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How I Cracked CSS in 1st Attempt by Zoha Shakir (PAS)

Aoa Everyone,

My name is Zoha Shakir. I got allocation in PAS through CE 2016. Today I’ll be sharing my experience
regarding CSS, how I cracked CSS in my 1st attempt and what are the basic requirements to ace
competitive exams. I hope this post will be beneficial for aspirants.

2. English Essay

My Take on English Essay:

Essay is the test of English writing skills so it should be tackled accordingly. The examiner is much
concerned about the language you’re using throughout the length of your essay rather than the knowledge
you’re trying to show off so be very careful what you write in your essay. Some of the things you’re being
tested for are:

Your knowledge of the topic;

Your argumentative and opinion based writing skills;
Your grip over English grammar and vocabulary;
The organization of whatever you put on the paper;
Clarity of expression;
Flow/Fluency in your writing;
The outline you make;
Your presentation;
Whether you have corroborated your opinion or stance with relevant stats or not.

Essay writing is not something that can be learnt overnight; one needs to practice a lot to learn this art. It
is said that before running, one needs to learn to walk properly so for the beginners I recommend that they
should start writing one-paged articles and get them checked by some competent and sincere
teacher/senior. After that they should start drafting outlines on essay topics from the past papers as the
pattern has changed in the recent times and now more creative and unique topics are being asked in the
paper. After drafting outlines on diverse topics, you may start writing full length essays within the
allocated time period of 3 hours.

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Important Elements of English Essay:

I followed the following method while writing my essay and got 52 marks in it. I’m sure you will find it
useful as well.

1. Outline:
Outline should be written in bullet form. The outline should be written strictly to the point.

In the Introduction, directly hit the topic without going into irrelevant details. Your Introduction should span
around 85% of your 1st page. As Introduction gives a direction to your essay so it should be interesting
and captivating; you can start your introduction with an interesting fact, an exciting quotation, a surprising
piece of information, an anecdote or a provocative question. Your Introduction should be thought
provoking and extremely relevant throughout. Present your thesis statement at the end of introduction.

3. BODY:
The sequence of your essay should be according to the outline that was written before essay. Connectivity
is the essence of an essay. Your essay should be coherent and well organized. It should be holistic and
multifaceted. You should critically analyze the various aspects of the topic. You can put your weaker
arguments in the middle but you must never repeat your arguments as it gives a bad impression. Add
relevant quotes, facts and statistics. Avoid spelling and grammatical mistakes. Do not use abbreviations
like WAPDA; use the full form i.e. Water and Power Development Authority. There should be clarity of
thoughts through the entire length of your essay which can be attained by writing according to the outline
and using short sentences that are grammatically correct instead of going for long sentences filled with

Don’t introduce any new idea in the conclusion, justify the already stated content by explaining in a few
sentences. Always conclude with a positive note.

How to Attempt the Essay Paper While Sitting in the

Examination Hall

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2. Spend around 10-15 minutes choosing one out of ten given topics. Choose the topic which
you can elaborate well and you believe you possess most knowledge about.
4. Take around 45-50 minutes sketching a rough, crude outline. I recommend you draw it on
the backside of the question paper because if you do it on the last page of answer sheet,
you are going to have to ruffle through pages maniacally, while writing the essay, looking
for points, every now and then. That is going to waste a lot of time and might take its toll
on your mood. If you sketch it on the backside of the question paper, you can keep it in
front of you, in your one hand, while writing the essay, reading the points and elaborating
them on answer sheet.

Outline sketching is purely a function of brainstorming. The deeper, the wider you can think, the better is
your outline. Give your thoughts free reign, do not restrict your mind, and do not refrain from putting on
paper what you think. You might write irrelevant points but mere writing them might cause you to come up
with a more relevant one. Explore various dimensions of the given issue, adding bits and pieces from every
dimension, relating them to your essay statement, coming up with stats, examples etc to justify your

Make sure your outline is VERY COMPREHENSIVE, make major headings (1,2,3…), sub headings (i, ii, iii …)
and sub sub headings (a,b,c…) inside every major heading, just like you add bullet points in MS Word file.
Also if possible, use different colored markers/fonts for Major headings, sub headings, and sub sub
headings. (Mega font for major headings, minor font for sub sub headings). Such organized presentation
will make it easily navigable for the examiner, plus will occupy lots of space, and will make your outline
appear hierarchical and organized.

