Let’s start with a harrowing statistic:
10.71% or 1 out of every 10 examinees.
That’s exactly how many passed the civil service examinations conducted by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) in March 2018.
We can blame whoever created the questionnaires or even the deteriorating quality of education in the Philippines (as attested by our dismal ranking in a recent global survey for reading comprehension).
However, neither of these is within your control.
So instead of being discouraged, you can increase your chances of passing–or even topping–the civil service exam by preparing for it.
But you don’t need an ordinary preparation. With the limited time you have to review, what you need is time- and science-tested strategies that guarantee maximum learning.
In this free civil service reviewer, you’ll learn about these strategies and more.
But before we proceed, let’s go back to basics.
Table of Contents
- Why should I take and pass the civil service exam?
- What to Review for the Civil Service Exam.
- How to Review for the Civil Service Exam.
- The Ultimate Civil Service Exam Reviewer (with Free Practice Tests and Answer Keys)
Why should I take and pass the civil service exam?
The civil service exam is held twice a year to determine which individuals are fit to work for the Philippine government.
Passing this exam grants you Civil Service Eligibility which is one of the qualifications you need to meet if you want to work in a government office or agency.
This exam isn’t only for college graduates who want to become civil servants. If you’re already working in the government as a contractual/job order/casual/special project worker, passing the civil service exam gives you the chance to become a regular employee and be entitled to incentives and benefits that come with it.
Depending on what government position you’re aiming for, you may either take the Subprofessional level exam, which will enable you to apply for first-level positions like crafts, clerical, trades, and custodial service positions; and the Professional level exam, the more challenging exam given to those who want to qualify for first- and second-level government positions (up to Division Chief) that deal with professional, technical, and scientific work.
What to Review for the Civil Service Exam.
It depends on what type of civil service exam you’ll be taking.
The professional level exam consists of 170 questions answerable in 3 hours and 10 minutes while the subprofessional level exam has 165 questions which you should finish in 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Both exams contain questions about the following subjects/topics:
- Personal Information (20 questions) like your name, birth date, etc.
- General Information (15 to 20 questions) which revolves around the Philippine Constitution, Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713), Peace and Human Rights Issues and Concepts, and Environment Management and Protection
- Verbal Ability (50-60 questions in English or Filipino) which will test your knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, and correct usage, reading comprehension, and paragraph/passage/sentence organization
- Numerical Ability (40-45 questions in English or Filipino) which includes word problems, graph interpretation, and basic operations/simple arithmetic
While they have a lot in common, both types of civil service exam also feature a subtest that is unique to each of them:
- For the Professional level: Analytical Ability (30-40 questions in English or Filipino) which will measure your logical reasoning skills. It has questions on word association, number series, identifying assumptions and conclusions, single-word or double-word analogy, logic, and data interpretation
- For the Subprofessional level: Clerical Ability (30-40 questions in English or Filipino) which will test how familiar you are with different clerical operations like filing, alphabetizing, and spelling
To help you with your review, this civil service reviewer will dedicate specific sections for each of the subtests listed above.
How to Review for the Civil Service Exam.
We all have our preferences when it comes to studying techniques. Some prefer to study alone while others absorb more information when they’re in a group study session. Some like to read, while others watch video tutorials.
But when it comes to preparing for an important test like the civil service examination, you want to ensure that whatever reviewing strategy you’re using will give you the optimal chance to succeed. In other words, you can’t afford to use the same old methods you’ve been using if it never got you anywhere or worse, it’s the reason why you keep on failing the civil service exam.
That’s why here in FilipiKnow, we have designed our reviewer around two effective techniques that are backed by scientific studies:
Strategy #1: Spaced practice/Spaced Repetition.
Instead of last-minute cramming, you should space out your study session over a specific period of time.
Let’s assume you’ve got 3 1/2 months to prepare for the professional-level civil service exam. Using the principle of spaced practice, you can assign one exam category for each month.
So for the first month, you’re going to review topics under Verbal Ability; the second month for topics under Numerical Ability; and the third month for Analytical Ability. You can allocate at least three hours of review each week, focusing on a singular topic/subject. Then, you can review your notes again at the end of each month and again for the very last time a few days before the scheduled examination.
