For those aspirants who look for a one-stop resource for current affairs, JWT is a must-read
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Muhammad Adeel (MA): My educational background is predominantly science-based. After my FSc (Pre-Medical), having cleared my MCAT, I chose to pursue BSc (Hons) in Biotechnology as I wanted to pursue a research-oriented degree. I topped the university and was awarded a scholarship to continue my MPhil studies. Moreover, prior to CSS-2015 result, I had gotten a PhD scholarship in Australia.
JWT: Since everyone starts dreaming of a future career in childhood, what were your dreams? Did you always aspire to be a CSP officer?
MA: The aspiration to be a CSP officer was gradual and evidence-driven. Since childhood, I have dreamed of pursuing science studies and becoming a scientist. However, education in liberal arts and interaction with many learned people made me to go for CSS with an aim of being inducted into Foreign Service of Pakistan.
JWT: What feature of FSP attracted you most?
MA: It was the opportunity to participate in, and represent Pakistan at global organizations, and more importantly defending the narrative of Pakistan as a resilient nation.
JWT: How much helpful did you find Jahangir’s World Times (JWT) in your preparation?
MA: JWT has been a very good and effective source of information on current affairs. For those aspirants who look for a one-stop resource for current affairs, the magazine especially is a must-read. Other JWT publications are also helpful for concept-building and getting clear direction on preparation.
MA: Attempting the written part requires clarity of thoughts in expression and correct identification of issue(s). Other qualities like time management and effective paper presentation are bonus skills and they do pay off.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
MA: Since this was my first attempt, there was a feeling of entering into the realm of the unknown. Getting through the compulsory papers was the first target for which I adopted a strategy of sticking to the basics and reinventing the wheel. I tried to merge generally accepted answers with new analyses from current thinkers. This provided the examiner with fresh ideas that elaborated on the conventional framework as well.
JWT: What were the toughest and the easiest parts in the whole process of CSS exam?
MA: “A chain is as strong as its weakest link,” this adage is equally applicable to the question. However, on a relative scale, the buildup to the exam was the toughest part as there were too many ideas on how and what to prepare. The easiest bit was the interview.
JWT: Anything important about your CSS journey you want to share with us?
MA: It is imperative to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to CSS; only a dynamic approach to the preparation for exam helps. I found that focusing on developing multiple concepts and consulting virtual resources broadened the scope of my preparation. Writing regularly and coherently helps to prepare well for the written instead of going for a mock exam prep in the end.
JWT: How answers should be written to score high?
MA: As per conventional wisdom, the answer should have a certain element of logical coherence. The element of ‘background’, ‘history’ or definition of terms should be reduced in favour of directly addressing the keyword(s) in the question. The usage of specialised knowledge or excessive jargon should be avoided; instead more focus should be on developing arguments and proving them in line with what has been asked. Each answer should also correlate with the present situation and also have recommendations based on your analysis.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
MA: More important than word limit is the idea that all of your questions should have equal length answers. Generally, 5 -6 leaves per answer would be sufficient since this would lead to equal distribution of content for each question. There might be occasions where you may know some questions in detail, but their lengthy answers should not jeopardize the remaining ones.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay?
MA: Since I attempted the essay on ‘Terrorism,’ the approach was to first identify the operational terms. The essay demanded a correlation between ‘War on Terror’ (WOT) and ‘Growing Human Rights Abuse,’ so it was imperative to expand on this relation instead of defining what the war on terror actually was. The structure of the essay involved an initial preamble on the war and its justification, and then expanding on the levels of human rights abuses incurred. I further segregated this category into the various types of abuses as well as their impacts. Another tangent that I added was on the understanding of human rights. Lastly, I correlated all my arguments to prove that WOT has indeed contributed to human rights abuse. Within the structure, I supported my argument with various case studies including the various reports from UN sub-organizations related to human rights abuse.
My advice for fresh aspirants
Avoid opting for stereotypical methods of preparation; instead go through the detailed outline rigorously and start identifying sources from where you would gather your material.