A detailed outline, spanning around 4-5 pages, means that if you can expand each point into 4-5 lines in
your essay, you are easily going to cross 2500 words threshold. Plus, once you have a very detailed outline
in front of you, you KNOW what you got to write, in what manner, and you will not have to write and pause
to think and again write and again pause. This write-pause phase can be detrimental, do your best to avoid
that, and the best way to avoid that is to chalk out a comprehensive outline.

Practise drawing outlines of difficult and philosophical topics which are as distant from current affairs, as
possible. If you can develop outlines for such topics, you can cream the current affairs topics.

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4. Once done with outline, leave few pages on the answer sheet, and start with your essay.
Elaborate each point in your outline in around 5-7 lines, starting from Intro to Conclusion.
This should not take more than 1.5 hours. While writing the essay you will come across
many points which you did not write in your outline. As it happens, include those points in
the rough outline.
6. With half hour at your disposal, now come to the beginning of your answer sheet where
you left blank pages and transfer the outline on those pages. The point of doing this
exercise in the end is that you will come across many points while inking the essay, and
had you written the outline right at the beginning, you would miss those points. When you
write the outline later on, it will include the points you missed while sketching the outline
and conceived later on.

The very best of luck to all of you. Essay, no doubt, is bane of every CSS aspirant’s existence, but you got
to take it by the scruff of the neck rather than allowing it to get better of you. There is either Do or Die, no
middle path, I suggest you take the former

Why and How To Read Newspaper For CSS

First of all, I’ll tell you “WHY” you need to read newspaper. Newspaper reading helps a person to stay in
touch with current issues around the globe. It helps to broaden the perspective and analytical skills of the
reader. When a person is reading Op-eds written by eminent writers of Dawn, The News, NY Times,
Guardian etc., he learns to analyze the opinions of experts and then he is able to formulate his own
opinions which are unique. When he jots down his unique ideas in his papers, the examiner gets impressed
by the versatility of his ideas and resultantly he scores more than others. So, there is a marked difference
in the written expression of a person who reads newspaper and the one who doesn’t read it.

For CSS aspirants, the importance of newspaper can’t be more emphasized as it helps in both compulsory
and optional subjects. The quality material that a person can get from newspaper has no parallel and this
valuable information can easily be reproduced in Essay, Pakistan Affairs, Current Affairs, Islamiat,
International Affairs , Political Science or any other paper. The statistics, quotes, opinions, facts and figures
quoted in the newspaper are the latest ones and reading them saves a lot of time as you can easily note
them down while reading paper instead of searching them on google separately.

From the past five years, there has been a rapid shift in the pattern of question papers. Gone are the days
when a person could memorize the top 20 questions from each subject and pass CSS. Nowadays,
competitive exams demand more creativity and analytical reasoning which can only be developed by
reading vigorously. The way you comprehend what’s being asked in the paper and the way you write down
your answer determines your fate in CSS. Having said that, it’s not difficult to develop a sound written
expression which can easily be learned by reading quality papers and writing more and more. By

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practicing this, you can easily learn to write an opinion based answer during exam under immense
pressure of time and nerves.

To be honest, when I started reading newspaper I used to feel that it’s a sheer wastage of time as I was
unable to comprehend what was written in there and it used to take a lot of my time. But gradually I
started enjoying reading it and now it’s my habit to read Dawn newspaper daily. You all might have
experienced this and it’s normal that at first you won’t be able to maintain interest while reading
newspaper but gradually you will start enjoying it. At this stage, you might not find it beneficial but the
massive information and statistics that you read right now will make its way to your sub-conscious and
you’ll be surprised to notice that you’ll be able to produce quality material you never knew in the exam
hall; It comes through constant reading of good articles from reputable newspaper. To sum it up, there’s
no alternative to newspaper reading.

