Nadeem Baloch (PAS)
6th in Pakistan
1st in Sindh Rural
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Nadeem Baloch (NB): I did my intermediate from Saint Bonaventure’s High School, Hyderabad. For graduation, I joined Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, from where I earned a BSBA degree.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most?
NB: All services are significant but what PAS offers is standalone in terms of exposure and versatility. This service is a journey from the grassroots level where one interacts with public directly and moves up to the policymaking circles.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
NB: In order to make a difference in the written part of CSS examination, diverse arguments, pragmatic solutions and proper referencing will help. Furthermore, following points must be followed in letter and spirit to secure a distinction.
- Choose subjects that you have prior understanding of.
- Cover the syllabus holistically from the recommended books
- Give 3-4 hours to English daily as this is the foundation of success in CSS
- Make long and short notes accordingly
- Read extensively from diverse sources like magazines, books and op-eds
- Practice is not an option but a necessity; attempt answers for every subject and get them evaluated.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these papers?
NB: My strategy was such that I practiced essay and précis as much as possible, and got my work evaluated as well. For GSA, my approach was writing crisp and clear answers while explaining with the help of labelled diagrams. For Pakistan Affairs, I focused on pre-partition and post-partition equally and merged it with Current Affairs as syllabi of these two subjects overlap to a great extent. Finally, for Islamic Studies – it was difficult as I failed this paper in first attempt – I covered all topics and made sure that Ahadith, Ayat and references are accurate while keeping length of answers suitable and appropriate.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
NB: First of all, answers should reflect the question, i.e. examiner should know that you have understood the question. So, spend a few minutes on interpreting the question and its requirements.
Secondly, comprehend what examiner is trying to ask, e.g. comment, explanation, analysis or opinion, and respond accordingly.
Thirdly, the introduction part of the answer must have two main features: it must be appealing and should comprise the thesis statement.
Fourthly, your answer should be brimming with strong arguments and counter-arguments, references, cause-and-effect relation, facts and figures, quotations, flowcharts and diagrams.
Lastly, length of the answers must be appropriate; writing must be proper and time should be managed aptly.
Every interview starts with the participant’s introduction and that’s where I made a difference. I am adventurous by nature and so was Mr Chairman. So, I incorporated one of my adventures in my introduction which really took Mr Chairman by storm. When he asked me about the problems of the contemporary world, I gave one problem, that is, state-sponsored terrorism and therefrom, questions regarding Indian history started which I was able to respond well. Next panellist threw a flurry of questions on Hong Kong which I was able to respond to without panicking. Third panellist asked me questions from International Law which was my optional subject, and I was able to deliver on that satisfactorily. Last member of the panel asked questions regarding corporate finance which I wasn’t able to answer properly. Overall, my interview was very good as I convinced the panellists that I deserved a job. I stood first in Sindh as far as interview marks are concerned which, indeed, is an honour. For those who are appearing for interviews, I would like to suggest that be calm and composed, confident, well-read and well-spoken to score good.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
NB: I believe one must condition oneself to the 40-minute time for each question. An ideal answer must be between 5 and 7 pages – it makes a word count of 1000-1200 words. Quality of the answer must not be sacrificed on the altar of quantity. So, practice as much as possible.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition paper?
NB: Essay: In Essay, I made an outline that was simple yet appealing. It comprised a thesis statement wherein I presented description of the answer and counter-perspective before going on to causes, impacts and recommendations. Introduction started with something appealing like an anecdote or poetry. All the body paragraphs were synchronized owing to proper planning and minimal use of connectors. I included pertinent facts and figures only and relied on solid argument base. Conclusion was the mirror of my essay with inclination towards suggestions or positive sides. Finally, I proofread my essay for 10 minutes.
Précis and Composition: I practiced the past papers and wrote one-third summary of daily Dawn editorials couple of times a week. I studied for reading comprehension as well from different websites and books so this aspect must not be overlooked. As for vocabulary, the GRE wordlist or SAT wordlist would suffice. I made a separate English wordlist as well. I paid equal attention to punctuation, idioms, correction, analogy, prepositions and translation.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations for CSS exam?
NB: My approach was simple and straightforward: study English constantly for a few hours daily, and give remaining time to one subject of your choice. This way, an aspirant will continue to work on English while focusing, simultaneously, on the other subjects. This was my approach; I started with Gender Studies, and completed all optional subjects before going on to compulsory subjects while English was a constant.
My Tips on:
Selection of optional subjects
One must have the background knowledge or prior experience with subjects that one is opting for. Strange choices lead to strange outcomes; so, do think well before opting for a subject while keeping in mind its complexity, your background knowledge, contents, past papers, interests and time constraints. Subjects that one has studied in degree program must be given preference.
If CSS is a body, then notes are a brain as they help candidates recall what they have learned during the preparation phase. My approach with regard to notes making was as follows:
- First of all, I collected and read the reference material
- Then made long notes of the material I had studied
- Lastly, I made short notes a month or two before the final exam.
At least a month should be allocated for revision, and all subjects must be revised in that period. I used to write down outlines of the past papers and short notes of important topics in the revision period. After taking mock exams, I used to brush up on my knowledge and short notes.