I used to read op-eds and articles from three dailies besides regularly consulting the JWT magazine.
Jahangir World Times(JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Seerat Asghar Qureshi (SAQ): I got my early education from Strathmore School Larkana and I remained a topper throughout my school days. Then, I did my graduation in Business Administration from Institute of Business Management, Karachi.
JWT: As everyone starts dreaming of a future career right from the childhood, what were your ambitions? Did you always aspire to be a CSP officer?
SAQ: I was very much clear right from my childhood that I have to be a CSP. I believe as a CSP you find ample opportunities to do something for the people of Pakistan.
JWT: Why was MLCG amongst your top priorities?
SAQ: MLCG was my fourth preference because it’s a field job. It is not a routine 9-to-5 office job. Moreover, I lack flexibility to compromise on my principles. In that way, MLCG is a great option as there is no political pressure. Last but not least, the lifestyle of MLCG is highly attractive.
JWT: How was your experience at the World Times Institute?
SAQ: My decision to join WTI for interview preparation proved great. The thing that distinguishes WTI from other academies and institutions is that at WTI, you get individual attention. The faculty and the administration work hand in hand to give maximum exposure to the students while providing them with requisite counselling, at the same time .
JWT: What in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
SAQ: I think it’s hard work! The more you study, the more you have chances to get through the exam. Because in CSS exam, examiner can pose questions from whatever aspect he desires. And, if you are clear on your concepts, you can easily attempt the questions and get good marks.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
SAQ: For compulsory papers, I think making critical analysis is important. What examiners like to see is that you rationally analyze answers. So cramming same set of books is never a good option.
JWT: What were the toughest and easiest parts in the whole process of CSS exam?
SAQ: The toughest part was the first 60 minutes of the Essay paper where you have to select a topic and make a comprehensible, coherent, structured and relevant outline. Easiest part was, of course, the interview.
JWT: Generally, English Essay and Current Affairs papers are considered most difficult to get through. How did you prepare for them?
SAQ: For Essay, I used to write one essay every Sunday on a topic from past papers and then get it checked from an experienced teacher. It is very important to get feedback in this regard from a specialist. All the prospective aspirants must avoid memorizing sssays as it is a blunder and will never do any good to you. For Current Affairs, I used to read op-eds and articles from three dailies besides regularly consulting the JWT magazine. In the end, on the basis of the knowledge gained from these sources, I would make notes on the most important topics of the year.
JWT: How did you prepare your notes?
SAQ: I used to study 3-4 books per subject and highlight the important facts and figures therein. Then, I would make one-page notes on every topic. It’s always beneficial as one can easily revise such notes before taking the actual exam.
JWT: How should one choose optional subjects?
SAQ: For optional subjects, it is important to choose subjects that fall within the comfort zone of an aspirant. Relying solely on the scoring trend may not be a wise option since it may change anytime. Science subjects, such as Geography, always award more marks than the theoretical subjects like History.
JWT: Anything important about your CSS journey you want to share with the aspirants?
SAQ: Hard work, your own prayers and those of your parents are the only key to success.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
SAQ: I used to go through all the questions in the beginning and then make outlines to all the answers on the last page. It consumes about 20 minutes extra, but it makes work easy for the remaining two and a half hours. Making an outline ensures that your answers will be to the point and structured. I think presentation and most importantly, analysis is the key to get excellent marks. Everyone has the same set of facts and basics, but it is the quality of your analysis that sets you apart from all others.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
SAQ: No, it varies from subject to subject. My answers in International Relations were very brief, i.e. 3-4 pages, but yet it awarded me good marks.
My interview went very well. The panellists mostly asked questions on current issues such as CPEC, economy, energy, education and extremism. I gave them comprehensive answers presenting both sides of the story, followed by my final analysis. I presented simple, practical solutions to the questions asked. The panel also asked many token questions and very frankly, I miserably failed those. Interview is actually not a test of your basic knowledge; it’s of your personality. The panel was very cooperative as once they asked a question, they would allow me to complete my answer instead of interrupting and counter-questioning in between. I remained confident, composed and smiling.
My advice to fresh aspirants
If you want to do something meaningful and purposeful in life, never give up. Work hard and have faith in Allah.