Now moving on to the “HOW” part. When I started reading it used to consume a lot of my time as I didn’t
know what was supposed to be read. For beginners I’ll recommend DAWN newspaper because of its
unbiased opinions. The portions that you need to read include:

Front and Back page to know about the current national events.
Editorials and Opinions to develop your own opinions regarding all national and
international events. (You can even take an article from the op-eds and make its precis
daily, this activity will help you in both Current Affairs and English as it will improve your
written expression).
The Friday Article in Dawn newspaper helps a lot in Islamiat paper as it helps in
formulating a reasonable opinion on pertinent religious issues.
The International pages to stay in touch with International Affairs (As majority of you now
have either IR or Political Science so these pages are a must-read).
The business page to stay in loop with the state of global economy; Monday’s supplement
on economy is very helpful to get an understanding on economic issues of Pakistan (This
one is especially important for those who have Economics or Business Administration as
one of their optionals)
Finally, in Sunday’s “Images”, articles by Nadeem Paracha, Anjum Niaz and Mubarak Ali
are very well-written as they are well researched and cover a lot of topics like social
issues, terrorism, national security issues etc.
Now after reading this stuff if your mind gets overburdened you may take a tea break and
read your horoscope on the metropolitan leisure page; you’ll get to know that your future
is bright and something great is going to happen

Lastly, I’ll tell you about “How to make notes from Newspaper” from examination point of view. You’ll be

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reading newspaper for months before exams but you won’t be able to revise whatever you read. So for
revising some articles you may cut them and save those clippings in a folder or you may paste those
articles on a register. You may make separate segments in that folder/register and label them as:

National events: you can make further breakdown like

national security issues
water crises,
governance issues,
criminal justice system reforms,
CPEC progress,
Progress on Panama Inquiry etc
International events
American Economic crisis,
America after Donald Trump,
Middle Eastern fiasco,
South China Sea Disputes,
War on Terror and IS,
Rise of China and OBOR,
Paris Climate Deal, etc.
Global financial crisis,
Foreign Aid,
Tax Avoidance and tax havens,
Rise of new economies like BRICS etc.
food and agriculture Issues,
climate change
and global warming, etc.
Social Issues
“Friday Articles” and so on.

When you read an article, try to summarize it in one line and write that on top of it. Now whenever you feel
like revising any topic you may take the clipped articles on that particular topic. It will save a lot of your
time and by the end of the year you would have made your own special notes and you can circumvent all
Dogars, IImis, Cram Series and JWT stuff. And believe me, hard work never gets wasted and you’ll be
rewarded by Allah Almighty InshaAllah!

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3. English (Precis and Composition)

The books I used include:

Precis Writing by Prof. R. Dhillon

Precis Writing by Zahid Ashraf published by JWT
This book contains solved précis from CSS past papers- 1990 onwards; It’s very useful
for those who are preparing by themselves at home like I did. You can easily solve any
précis from past papers and then compare it with the solved one given at the end. This
way you can judge yourself and rectify your mistakes
Exploring the World of English by Sayed Saadat Ali Shah
High School English Grammar & Composition by Wren & Martin
This book can be used to cover parts of speech, nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives,
tenses, correct usage of articles, adverbs, idioms, prepositions, conjunctions,
interjections, active and passive voice, comprehension and rules for precis-writing)

4. General Science & Ability

The books I used include:

Encyclopedic Manual of Everyday Science by Dr. Rab Nawaz Samo

EDS by Hafiz M. Hamid Raza
GAT Book

TIPS: Draw as many relevant diagrams, tables and flowcharts as you can in this paper. As it’s a scientific
paper so you need to be scientific and avoid going into irrelevant details. In order to memorize various
topics, you should make mnemonics. For example mnemonic device for 8 planets is “My very educated
mother just served us noodles” So you can always use such techniques to retain information and it makes
learning a fun based activity

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5. Current Affairs

I collected information from the following sources:

DAWN Newspaper
The News
The Diplomat
Foreign Policy Magazine
Center for Strategic and International Studies

TIPS: In order to score high in current affairs, you need to present a SWOT analysis (strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats) for which you need to collect pros/cons regarding that particular
topic. While writing an answer, briefly write about the historical background, then state the current
developments after which you need to give the future predictions if the question demands. To beautify
your answer, write sayings of world leaders and renowned authors for example I used a lot of sayings of
Samuel P Huntington, Stephen P Cohen, George W Bush, Noam Chomsky, Dr Shahid Masood, Ahsan Iqbal,
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, etc.

