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Everything You Need To Know About The Civil Service Exam

Are you thinking of taking it eventually?
PHOTO: istockphoto

In every job, there’s a basic requirement, and for a post in any government office, it’s the civil service exam. According to a survey back in 2017, 77 percent of 16,425 participants expressed their desire to work for the public sector. What interests many are the competitive salaries, job stability, and several attractive benefits (including some allowances).

One of the first steps is taking the civil service examination. More formally known as the Career Service Examination or CSE, this test generally measures your readiness to work in the public sector. It is administered by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) across the country. Fun fact: Taking this exam is not a requirement to run for public office in the Philippines. But read on to know why it should be.

The Difference between Sub-professional and Professional Civil Service Exam

There are two CSE levels: Sub-professional or Professional. If you’re a high school graduate or if you finished a course that’s less than four years, you can take the Subprofessional CSE. It’s a basic requirement for clerical, trades, crafts, and custodial work in public offices.

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On the other hand, graduates of four-year courses can take the professional CSE for first-level and second-level government positions. Passing it means you’re eligible for technical, managerial, and several other posts on top of clerical jobs.

Two ways to take the Civil Service Exam

Unlike board and bar examinations, you can either take a manual Pen-And-Paper Test (PPT) or a Computerized Examination (COMEX) for civil service eligibility.

For the PPT, you’re given a test booklet and an answer sheet, and you shade the correct answers. It costs P500, whether you take the Subprofessional or Professional level. You also have to submit requirements to the CSC regional office or field office where you plan to take the test. This is usually the preferred or only option for individuals based in remote provinces.

Meanwhile, in the COMEX, you get the exam questions and type in answers through a computer. You also register online and then make a personal appearance at the CSC office to get your biometrics taken. The exam fee is a bit steeper, though, at P680.

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Eligibility and requirements for the Civil Service Exam

Aside from the mentioned course requirement for the Professional CSE, there are the basic qualifications to take the civil service examination. You must:

  • Be a Filipino citizen
  • Be at least 18 years old during application
  • Have no criminal record or dismissal record from the government and military service

Note that there aren’t limits to the number of times you can take the test. But you can’t take the same-level CSE if you’ve done so three months prior to the exam date.

As for the documentary requirements, here are the things to prepare:

  • CSE application form (get one from any CSC Regional Office or Field Office, or download the form on the CSC website)
  • Four recent passport-size ID photos on a white background and with your handwritten name tag (must be taken within three months prior to the application date; not required for COMEX applicants since
  • Original and photocopy of a valid ID (most government-issued IDs like passport, driver’s license, and UMID are accepted; make sure to check the CSC website for the complete list of accepted IDs)
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Civil Service Exam schedule, application periods, and results

The CSC typically conducts at least two career service examinations every year. Last September 6, 2019, the Civil Service Commission has announced the schedule of application and examinations for 2020. The first civil service exam will be on March 15, 2020, with the application period running from December 16, 2019 to January 15, 2020. The second CSE will be on August 9, 2020, with application period from May 11 to June 10, 2020.

Results get announced about a month after the examination. Aside from the official list published online by the CSC, applicants can check their results on the online result generation system.

Parts of the Civil Service Exam and things to review

Both the Sub-Professional and Professional exams have 20 personal information questions in the beginning. The bulk of the test, though, would cover Verbal Ability, Numerical Ability, and General Information written in either English or Filipino. That said, you have to brush up on the following among others:

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  • Basic math operations and problems
  • Grammar and vocabulary
  • Paragraph organization and reading comprehension
  • The Philippine Constitution
  • The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees
  • Peace and Human Rights Issues and Concepts
  • Environment Management and Protection

If you’re taking the Subprofessional CSE, you’ll also have a Clerical test on basic tasks like filing, alphabetizing, and spelling. In total, you’ll get 165 items and a time limit of two hours and 40 minutes.

In contrast, for Professional CSE takers, you have an Analytical exam. This will cover questions on data interpretation, logic, and word association. Here, you get 170 items in total with a time limit of three hours and ten minutes.

