Engineer turned CSP in 3 months without academy

Haider Ali shares the tips on CSS preparation. He had passed the CSS 2018 without consulting any academy.


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Upfront brings to you the success story of Haider Ali for CSS preparation. Haider Ali is an engineer who prepared for Pakistan’s top notch Competitive Exam and passed it with a preparation spanning 3 months without any academy.

Here are some of his key tips for those who are aspiring to appear in CSS Exam 2021 or thereafter.

Duration For CSS Preparation

I devoted time from around 6 PM to 12 midnight during Oct 10 to December 31st as I was employed somewhere and used to get back home around 5. After that, I used to take food, tea and then used to study. Even in that window of 6-12, I slept often in between studying for like 25-30 mins.

From January to exams (in February) I had taken off days to fully devote my attention to CSS.

If you devote 12 hours to study everyday then this overall duration for me came around 3 months.

Optionals for Competitive Exam

International Relations

I opted this instead of Political Science because I thought I am in touch with current and international affairs generally and so it is better to choose the subject where I can analyze different topics instead of cramming theories of Political Science.

For Paper-I, I consulted IR book by Safdar Mullick compiled by Kips and didn’t consult anything other than this.

For Paper-II, I consulted notes available at Student-Teacher Centre Punjab University Lahore. They were written by Muhammad Qasim Zia.

BTW, I started preparation of Paper-II on January 17th 2018 and again Allah Almighty was so kind that I secured good marks.

Gender Studies

I opted this because it was a bit short and I wanted to learn how we humans are different in our approaches toward life. I only consulted SP Hammad’s notes.


I selected this because of the short syllabus and I thought I knew some stuff already about this subject like Parole, Probation, Cyber Crime, Money laundering etc.

I consulted book by Nasir Khan and Ammar Sattar and secured over 70 marks.

Indo-Pak History

I ditched US History in favour of this subject because for US History, I had to learn and memorise even the NAMES and for Indo-Pak History, I thought I had some know how of subcontinent and additionally, I analyzed its past paper and thought I can attempt it somehow even without any preparation.

I consulted book by Mian Azmat Farooq for this.

Mass Communication

I opted this because I was interested in media ever since I graduated. Just to tell you I graduated as an engineer.

Moreover, I was doing something related to current affairs as part of my job and had an interest in media so I thought I might be able to correlate topics a bit.

I consulted book by HSM publishers for the preparation of this subject.

CSS Preparation of Compulsory subjects for Competitve Exam

English Essay Paper

I didn’t write even a single Essay before the paper because of the same shortage of time and I found it complex to write an Essay, get it checked for just to be disappointed.

My strategy was to simply read a book and fetch some notes of Essay outlines to get an idea of how outlines are made.

I memorized some statistics on different issues like global warming, terrorism, water scarcity and fortunately attempted the Essay on global warming.

My strategy was to simply use the statistics I had crammed. My outline was simple like starting from whether global warming and climate change are actually a problem or not.

Then I wrote ‘Stats Don’t Lie’ as a heading (in outline) and used different supporting arguments and made their subheadings (in outline) like ice sheets melting and other aspects confirming my viewpoint.

Then I outlined the reasons and used sub-headings in outline as well. Afterward, I incorporated whether Pakistan is endangered and used statistics related to Pakistan.

Then I gave the heading (in outline) of how to curb global warming and in subheadings wrote ‘Measures at international level’ followed by ‘Steps to be taken at national level’ and then ‘What humans can do’ and concluded the topic.

My Essay was simple as well as the outline. My Essay spanned some 1900 words and I got 42 by the blessings of Almighty Allah. I just kept it relevant, did not do grammar or spellings mistakes.

I committed a blunder in outline as well as in the body of Essay as I mentioned Pakistan is at 5th most vulnerable spot though it was at 7th spot as far as global warming is concerned.

Even then, I passed the paper though regarding the formal CSS preparation, I was nowhere but thanks to the Almighty.

Tip: Simple, grammatically correct, without spelling mistake and relevant stuff would help you pass the paper.

Precis & Composition

For this paper, I did not cram some 2000 words for vocabulary but would definitely say that my knowledge of vocabulary was more than an ordinary graduate but equal to the one who reads the newspaper regularly.

If the readers believe me then I must say that I didn’t practice precis for paper, but my job description  involved shortening stuff and thorough practice of translation.

Tip: If you can’t memorise 2000 words, don’t worry. Divert your attention towards Precis, Composition, Direct-Indirect, Active-Passive and translation.


