In Conversation with
Waheed Hassan Gondal
50th in Punjab, PMS 2019-20
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Waheed Hassan Gondal (WHG): I hail from Hafizabad. I completed my intermediate from my hometown. Later on, I went to Lahore and did LLB from Punjab University. Then, I got admission to Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, and earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from there.
JWT: How much helpful did you find Jahangir’s World Times (JWT) in your preparation for PMS exam?
WHG: I read JWT magazine every month. It was very much helpful during my preparation for PMS exam, and now it helps me to stay connected with the global and domestic current affairs. One thing that I like about the JWT magazine is the writing style; if you read it regularly, you can improve your writing which is very important for a PMS aspirant. This will eventually help you with the Essay and every other exam.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to getting through compulsory papers of PMS exam, especially that of General Knowledge?
WHG: I used to read two books for each compulsory subject; one book from the recommended books while the other was a good reference book. Notes-making is very important. I made short notes for every subject which helped me during exams. Another important thing is writing practice. You can take mock exams or practice on your own. Just set your timer for 25 minutes and take any question from the past papers and write its answer within that time. This will help you immensely to manage exam pressure, and you can also improve your paper presentation with this practice.
As for the General Knowledge paper, it requires a different approach. Divide the GK syllabus into different portions and prepare from different books and sources. I used to devote daily time to the General Knowledge portion. JWT magazine has a GK corner in it, I memorised that. Also, be very mindful of negative marking while you are attempting the paper.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks in the written part of PMS exam?
WHG: How you answer your questions matters more than how you think. The examiner knows about your knowledge on the topic from only what you write on the answer sheet. A question is usually divided into different parts and the examiner will give you marks according to that division. So, first of all, understand the portion technique. Secondly, add different references, quotations, charts and diagrams to your answers. Use blue or black markers to highlight important points. Add more and more relevant headings and bullet points. If you have some time left, add critical analysis before the conclusion.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay?
WHG: My essay was pretty simple; I used simple English and clear sentences. First of all, my thesis statement was very precise and to the point. Then, I had a two-page-long outline with clear points which supported my thesis statement. One thing that I focused on while writing the essay was connecting every argument to the topic. You have a narrow line as it is easy to get distracted with irrelevant information and arguments. So, write clear and relevant arguments.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
WHG: No, in my opinion, there should not be any word limit for writing the answers. You have got 25-30 minutes for each question; therefore, you need to put relevant material within that time. Quality is more important than quantity but one should also not write very concise answers. Write comprehensive answers, but without irrelevant filler content just to increase word count.
JWT: Is it better to attempt optional papers in Urdu or one should go with English only?
WHG: The logical answer would be that one should go with the one in which one feels more comfortable. But, in reality, most candidates, even those with Urdu-medium educational background, go with the English option. The reason behind this is that we don’t have good books on these subjects written in Urdu. English books are easily available and you end up getting good marks if you use English as the medium.
JWT: How one should choose Optional Subjects?
WHG: First of all, forget the scoring trends; when you are choosing an optional subject, read its complete syllabus outline. If you find it interesting and you think you understand and can prepare better for it, go for that. Also, there are subjects related to your educational background; you can pick those as well. In my case, I didn’t opt for any subject from my educational background because I found the other three more interesting and that’s the reason why I was able to tackle well the questions related to these subjects during my interview.
JWT: Who deserves the credit for your success?
WHG: First of all, it’s a blessing of Allah Almighty. My success would never have been possible without His blessings. Secondly, the credit goes to my family; especially, my father who always kept me motivated, humble and focused. He passed away one month before my written exam and couldn’t see my success. But it was the strength that he gave me that kept me going on with this journey – and many ahead of me.
JWT: As interviewers usually grill the interview candidates, how did you manage the situation?
WHG: My interview experience was very pleasant. No doubt, the interviewers test your stress-management skills during those 30-40 minutes and some might call it grilling. But you need to be calm. If you don’t know the answer to any question asked by the panelists, just smile confidently and apologise respectfully. Don’t panic over the missing questions. It is important that you do not lose your confidence.