In Conversation with
Muhammad Daud Saleemi (PAS)
2nd in Pakistan, CSS 2019-20
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Muhammad Daud Saleemi (MDS): I have done my matriculation from a local school in Hafizabad and FSc (Pre-Engineering) from Government College University (GCU), Lahore, followed by a degree in BS Computer Engineering from University of Engineering & Technology, Lahore.
MDS: Versatility and cross functionality of PAS attracted me the most. This Service provides me with ample opportunities to contribute towards the betterment of society in a way that resonates with my strengths and interests, allowing a broader and holistic exposure
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
MDS: In my opinion, the key to success in this regard is in:
- Providing critical analyses in all answers; articulating your own opinions therein
- Giving diverse examples in a question, i.e. from different domains and eras)
- Keeping pace with the developments happening in each subject’s domain
- Having a grip on the glossary/jargon of each subject
- Using visual tools, e.g. flowcharts, graphs, tables, to facilitate the examiner
MDS: Written Mock Exams at WTI in the preceding months of the CSS Exam helped me refine my knowledge and perfect my paper-attempting techniques. A simulation of the real exam environment, relevant questions and competitive marking followed by honest feedback were some of the features of the mock exams that helped me score good marks in written part of CSS exam.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
MDS: It consisted of:
- Avoiding clichéd arguments and using my own original thinking. As Robert Kennedy has said, “Instead of seeing things as they are, and saying ‘why?’ dream things that never were and say, ‘why not?’”
- Analyzing diverse perspectives of an issue in Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs
- Quoting authentic sources, statistics and examples to complement my arguments, e.g. Constitution of Pakistan, etc.
JWT: What was the key to your phenomenal success?
MDS: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” In light of this quote, I believe self-discipline and consistency were the two main factors behind my success.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
MDS: Time limit is the correct limit to be observed while attempting any paper. Divide your time equally amongst all questions, and then write with clarity and eloquence as much as you can in each answer within the allocated time.
MDS: For Essay:
- I started the introduction with a rhetorical anecdote and a clear thesis statement.
- Provided a clear counter-perspective to my stance, after the introduction, to clarify the point of view of opposite school of thought
- Wrote 5-6 arguments in support of my claim (without any examples)
- Raised rhetorical questions at the end of various paragraphs
- Finally, I provided diverse case studies from different countries and historical eras separately after the arguments to complement my thesis.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations for CSS exam, and what areas should (s)he focus?
MDS: Prospective aspirants should start their preparations for CSS exam by first knowing themselves, i.e. a comprehensive self-introspection to determine one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and then making a plan accordingly which leverages on the strengths and gradually overcomes the weaknesses.
Selection of optional subjects
I always suggest a 4-pronged criterion for the selection of optional subjects:
- Academic background
- Scope of the syllabus (width and depth keeping in mind the available time)
- Overlapping with other subjects
For this, follow this approach:
- Identify important distinct topics from the syllabus
- Identify the various dimensions of each topic from the past papers (Please keep in mind that there can be multiple distinct dimensions of a single topic)
- Make comprehensive notes which cover all the dimensions of that topic in detail
- Write in bullets, instead of paragraphs, in notes. Notes should be concise and to-the-point, occupying minimal space on paper.
- Use multiple colours to classify content into different categories depending upon each category’s importance
- Utilize helping tools i.e. graphs, charts, tables, etc. in your notes
If you have made your own notes, you have already memorized them in your subconscious. As the exam approaches near, shorten those notes further into one-pagers to optimize your revision time.
My Interview Experience
- There was detailed discussion on my optional subjects in which I had scored good marks (Political Science, Sociology)—Questions on Proportional Representation, Philosophers, Separation of Powers, Karl Marx, etc.
- A very candid discussion on US History
- Discussion on Hindutva and Bangladesh
- A couple of tough questions related to my Command Task
All in all, it was a memorable experience for me. I felt that owing to a couple of unique points, I was able to distinguish myself and connect with the panellists and it helped me score good marks.
Sources I recommend
- Introduction to Islam by Dr. Hamidullah
- Political and Constitutional History of Pakistan by Hamid Khan
- Reports and Research Papers of reputed organizations like PILDAT, World Bank, UNDP, etc.
- Follow the writings of domestic and international experts of different fields (Babar Sattar for legal/constitutional affairs, IA Rehman for human rights, Tariq Khosa for security issues, etc.)
- Follow reputed domestic newspapers/journals
- Follow reputed international newspapers/journals
- Watch debates in reputed talk shows and make notes
- Make good use of technology and install useful applications in your mobile (Pocket, Anydo, applications of newspapers/journals, etc.)