6. Pakistan Affairs

The books I read include:

Pakistan Affairs by M. Ikram Rabbani

Trek to Pakistan by Ahmed Saeed

TIPS: Always keep in mind the current scenario/impact of various historical events for example, when
you’re reading the 14 points of Quaid-e-Azam you need to critically analyze the impacts of Quaid’s 14
points in the future struggle for Pakistan. Add relevant sayings of Quaid-e-Azam, Allama Iqbal, Sir Syed
Ahmed Khan and other important personalities where needed. Your answers should reflect your own
opinion; it should not be copied from any book or notes. Use data and statistics from the economic survey
of Pakistan. You should all learn how to draw a simplified map of the world, The Subcontinent, South Asia
and Pakistan.

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7. Islamic Studies

I read selected portions from the following books:

Lost Islamic History by Firas Alkhateeb

Islamiat by Farkhanda Noor Muhammad
Islamic Studies by Hafiz Karim Dad Chughtai
Islamic Studies by Zahid Ashraf published by JWT
Towards Understanding Islam by S. Abul Ala Maududi
Islam, Its Meaning and Message by Khurshid Ahmed

TIPS: Among the above mentioned books, I found the one written by Sir Hafiz Karim Dad the most
comprehensive and in accordance with the revised syllabus. While answering the question, keep in mind
not to overload your paper with references from Quran and Hadith, rather use relevant references to back
up your arguments. Secondly, avoid criticizing any school of thought because you don’t know who’s going
to check your paper.

International Relations
The books I read include:

International Relations by Joshua Goldstein & Jon C. Pevehouse

International Relations by Parkash Chander
The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations by
John Baylis, Patricia Owens, Steve Smith
Politics in Minutes by Marcus Weeks
The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington
Foreign Policy of Pakistan by Abdul Sattar

TIPS: This is a technical subject and demands a technical approach. Cover the theoretical part well as it
forms the base of your arguments. Consult multiple sources for this subject as there is no specific book for
this subject.

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Town Planning & Urban Management

The books I consulted include:

Town Planning & Urban Management by Hassan Ali Gondal published by JWT
Town Planning & Urban Management by Haji Muhammad Shabbir

NOTE: This is a technical subject so choose it only if you’re interested in this subject and willing to work
hard. I found this subject very interesting and I believe it can give a pretty good score if prepared well.
During my time, I couldn’t find any quality book on this subject but for scoring good one needs to consult
international books written by subject specialists. Secondly, this subject demands a lot of creativity while
solving paper so draw as many relevant flowcharts and graphical demonstrations as possible.

Environmental Sciences
I consulted the following books:

Environmental Science by Imran Bashir

Human, Economic & Regional Geography by Imran Bashir

TIPS: A very interesting and knowledgeable subject which can easily be prepared within 15 days. I used
the above mentioned books but as the outline is quite extensive so I used to google the topics I couldn’t
find in books. For scoring good in this subject, write to the point and make relevant diagrams. The latest
international conferences on Environment/Pollution Control/Climate Change should be kept track of; for
example when I was preparing for CSS, the Paris Climate Deal was recently signed so I followed the latest
developments on it (like how many countries have signed or ratified this deal, what are the demands on
those countries under this deal, what are the future expectations after its coming into force etc.) Moreover,
latest statistics related to this subject should be quoted in the paper to score good.

International Law
I consulted the following books and website:

International Law by DR. H.O. Agarwal

International Law by J.G Starke
International Law by Malcolm Shaw

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TIPS: I found this subject very interesting so I used to study every topic in detail. Most of the topics can be
covered from the above mentioned books; the remaining ones specially the important cases can be
searched on Google/international journals.

For psychology, I used the books mentioned below:

Essentials of Understanding Psychology by Robert S. Feldman

An Approach to Psychology by Rakhshanda Shahnaz
Processes of Psychology and Applied Psychology by Prof. Zarin Bukhari
Psychology by Tayab Saifullah (Jahangir Exam Cram Series)

TIPS: Make extensive use of internet for animations, graphs and critical analysis of psychological theories.

I hope this article helps you all in some way. Best of luck everyone! Just remember:

“Don’t ever let somebody tell you can’t do something.

You have got a dream, you’ve got to protect it.
People who can’t do something themselves,
they want to tell you, ‘You can’t do it.’
You want something? Go get it. Period!”
~ Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness


Zoha Shakir
(45th Common)

Originally published in: CSS Forum

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