JWT was a preferential reading for me at the start of the month because of its brevity, crispness and CSS-oriented analyses of issues.
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Zohaib Ahmed Anjum (ZAA): I graduated from University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, in 2016, with a degree in Architectural Engineering. I have had an excellent academic record. In fact, I was awarded with a Gold Medal and a Silver Medal for outstanding academic trajectory.
JWT: How much helpful did you find Jahangir’s World Times (JWT) during your preparation for CSS exam?
ZAA: Since it is a recommended reading by FPSC, I took help from World Times magazine for subjects like Current Affairs, Pakistan Affairs and International Relations. It was a preferential reading for me at the start of the month because of its brevity, crispness and CSS-oriented analyses of issues. Interviews of CSPs published in JWT inspired me to master my conviction and choreograph my success.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
ZAA: Paper solving strategy is very crucial for high score in written part. If your answers are laden with quotes from multiple authors, and have references of books, journals and magazines, there is no reason why you cannot score high. One must be able to divulge into details and throw light on many perspectives of the issue at hand. What attracts examiner, inter alia, is the uniqueness of argument, clarity of concept, articulate presentation, visual and graphic explanation, cartographic illustration, infographic presentation, flowcharts, proper paragraph alignment, and so on. Remember, you are taking a competitive examination where thousands are running for a few slots. Hence, your answers should be comprehensive and detailed. Using headings is very important for attaining proper length of the answer. It also makes paper visually attractive and makes paragraph alignment easier. Every answer should have following parts: introduction, content (8-10 main arguments), analysis and conclusion. You may also give brief outlines to the answers.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
ZAA: Compulsory subjects are indeed most demanding. Strategy for these papers differs from person to person. I tackled different subjects in my own way.
Essay: Write, Write and write. 6 steps of essay writing: Write, proofread, refine, get checked, improvise, get reviewed, and rectify. Never settle down for your essay.
Précis & Composition: Prepare every question with equitable distribution of time. Don’t go crazy for memorizing vocabulary. You will never master it and CSS examiner will surprise you. Put the effort where it is due; précis, comprehension. “Discovering the World of English Language” by World Times Publications is a good choice to prepare for this crucial paper.
G. Science & Ability: For science portion, take any book and cover the syllabus. Then solve past papers. And, for Ability segment, download Intelligence Test Apps and practice as much as you can.
Current Affairs: Diverse and extensive reading. Consult variety of sources, e.g. Google, YouTube, and access online journals, news websites and commentaries. Watch documentaries. Jahangir’s World Times, Dawn, Economist, Project Syndicate, The Diplomat, Foreign Affairs, etc. are great sources.
Pakistan Affairs: Read latest books written by reputed authors. Prepare special database of references, quotations and authors if you want to score high.
Islamiyat: Read only original texts. Familiarize yourself with Islamic history and culture as well. Establish a separate database of Quranic verses and Ahadith to use as references.
ZAA: Not necessarily. But length and quality of your answers have their own impression. Word limit can be substituted with other forms of illustration like maps, pie-charts, flow-charts, tables, headings, etc. Preferably every answer should span 7-8 pages.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay? And, what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper?
ZAA: For essay I selected the area I had best command over. I spent first 45 minutes in writing the outline. I used both headings and sentences for my outline. After that, I wrote on the body for nearly 2 hours, 15 arguments in total, each consisting 100 to 150 words. Overall word count was nearly 2250. I spent last 15 minutes in reviewing the draft.
I practiced précis extensively from past papers. I used to make one précis and solve one comprehension passage every day. Moreover, I prepared almost all questions of grammar. This enables you to get easy 25 marks making this paper quite predictable.
My Tips on: Selection of optional subjects
Overlapping and integrative subjects are often the most rewarding. Kill multiple birds with one stone. Don’t get swayed by the trend. If you have a background in a subject or if you are convinced for it, go for that.
Consult two books. Prepare the topics. Maintain short notes. Detailed notes if you cannot retain the details. Notes should be schematic and diagrammatic.
For best results, your preparation must be complete by November end. At least one revision of the whole course is compulsory; two or more preferable. The first revision should be completed by mid January. The best mode of revision is to appear in mock exams. Two mock exams; one in November and the second in January, would yield best results.
My Advice for Fresh Aspirants
Never let fear of the unknown derail you from your course of preparation. While you would be intellectually equipping yourself for the pursuit of competitive examination, a stage will come where you would realize that it is just one among many examinations. That day onwards, CSS would not be much of a problem for you. In the meantime, stay focused, keep on trying and improvising your learning and aptitude.
My Interview Experience
It was a very dynamic experience. I was interviewed for roughly 45 minutes. Chairman FPSC posed a few questions regarding the international, administrative and constitutional status of AJK and Indian-occupied Kashmir, how its state machinery works and how its governance model is different from that of Pakistan. Another panellist enquired about state-owned enterprises as to how these white elephants were strangling the national exchequer. The panel also wanted to know my opinion on urbanization, urban sprawl and squatter settlements and the solutions to this menace. Another question was regarding the child malnutrition and the ways to improve agricultural productivity. A panellist also asked my opinion about the prospects of normalization of Pakistan-India relations. Another panellist Mr Ahmed Farooq, asked about strategic defence initiative, Reagan’s defence doctrine, reasons behind the fall of communism, Communist Manifesto, commonalities among US Republican presidents and whether Trump is an oddity or new normal. I had a very candid and somewhat combative argumentation on these issues. Then, the last panellist, Habeeb Ullah Khattak asked me about my aspiration to be in civil service and what was my favourite book. In the end, honourable Chairman threw a few other questions. The interview ended on a very high and positive note.