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Highly Effective Tips and Tricks in Passing the Civil Service Exam in your First Take

Unless you’re pretty sure that luck is always on your side, there’s no other way for you to pass the CSE PPT (or any other exam) than to PREPARE for it and PRACTICE. You have to make time to STUDY. You have to review the subjects covered by the exam bit by bit, whenever you have time to spare.

Now, here are some real-life tips and tricks in passing the Civil Service Exam in your first take (These tips and strategies are based on my personal experience in passing the Dec 2015 CSE-PPT Professional Level Exam in my first take. Strategies and stories shared by other successful examinees were also taken into consideration.):

(If you find these tips familiar, then perhaps you already came across my post on my Facebook Group: Civil Service Exam PH Review Club . If you’re not part of the club yet and you are interested in more tips and CSE reviewers, you’re very much welcome to JOIN! )


(Click here for Info on the Scope of the CSE PPT Professional and Sub-Professional Levels)

Here is a complete guide on what you have to learn in order to prepare yourself for the Civil Service Exam:

  • On VOCABULARY: The Verbal Aptitude questions will not include highfalutin words. Usually, the exam will only include commonly-used words in news articles, features, and editorials which most people find slightly confusing.
  • On MATH : The exam will cover basic math lessons which you have probably already encountered when you were in high school (or perhaps even earlier). Usually, there will be questions involving Prime Numbers, Integers, Odd and Even Numbers, Absolute Value, Place Value, PEMDAS operations (Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication and/or Division, and then Addition and/or Subtraction), Decimals, Fractions, and Percentages (Interest Rate Problems and Sale/Discount/Profit Problems). There will also be Algebra questions in the form of Work Problems, Time and Distance Problems, and Age Problems.
  • On GRAMMAR: The exam usually includes questions that will require you to fill in a blank in the sentence with the appropriate word from a given set of choices. There are also Sentence Error Identification Questions. To ace this section, know the various parts of speech. Review rules in subject (noun or pronoun) and verb agreement. The golden rule is that if the subject is singular, then the verb should also be singular. If the subject is plural, then the verb should also plural. That being said, you should learn how to find the subject in a sentence and how to determine if it is singular or plural. Know how indefinite pronouns, collective nouns, modifiers, conjunctions, and compound subjects work with verbs. In addition, make sure you know the different tenses of verb and how they are formed – simple tenses,  progressive tenses, perfect tenses, and perfect progressive tenses.
  • On WORD ANALOGY: The exam will include Single- and Double-Word Analogy Questions. To ace this part of the Civil Service Exam, you have to learn how to form a strong bridge sentence (a sentence that links/ that shows the relationship between the two given words).
  • On LOGIC (For the Professional Level Exam): There will be ‘Finding the Best Assumption’ and ‘Finding the Best Conclusion’ questions. For the Assumption Questions, learn how to do the Negation Test (Test if a statement is an assumption required for an argument by simply negating it). In the case of Conclusion Questions, learn how to draw and interpret a Venn Diagram. It will also help if you can explore syllogistic fallacies which are usually taught as part of your Philosophy subject in college or in high school.
  • On READING COMPREHENSION: Learn how to find the Main Idea of the sentence and how to separate it from the supporting details. Also, you have to know how to find the meaning of words based on Context Clues (how they were used in the paragraph).
  • On PARAGRAPH ORGANIZATION: Be familiar with the different types of paragraph structures (Process, Cause and Effect, Argument, etc.). Read about Sequence Adverbs (first, then, next, finally, etc.), Transition Words, and Conjunctions (and, if, but, etc.) too. Also, learn how to use the answer options as your guide in forming a coherent paragraph.
  • On NUMBER SERIES: Be familiar with the common number series patterns (Prime or Odd Numbers, Squares or Cubes, Square Roots or Cube Roots, Pattern in differences, Pattern in adjacent/consecutive numbers, Complex Patterns). You can always start by finding the differences between two consecutive numbers in the series and then repeat the same process until you see a pattern you are familiar with.


The CSE PPT is a timed test. Most examinees complain not about the difficulty of the questions but of how little time they have in reading, analyzing, and answering all the 170 questions of the exam (165 for SubProfessional Level). That implies that the only special trick you’ll need in passing the Career Service Exam is knowing how to read and understand questions, and then pick the right answer – FAST. How do you learn to do just that? Simple. PRACTICE.

