jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Abdullah Khan (AK): I got my initial education at Pakistan International Public School & College (PIPS), Abbottabad. Later, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Air University, Islamabad.
AK: PAS is one of the most powerful groups as it gives immense power and prestige to its members. However, I strongly believe in the maxim that power is conferred upon an individual to carry out the burden of responsibilities which are allied with a task or job. PAS is a group that gives an individual an opportunity to work both in the field solving the problems of the common man and also in the capacity of policymaker which influences the lives of the general public for good.
AK: Acing the written part of CSS exam is a skill, and every person has a different approach towards it. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to it and everyone has to devise a strategy which suits his/her temperament, prior knowledge and commitment.
Some of the things that helped me were:
- Keeping calm and treating CSS exam as an exam like the ones that one keeps on taking during one’s academic career.
- Reading relevant, credible and good material so as to understand, and reproduce thereupon, the best knowledge.
- Doing a lot of written practice as it gives one the confidence required in the CSS exam.
- Taking mock exams is of paramount importance to nullify the anxiety that overpowers an individual in the CSS exam and leads towards failure.
- Making notes at the appropriate time and updating them.
- Learning how an argument is built from scratch.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
AK: I followed a 5-point strategy which was:
- Writing and practicing English essays on a regular basis.
- Getting essays evaluated and working on mistakes identified.
- Preparing for all the components of Précis and Composition paper rather than just précis.
- Studying Islamiat from different, original sources.
- Preparing current affairs from multiple papers and international journals.
JWT: What was the key to your phenomenal success?
AK: In brief, it was:
- a) Prayers of my parents, teachers and friends.
- b) Not considering CSS exam the end of the world.
- c) Identifying the subject which was my strength and preparing for it the most.
- d) Lots and lots of written practice.
- e) Relying on original sources and expanding the scope of my knowledge.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
AK: Answers should be properly structured with an introduction, body and conclusion. Introduction should be catchy and must attract the eye of the examiner; it should not give away the main arguments but rather only a hint of them. Headings must be included so as to facilitate the examiner. Arguments must be logical, relevant, coherent and non-clichéd; they must not give the impression that you consulted substandard material during preparation. Arguments should also be strengthened by giving and nullifying their counter arguments. Sound reasoning skills must be applied to the body so the arguments are strong. Conclusion must be treated as conclusion, not just as the summary of the answer. It must not give the impression that something else could have been added.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
AK: There is no strict word limit but equal time must be given to all subjects. Written practice would make you aware how much you can write on one question in the allotted time.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper?
AK: I wrote a thesis statement at the start which had three components, i.e. stance, direction and broader implication. I derived outline from the thesis statement, not from the topic of the essay. Outline was in the form of arguments, not pointers. Every point of the outline was an individual argument and one flowed from another. I wrote a catchy introduction which introduced the thesis statement in an effective way.
Précis and Composition paper is important regarding all its aspects. Synonyms and antonyms must be considered as important as précis itself. All components must be given equal weight if you want to secure good marks.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations and what areas should (s)he focus?
AK: In my opinion, a new aspirant should:
- Start with getting some general and background knowledge;
- Assess his/her strengths and weaknesses in terms of subjects.
- Identify his/her strongest and weakest subject without any preparation.
- Formulate a mental plan to divide time till the commencement of CSS exam.
- Start slow, and gradually gain pace.
- Find some mentors; they can be really helpful in the start.
- If it’s your first attempt prepare like it’s your last and there are none left.
My tips on:
Selection of optional subjects
Choose only those subjects you feel you have interest in. In this way, you will never be bored while preparing for them for long periods of time.
Your notes must:
- Be very precise;
- Include quotations and other relevant information at the top of the paper (In this way you will remember them); and
- be updated regularly;