Salman Khan Lodhi 12th Position, CSS-2010
Jahangir’s World Times: Please share with us your educational background and achievements.
Salman Khan Lodhi: I am an electrical engineer by profession and a graduate of the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore. I passed my FSc exam from National Science College, securing overall first position in the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Gujranwala. My schooling is from St. Joseph’s English High School, Gujranwala.
JWT: What is the secret behind getting 12th position in the CSS?
SKL: Prayers of parents and teachers, persistence with your objective and technical approach to the preparation are the mandatory ingredients. In my opinion, anybody can do well in any exam if he is completely focused and puts his heart into it. Moreover, I was lucky enough to have found some really dedicated teachers, who guided me really well throughout the process. I owe a lot to them.
JWT: How should a fresh candidate prepare for the CSS as a number of candidates remains confused what to do?
SKL: Well first of all, the candidate should know if this is the thing he really wants to do, and if it is so, then he should make everything else secondary. A lot of professional degree holders go for this exam, and it is a lot to ask to let go of your career for a year or two, but this is what it takes for competitive exam.
So if you are properly focused then half of the part is done. Now comes to the subject selection. One usually gets two to three subjects from one’s educational background. The other three must be selected wisely keeping in view the subjects scoring range and marking trends. Theoretically, it is true that trend does not matter if you prepare well, but I think one must always choose at least two subjects with 70 plus scoring range which might prove to be your cushion, in case you get hammered in any subject. Remember, English essay and composition are key wickets in the CSS.
JWT: What type of initial problems does a CSS candidate face in the beginning?
SKL: Mostly candidates face problems in choosing the optional subjects as I explained previously. I find students quite reluctant in selecting regional language as a subject, but these languages are easy to handle and have a very good scoring range. Candidates must consult a subject specialist English teacher, individually. Both papers of English can be one of the easiest ones, if you practise a lot. Get your work checked by a teacher on daily basis and in three months you can handle precis, comprehension and essay really well.
Then keep on practising precis or composition daily from the past papers. This much practising helps improve your expression and you can pour your thoughts onto the paper in a better way, which ultimately helps in all the subjects.
JWT: Do you think academies are helpful for the students or they are just making money?
SKL: Academies can be somewhat helpful as they guide the students and let them interact with the successful candidates. But after all, it comes down to the person’s individual hard work. The guidance is necessary but the overdose can also be lethal.
JWT: What are the tips and techniques to get higher marks in the CSS?
SKL: Past papers play a vital role in scoring good marks. The procedure is that the candidate should go through the past papers of 10 years at least, before starting any subjects. Although it is mandatory to read the whole syllabus properly due to the objectives, but you can get a very lucid idea about the probable subjective questions.
Current affairs can be a really crucial subject. Candidates should note down important figures and points from the columns of newspapers about the relevant topics. This can be really helpful while writing essays, and in subjects like Pakistan affairs, Islamiat, human geography and sociology.
JWT: What is the strategy to attempt the paper and differentiate oneself from the rest?
SKL: One can differentiate oneself by focusing on paper presentation and neatness. Having been a lecturer myself, I know that the examiner likes the papers which create ease for him. Everything must be clear and under the proper headings. One can fetch at least three to four marks per subject due to neatness and nice headings which are ample to create a difference at the end of the day.
Other than that the candidates should always follow the proper textbooks of good authors. There is no shortcut to the experience and one must go through the ordeal of making notes rather than following the ready-made stuff.
JWT: Judicious opting for the scoring subjects is the key to success. Do you agree? What subject combination should a candidate opt for?
SKL: Well as I have explained earlier, subjects should be a combination of your background, interest and scoring trend. If you have proper background of a subject and interest, then go for it no matter how low scoring it may be. You can score pretty well in that if your paper convinces the examiner that you have studied the subject thoroughly. As for the remaining one or two subjects, go for the high scoring subjects, preferably from the regional languages section.
JWT: Please share with us different techniques that you applied in the compulsory and the optional subjects.
SKL: First of all, the candidates must follow proper books and not notes or guide books. My technique was that I used to go through the textbook understanding the topic, then make notes (Three-four pages per topic), including the headings myself. While giving the second reading I never touched the books again, and made very short notes (just headings mostly) which were very helpful during the short span of the papers. This pattern may vary according to one’s aptitude and the subject, like in geography, physics or mathematics one can apply a different technique.
JWT: How a candidate should prepare for the interview?
SKL: I found interview and the psychological preparation much more interesting and dynamic. Candidates should focus on every bit of the psychological portion which matters a lot. One can prepare well in the form of a group and practise the discussions and command tasks accordingly. Your interview is like an all round analysis of your personality, brought up and education. A good grip on current affairs and observation of day to day life in our country really matters in the interview. Candidates must revise their optional subjects before the interview.
JWT: At what extent, taking tests before the start of the exams are helpful for the final exams?
SKL: Well I didn’t have any time to take any such tests before the exam. But I always felt that I should have taken them. It is always better to make a mistake in test rather in the exam. So the more mistakes you make the more you become refined.
JWT: It is a fact that aptitude varies from one person to another. Keeping in mind how many months and daily hours are required for CSS preparation?
SKL: Well there is never a fixed criteria about it. I prepared for almost eight months before the exam. In my opinion, one should follow a fixed schedule regarding the finishing of a subject. Now if it takes 16 hours a day or four hours a day, you must complete your targeted study in time.
JWT: Any message for the CSS aspirants
SKL: Dear aspirants, I have humbly presented you my story. There are no hard and fast rules regarding your approach. Follow your instincts and make your story a successful one. Stay down to earth and collect a lot of prayers. May God be with you all!