Extensive Background in Physics

A student from any natural science field with an interest in physics will find the overlap between their academic background and some parts of physics courses as given in FPSC (Federal Public Service Commission). The interdisciplinary subjects further feed the relevance of all sciences. However, the lack of an extensive and specific background in physics will demand more time, focus, and security of approach. This, again, is not an insurmountable barrier. The bottom line is how an aspirant proceeds towards bridging the gap, and how much time he takes.

The Key Factors to Analyze Before Opting Physics

  1. Interest in the course and in individual topics
  2. Availability of time
  3. Review of the patterns of past papers for weightage
  4. Looking out for a match between academics, information background, and the syllabus
  5. Identifying the time needed for not-yet-known topics

Physics as an Optional after an Academic Break

Washington Post highlighted the research findings that only 27% of graduates get to pursue a career in their major subject. At times, a graduate in science might be teaching some other subject or delving into some other field, barely relevant to the major. Furthermore, no matter whether a person’s career is in academia or research, the revision of the entire graduate syllabus is the last thing on their mind.

To revive knowledge and interest, short online courses pertinent to them play an important. Coursera, Open University, Alison, etc. offer self-paced courses and resource material, in a way that invokes curiosity. Some educational companies, for example Alison, don’t even restrict the learner to a time frame of months. Furthermore, nostalgia researchers have found ease in triggering already nestled emotions and memories over engendering them anew. Thus, despite the evolution in the academic landscape ever since one secured a degree, referring to old self-made and self-studied course material helps in revving the knowledge as well.


Recommendations regarding the choice of subjects are many and frequently helpful. They do not, however, take into account the individuality of an aspirant’s situation. All in all, labeling a specific pedestal as the defining parameter for the choice of an optional subject has been debunked by counterexamples. If anything can facilitate an aspirant’s decision-making, it is his curiosity and commitment to the alternative under consideration.

The predictability, possible repetition, and equal share of subject-specific theory and mathematics make physics a hopeful choice for a person. However, if one does not have enough time or his interest wanes as topics change, the journey with physics becomes hard. Physics is a tough choice for a person without a solid background as well. For the most part, this is because it demands time. In today’s fast-paced, connected world, however, a graduate can learn anything under the sun, whether or not they get formal classes in it. 

As many graduates pursue convenient, situational careers after graduation, they may not have the time or opportunity to directly relate the relevant course work. Short, interesting, self-paced courses and seeking help from previous retention show up as time savers, for that matter. Thus, it is up to a CSS aspirant to determine whether or not the subject’s requirements are deliverable and whether or not the approach can help a student stand out among thousands of candidates.

If you want to submit your articles, research papers, and book reviews, please check the Submissions page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

(Visited 790 times, 2 visits today)
Click to access the login or register cheese