By scheduling your review sessions this way, you’ll be able to jog your memory and recall what you learned the first time around. This process of forgetting and retrieval, according to researchers, helps cement the new knowledge in place thereby improving your long-term memory.
Strategy #2: Retrieval practice/Practice testing.
While spaced practice teaches you “when” to study for the exam, retrieval practice instructs you on “how” to study.
Rereading or restudying information is not enough. In fact, it only gives you a false sense of familiarity–you think you know the review material all too well even though you never tested how well you know it.
So what should you do? Take practice tests. Lots of them.
Testing helps strengthen your long-term memory, a finding that is supported by decades of scientific research. A recent study even shows that answering practice tests are more effective than rereading or highlighting your notes.
Practice tests are effective because it encourages deep learning. It enables you to retrieve a memory and each time you do it (which is exactly what happens when you take practice tests), it becomes more accessible in the future.
To get the best results, it’s also recommended to space your retrievals. This is why we’ve provided free practice tests in this reviewer which you can take as a diagnostic exam to help you figure out your weakest areas. The review notes we’re currently developing also have practice tests which you should take each time you finish studying a topic/subject.
Finally, our free mock exam which you can download in PDF format has the exact number of items as the actual civil service exam. Take this exam once you’re done with the study notes so you can gauge how prepared you are and brush up on topics that you might have missed during the review.
Now that you know when and how to review, let’s now proceed to the specific subjects that you need to study for the exam.
The Ultimate Civil Service Exam Reviewer (with Free Practice Tests and Answer Keys)
1. Verbal Ability.
Verbal Ability – Modules and Readings.
- Parts of Speech/Grammatical Categories
- Sentence Structure/Construction
- Subject-verb Agreement
- Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
- Verb Tense
- Common Grammar Mistakes
- Parallelism or Principle of Parallel Structure
- Balarilang Filipino
- Parts of a Word
- Word Meanings
- Confusing Words/Correct Usage
- Contextual Meaning
3. Paragraph Organization.
4. Reading Comprehension.
Verbal Ability – Review Tips and Tricks.
- Build your word bank as early as possible so that you can ace the vocabulary part of the exam which often asks about words that are rarely used in daily conversations. Most reviewers often provide a list of vocabulary words commonly asked in exams but no list is ever comprehensive. If you still have months to prepare for the civil service exam, it’s time to binge-read on your favorite classic American novels like To Kill a Mockingbird, the Harry Potter series, or The Chronicles of Narnia, just to name a few. Too broke to purchase new books? Head over to ReadAnyBook and find some hidden gems that you can download for free. While enjoying the reading experience, don’t forget to keep a dictionary or thesaurus (book or mobile app) nearby so you can quickly look up the meanings of unfamiliar words. For better retention, use each word in a sentence that you create yourself. If you’re not into fiction, you can also read news articles, long-form feature stories, or editorials so long as they’re from reliable sources like The New York Times, The Atlantic, or the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Especially if you only have a few weeks left to review, it’s imperative to couple your reading habits with a healthy dose of practice tests. The more vocabulary tests you answer, the more unfamiliar words you’ll encounter and eventually will be added to your word bank.
- Learn a new word a day. If you don’t mind receiving daily email newsletters, you can sign up at Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day to receive your regular dose of new vocabulary words. On the other hand, if you prefer not to clutter your email with newsletters you don’t even have the time to open regularly, you can bookmark Dictionary.com Word of the Day instead and view the page whenever you have time. Aside from the word itself, which oftentimes too obscure to be used in regular conversations, you should also take note of the root words and affixes so you can familiarize yourself with how words are formed and how related they are to each other. Again, you’ll remember new words better if you use them in a sentence and write everything down in a lightweight notebook. This way, the new words will be stored in both your visual and kinesthetic memories, the latter being associated with the movements of your hands when writing.
- If reading is more of a chore, you can also try other learning mediums you truly enjoy. Remember, learning is more effective if you obtain it through something that really interests you. Don’t force yourself to read a book if it bores you to tears. After all, you can also expand your vocabulary by watching your favorite foreign movies and TV series (don’t forget to turn on the English subtitles) or listening to mind-enriching podcasts.
