In Conversation with
Shahzaib Mushtaq (PSP)
9th in Pakistan
1st in Sindh (R) CSS 2021-22
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background.
Shahzaib Mushtaq (SM): I am a Mechanical Engineer from Mehran UET, and I have studied a semester abroad in Grand Valley State University, USA.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to Police Service of Pakistan (PSP), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most?
SM: The idea of being a part of a uniformed force that works 24/7 to help the public really attracted me.
JWT: How was your experience at the World Times Institute?
SM: I think my interview experience at WTI was quite helpful. Regular mock interviews and the competitive environment enabled me to succeed. I was able to identify my mistakes and work on them under the direction of dedicated mentors.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
SM: In my opinion:
1. Conceptual clarity on what you are writing.
2. Simple but effective communication – the idea is to communicate the message as effectively as you can without getting too flowery.
3. Facilitate the examiner by a comprehensive introduction and a positive conclusion,
4. Use communicative headings, separate evidence/example paragraphs and flowcharts/diagrams.
5. Always remember that the answer sheet is to facilitate the examiner to understand your knowledge better, not to beautify the paper.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through?
SM: Practice Essay and Précis the most and play it safe. Develop a solution-oriented approach for Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs. Finally, Islamiat and GSA deserve a lot of time and attention as they normally have a good scoring potential.
JWT: What was the key to your phenomenal success?
SM: I understood the mind of the examiner and the conditions of my exam. No professor of Political Science will give me a high score if I write as a student of English literature. And this applies to every subject. So, understand the nature of your examiner and then facility him/her in reading your arguments in as little time and with as little discomfort as possible.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his/her preparations?
SM: One should select one’s optional subjects and start from the easiest subject with the shortest syllabus. During this journey, the biggest challenge is to overcome the overwhelming nature of the task, which can be done by dividing the workload and only focusing on one or two subjects at a time. Lastly, one feels a sense of achievement in completing the first subject, which creates a momentum for other subjects.
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?
SM: Anywhere between six months and one year should be enough. I personally took longer as I could not get the right direction in the first attempt. I was very clear in what to do in my second attempt though. Naturally, I was never cent per cent sure, but it worked.
In my opinion, aspirants should be careful with their choice of optional subjects and should only read quality material in their preparation. Relying on notes and guidebooks is a recipe for disaster.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
SM: First and foremost, interpret the question correctly and understand the keywords. If the examiner has asked three things, you must answer all those and with the weight that the examiner intended. Then, facilitate the examiner with a comprehensive introduction, communicative headings, separate evidence/example paragraphs and flowcharts/diagrams. And always remember that this activity is to facilitate the examiner, not to beautify your paper.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
SM: Each of my answers was usually 7-8 pages in length. But I have seen people gain good scores with answers that were 4-5 pages in length. So, firstly, you must focus on correct interpretation, then relevance, then quality arguments and only after these, one must see if the length can be increased.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper?
SM: An essay is your opinion on a given topic. So, one must be very careful in writing one’s thesis statement. After that, one must focus on expanding and justifying one’s thesis statement. It is as simple as that.
For Précis, my best tip would be to spend 80% of your time reading the passage and only 20% on writing.
My Tips on
Selection of optional subjects
Keep your own interest in mind. Forget about this subject complementing that subject – as every subject is unique. Choose technical subjects like Physics, Economics and Mathematics only if you have a background in those.
a. Make long notes in the first phase of your preparation when you are new. Focus on definitions, key concepts, examples, facts, quotations, data, unique arguments and technical terms/phrases.
b. Make short notes when there are 3-4 months left in the exam. This is an important exercise as you would only have 1-2 hours of revision time before exams. If you don’t have personalized and organized notes before exams, you would forget most of the unique ideas/arguments/examples that you would discover during your preparation.
a. Revision is the key, join a test series to make sure you keep revising your subjects.
b. Make sure you go to a mentor who gives you individual feedback on your written work.