“Never underestimate your own abilities and do not lose hope.”
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background?
Zarmina Wazir (ZW): I have done BBA (Hons) and I was pursuing my master’s degree in Public Administration when the final CSS result was announced.
JWT: Since everyone starts dreaming of a future career right from the childhood, what were your dreams? Did you always aspire to be a CSP officer?
ZW: My aspirations kept changing over the years. I remember that during my teenage years, I wanted to join the United Nations. Actually, attempting CSS was always at the back of my mind as something that I had to do.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam?
ZW: Being well read. During my preparation, I didn’t really concentrate on memorizing much; I just read a lot from different sources and widened my knowledge base.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers?
ZW: I made sure to cover the syllabus properly for each subject, and that I read from different sources, particularly for papers like current affairs.
JWT: What were the toughest and the easiest parts in the whole process of CSS exam?
ZW: The easiest part was deciding to attempt the exam, choosing the optional subjects and studying for the exam. The hard one was the long wait after the exam; not knowing if I’d made it or not.
JWT: Anything important about your CSS journey you want to share with the aspirants?
ZW: Never underestimate your own abilities and do not lose hope. If it is meant to be, nobody can take it away from you. However, do not make CSS your only aim in life; always have a plan B to fall back on. Life is full of ups and downs; sometimes we may not get what we want, but we may find something else just as worthwhile.
JWT: How the answers should be written to get maximum marks?
ZW: You have to understand that thousands of other people are taking the CSS exam with you, and most of the answers will have the same gist to it. So, you have to make sure that your answer stands out, through diverse knowledge, a good critical analysis and effective presentation skills.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers?
ZW: There is no exact word limit that should be kept to, as long as you have written a cohesive answer.
Zarmina Wazir’s tips on: Selection of optional subjects
Choose subjects that you have an interest in. Remember you will be studying these subjects for 3-4 months and so it is imperative that you choose something that you have an aptitude in and interest for. Even if it is ‘supposedly’ a “low-scoring” subject, your general interest and knowledge in the subject will allow you to score well.
I did not make notes for each and every single subject. I made those for topics that were not covered in the books that I had gone through.
I kept the last few weeks for revision of the subjects.
My Advice for Fresh Aspirants
If you are going to take the exam, be serious! There is a trend that aspirants take the exam for the first time without proper preparation, simply for ‘experience’ purpose, to understand what the exams are like. This is not a wise decision as there are only three attempts for this exam and one should not waste them. If you are to take the exam, prepare for that properly, give it your best shot and, Insha Allah, you will be successful.
My Interview Experience
My interview was pretty diverse, in the sense that the panellists asked me questions related to International Relations, the Constitution of Pakistan, FATA and Afghanistan, to name some issues. They also targeted my weak areas like Pakistan Affairs. All in all, CSS interview is a way for the interviewers to gauge how well an aspirant can remain calm and composed under pressure.