“One must read quality books and newspapers, and form one’s own opinion on the major issues”
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Mariya Javaid (MJ): I am an Electrical Engineer. I graduated from University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, in 2013.
JWT: What feature of the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) attracted you most?
MJ: Actually, PAS allows you to begin making meaningful, visible difference to the lives of people from the very start of your career. You don’t have to wait too long. Moreover, there is a large area of activities wherein you can contribute directly toward the wellbeing of people. In my view, this is one of the most distinguishing features of this service.
JWT: How has been your experience at the World Times Institute?
MJ: I joined World Times Institute (WTI) for mock interviews and my experience was really good. The interviewers gave me a fair idea of the CSS interview process. The exercise of mock interviews helped me in identifying my strengths and weaknesses. I also rehearsed answering questions about which I had limited knowledge. So, I felt more confident when appearing before the FPSC panel for the final interview .
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
MJ: The key to score well in the written part of CSS exam is trying to have a good understanding of the topic; which is only possible by reading quality books. However, knowledge alone is not enough. One should also work on the art of attempting paper. One should make the life of the examiner easier by breaking one’s answer into proper parts, headings and sub-headings.
In addition, selection of optional subject is also very important. As much as we may like to deny, the fact remains that there exist high-scoring and low-scoring subjects. In my view, the criteria for subject selection, in order, are as follows:
1. High-scoring trend
2. Aspirant’s aptitude
3. Easy availability of reading material
4. Overlapping with other subjects
5. Not unnecessarily lengthy
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
MJ: In my humble opinion, there is no shortcut to scoring well in the compulsory subjects. One must read quality books and newspapers, and form one’s own opinion on the major issues. So, my advice to the aspirants would be to focus on national and international issues and try to think of the underlying causes and pragmatic solutions thereupon, for the challenges.
JWT: What were the toughest and the easiest parts for you in the whole process of CSS exam?
MJ: The toughest part, probably, was to remain consistent as CSS is not an exam of one’s knowledge only; it tests one’s confidence and patience. The easiest part was going to the examination hall and taking the exam with full confidence.
JWT: How should an aspirant write answers to get maximum marks?
MJ: In order to score maximum, one must practice the art of presenting one’s knowledge in a convincing manner. The language should be simple and very clear. One may also include maps, flowcharts and diagrams to illustrate one’s points.
MJ: Not Really. One should be able to properly convey one’s point without beating about the bush. The purpose is to answer the question, and the length should not matter. However, on average, writing 5 to 6 pages for an answer is considered an accepted practice.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay?
MJ: I like attempting argumentative essays and expressing my opinions on subjects. I did that by building my argument step by step. Essay is about the art of paragraphing where one paragraph should seamlessly lead into another and one should also avoid cluttering ideas into one paragraph.
JWT: How did you handle de-motivations you faced?
MJ: It is natural to lose motivation during preparation for a competitive examination as prestigious as CSS. I used to talk to my father and he would read me Surah Ad Duhaa to boost my morale. It really did wonders for me.
JWT: How a new aspirant should start his preparations for CSS exam?
MJ: A new aspirant should try to bring clarity from the very beginning. (S)he must talk to qualifiers and read their interviews so that (s)he doesn’t end up wasting energy on useless things. One must try to channel one’s preparation by choosing optional subjects wisely and focusing on important areas. Make friends with the newspaper and fix your written expression as a starting point.
My Advice for Fresh Aspirants
First things first, disabuse yourself of this notion that CSS is somehow a terribly difficult exam to crack. It’s not! There is largely some method in this madness and with the right kind of guidance, hard work and yes, some luck, you can sail through.
Special tips on:
Selection of optional subjects
Go for the subjects that overlap and help you in preparation of Compulsory Subjects.
Try to write introductory paragraphs for important questions, an outline and your analysis while preparing notes.
Reduce the whole subject to a few pages/flashcards by writing bulleted points or flowcharts, so that you may revise your notes on the day of exam