Let it be very clear from the outset that to believe that one can get through the CSS exam with only two, three or four months of preparation is absolutely a flawed idea. It would be a mere repetition if I say that hard work is the only key to success. It should also be always kept in mind that merely passing the CSS exam doesn't open the doors of Civil Services for you, rather it is the higher marks which help you embark on an illustrious career. Since it's a competition, so do remember that there is no shortcut to success in it. Through this write-up I will try to guide you through the art of tackling the Current Affairs paper.

A question that baffles every aspirant is that how much time and what sort of study is required to pass the CSS exam. I also faced this question during early stages of my preparation. The answer to this question is that before taking the exam, one must assess oneself with complete honesty. Besides this, an aspiring candidate should also consult some successful candidates to understand what it takes to be a CSP. Every success story would make you believe that passionate devotion is a prerequisite to achieving your dreams.

Coming back to the topic, Essay and Current Affairs papers are considered the most difficult obstacles to defeat. It is so because Current Affairs as a subject and Current Affairs as a phenomenon are the foundations on which candidates have to build the edifice of their preparation. In short, it's the backbone of CSS examination, the 'key'. Apparently, Current Affairs is only a single compulsory paper yet its use in Essay, Pakistan Affairs and Islamiat as well as in the optional ones like Geography II, International Relations, Indo-Pak History, International Law, Political Science, etc., is all too visible. That's the reason why a huge chunk of candidates opts for these subjects.

The first step of a sound preparation is to get a copy of Current Affair papers of the last ten years. Then you have to comb through those to get a fair idea of the nature and scope of questions asked. This would remove all ambiguities regarding the path which you will have to follow for best preparations.

After going through the papers, next step is to start preparing from the exam point of view. Sans this, your hard work would yield no substantial result because the whole toil of yours would be clouded with uncertainty.

Here, I would beg to differ with those who follow a set pattern for Current Affairs. This paper has no parameters and should be treated as such. Instead of limiting the scope of your study, you must diversify your reading and knowledge beyond Dawn newspaper. Magazines, especially Jahangir's World Times, and channels like CNN/BBC are the best source to stay updated.

There are numerous candidates who would do anything in order to grab the notes prepared by those who qualified the exam. This, I feel, means confining oneself and it does more harm than good. However, it is alright if you want to look into those notes only to make your own ones better. If you rely solely on notes provided by academies and mentors, you will be doing a sheer injustice to yourself.

It is a known fact that there are certain favourite topics each year which can be prepared comprehensively. The information collected on these topics would be useful for all other subjects. For example, Women-related Issues, Terrorism, Good Governance, Energy Crisis, Water Crisis, Future or Failure of Democracy, South Asian Politics and Role of China are the topics to bank on.

While attempting the paper, most candidates do not understand the questions before answering them. There is a wide gulf between what they write and what has been actuallty asked. For example, the question is:

“Resolution of Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan can bring peace and prosperity in the region. Discuss.”

Most candidates would go on writing all they knew about Kashmir while remaining completely oblivious to what has been actually asked. Here, what is required is to discuss only one aspect of the many branches of the Kashmir dispute. So, do read the question again and again to grasp what examiner wants to see in your answer, and then write your points accordingly.

Have a look at the following question and the outline of its answer.

Discuss the causes of extremism and militancy in Pakistani society. Suggest ways and means for the state organs to overcome these issues.

Note: This outline is for demonstration purpose only. It is not required in actual exam.

1) Introduction

2) Causes of Extremism and Militancy in Pakistan

i) Motivation by religious ideologies and grievances.
ii) Injustice to Minorities.
iii) Terrorists will use poverty, social strife, inequality and oppression to their advantage.
iv) Involvement of Foreign Hand.
v) Several interpretations of Islam.
vi) Illiteracy.
vii) Low employment rate.

3) Ways to Overcome These Issues

i) Invigorate law-enforcement agencies.
ii) More vigilance along borders.
iii) Depriving criminals of their profits.
iv) Providing necessary technology, harmonizing laws and sharing information.
v) Seek negotiated political settlement.
vi) Reorganize national priorities with education as main concern.
vii) Prevent others from following the same path and thus succeed in eliminating the terrorism menace.

The answer should be completed with a forceful conclusion. The introduction and conclusion must leave an impact on the reader. Being impressive doesn't mean that one should flaunt one’s vocabulary or work towards a superb climax. Be simple, to-the-point and eloquent. Correct English, nice expression, coherent writing and deep analysis make a paper out of the ordinary.

In Current Affairs paper, facts and figures on economy, energy, etc., would fetch additional marks. Drawing diagrams, where necessary, would also benefit you. This does not, at all, mean that one should start the answer of a question on terrorism by sketching weapons and bullets. Having a fair idea of how to draw the World Map, Map of Pakistan and of South Asia would be beneficial.

Moreover, candidates generally believe that writing a lengthy answer would fetch high marks. This is a pernicious myth. Not quantity but quality matters in Competitive Exams especially CSS. Moreover, every candidate is up against the brightest brains from Pakistan. Like I said before, if you want the service of your choice, you should not look for merely passing the exam but you have to go all out in your efforts to score higher than the rest. In addition to all these things, using markers, pointers and presenting a neat paper to the examiner would most certainly pass a very silent and personal message; 'Choose me.'
Best of Luck!