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Old Friday, April 20, 2012
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CSS Q&A


PROFESSOR ANWAR ALI BUKHARI is a renowned teacher and a scholar. He has vast experience of teaching at the university level abroad and in Pakistan. M.A in English and History from the University of Punjab, Pakistan he proceeded abroad to earn doctorate from the University of London. He remained abroad until a few years back when he returned to Pakistan and is presently associated with a private sector university as its Director Academics. Prof. Bukhari has established himself as an expert in guiding students aspiring for competitive examinations in Pakistan. He has a unique method of teaching and is well known for his expertise in the field of teaching and research.

World Times approached him with some questions with reference to CSS examinations and sought his views on how Corporate sector is fast emerging in Pakistan but our youth is still much attracted towards civil service. Why is it so?

The answer lies in the peculiar mind-set that characterises our people. We are overawed by the pomp and perks associated with civil services. Our exposure to civil servants and their authoritarian behaviour, the power they wield and the lifestyle they maintain much beyond their means attracts the youth of today as material considerations outweigh any other considerations.

Also, parents still have a lot of say in the choice of careers of their children who consider jobs with the government safer than jobs in the corporate sector where advancement depends entirely on job performance and development of personality as well as requisition of latest techniques in work accomplishment, meeting deadlines and developing right attitude towards colleagues and seniors. In short, corporate world requires constant vigilance and competitiveness which the youth of today abhors. They want it easy and fast.

Being an experienced teacher of CSS students what do you think students of what aptitude should opt for CSS?

A person should decide the choice of his career while still at graduation stage. Subjects chosen at that stage can better develop an aptitude for services. English Literature, Economics, Political Science or History are better choices at this stage with Persian, Sociology, Education or Public Administration as optional subject. The tendency that doctors and engineers are increasingly appearing in CSS should open our eyes to the imbalance in services that we have at the moment.

I wish we can have more Pakistan level services which are at par in status, authority and perks with the civil services of Pakistan. I suggest Pakistan judicial service, Pakistan medical service, Pakistan engineering service and Pakistan education service etc which should enjoy power and prestige at par with civil services.

Students should choose their subjects considering what factors?

CSS is a competitive examination. Consideration must be paid to choose subjects in which a candidate, in his own assessment, can score high marks. But, as said earlier this must begin with the choice of subjects at the graduation level. This gives a candidate few more years of preparation towards his goal. Choice of his subject at master's level too has a lot of bearing in a candidate's success. English Literature, Law and Business Studies can be greatly helpful in landing position in coveted services.

Students keep changing optional subjects after first or even second attempt. Is it right approach?

Students with right aptitude and focused preparation succeed the very first time. Those who don't, blame the choice of subjects. In my experience it is crying over spilt milk. Choice of optional subjects at first attempt is made carefully keeping in mind a candidate's goal and his liking. Having said that what fails a candidate is not the choice of subjects that much but lack of preparation and hard work required to succeed at that level. I strongly feel that guidance must be sought from competent sources at the stage of deciding optionals. Cursory and haphazard choices are doomed to fail anyway.
I wish we can have more Pakistan level services which are at par in status, authority and perks with the civil services of Pakistan. I suggest Pakistan judicial service, Pakistan medical service Pakistan engineering service and Pakistan education service etc which should enjoy power and prestige at par with civil services.

How far the need to cram is important for CSS preparation?

The system is constructed in such a way that cramming cannot be avoided, specially for psy-chological and intelligence tests after success in the written examination. Even general know-ledge questions require crammed answers. But, at interview stage communication skills, capacity to make decisions and ability to implement decisions is seriously looked into. Discussions and command tasks as well as the interview with the psychologist are the points in case. The final interview requires in-depth understanding of current issues. Cramming cannot help at this stage. In short, cramming cannot be avoided but extensive and in-depth studies cannot be over emphasised. Intelligent reading of newspapers is a rich source of up-todate opinions and background to topics and issues facing the country and the world.

How do you assess role and importance of academies for CSS candidates as they are expensive too?

I am not satisfied with the work that academies do. They introduce shortcuts to students. Books offering ready answers to 20 questions in any subject encourage cramming. This can help a student to pass and even to secure high marks but his comprehension and grasp on the subjects suffers. Academies hardly impart in-depth studies. Nothing is done to improve their personalities and to develop communication skills. I will not go to the extent of rejecting the role of academies in a candidate's preparation but I strongly recommend that academies must realise their responsibilities in this regard. No wonder that the quality of students even after selection falls abysmally short of what is required.

How do you evaluate the recently revised pattern of CSS written examination? Is there any change needed at the moment?

No, not much is required to be change. These days objective part is introduced in question papers which requires a candidate to read extensively rather than selectively. What is required is that the questions be constructed in a manner that tests a candidate's comprehension of the subject rather than his or her memory. That will weed out crammers and bring forward thinking individuals who have the capacity to draw conclusions and apply their minds while attempting questions.

What strategies do you suggest to get higher marks in interviews?

Practice speaking English as well as Urdu. I suggest to my students that they, at the initial stage, read from a text, preferably newspapers or magazines and record what they read. Listen to what is recorded. It will show them the deficiencies in the quality of their voice, pronunciation mistakes, fluency of expression and lack of control over breath and stamina. Practice this for at least two weeks and then add saying in your own words, in your own style and language what was read and recorded. This will improve a candidate's comprehension, add to his knowledge and improve his capacity to express views in his own words. In short, this will work wonders to improve one's communication skills and boost self-confidence while debating a position in discussions and command tasks presentations.

Would you like to recommend any profession for those candidates of CSS who fail to qualify?

Well, that is why I have said that selection of main discipline at master's level must be carefully done. An MBA, for example, or MA English Literature, Economics, Accounts or Law can pursue a different career if he or she fails in CSS. Also failure in CSS does not mean the end of the world, provided a person has chosen right while doing graduation or post-graduation. Easy subjects with no purchase, later on, leaves, one high and dry. This be avoided. Teachers and mentors must guide aspiring students to this fact. There is a tendency among academies to do the opposite. For heaven sake advise a student to think and plan for alternative profession should he fail in CSS. There must always be a fall back position. A good planner always guards his flanks and secures fall back positions.

I personally feel that bright students should better enter corporate world as professionals. Accountancy, management, marketing and sales are rewarding careers and very exciting too. These days jobs at university and graduate studies level are very well paid too . But, this can only be done if the route adopted for success in CSS is not short changed picking such subjects that are easy and score well but are of no use later.

Any special message you like to forward to our readers.

Competitive examinations are not normal examinations where you pass and get something for it in the shape of certificate or degree. They are competitions where you are fighting for limited seats which are to be filled by the best of the lot. Passing in these exams gets you nothing, not a certificate or citation. So, develop the right attitude to compete not just pass. Read extensively and do not go for short cuts. Improve your skills and learn more skills. Learn time management and discipline. Hopefully, all that I have said above will benefit your readers and prepare them better.

In the end, my prayers that the parents and the youth realise that a country is as good as its citizens. It is a cut throat world of competition. Only the fittest and the best prepared will succeed.
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