In Conversation with Ali Hassan Raza (PCS)
55th in Pakistan,CSS 2018-19
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Ali Hassan Raza (AHR): I acquired basic education till class 7 from my hometown, Jauharabad. Then, I enrolled myself in Cadet College Palandri, AJK from where I completed my matriculation and FSc with flying colours. Then, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from UET, Lahore, with distinction, followed by several certifications. I also earned an LLB degree from Punjab University.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to the Pakistan Customs Service (PCS), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most?
AHR: The reason behind opting for PCS was that I am naturally attracted towards the job, which is more or less of policing in nature. My background and experience of studying in a cadet college made me select this uniform service.
JWT: How was your experience at World Times Institute (WTI)?
AHR: Without an iota of doubt, WTI is one of the best institutes for the preparation of competitive examinations like CSS. This Institute played a pivotal role in my success by providing me with proper guidance and opportunity to interact with the finest civil servants. Sir Asim Raza (PAS), who writes essay writing tips for JWT magazine, was my mentor.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
- Do not beat about the bush.
- Write neatly, no cuttings, use black and blue markers for headings.
- Complement your answers with latest indices, facts and references.
- Every subject has its own jargons. Do communicate with the examiner in that.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
AHR: Yes, compulsory subjects are generally considered low-scoring. However, aspirants can still perform exceptionally well by preparing them well and by going an extra mile for MCQs. There should be no spellings or grammatical mistakes. Illustrate your answer with drawing figures and maps, where required.
JWT: What was the key to your phenomenal success?
AHR: I worked with persistence. Whatever you do, do with full passion. Secondly, I remained optimistic throughout my CSS journey. I scored zero marks in essay paper in my first attempt but I didn’t lose hope. I improved my writing skills and scored 65 marks in my last mock essay.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
AHR: To get maximum marks in written part, following strategy should be adopted:
- There should be clarity of thought and coherence in your answer.
- Each answer must be limited to six pages. Do not go beyond that limit.
- The answer should be well-structured.
- Have an overview of Examiners’ Report from official FPSC website.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
AHR: Not exactly; there is no word limit but do remember that every answer should be given equal time, i.e. 40 minutes. Along with that, do not compromise quality over quantity.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper?
AHR: I wrote essay on “The threat of global warming and the ways to counter it.” I made an outline (3 pages) in the start. Then, I wrote a well-structured introduction and garnished it with impressive words. The body of the essay was in very simple language. I mentioned pragmatic strategies as recommendations, which were followed by a well-chalked-out conclusion.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations and what areas should (s)he focus?
AHR: First, one should be mentally prepared for the exam, and seek family’s support. One should choose optional subjects very wisely. Aspirant should also join a well-reputed CSS academy or get guidance from an experienced CSS mentor.
JWT: How did you handle de-motivations?
AHR: This is a question, which is very close to my heart. This is the feeling, which every aspirant has to confront during CSS preparation, and I, too, faced that. Always have a plan B. I was myself not sure about my success but I kept going. Leave the rest to Allah Almighty. He is the best planner.
My tips on:
Selection of optional subjects
There is nothing like trending or non-trending subjects. You never know which subject is in the hit list of the examiner. Select optional subjects by taking your educational background and interest into consideration. Make a combination of subjects that complement each other.
I used to make notes on MS Word and Microsoft OneNote. This helped me to update them very easily; it reduces page consumption, which later on has a positive psychological impact. I was able to revise each subject for 2-3 times not in a month—BUT IN A DAY.
For me, revision plays a key role in preparation for CSS exam. Aspirants should wind up the notes-making process by the end of October. After that, they should appear in mock exams and start revision.