Action is the Foundational Key to all Success

Abdullah Nayyar Sheikh stood third in the CSS-2010 exam and also passed CSS-2009 exam by securing 31st position overall. At this time he will be allocated to his group preference ‘PSP’. He qualified the CSS exam twice and distinguished himself. His interview will be helpful for the CSS candidates how to prepare and get higher marks in the written and interview. Abdullah Nayyar Sheikh — 3rd Position, CSS-2010

Jahangir’s World Times: Throw light on your education and achievements.
Abdullah Nayyar Sheikh: I belong to Gandapur tribe of Kulachi, Dera Ismail Khan. I did my matriculation from Saudi Arabian International School, Al-Khobar (KSA) scoring 733 out of 850 (Federal Board). I completed my high school from a private boarding school (Kiskim-inetas Springs School) in Saltsburg, PA (USA) with High Honours. I did my bachelor in Communication Systems Engineering from SEECS (School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences), NUST.

I was a High Honours student in high school and was recipient of Best Senior Year Research Paper Award. I was also member of the most prestigious National Honours Society, USA. In bachelor my final year project on MIMO-OFDM was awarded the best project award. I stood 31st (written: 725 interview: 207) overall in CSS-2009 and fourth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and got my first preference DMG.

In CSS-2010, I got third position with highest marks in written portion (written: 787 interview: 174) and first in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This time I will be allocated to my first preference PSP.

JWT: What is the secret behind getting third position in the CSS?

ANS: I believe commitment and hard work are extremely important for achieving an objective. CSS exam, being a competitive examination, requires you to perform better than other people in order to get allocated to your desired occupational group. In this way, it differs from exams taken during the course of our stay at different educational institutions. It requires an extra bit of dedication. I think my recipe for success was consistency and doing relatively equally well in almost all subjects rather than doing exceptionally well in one compared to others. It means that one should try to strike a balance and give equal importance to all subjects.

Due to my geographical aloofness to any resource/ notes/ academy during my preparation, I heavily relied on internet. This way I would have to study a topic completely and come up with relevant points rather than opting for shortcuts. This holistic approach pays off in the longer run when one has seen a picture from all possible angles.

JWT: How should a fresh candidate prepare for the CSS?

ANS: It is extremely vital for a fresh candidate to choose optional subjects wisely and then stick to the choices made. One should chalk out a study plan best suited to one’s own aptitude and ease rather than that tried by other people. I used to study one subject a day and on a day when I was not feeling very well, I would opt for an easier subject. Books for each and every subject should be chosen after consultations with people who have prepared that subject.

Firstly, one should try to cover the subject and then consult any other extra resource on different topics if time allows. Piling up many books for one subject not only results in duplication but also leads to confusion.

JWT: What type of initial problems does a CSS candidate face in the beginning?

ANS: The first and foremost problem one faces is that of choosing optional subjects. Then people face issues devising a study plan i.e. whether to study one subject at a time or cover all the subjects at the same time. Level of motivation also undergoes fluctuations and needs to be kept within a manageable limit.

Choosing the right material for study is also something that is important. Then some people who have not done exceptionally well in school, find it difficult adapting to a rigorous study schedule. English language also poses a challenge for people who do not have a strong background in it.

All these problems cannot be solved in one go like Rome was not built in a day. CSS is a process and as one progresses in his or her preparation, different weaknesses are overcome. With the right amount of effort remarkable improvement can be achieved.

JWT: What are the tips and techniques to get higher marks in the CSS?

ANS: There is nothing wrong with studying other student’s notes but one should try to be unique in the way one answers a question. Reproducing the same material read in a popular article might not be a good idea. Every aspect of an issue should be discussed and arguments should be backed by facts, statistics and if possible by quotations. Some people might consider reading a newspaper a futile exercise but I consider it a very important component of CSS preparation.

In the beginning one should try to go through a newspaper in more detail in order to establish a theoretical background on different issues.

JWT: What is the strategy to attempt the paper and differentiate oneself and gets higher marks?

ANS: As I said CSS is a competitive exam so one should try to be original in his or her approach as well as the content. I am a firm believer in doing things holistically rather than going for shortcuts. Structuring one’s ideas and presenting them in an effective manner is important. One should try to attempt general questions as they are more rewarding provided one is clear about them.

Also, equal amount of time should be allotted to each question. Use of facts and figures should be made in order to substantiate the argument. Quotations can also be used to decorate the answer. Each and every aspect should be covered without any bias. One should try to develop a habit of thinking out of the box and providing innovative solutions to a problem.

JWT: What subject combination should a candidate opt for?

ANS: It is normally said that one should choose a subject combination according to one’s interest. I agree with this statement but at the same time for some of us almost all subjects are equally alien. Last year 48 per cent professionals joined Civil Services and majority of them do not opt for subjects they have previously studied during their educational career. Also some subjects are more rewarding than others. So keeping in view one’s interest as well as the dividends that subject might pay are important while choosing a subject.

Yet there are some subjects that are more favourable as compared to others with respect to effort in preparation and their turnover.
Forestry/Sociology/Journalism (2/3)
International Law/International Relations (1/2)
History of the USA

My subject combination both times was Political Science, Constitutional Law, History of the USA, Pashto and International Relations.

JWT: How a candidate should prepare for the interview?

ANS: Interview is a test of one’s confidence and ability to analyse an issue in a very little time. It reflects clarity of thought and expression. So it is very important that one is clear about his or her opinion regarding different issues at national and international level. A candidate should take a brief overview of optional subjects and cover the broader aspects of different topics.
It is extremely vital for a fresh candidate to choose optional subjects wisely and then stick to the choices made.
A major portion of the interview is related to different issues of current affairs. So candidate should take time to study different magazines, journals and online articles on hot issues. It is also very important that a candidate watches different current affairs programmes on international media. This not only helps in building up the relevant vocabulary on different issues but also helps in learning on how intellectuals respond to a question asked by an interviewer.

Important points regarding each issue can be noted down in a notebook and these few pages are helpful in summing things up the night before the interview. Newspapers are a very important and indis-pensible source for interview preparation.

People who are not good at spoken English should try Dale Carnegie’s technique of interviewing themselves. A candidate should ask himself a random question and then respond to himself after giving it a second thought. This exercise can also be conducted with a friend who serves as an interviewer. They can judge your expressions and advise you on the tone of your voice.

JWT: At what extent, taking tests before the start of the exams are helpful for the final exams?

ANS: It is very important that you practise some of the last few years’ papers. It helps you in many ways. You get the feel of writing at a stretch for three hours and at the same time finding the optimum way to present the knowledge that you have accumulated during the course of your preparation.

In this way you take away the element of surprise to a degree as well as you learn to deal with panic when short of time. In case one is short of time, then it is better to at least come up with outlines of solutions to each question.

JWT: How many months and daily hours are required for CSS preparation?

ANS: In my opinion six months are at least required for a serious attempt at the CSS examination. I took that amount of time with 6-7 hours of daily study. I am sure most people can stretch that daily study time to about 11-12 hours. One should be more concerned with setting an objective for every day and getting it done rather killing hours. Level of concentration and focus varies from person to person so this is subjective.

JWT: Any message

ANS: Action is the foundational key to all success. ‘A dream minus action equals fantasy. Dreams plus action equals reality,’ There is no substitute to hard work as Edison said. One should put in his or her best effort and then pray to Allah for His blessings.


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