Note that the same time limit applies whether you’re taking the PPT or the COMEX.

Reminders and things to bring to the Civil Service Exam

Before D-Day, make sure to know the exact venue of your civil service exam, which is usually a school in your area. You can check and print the Online Notice of School Assignment (ONSA) on the CSC website about two weeks before the exam date.

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And here are some reminders for the examination day:

  1. Wear appropriate attire. That means no sleeveless tops, shorts, or slippers.
  2. Be there early—venues open by 6:00 a.m. and close by 7:30 a.m.
  3. Bring a valid ID (preferably the one you submitted during application). If your ID doesn’t indicate your birth date, bring a PSA copy of your birth certificate, too.
  4. Bring your Application Receipt with corresponding Official Receipt (if available) and your ONSA.
  5. Bring a black ballpoint pen—no gel pens, sign pens, fountain pens, friction pens, and other colored pens.
  6. If you’re bringing a beverage, make sure it’s in a transparent container. You can bring candies or biscuits, too, if you need some fuel while taking the test. (These will be inspected on site.)
  7. Pay attention to the instructions of the proctor. There will be measures to prevent cheating, such as placing belongings in front of the room. There will also be various documents to be accomplished aside from the answer sheet, like the Examinee Attendance Sheet and the Picture-Seat Plan.
  8. Gadgets like smartphones, calculators, and other aids are strictly prohibited.
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For those taking the manual PPT, watch for the instructions on shading your answers and if erasures will be allowed.

Of course, cheating is absolutely not allowed. In fact, it’s punishable by law. It could land you jail time (six to 12 years!) and require you to pay a fine of at least P50,000. Plus, you’ll be perpetually disqualified from taking the test and entering the government service.

PSA: The CSC has a Social Responsibility Program, where you can donate the pen you used for the exam. DepEd schools all over the country will benefit from this. It’s completely voluntary, and you just have to leave your pen in the designated containers before leaving the exam room.

How difficult is the Civil Service Exam?

The passing score for the CSE is 80.00 or above. If you look at the passing rates of the exam over the years, you’ll see that it’s not that easy to get it in one take. On average, only around 10 to 12 percent of takers pass. Last May, the passing rate was 10.57 percent. To be exact, only 27,944 out of 264,473 examinees got qualified ratings for the Professional and Sub-Professional levels.

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Negine Noble, 24, took the exam last 2015 and says it was quite difficult even then. We asked her which part of the test was the most challenging. She answered, “The time pressure! There were difficult math questions like those about velocity.Yung questions na ganitong oras siya pumunta sa ganitong place na ilang km (kilometer) away, so ano yung kph. Tapos may English comprehension readings na mahahaba. Kulang yung time to think, compute, and analyze, so for some questions, I had no choice but to just go with my best guess!” 

Who are exempted from taking the Civil Service Exam?

There are certain cases when you don’t have to go through the exam to be eligible for government job posts. These are according to special laws that identify individuals whose backgrounds make them suitable for public service even without a CSE.

For instance, if you’re a bar or board exam passer, you’re automatically exempted for taking the test and civil service assessments. If you’re a bachelor’s degree holder with honors (like cum laude) or if you have a master’s degree in a scientific or technological field of study, you can be exempted, too. You just have to meet certain criteria, submit some requirements for assessment, and pay some fees.

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What’s next after passing the Civil Service Exam?

First, you have to claim your Certification of Eligibility—aka proof that you passed the exam. And unlike other IDs or documents, only the exam passer can claim this certificate. In other words, authorizing someone else to claim your certification is not allowed.

Next, you can start looking and applying for your dream government posts. Take note that the CSE is just an entry-level qualification. That means the office you’re applying for could require other assessments, documents, and even months or years of experience in a certain field.

It’s even a whole different story if you want to pursue prestigious jobs like that of a Foreign Service Officer. But once you pass the CSE, it does open doors for you and possibly lead you to a fulfilling career in public service.

For more information, visit the CSC website or follow them on Facebook.

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