In Conversation with Abdul Sami Shaikh (PAS)
21st in Pakistan CSS 2021-22
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background.
Abdul Sami Shaikh (AS): I did my bachelor’s in accounting and finance from IBA, Karachi in 2020. Since then, I have been employed in the Banking and FMCG sectors over the last two years.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most?
AS: PAS offers the most dynamic work environment with horizontal mobility that allows officers to serve in various capacities across the government departments.
JWT: How was your experience at the World Times Institute?
AS: WTI was extremely helpful in my interview preparation; not just with the guidance offered by the faculty there but also as a venue to connect with other extremely talented individuals.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in the written part of CSS exam?
AS: In one word, practice! The key to success in CSS exam has (for better or for worse) always been having good English writing expression and that only comes from practice. Make sure you write and get your work evaluated by your peers.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
AS: The trick is to ensure you pass the individual components and focus on scoring marks in your optional subjects. You can never tell how the compulsory ones will treat you. So, they need the biggest part of your focus and time.
JWT: What was the key to your phenomenal success?
AS: Prayers of my family and picking the right moments. If you have these two, things often fall into place.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations for CSS exam?
AS: Ideally, you should give around 6 months of dedicated study time to the exam – this should be the only thing on your plate. Make sure you have no gaps when it comes to the syllabus, and back that up with practice. I am a big proponent of putting in the required time every single day, so 6-10 hours should be a good benchmark.
JWT: What should be an ideal timetable for a new aspirant to make sound preparation for CSS exam, and what areas should (s)he focus on?
AS: Ensure that you know what you are getting into. People start preparing for the exam without having an idea about how to structure their preparation. If you plan and follow that (with the right guidance), it will serve you well.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
AS: Answers should have a defined structure where each paragraph and heading connects to what came before and what is to come after. Then, you pair each argument with a fact or figure (if possible) so that you can substantiate your arguments. These two elements plus add-ons like maps and flowcharts give your answer a good look.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
AS: Yes. In the sense that there should be consistency in how long each answer is. The answers where you are well prepared should get the same number of pages and time as the ones wherein you lack the right content. Apart from that, focus on quality rather than a defined word limit.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper?
AS: I structured my essay to be self-explanatory where the outline would tell the examiner how I plan structuring my argument and how I intend to back up those arguments. So much so that should the examiner choose not to read the entire answer, he or she would still get an idea of what point I am trying to make.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations?
AS: It helps if you have the right guidance. Go online and read the interviews of past qualifiers or watch their videos. Reach out to people on social media. Make sure you have a plan and the right purpose before you start and you will be better served.