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An Interview With Zainab Ahmed Cheema

  • KIPS Bureau
  • Nov, 2018
  • 6773
  • Interview

Global Age talks to Miss Cheema, who joined KIPS in 2013 and passed her CSS exam with merit number 15, about her educational background and pre-exam preparation

‘I would advise them to try to find an answer to the 'why' part of their decision. In this specific answer they are going to find the motivation for choosing this path which can, of course, be different for everyone. But this motivation will carry them through sleepless nights and tiresome days’

Global Age: Could we start with your educational background?

Yes. I did my BBA (marketing) from NUST in 2013 and completed my MBA with the human resource management as specialisation in 2015 from NUST in Islamabad.

What was the source of your inspiration to sit for CSS?

I've had work experience of seven years in the development sector. I've been associated with multiple NGOs [non-government organisations] and at a very early age I had decided that I always wanted to opt for a field job. I felt that CSS would lead me to a career that would suit my interests and present a platform to contribute in a significant way. And that was why I sat for the 2014 exam and got allocated to IRS [Inland Revenue Service]. The interest then motivated me to give the exam again to improve better.

What were your optional subjects and what one should look for while selecting them?

I had international relations, international law, the US history, business administration and psychology. As for the second part of your question, I dare say one should consider three factors while selecting them: i. scoring trend of the subject, ii. length of the syllabus and iii. the interest one must show.

What was your strategy for preparation?

I had four months for preparation and focussed more on past papers than the syllabus. I set priority to those topics which were set in previous papers and then spent the rest of my time on the remaining syllabus.

In your point of view, how much time is required for preparation?

There is no right answer to your question. It varies from person to person, but I guess the preparation takes at least 3 to 4 months to score good marks.

What do you recommend to candidates in the light of your experience regarding paper-attempting techniques, preparation and books one must consult, besides other sources?

Your answers should be well structured and well reasoned which can be done by introducing and concluding every answer. Candidates often don't pay much attention to proper time management during the exam. One should always divide time equally between questions; this will lead to consistency in quality of writing and length of an answer. I'd also like to recommend that candidates consult more than two to three sources for every subject. Magazines, such as The Economist and Foreign Affairs, could add value to your written and interview preparation.

How do you see KIPS as an ultimate source of guidance for the CSS aspirants, and how did this platform benefit you?

KIPS and I go way back. I joined the academy in 2013 which introduced a defined structure to my study routine. The constructive feedback and guidance of teachers served as a huge benefit. The candidates can seek help from teachers on a daily basis and get their sample answers marked − what more can they ask for?

Which civil service are you in now?

I am currently serving as AC (IR) [Assistant Commissioner of Inland Revenue] in Inland Revenue Service and got re-allocated to PAS [the Pakistan Administrative Services] in 2017 though my training for PAS has not started yet.

How much did you score in your written exam as well as in your interview?

I got 724 in my written exam and 210 in my interview.

Which subject did you score most and how did you prepare?

I scored 76 in international law. Since I had international relations too as my optional, it helped a great deal in my understanding and application of international law. Furthermore, I consulted two to three books for preparation.

Would you like to share with us your experience in your service and your achievements, if any?

I got posted to the Regional Tax Office in Islamabad in January 2017 and the experience so far has been rewarding and fulfilling. One of the best things about IRS is that one can actually see and quantify the result of one's efforts. During my third month of service I recovered a tax of Rs. 64 million through bank attachment. Quite a satisfying feeling!

Is it luck or hard work, in your opinion, that ul...

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