Smart Study to Crack
Essay, Current Affairs & Pakistan Affairs Papers
CSS preparation is, indeed, a tedious task. It requires perseverance, diligence and discipline. Lately, the three compulsory papers, namely English Essay, Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs have become more challenging, analytical and diverse in their content. The course contents of these papers and the questions asked in past papers show an overlap of topics. These overlapping topics provide students with an opportunity to make an accurate analysis of the questions asked in these three papers. This overlap is conducive in many ways as it saves precious time and avoids duplication of effort. Socioeconomic topics which appear in Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs papers are readily useful in Essay paper. Likewise, essay topics such as provincial autonomy, national integration, and constitutional development are also helpful in Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs papers.
The objective of this article is to give CSS students an analysis on three compulsory papers regarding:
- Trend prevailing in these papers
- Utility of ‘Smart Work’
- Selection of essay topic
- Delineating an outline
The article groups questions which have appeared, during the last four years (2016 to 2019), in papers of English Essay, Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs on the basis of three main different domains, i.e. Domestic Affairs of Pakistan, Foreign Affairs and Global Issues; which are further broken into smaller topics. The breakup of these topics is given as under:
- Domestic Affairs
iii. Water and Energy crisis
- Freedom of Speech
vii. Economy, Aid and Taxation
viii. Constitution and fundamental Rights
- Provincial Autonomy
- National Integration and language
- Gender Issues
- Foreign Affairs
- Foreign Aid
iii. Organizations, Relations, etc.
- Global Affairs
- International issues (Climate Change, Power Struggle, Regional Politics, etc.)
- Technology and Globalization
Smart Work Approach
A ‘Smart work’ approach is:
- pragmatic, integrated and time saving
- beholden to knowledge management
- capitalizes gains through synthesis
- draws inferences on the basis of trends
- expounds efforts to anticipate questions
- connects the dots to complete the picture
Frequency of Appearance as per Different Papers from 2016-2019
The chart given below provides the frequency of the three different topics common to Essay, Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs papers during the period 2016 to 2019. It shows that in 2016, Essay paper had around six questions, whereas Current Affairs had two questions and Pakistan Affairs had only one question pertaining to domestic affairs respectively.
Frequency of Appearance as per topic in Different Papers from 2016-2019
The table given below enforces the primacy of core topics of Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs which have also appeared in the last four Essay papers (2016 to 2019). It indicates that more than 21 topics in the last four years in Essay paper were on domestic issues. It also provides candidates with food for thought that Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs topics are quite useful in essay preparation and no effort goes waste.
Frequency of Appearance as per topic in all Papers (combined) from 2016-2019
Another perspective to look at similar topics which have appeared in the three compulsory papers during the last four years gives considerable insight into what can be anticipated in future papers. The chart given below has combined ‘Domestic Affairs’ topic which have appeared in the three compulsory papers in a single year. It shows that in the year 2016 around nine questions on the topic of ‘Domestic Affairs’ appeared in Essay, Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs papers. The highest turnout in the last four years (2016 to 2019) occurred in 2019 when 14 questions in the three compulsory papers appeared on the ‘Domestic Affairs’ topic.
The trends as per the three charts shown above provide ample guidance to a CSS student. A CSS student should work smartly to synergize his preparation methodology in a manner so that preparation for Essay, Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs papers operates in tandem. He should cultivate a rational understanding of reading material, write a well-structured answer and integrate ideas so that there is a natural flow in diction. The issue of Education at District level is a hot topic in the Pakistan Affairs paper. A student while preparing for this topic should look at different possible dimensions and perspectives. Data on the performance of neighbor districts, provincial profile and national literacy averages needs to be analyzed. This data should also cater to the benchmarks set by United Nations under the Sustainable Development Goals. Opportunities, constraints, resource constrictions and cultural barriers at district, provincial and national level need a fair mention. This analysis would definitely help in any question that can appear in the Current Affairs or Essay paper.
Cracking Essay Topic
In order to take full advantage of the trends prevailing in these papers two aspects warrant earnest attention. First aspect is selection of essay topic in the Essay paper. Selection of essay topic ought to cater to the following:
- All topics to be read with intent to have a clear understanding
- Options should be weighed carefully to select one or more topics
- Check whether topic is ‘generalized’ or ‘specific’
- Reasoning, analysis, arguments and ideas to be enumerated
- Attempt topic which has more arguments and supporting ideas
A topic such as “Classrooms decide the future of the nation” which appeared in 2019 Essay paper is broad and general in its scope. It is easy to write on generalized topic. On the other hand a narrow topic such as “New war fronts lie in the economic zones” which also appeared in the same year is narrow in its scope. It is restrictive insofar as it addresses a special concern for the economic zones. However, this doesn’t mean that one should not attempt a topic that is narrow in its scope. If one feels at home in attempting a narrow domain topic and has sufficient command over it, then one should definitely attempt it. The crux is that broad topics give students more leverage as compared to the narrow ones.
Delineating the outline
Second aspect is writing an outline in the Essay paper. It has been commonly observed that students ace the Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs papers but perform poorly in the Essay paper. One of the reasons for faulting on this count could be due to the fact that students are habitually comfortable in writing 6-7 pages on any Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs question without making an outline. Drawing an outline serves the following purposes:
- helps augment brainstorming
- enumerates possible ideas, arguments, reasons and rebuttals
- achieves clarity in expression of ideas
- builds a synchronized structure
The discussion on trends shown by the charts, selection of essay topic and jotting down an outline in this article make it easier for CSS students to prioritize their efforts. They can prepare for questions pertaining to ‘Domestic Affairs’ in Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs papers. This effort would certainly be rewarded in essay paper. Lastly, candidates can look for clues in the current affairs to predict some of the questions that could figure in the Essay or Pakistan Affairs papers. Such an integrated effort would save precious hours and lead to better results.