In Conversation with
NEHA NAVEED (FSP)
18th in Pakistan; 1st in Sindh (U) CSS 2021-22
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background.
Neha Naveed (NN): I did my O levels from Beaconhouse School System and A levels from St. Patrick’s High School. Since my true passion was to delve deeper into the wonders of English Literature, I admitted myself to a BA (Hons.) program, followed by a yearlong Master’s program to pursue the subject in detail. While I was in university, I also got the chance to learn and study French for two years.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to Foreign Service of Pakistan (FSP), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most?
NN: The reasons why I chose FSP were because it proffers the opportunity to interact intimately with a plethora of cultures, learn new languages and, most importantly, provides the chance to covet and attain growth on both personal and professional levels.
JWT: How was your experience at the World Times Institute?
NN: Extremely helpful! After qualifying the written exam, I came across World Times Institute where I got the best, not to mention, complete, comprehensive guidance with regards to the preparation for both the psychological assessment and viva voce. Also, honorable Ambassador Raja Irfan’s book did wonders by boosting my knowledge on a variety of topics.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
NN: As clichéd as this may sound, writing is the key and in no way it should be ignored. The written part of the exam is your ticket to the next phase. Hence, it is necessary to develop your ability to keep writing continuously for a prolonged time. It is also extremely important to work on improving your writing expression. You have to develop your own writing style and gain mastery over it. This, in turn, would enable you to write an answer that would convey the originality of your work to the examiner.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
NN: I believe in using anything and everything to one’s advantage. If there is anything, literally anything, that you find useful, go for it! Some people tend to discount the importance of knowledge they acquired in school, college or university, but no knowledge is trivial. For instance, my background in literature aided me tremendously while I attempted a question on the evolution of Muslim thought in Pakistan Affairs paper. Similarly, in the last semester of my MA degree, I opted for Dissertation which helped me immensely with writing practice and improving my written expression and thus, prepared me for Essay and Précis & Composition papers.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations?
NN: I would suggest aspirants to review subjects’ syllabi before choosing optional subjects and then start preparation from the one which seems most interesting. Set mini goals and study smartly to achieve them.
JWT: What should be an ideal time table for a new aspirant to make sound preparation for CSS exam, and what areas should (s)he focus?
NN: An aspirant should first set a macro timeline to estimate the time at his/her disposal. In my opinion, 100-mark subjects require about a month for good preparation whilst that for 200-mark subjects and Pakistan Affairs may be longer. For Current Affairs, one should make a logbook that should be updated on a weekly basis.
As far as Essay is concerned, an aspirant can start with the target of doing one essay per week and it can be gradually increased to two, or even three, over time.
For Précis and Comprehension, a daily practice of 45 minutes of précis, comprehension and translation, each on an alternate basis, would suffice.
As regards the second part of the question, writing, reading and developing critical/analytical skills must be focused. Hone your writing skills so as to perfect your writing style. Reading is an equally crucial component of the preparation journey as it would provide you with fodder and relevant material on the basis of which you would formulate your answers. Reading also helps people to build up their vocabulary and gain exposure to other more rich and refined writing styles that might, in turn, inspire the aspirant to develop their own form of expression.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
NN: Spare some time to go through the question paper. At first glance, the questions may seem unfamiliar to you – it is natural given the daunting nature of CSS exam. Don’t panic; just go through the questions again, this time in more detail. Break down the question by highlighting its different keywords; it would help you know what the actual requirement of the questions is. At third glance, tick those questions you think you have considerable grip on. Do not start writing an answer right away as a few minutes of planning do come in handy. This time allows you to brainstorm, order your thoughts and also establish a proper structure for your answer. While writing the answer, do effectively convey your stance on the topic at hand as that is what will make you stand out within a crowd of thousands of candidates. Lastly, time management is cardinal as one has only 37 minutes to attempt a question.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper?
NN: For Essay, I gave a comprehensive overview of the topic in the introduction part
which I eventually narrowed down to my thesis statement. Before approaching the thrust of my essay, I decided to elaborate the mentioned keywords while highlighting their relationship to my thesis statement. I also made sure to briefly address and acknowledge the other side of the coin to make my essay look well-rounded. For the body paragraphs, I devoted one paragraph for one point, elucidated upon that and supported it with relevant examples while emphasizing its connection and relevance to my thesis statement. As for my conclusion, I summarized the points I had mentioned in the essay and did not present anything new as the purpose of the conclusion would’ve been defeated.
For Précis and Composition Paper, I decided to do the three main questions first: Précis, Comprehension and Translation and then I proceeded to attempt the remaining sections of the paper.