JWT is a good source of information as well as inspiration. I also consulted General Science & Ability by JWT Publications and found it quite comprehensive.
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Abdul Samad Nizamani (ASN): My education uptil high school was from Hyderabad. Thereafter, I did my undergrad in business administration from Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi, in 2015. I majored in marketing and supply chain and went on to represent the IBA at supply chain competitions in the Netherlands and the United States.
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?
ASN: I decided to take the CSS exam only during my final year at the university. A senior of mine had cleared the exam and this motivated me to opt for civil service as a career. I never thought of this in my childhood.
JWT: What feature of Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) attracted you most?
ASN: While each occupational group is special in itself, Pakistan Administrative Service is unique in the sense that it offers the best of both worlds. The initial years of your career in PAS are spent in field positions where you are able to understand and resolve the issues of a common man directly. The later years are at senior secretariat positions where policies are drawn up. Field exposure gives you a broad-based understanding of issues and is the key to identifying priority areas in policymaking and what impact they would have on the masses.
JWT: How much helpful did you find Jahangir’s World Times (JWT) during your preparation?
ASN: JWT is a good source of information as well as inspiration. I also consulted General Science & Ability by JWT Publications and found it quite comprehensive.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
ASN: The key is covering the entire syllabus for each subject as given by FPSC. Too often, aspirants focus on past papers and prepare for only the most asked topics during the past five years. This approach is not correct. Divide your time judiciously for each subject and set goals for yourself to complete a subject in given time but make sure to prepare the entire syllabus.
Secondly, make your answers attractive with legible and well-spaced writing. Use markers, where required, but don’t overdo that!
ASN: Compulsory subjects were low-scoring for me as well. Actually, the idea behind getting through CSS is to pass compulsory subjects with a decent score using the above techniques, but, at the same time, relying on optional subjects to propel you to the top position on the merit list.
JWT: What were the toughest and the easiest parts in the whole process of CSS exam?
ASN: The waiting part throughout the process was the toughest for me. It takes over one and a half years from initial application in October to final allocation around May; and the wait can become unbearable at times. The easiest part, however, was the Psychological Assessment.
JWT: Anything important about your CSS journey you want to share with the aspirants.
ASN: It’s important to detox throughout the process to make sure you don’t burn out. I used to take a break from studies every 3-4 days to do something fun. I also took a 3-week trip around September which really reset my brain and got me cracking when I got back. Make sure not to let the exam stress build too much.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
ASN: In my opinion, there are four techniques for that:
1. Legible writing and attractive formatting
2. Logical answers with clear reasons
3. Relevance to the question
4. Adequate answer length (It’s better to be over rather than under the word limit)
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
ASN: The most important thing is whether you did justice to a given question. Usually 4-5 pages are considered sufficient but the number may vary. Try not to go below 3 pages for any answer.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay?
ASN: I wrote essay on the topic “Does foreign aid help stabilize economy?” And, I wrote in support of the topic. I started out with defining various types of foreign aid and proved with arguments and international examples how it helps stabilize an economy. I then addressed the question of why Pakistan’s economy had failed to stabilize despite receiving substantial foreign aid while others had succeeded and what steps we should take to ensure we were able to benefit from this aid.
The outline was about two and a half pages and the essay itself comprised around 3,000 words.
My Tips on: Selection of optional subjects
- Prefer subjects on which you have prior knowledge
- Observe the scoring trend of an optional subject for the past 3 years
Make your own brief notes in bullets. You will have to revise them quickly before the exam; so, make sure they are not too long. Notes should be topic-wise as per the syllabus and should only contain the salient points of a given topic.
Ideally, you should have completed your studies and started revision around Oct or Nov. Your notes should be comprehensive so that you may not need books for revision. If you feel that improvements can be made in your notes at that point, go ahead and make them.
My advice for fresh aspirants
Do not let CSS exam occupy your mind. The more you let it do that, the more you’ll be scared. Think of this as just any other exam that you have taken before. Prepare for it like you would for any other exam, and you’re good to go.
My interview experience
CSS interview is a test of not only your knowledge but also of your nerves. Interview panel tested me on various topics such as CPEC, local government, Pakistan’s economy, causes of extremism, and so on. In my opinion, the panel looks for someone with a well-rounded personality and the one who would respond well to high pressure situations. They would often challenge my answers to pressurize me into making a mistake. If you are able to handle that well, you’re going to score high in the interview.