  • PRACTICE READING to improve your verbal aptitude: If you are not a big fan of English literary fiction, make it a habit to read periodicals – and with that, I mean actual periodicals like news sites and magazines – not personal blogs and social media posts which usually have a lot of grammar mistakes. Read whenever you have the time to do so. Read when you’re stuck in heavy traffic along EDSA. Read when you’re on your way to school or to your office. If you come across a new word and you’re unsure of its meaning, check with a dictionary app like Merriam-Webster. Once you know its meaning, try to use it in a sentence or two.
  • PRACTICE SOLVING MATH PROBLEMS to improve your numerical aptitude: Get a high school level math textbook and practice solving word problems. Remember that YOU CANNOT USE A CALCULATOR come the examination day so you really have to practice manual computations. The more you get acquainted with Math Word Problems, the easier it would be for you to discern what number sentences should be formed and what math formulas may be needed. Be careful in placing your decimal points and zeroes when finding the solution though.

When answering practice exercises for the Civil Service Exam, try to give yourself a strict 60-second time limit for every question. You can extend that to probably 90 seconds for Paragraph Organization and Reading Comprehension Questions. Also, do your practice exercises or mock tests in the morning – preferably around 7:30 to 11:30 AM – the same time the CSE-PPT is always conducted.


Make reviewing one of your priorities. DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. Study weeks, even months before the exam. Cramming will not work – not this time.

English and Math questions will make up the bulk of the exam. That’s why you have to focus on these two subjects more than the other topics included in the test. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t read or review a bit on the other topics I have mentioned above. Remember that your final rating will come from all the competency areas in the exam. Based on my ratings and those of previous examinees, it would seem that only 5% (roughly) of the final rating will come from the General Information section of the exam. The 95% on the other hand will be divided amongst the Verbal, Analytical, and Numerical competency areas of the exam (Verbal, Clerical, and Numerical for the SubProfessional Level).

When reviewing for the CSE PPT, allot more time studying the subject areas you’re weak at. Learn to love the subject areas that you normally hate.  It will be best if you answer one or two practice questions on your weak subjects everyday – no matter how busy you are.

TIP #4: PRAY and PROFESS (and other tips)

  • When you’re done with all the preparation and the practice, there’s nothing left to do but to Pray and Profess. Pray that you’ll be blessed and believe that YOU WILL PASS. Give yourself time to relax a day or two before the exam. Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Don’t forget to visit the venue of your exam before the actual examination day. That way, you will not get lost and you can allot enough time for travel and unforeseen circumstances on the day of the exam. Gates of testing venues are closed at 7:30AM.
  • On the day of the exam, do not forget to bring your application receipt, a valid ID with your birthdate, printed ONSA (Online Notice of School Assignment), black ballpoint pens, a wristwatch (so you can properly manage your time), water or any beverage in a clear container, and candies or chocolates (to keep you awake). Wear something you’ll be comfortable in but don’t wear a sleeveless shirt/blouse, short pants, and/or slippers.
  • Stay calm enough so you can actually do your best. If you feel worried or anxious, take deep breaths to calm down. Read questions carefully and don’t answer/ shade the answer sheet hastily. Remember that you can only change your answer once (by crossing out your previously shaded answer). Answer all of the questions. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s best to guess than to leave it blank. At least there’s still a chance for you to get a correct answer.
  • Since you’re not allowed to bring or use a calculator, examinees are allowed to use the test booklet as ‘scratch paper’ when solving problems or drawing venn diagrams (and the likes). Use the ‘scratch paper’ as much as you can.
  • Better take your toilet break before the examination starts. Don’t be shy to use all of the time alloted for answering the Civil Service Exam. Sadly, there are some proctors who urge (or pressure) examinees to answer quickly. Don’t listen to them. Make the most of your three hours (2 hours and 45 minutes for the SubProfessional Level) and show them what you’ve got.


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About the Author

I'm a Journalism graduate of the University of the Philippines - Diliman and I'm currently taking up units in Professional Education courses. I have written for various blogs, websites, and magazines in the past. Right now, I work as a freelance eBook writer and a mobile app developer.

While I was managing a fledgling online business and being a full-time mom to my four kids - Yana, Yshi, Yza and Vincent Jr., I took the Career Service Examination - Pencil and Paper Test - Professional Level (CSE-PPT- Prof) for the first time in December 2015. I passed and I got lucky enough to be among the Top 10 examinees in my batch, 3rd in the National Capital Region.