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I was a regular reader of JWT magazine that is tailor-made for CSS aspirants. I used to get help from books by JWT Publications.
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Abdul Qadeer (AQ): I have an engineering background. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST).
JWT: Since everyone starts dreaming of a future career right from the childhood, what were your dreams? Did you always aspire to be a CSP officer?
AQ: CSS was never my dream from childhood. I wanted to be an engineer and had some inclination toward armed forces as well. Nonetheless, it was in 2014 that I seriously started thinking about having a shot at CSS examination.
JWT: What feature of Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) attracted you most?
AQ: If I have to define it in one word, it’s the diversity associated with PAS. Second most important element was my frame of mind. I kept thinking about the reasons of sufferings of our people and possible solutions thereof. PAS provides me with that opportunity to work at various levels where I could, at least, bring something valuable in the lives of the people.
JWT: How much helpful did you find Jahangir’s World Times (JWT) during your preparation?
AQ: I was a regular reader of JWT magazine that is tailor-made for CSS aspirants. I used to get help from books by JWT Publications; for example, their book on General Science and Ability proved very helpful to me.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
AQ: Understanding of what is being asked or, in other words, what examiner is expecting from you to write. It doesn’t mean he is expecting any kind of rigid response but still one has to keep one’s answer in line with the demand of the question. In my opinion, the reason of failure in English Essay is not particularly about English language; it is more about failing to understand all possible dimensions of the topic. So, read the questions carefully, make outline on rough pages and then start writing. Don’t write what you know about the topic, write what is being asked from you.
Stay creative in attempting the paper, draw maps, flowcharts or graphs to make your paper different – and the one that can fetch you excellent marks.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
AQ: They indeed are! But, I tried to get as much marks in the compulsory papers as possible. Marks in the written part are very important in your final allocation. Therefore, one can’t totally rely on optional subjects; compulsory ones can give you an extra edge if you pay due attention to them.
JWT: What were the toughest and the easiest parts in the whole process of CSS exam?
AQ: For me, there was no easy or tough part. However, I believe staying motivated and determined without losing spirit is the toughest part. One might have failures during this journey but one has to stay positive, determined and dedicated.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
AQ: I would suggest:
- Understand the question
- Stay as much relevant to the question as possible
- Try to make creative headings
- Provide references from the quality books to support your arguments
- Flowcharts, maps and graphs give you an extra edge.
JWT: Should there be a word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
AQ: Not exactly! But, yes, you have to focus on quality as well as quantity. However, time management needs to be done precisely during the exam.
AQ: I gave considerable time to selecting the topic. As everyone has his own strength depending on his/her understanding of the topic, I was good in attempting essays having a philosophical touch.
I spent almost an hour on structuring the outline and introduction to the essay. I believe giving due time to outline and introduction will help you a lot in understanding the topic and making a quality outline. Rest of the time was sufficient for me to write and conclude the essay. I think aspirants should conclude the essay five minutes before the allotted time. Your conclusion really matters, so don’t write anything in haste.
My Tips on: Selection of Optional Subjects
Prefer subjects related to social sciences as they are easy to absorb. Do give some consideration to your academic background while opting for the subjects. Also, go through the examiners’ reports of previous years; they are available on FPSC’s website. They will guide you about what the examiners require and also let you know the high-scoring subjects.
I had a copy of syllabus and past papers before me while preparing notes. I used to read from standard books and make a summary, thereupon, of the whole chapter. I used to jot down important references or quotations used in the book. Meanwhile, whatever additional material I got from the internet or from other sources further supplemented my notes. I will suggest one should make one’s own notes rather than borrowing from someone else’s.
I went through the notes which I had prepared for all the subjects. I appeared in mock exams as they are the best check of your preparation level. I started my revision a couple of weeks before the exams.
My advice for fresh aspirants
CSS is a different kind of experience. There are a few things which need to be given due consideration. First, you have to be crystal clear in your mind about the reason of taking the CCSS exam. Read the best possible material and don’t find shortcuts. You have to give your best shot. Stay determined, motivated and positive.
My Interview Experience
It was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I was confident and entered the interview room with a positive outlook. I had a gentle smile on my face during the whole interview. I tried to stay logical and relevant to the questions thrown at me. There were moments when I was slightly grilled but I didn’t lose my composure or patience. Not knowing the answer isn’t a big deal but the way you respond does matter.