- Use creative techniques to study grammar and vocabulary more effectively. For example, you can use mental visualizations to associate an image or a movement to any word you want to memorize. If you look up the meaning of the word “append”, it literally means “add” so you can simply imagine the double letter ‘p’ getting flipped over to remind yourself of its meaning. You can also use mnemonic devices or flashcards created via free apps/online tools like Chegg Prep or Quizlet. Flashcards can also be made manually using index cards with both sides filled with bite-sized information that makes sense to you (e.g., a vocabulary word on one side and its meaning on the other side, or a rule in subject-verb agreement on one side and an example on the other side).
- When reviewing for Vocabulary, it’s always best to start with the basics (i.e., parts of a word that include affixes and Latin root words). This way, you can easily decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words even without the need to memorize a whole dictionary. Affixes are either prefixes or suffixes which are letters or a group of letters attached to either the beginning or end of a word to form another word. If you understand the meaning of a prefix or a suffix, you can easily figure out the meaning of a word faster and answer questions that directly ask for the synonym or antonym of a specific word. To get started, you can download this list of the most common prefixes and suffixes in the English language. The prefix “mis-“, for example, means “wrongly” so any word where this prefix is present has a negative meaning as in the case of “misnomer” which is defined as “a wrong or inaccurate name or designation”. Most English words are rooted in Latin/Greek so identifying these words and their origins will help you to not only remember them but also recognize other words with similar etymology. The words audiophile and bibliophile, for example, are derived from the Greek word “philos” meaning “loving” so it makes sense why they’re used to refer to people who love music and books, respectively. For a list of common Latin and Greek words and the English words derived from them, you can visit this page and this page. You can also check out the “Parts of a Word” section under Vocabulary in the list of Modules and Readings we created above.
- When asked to choose the best meaning of a word you absolutely have no idea about, look for contextual clues. A context refers to the information surrounding the unfamiliar word which offers clues to its meaning. These clues may be in the form of punctuation, synonym, antonym, or inferred relationships between sentences surrounding the word. Remember, when answering vocabulary questions using contextual meaning, you have to treat the unfamiliar word as if it’s not even there. This way, you can accurately determine the overall tone and meaning of the sentence which will then lead you to the best answer. Besides, most words have different meanings depending on how they’re used in a sentence (e.g., “expire” which can mean either “died” or “ended”) so relying on the literal meaning of the word in question is not accurate in this case. For a more detailed discussion, see “Contextual Meaning” under Vocabulary Modules and Readings.
- Context can also be used to answer Sentence Completion questions wherein you’ll be asked to pick from the available choices the word that best fits the meaning of the sentence. For best results, cover the choices first and just focus on the sentence. Read the entire sentence to yourself including the “blank”. This way, you’ll get the overall sense of the meaning of the sentence and how its different parts relate to each other without being influenced by what’s on the choices. Once you see the available choices and none of them sounds familiar, use the process of elimination and educated guessing with the help of context clues to end up with the best answer. The image below is an example of a Sentence Completion question you’ll most likely encounter in a civil service examination. By using the context, you get the impression that Steven’s behavior is exactly the opposite of tardiness which he feels is “a sign of irresponsibility”. Hence, we’re looking for the antonym or opposite of “tardiness” leading to “punctual” being the correct answer.
- To answer Paragraph Organization or Parajumble questions correctly, identify the first/topic sentence and the concluding idea/last sentence first before you proceed to find all the supporting sentences in between. The first sentence usually captures the main idea of the paragraph whereas the concluding sentence summarizes it and usually begins with the words in summary, as a whole, therefore, and finally. The supporting sentences, on the other hand, contain transition words like first, second, however, and on the other hand to connect the sentences together.
- Instead of reading the whole passages in the Reading Comprehension section of the exam, it’s better to save more time by going straight to the question. After reading the question first, go over to the specific part/s of the passage and skim-search for the answers. It’s easier to beat questions like this if you already know what you’re looking for.
- Identification of Errors is a common test format that you can easily excel at by reviewing the basics of grammar, punctuation, usage, and word choice. If you have a good foundation in all of these English proficiency essentials, then you can easily answer questions about identifying errors like the sample shown below (obviously, the correct answer is letter C since it contains the error). A more systematic approach in answering this type of question is by first reading the sentence to yourself (not aloud as you will distract other examinees). Then, go over each underlined section a couple of times before finally choosing your answer through the process of elimination. Remember, in this type of question, the sentence can either contain an error or no error at all. No sentence can contain more than one error.