In Conversation with
MAHEEN HASSAN (PAS)
1st in Pakistan, CSS 2020-21
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background.
Maheen Hassan (MH): My schooling has mostly been from Garrison Academy for Girls, Lahore Cantt. After matriculation, I did intermediate in General Science from Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore. Thereafter, I joined LUMS and completed my BSc (Hons) in Politics & Economics in 2011. In 2012, I joined GCU Lahore for MPhil (Political Science) and completed it in 2015. Academically, I have also received common training at the Civil Services Academy, and specialised training at Directorate of Training & Research (Inland Revenue), Lahore.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most?
MH: Most importantly, I am inspired by my father. I want to serve Pakistan like he has done all his life. Secondly, while all groups and services provide you with the opportunity to serve the state, PAS allows you to connect with people directly. In PAS, an officer starts at the level of tehsil and gets multiple opportunities to switch between policy and operational levels across departments. Being a representative of the state, I aspire to bring the state to those who cannot approach it.
JWT: How was your experience of preparing for CSS at World Times Institute?
MH: I remained in touch with WTI during my interview preparation. I must say that the institute puts in a lot of effort and makes sure that most of its students make it to Civil Services Academy. For me, the resources provided by WTI in the form of lectures, magazine and interview-related information were all a great help.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
MH: Knowledge and being clear about your ideas and concepts is the key to making a difference. Taking a clear position on national, regional and international issues helps a candidate to be different than the rest of the lot.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
MH: For all papers, I focused on my writing skills. It also helped me in Essay immensely. For English (P&C), my strategy was to practice précis and translation as much as I could. Learning vocabulary is also of paramount importance in this paper.
For General Science, I took help from YouTube. Since I am more comfortable with audio-visual learning and it helps me more to retain information, this method was particularly helpful. For the Ability part, I used books of World Times Publications and practiced questions from those.
For Pakistan Affairs & Current Affairs, I tried to cover the important topics of national, regional and international significance. The writing practice helped here as well.
For Islamiat, I focused on knowledge as well as on presentation of the paper. Writing Arabic helps to improve the overall impression of the paper.
I would advise the candidates to prepare separately for the MCQs in each paper.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks?
MH: Answers based on clear concepts and proper argumentation fetch maximum marks.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
MH: Although there is no word limit, yet the responses should be lengthy enough for the examiner to grade them out of 20.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper?
MH: In Essay, outline is the key. The structure of my essay in all three attempts was to take a position and express that in the thesis statement, and then provide arguments in favour of that position. In the second part, I also shed light on opposing arguments and addressed them. Conclusion in a separate paragraph is also an essential part of the essay.
Précis & Composition has four main components: Précis; composition; vocabulary and translation. It is important to practice them all repeatedly. Learning vocabulary is never a loss. It is suggested that you learn 10-20 words per day for at least 6 months and revise them every day.
JWT: What areas should the new aspirants focus while preparing for the CSS exam?
MH: Focus areas should be: Selection of subjects; building knowledge to perform well in compulsory and optional subjects; practicing writing skills.
JWT: What should be an ideal time table for a new aspirant to make sound preparation for CSS exam?
MH: There is no set schedule. All aspirants should make a timetable that they can conveniently follow without wasting or losing time.
My Tips on
Selection of optional subjects
Choose the subjects that: 1) you are comfortable with, and 2) are scoring. Both factors are essential.
Notes-making depends on your comfort. If that is your style to study effectively, go for it; otherwise, do not waste your time on making notes just because some topper or position-holder did the exercise.
It is advised that you plan your preparation in a way that allows you to revise the course at least twice before exams.