In Conversation with Muhammad Waqas Masud Chaudhry (PAS)
7th in Pakistan CSS 2019-20 (Written Exam Topper)
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): First of all, please tell us about your educational background. Muhammad Waqas Masud Chaudhry (MWMC): I did my O- and A-Levels from Crescent Model Higher Secondary School in Lahore. Then, I joined the prestigious University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, and did my BSc (Hons.) in Civil Engineering from there.
JWT: Since you have been allocated to Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), what was the feature of this service that attracted you most? MWMC: All services and groups are significant in their own rights but what PAS offers is standalone in terms of exposure and versatility. This service is a journey from the grassroots level, where one interacts with public directly, to the highest policymaking circles in various ministries and divisions in all the four provinces of the country.
JWT: What, in your opinion, is the key to making a difference in written part of CSS exam? MWMC: Acing the written part of CSS exams requires an aspirant to: 1. Read the question properly and understand what is being asked and then answer accordingly; 2. Structure the answer according to the requirements of the question. This entails that the answer must be relevant to the question; 3. Explain the terms with an apt use of headings, diagrams and flow charts. The easier it is for the examiner to digest an answer, the easier it is for him to mark it appropriately. 4. Use the jargon of the subject. It gives the impression of an aspirant’s mastery over the subject; and 5. Make links with the current affairs of Pakistan and the world in all answers. It gives an impression of being well- read and well-informed that is helpful in securing good marks.
JWT: Generally, compulsory subjects are considered low-scoring, what was your strategy to get through these very papers? MWMC: I tried to keep all my answers in compulsory papers very crisp. I used to support my arguments with facts taken from current reports on the matters being asked about. Particularly for Islamic Studies paper, I had a rule of supporting every heading with either an Ayat written in Arabic or a Hadith.
JWT: How answers should be written to get maximum marks? MWMC: First, the answer should be relevant to the question asked. Second, the length of all answers in a paper should be kept as equal as possible. Third, every answer must contain headings and diagrams. Headings must then be further divided into subheadings. Fourth, no argument should be made without appropriately stating the fact upon which it is based on. For this purpose, reports, data, quotations and current affair news must be used. Lastly, your writing should be legible, for the examiner’s ease.
JWT: Should there be some word limit kept in mind while writing answers? MWMC: For a 20-mark question, it is advisable to write 7 to 8 pages for the answer. Furthermore, an answer must not be given more than 40 minutes. This ensures that you manage your time effectively.
JWT: How did you structure your Essay and what was your strategy for Précis and Composition Paper? MWMC: For Essay: I have always believed that there is a method to writing a CSS Essay which ensures that a candidate does not fail this particular paper. First, I carefully chose the topic of the essay in a way that it does not pose a valid counter argument in its stance. Then, I wrote an elaborate outline which included facts in support of my stance from global current affairs along with the thesis statement. After the outline, I wrote an impressive introductory paragraph, followed by the main body of the essay. After writing the conclusion, I rechecked my essay so as to rectify if there was any mistake. I strongly believe that there should not be more than 2 quotations in a CSS essay. However, as a literary requirement, I ended my essay with a quotation. For Précis and Composition: I always kept myself confined to the rules of making a précis, e.g. it should be one-third of the original text; it should be in a continuous prose, and so on. In addition, I always tried that the final draft of the précis should make sense on its own, without forcing the examiner to refer back to the original text. I believe this paper is all about practice, and some more practice. Moreover, I paid a lot of attention to vocabulary-building and understanding the basics of punctuations and prepositions.
JWT: What areas should the new aspirants focus while preparing for the CSS exam? MWMC: Always start with an English-language daily. For this purpose, I always recommend Dawn. Once newspaper-reading habit is developed, one breaks into the CSS preparation phase very easily. One is well versed with the happenings of the world along with being cognizant of the governance problems of Pakistan as well. Plus, reading newspaper, as opposed to going straight for the books, gives an added advantage in the sense that one can easily understand the theoretical proportions of the subjects by linking them to the practical example they have read about. My Tips on Selection of optional subjects In my opinion, a candidate must always choose optional subjects with which (s)he is comfortable first. If comfortability is not an issue, then a high-scoring optional subject must be considered. However, don’t choose an optional if you do not feel attuned with it – even if it is high scoring. Notes-making Make your own notes. However, if you can find some good notes that you can easily understand and decipher, it is also a good option. Making notes is a skill that you develop over time during preparation. A general rule of thumb is to make short notes keeping in view the revision time just before the exam. Notes should preferably be in bullet form with only major words or jargons stated. Revision I personally started revision two months prior to final exam. I would advise a similar strategy to prospective aspirants as well.