In Conversation with
Syed Abrar Ali Shah (PAS)
1st in Sindh Rural; 16th in Pakistan, CSS 2018-19
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Syed Abrar Ali Shah (SAAS): By profession, I am an engineer. I graduated from NED University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most?
SAAS: Although each group of civil service has its own distinctive importance, what makes PAS stand out is its provision of vast mobility and opportunity of direct public service, accessing to the marginalized segments of the society. Alongside this, it is the only service that offers swift promotion structure and greater social recognition.
JWT: How much helpful did you find WTI during your preparation?
SAAS: I engaged with JWT during one of my mock interviews and I found the panel quite encouraging and keen in pointing out my mistakes.
SAAS: I believe every serious aspirant writes more or less the same answer. And thus, the difference in the marks is created only when a different answer is written. This can be done through backing up one’s arguments with real-life examples and case studies of the countries which are the close competitors of Pakistan—in case a question demands a socio-politico-economic problem, which I believe most of the questions actually do. Besides, the examiner will never take any answer as a serious attempt, let alone awarding excellent marks, if the headings do not mirror the statement of the question. Most importantly, one must not take MCQs portion lightly, as they can make a difference of 50 marks in 10 subjects at the end.
JWT: What was the key to your phenomenal success?
SAAS: My failure in first attempt is what I consider the key to my success. I suggest the aspirants to go for the next attempt, in case if you have failed one; it, of course, requires consistency and determination.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
SAAS: I would say whenever one is asked to give solution in the asnwer, one must give a SPECIFIC SOLUTION instead of a GENERALISED RECOMMENDATION. This will make a difference of 2 marks per question, that, in turn, sums up to a total of 40–50 marks in all papers.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
SAAS: In this exam, I believe, quality of the answers matters more than the quantity. But it is safe to write at least 6 pages for an answer. Keeping in view the available time which is about 35-37 minutes per question, after making the rough outlines at the back of the answer sheet, an aspirant having average writing speed can easily write up to six pages. Most importantly, mismanagement is intolerable for the examiner, so do not unnecessarily shorten the length of the last answer due to paucity of time.
SAAS: First of all, it should be kept in mind that essay paper can be cracked through many techniques; nobody knows which one is going to work. You have to figure out your own strategy. As for my strategy, I always believed that the examiner won’t spare more than five minutes to decide whether my essay justifies getting passed or not! So, I went with an extensive outline, mentioned every case study, real-life examples, substantiated facts and figures within the outline. I did every possible thing to make the examiner curious about the essay. Moreover, I chose a topic related to current affairs as I was always comfortable in writing on such topics—it means you have to find your own comfort zone. Besides, I tried not to breach any paragraphing technique in my essay and ensured a proper introduction and its mirror-imaging conclusion.
For Précis and Composition, one should practice as much as one can. This subject can help one in getting a good score if the précis, comprehension and translation are solved correctly.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his preparations and what areas should he focus?
SAAS: Guidance is really important for CSS exam. So, one should first seek guidance from a good mentor. Since this is more of an exam of English drafting as most of the aspirants flunk the English Essay paper, one should work on improving one’s writing skills – Rewriting dawn editorials, even reproducing them, can do the job. For making one’s thoughts mature and for broadening one’s horizon, there is only one technique: read, read and read.
My tips on:
Selection of optional subjects
For me, one’s interest and aptitude for a subject should be the prioritized criteria for selecting it. Subjects’ overlapping does play a huge part in choosing a subject too. Importantly, scoring trend should not be worried about, because this is something beyond one’s control. So stop wasting your energies in this and prepare your subject more.
Notes-making should be as short as possible because one would not have more than 3 -4 hours for a subject to revise. In CSS, if you have not revised a subject properly, you are losing 10 marks for sure, and probably you are out of the race.
My Interview Experience
To score good in interview, Command Task on the interview day is very important. Haplessly, I couldn’t perform well in it. And for that, I was taken to task by the chairman for about 10 minutes in the start of my interview. Later, he asked me few token questions from two of my optional subjects, which I could hardly answer. After this fatal conversation with Mr Chairman, my interview went smooth with all the other members, but it didn’t offer much of a help to me. Thanks to My Written Score!