In Conversation with
Muhammad Raza (PSP)
9th in Pakistan
1st in Sindh
(Interview Topper) CSS 2020-21
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background.
Muhammad Raza (MR): My early education spanned over Garhi Khairo, Jacobabad and Karachi. My family moved to Karachi for my higher education, and I joined the Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA) program at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi. I am a proud recipient of the Fulbright Award as well for graduate studies.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to Police Service of Pakistan (PSP), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most?
MR: While each occupational group allows incredible room to serve, PSP attracted me personally due to its positioning as the first line of defence in the criminal justice system. The uniformed service allows one to extend immediate relief to the public and plays a bold role in the line of duty.
JWT: How was your experience of preparing for CSS at World Times Institute?
MR: A person is known by the company he keeps, and for a person pursuing his/her CSS ambitions, it is hard to find a better company than at World Times Institute. The institute provides rich resources and experts which accompany you in your journey from written exams till the interviews stage. I have been educated, encouraged and, most importantly, challenged during my time at WTI. I am grateful for the endless efforts of our experienced instructors, dedicated administrators, and my very capable fellows.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
MR: To know how to make a difference in written part of CSS exam, one must understand the needs of the audience – the examiner. Even prior to embarking on the preparation of my optional subjects, I skimmed through the Examiner Reports published on FPSC website. Though often overlooked, this report provides a subject-wise insight into what the examiners seek.
If I had to list down 5 characteristics, they would be: (i) Clarity in written expression, (ii) supplementing evidence and data, (iii) critical thinking, (iv) understanding the question requirements and (v) use of graphics or diagrams.
A convenient way of familiarizing yourself with most of these characteristics is through reading and listening. The awareness derived from reading quality literature and from credible news sources, and listening to reliable podcasts helps one develop similar traits, which sets one apart in written part of the CSS exam.
JWT: What was the key to your phenomenal success?
MR: After the divine help and prayers of my parents, I credit my success to perseverance on my part. Despite two attempts full of dedication, I had to be unhindered by the despair of failure and deaf to many de-motivating talks of people around me. To me, perseverance entailed a discipline in effort, adopting a lifestyle that contributed to my preparation and everything in between.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
MR: I find this a myth – some of the compulsory subjects like General Science & Ability and Islamic Studies generally yield better scores. In the results of the CE 2019 in particular, people earned as high as 80 marks in Précis and Composition. Therefore, if you are on the right track, you can certainly capitalize on these subjects too. Don’t let such rumoured trends lower your aim.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
MR: I can share a few keywords that you must remember as you raise your pen to write the answers: Headings, examples, quotations, references, facts and visuals. If your game is strong around these, you need not worry.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
MR: I am not a believer of “a single formula works for all.” The answer must cater to all parts of the question, and more importantly, it should do justice to it in terms of detailing. It generally requires one to answer in about 6 pages for a question, excluding any space used for graphics/illustrations.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper?
MR: As I practiced my Essay – twice a week – I realized that it is important to know one’s limitations before one begins writing the first word. Over time, I grew aware of the duration it takes me to select a topic, give an outline, write the essay, and, finally, proofread the same. This provided me with composure in the examination hall.
I structured my essay to have an appropriate introduction that demonstrated an understanding of the topic. The introduction was composed to hint at the significance of the subject, by mentioning the crucial implications of it. The introduction also laid out vividly the stand of the writer, as the thesis statement.
Thereafter, the essay was designed to have various branches. Each branch was preceded with a short line to aid the examiner. The branches were then further divided into various paragraphs – each one embodying a separate argument. An essential characteristic to make the reading possible without zoning out was the use of particular and coherent connectors.
Finally, the conclusion was made to wrap up the arguments, restate my stance, and reaffirm the importance of the topic. This needs to be commensurate to the introduction.
Précis and Composition paper seems the most manageable. The structure remains constant for the most part, and this makes it easier to prepare for. I believe that if you are well versed with the writing of a good newspaper, the exam seems less daunting. I tried to familiarize myself with about 2,500 words from various GRE/GMAT lists. I also made a habit of looking up meanings, synonyms, antonyms of every alien word I came across the news, or any other reading.
Another way I practiced was to write précis for newspaper editorials, and to guess the topics by just reading the editorial.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations?
MR: Post the critical stage of subject selection, I believe one of the key starting points should be an analysis of the past papers. This helps pen down the expectations of the examiner. With this objective in mind, the syllabus should be studied word by word while making a note in mind of the portions that are usually examined. Such topics should be set as a priority. The priority should, then, be translated into a well-defined timeline that should not be too stringent so as to avoid the highly probable burnout an aspirant may otherwise fall victim to. No pressure.