For CSS preparation of this subject, I started it on December 24th 2017 and only consulted Karim Dad Chugtai’s book

(Some of my fellows said the book contains wrong references, like the Quranic verses are right but they are numbered wrong; I have not cross-verified it).

I penned Ahadees and Quranic verses on a separate paper (1 or 2 pages in total) and memorized them; they were then quoted in paper.

I skipped the letters written by the Khulafas as I didn’t have time to cram those.

Pakistan Affairs

I consulted only Akram Rabbani’s book as its comprehensive and nothing else. I was in touch with current affairs generally as well though I scored miserable in this subject.

General Science & Ability

I consulted book by Current Publishers written by Razza Ullah Khan for this subject. The IT portion related to Computer is somewhat missing in this though.

Current Affairs

I had the know how of current affairs but not in detail. You can say I knew the headlines but not the body of news stories and I had to go through the news in detail for CSS preparation.

What I did was that I sat down in December and thought over the affairs that happened in 2017. My strategy was to make notes of these events mostly in bullet forms.

Like Qatar-Saudi Arabia crisis, Doklam Standoff, Islamic Military Alliance and others were the hot issues and so I understood what were the reasons behind the issues and learned some statistics on that and a bit of history ENTIRELY through the internet and prepared the subject. NO BOOK was consulted and I scored 56 marks.

Pro Tips

Don’t try to fool the examiner during the process of CSS Preparation. The examiners have been marking the papers for so long and if you try to beat about the bush, they would sense that very soon and would hit you hard. Be precise and relevant if you are unsure about any topic.

Learn some terms like Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the name for Iran Nuclear Deal and operation to hunt down Osama bin Laden was ‘Neptune Spear’. Use these in your body and use proper jargons in the paper to show that you are appearing for a competitive exam.

I did not draw diagrams and charts in my papers because I DID NOT KNOW them as I didn’t have any time during the CSS preparation. I did not draw margins on answer sheets and my handwriting is not very good. My handwriting is just legible but you can’t say it great or excellent. It’s just Okay.

I did not prepare any notes (in terms of actual lengthy notes). Like I penned one-liners and basic crux of different theories (of IR, Gender Studies) which confused me a bit.

I did not appear in any mock exams due to shortage of time. Moreover, I was not able to consult any teacher or ACADEMY for written part preparation and learned on my own through books, internet, YouTube etc.

It would be interesting to note that I did not read foreign authors and simply read the local authors mentioned above because I wanted to complete the course which was possible only if I could consult a single book without the hassle of exploring different books.

Any Special Guidelines for Upfront Readers

Simply don’t believe in myths regarding CSS preparation. If you are an average student and have more than 3 months, you can pass the exam. Believe in Allah Almighty, be humble, sit tight, keep studying and forget about the results. I didn’t know I could pass the exam but Karma worked.

I am not suggesting that those who invest more time and read from different sources are wasting their time. All I am saying is that my strategy is just another solution and method which could work for you.

And during the papers, don’t discuss the question paper after you are done. Sometimes you would feel that you might fail a subject and think over quitting the attempt but DON’T DO THIS.

I was sure that I would fail in one of the papers but somehow I passed that subject. So even if you are sure that you might fail in one subject, simply ignore this feeling and move on. My advice for CSS preparation is to attempt every paper with the same energy and dedication.

What If We Fail?

No problem, CSS is not the only source to earn a livelihood. Many aspirants who failed CSS or any other competitive exam feel grateful to the Almighty for having failed the exam because they landed in a different field after that.

CSS is just one of the ways you can spend your life. If you actually want to serve the masses, you don’t need any position in fact. We had the biggest humanitarian in the form of Abdul Sattar Edhi he had not even appeared in any CSS exam and he served the public in true sense.

You might be a very good writer, engineer, journalist, doctor, pharmacist or whatever even if you fail CSS. Life’s more than this CSS, enjoy it as long as you have it but remember like an ice cream, it is melting so enjoy it.

Remember, success is bestowed upon people by the Almighty and we are no able to bag it and I would not advise others to spend 3 months on CSS prep because it actually deserves more time. I had the opportunity of three months only and so I thought let’s try it, if its in my destiny, the Almighty would bless me with it and somehow it happened; I am not super genius.

What Lays Ahead in Future for You?

Currently, I am awaiting the start of my Specialized Training Program (STP) which is slated to begin next week and unfortunately owing to the Covid-19 Pandemic, we would be attending classes online. After this, I would be posted to any ministry or division most probably in the federal secretariat.

Coronavirus: Pakistan death toll reaches 269, cases up to 12,723

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