I had no time to study until the final months. JWT proved pretty handy in such tough times.
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Bilal Mahmood Sulehri (BMS): I have been an average student from matriculation onwards. I did my matriculation from Shaheen Degree College Kamra and FSc (Pre-Engg.) from FG Degree College Quetta. Then, I moved to Lahore to pursue a professional qualification, i.e. CA. During this long and strenuous journey to CA, I got university degrees. Later, after completing mandatory training period of three and a half years, I completed Oracle Certified Professional and other certifications.
JWT: What feature of Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) attracted you most?
BMS: PSP not only involves working with the government machinery but also entails helping citizens in plight. Moreover, we usually don’t commend them, but Police in Pakistan are at the forefront in the war on terror; police personnel are sacrificing their lives every day for ensuring safety of their fellow citizens.
JWT: How much helpful did you find Jahangir’s World Times (JWT) during your preparation?
BMS: Since I was doing a full-time job and was also engaged with a couple of entrepreneurial projects, I had no time to study until the final months. JWT proved to be pretty handy in such tough times as I got a few of its issues and read them casually. I got in-depth analysis on what was happening around the world. This information proved very useful in Current Affairs & Pakistan Affairs papers.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
BMS: The key is developing a comprehensive strategy to tackle each paper before starting preparations for the CSS exam. You should also know the syllabus outline and paper pattern. Moreover, the examiner asks opinion-based questions, so, you should develop your own viewpoint as well as the ability to write it in black and white. Rote learning doesn’t help except in objective type questions and a few technical topics.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
BMS: I analyzed around 10 past papers of each subject and identified areas which were being tested frequently. I focused solely on those and, in the end, most of the papers were predictable.
JWT: What were the toughest and the easiest parts in the whole process of CSS exam?
BMS: The humongous syllabus and the fact that no one was ready to believe that I could do it in around a month’s time. I could not get any tangible guideline to develop a strategy for a crash-course-type preparation.
The easiest part came when I realized during the exams that most of the questions were related to topics I had already identified.
JWT: Anything important about your CSS journey you want to share with the aspirants?
BMS: I failed English Essay in 2015 but I took it on the chin and got very good marks in this very paper in 2016. Bottom line is that we should be ready to learn from our mistakes instead of blaming others.
BMS: I made a comprehensive outline for two essays I knew best in rough work. I reviewed both and decided the one I was more equipped to write on. I left first two pages for the outline and started with a strong thesis statement and moved on expanding my outline. The fact that I had written outline on rough pages helped me add points in it and gave me flexibility. After writing an outline which ended the essay on a positive note, I copied the outline on first two pages neatly.
JWT: How the answers should be written to get maximum marks?
BMS: Every answer must be balanced and comprehensive. In opinion-based questions, one should present both sides of the picture and a viable conclusion should also be presented at the end.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
BMS: I cannot endorse a word limit. However, it is pertinent to note that you have to answer four questions in 150 minutes; it translates to 37.5 minutes per question. If you subtract the time required for thinking, managing paper, changing pens and drinking water, etc. you have 30 minutes for writing answer to a question. So, increase your writing speed to be able to cover all aspects of a topic in 30 minutes.
JWT: How should one choose one’s optional subjects?
BMS: Selection of optional subjects should be based on thorough understanding of syllabus, effort required and the trends of past papers. Their overall synergy with other subjects should also be kept in mind. For instance, selection of Gender Studies helped me tremendously in English Essay.
My Interview Experience
To be honest, I wasn’t able to answer a lot of questions as my knowledge-base was limited and I did not give requisite time to interview preparation. However, during the onslaught of questions which I didn’t know, I kept smiling and excused myself from giving an answer instead of resorting to guesses. At the end, the Chairman asked me if I was feeling relieved, I nodded with a weary smile and he wished me best of luck.
I believe I got reasonable marks solely due to the fact that I displayed confidence and the ability to face a grilling without any qualms.
My Advice for fresh aspirants
Everybody works hard, but you should work hard, smartly! Your goals should always be SMART:
- S: Specific
- M: Measurable
- A: Attainable
- R: Realistic
- T: Time-bound
Make an extensive schedule with milestones and stick to it, make sure you reward yourself with something (e.g. a chocolate when you finish a chapter) when you achieve a milestone. You will see your efforts bearing fruits as you tick-off your milestones.
And last but not least, make sure you write a lot. If you haven’t practiced writing for six hours at home, you may find it very difficult to write effectively in the examination hall.