In Conversation with
Hashim Masood (PAS)
15th in Pakistan CSS 2020-21
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background.
Hashim Masood (HM): I did matriculation from The Punjab School and then I went to GC University, Lahore, for FSc. For my undergrad, I joined LUMS and my major was Management Science. One of the major reasons behind choosing Management Science was to prepare myself for becoming a better administrator after doing CSS.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most?
HM: Being an officer of Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), one can bring real and tangible change in society. Moreover, PAS is very diverse as it gives a lot of opportunities for vertical and horizontal mobility.
JWT: How was your experience at the World Times Institute?
HM: My experience with WTI has been amazing. It provided me with an opportunity to interact with the best CSS aspirants and qualifiers which enabled me to have an environment conducive to learning. Moreover, I found Sir Adeel Niaz and Madam Tehmina Habib very honest, dedicated and innovative people with their approach of teaching CSS which proved very beneficial for me.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
HM: First of all, a thorough analysis of past papers should be done for each subject. On the basis of this, syllabus should be divided in two parts: 70% most important topics, 30% less important ones. The former should be covered from at least two good sources and the latter from at least one source. In this way, one will be able to cover more in less time.
Moreover, there is NO need to read extra books if one is short of time; stick to the SYLLABUS ONLY. Make short notes (headings, quotes, stats, facts, figures, indicative words to long stories/lengthy concepts, etc). Usually, aspirants spend a lot of time in preparing for Current Affairs (CA) and Pakistan Affairs (PA). Don’t do that! These should be treated as two subjects and not the whole CSS. Moreover, no subject(s) should be taken lightly, especially those of Essay, Précis and Islamic Studies. Lastly, practice and good paper presentation (margins, marker headings, neat hand writing, figures & charts) are vital to scoring good marks.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
HM: Analysis of past papers; quality material, short notes; practice; and focus on good presentation.
JWT: What was the key to your phenomenal success?
HM: In addition to Allah’s blessings, efforts of my parents and hard work of my teachers, as well as my perseverance and self-confidence played a key role in this journey.
JWT: What should be an ideal time table for a new aspirant to make sound preparation for CSS exam?
HM: I believe 5 to 6 months are more than enough to prepare for CSS, for fresh university graduates with no background, if they can give 6-8 hours a day for six days a week. For on-job aspirants, giving it 3-4 hours a day for 7 to 8 months may be sufficient. Nonetheless, it’s all about consistency.
JWT: What areas should the new aspirants focus while preparing for the CSS exam?
HM: Aspirants should focus on covering the syllabus from quality resources. Don’t do PhD in any topic. Cover topics generally while giving special attention to the dimensions of the topics asked in past papers. No subject should take more than 10 days.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
HM: It is very important to dissect the question first. Address it directly and don’t start writing on the topic generally. Quality of your answers matters way more than the quantity. However, all answers should be of equal length. Headings and paper presentation also have significant impact on scores.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay, and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper?
HM: I structured my essay in an easily comprehensible way. I used simple language but there were no grammatical errors. My outline was of one page. I wrote around 1600 words for the essay.
Don’t add anything irrelevant just to meet the word limit. Never digress from title of the essay.
As far as English Précis and Composition is concerned, I focused a lot on the objective part of the exam which consists of 50 marks (including 20 MCQs).
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations and what areas should (s)he focus?
HM: Join some academy for a month or so for understanding the basics of CSS preparation. Start from the subjects you like (optional or compulsory). Improve your vocabulary by covering GRE Word Lists.
For Current Affairs, you may also follow official pages of authentic newspapers, organizations and think tanks on social media. Take help from mobile applications of famous news channels (BBC, Al Jazeera, etc.) but do not spend more than 30 minutes on this, daily.
Insofar as the second part of your questions is concerned, the aspirants must gather and read quality material with an aim to develop their analytical abilities.
My Tips on
Selection of optional subjects
Select your optional subjects by keeping in mind your academic background, interest, length of syllabus, and overlapping attribute of the subjects. If you’re confused, go for stable subjects wherein scores are predictable, like Political Science, Journalism & Mass Communication, Environmental Science, Languages, etc. You may also consult CSS Officers who have done it recently.
Make short notes only (headings, quotes, stats, facts, figures, indicative words to long stories/lengthy concepts etc). It will help you a lot during revision. I made most of my notes in soft form which could be edited, whenever needed. I didn’t make any notes for GSA as Mian Shafiq’s book is sufficient and I just used highlighters to highlight important points on the book.
Keep 20% of your time for revision. After finishing a subject, don’t just jump on to the next one without revising the previous one. You should revise at least twice before taking the actual exams.