How to Write an Essay for CSS Exam

92% of candidates appearing in the CSS examinations, fail the English Essay section. Jarring isn’t it?

If you are planning on taking the dreaded written test soon, then this is a must read post for you. There is an extensive to-do list when it comes to writing an English essay that will get you into that top 8% in this section, and indeed all the strategies cannot be covered in just one short blog post.


What we can do however, to aid you in your journey, is to give you 5 crucial tips that you absolutely MUST follow, as starting guidelines on how to write an essay for CSS English exams.

How to select a topic for the CSS English Essay?

As with any piece of writing, topic selection is perhaps the most crucial aspect, especially if you have a limited amount of time (which you will), to complete a lengthy and well structured essay (which you will have to).

CSS essay topics can broadly fall into one of two categories:

  1. Argumentative Essays (Expository Essays)
  2. Issue Based Essays

Argumentative essays usually involve an open-ended prompt. You may be given an idea, a proverbial phrase or a quote from a famous personality, and be asked to analyse and assess its applicability.

Examples of argumentative CSS essays include “Gender Equality is a Myth”, “Beware the barrenness of life!” and “Every Cloud has a Silver Lining”, among many others.

Issue based CSS essays tend to focus on important events in the world today, and in that sense are more specific than the former. You may be asked to pen your thoughts on issues of national or global significance, and to suggest possible remedies for the problems at hand.

Examples of issue based essays in the CSS exams include, “Water Crisis and National Unity”, “Feminism is Not Really a Third World Issue” and “Is Colonial Legacy Impeding Pakistan’s Progress?” to name a few.

Your selection of topic could potentially determine from the very start, whether or not your essay will receive a passing grade. Needless to say, one must devise a strategy for doing so.

Our first tip, to help you write a CSS essay, is to know yourself! Sounds simple enough, but candidates often struggle in trying to assess their own strengths and weaknesses. In general keep the following questions in mind, when you’re deciding on which way to go:

For argumentative essays:

  1. Do I have a wide breadth of knowledge on the topic? Need examples from different contexts.
  2. Am I confident I interpreted the central idea, or meaning of the topic, correctly?
  3. Have I practiced enough argumentative essays to appeal to the examiner’s literary/creative tastes?

For issue-based essays:

  1. Do I have depth of knowledge on the topic? Need several specific examples for the issue at hand.
  2. Do I need/want more room to write creatively, as opposed to such a narrow topic?
  3. Do I have information from my studies for other CSS subjects that I can include here?

The Importance of Making a Detailed Outline

We can’t stress this enough, and yes we know you’ve already heard it, but we’re going to say it too: Don’t disregard the outline.

A detailed CSS essay outline consists of 5 or more sections, presented in the form of questions, along with sufficient pointers to build an argument to answer each of the questions. If you have this outline sketched out before your essay, with enough detail that an experienced examiner can get the gist of your arguments by just going through it, you significantly increase your chances of passing.

Oftentimes, with the sheer number of applicants, examiners are overburdened, and will probably not bother with a close reading of your actual essay, if your outline does not interest them, or is unclear. This means, that whether you pass or fail, literally hangs on the effort you put into structuring and writing your outline.

How to Start Your CSS English Essay: The Hook!

Needless to say, the introduction is the second most important structural element, after the outline. You will be rewarded for concisely summarizing your arguments, and laying out the logical flow of the essay here.

Our focus however, is on one particular aspect of the introduction; the “hook” so to speak. As you may have figured out by now, much about how to write a CSS English essay, centers on catching and maintaining the examiner’s attention. For this purpose, the opening line or paragraph of your essay must be impactful, and compel the reader to read on.

Though there are no hard and fast rules, there are 2 strategies for the hook, that we can suggest, based on the experience of successful candidates and our own seasoned CSS teaching faculty:

Start with a hypothetical or anecdotal statement that seeks to transport the reader to a context of your choosing.

  1. Practicing descriptive writing can help a lot in this regard. Learn how to create vivid images in the mind of the reader.
  2. The opening narration of documentaries can serve as a good example of what an anecdote might look like.
  3. Example: “A lone forager cowers under the shade of a Banyan tree as the lightning cracks; trembling from fear, shaking from the cold, she looks out into the cold, desolate plains that stretch into an unforgivingly dark night. She hopes for respite, where there is none to be found...”

Alternatively, depending on your topic, your hook can also employ the use of some jarring statistics or any fact that has some shock value.

  1. Remembering specific facts and figures that do not align with the general perceptions of people is useful.
  2. Contrasting two seemingly contradictory facts is also a good technique.
  3. Examples could include illiteracy statistics, budgetary allocations for particular government sectors, development goals/investment contrasted with actual outcome.

How to Conclude Your CSS English Essay

Your conclusion is also worth spending that extra bit of time on, not just so your essay leaves a lasting impression on the examiner. In fact, as was the case with the introduction and outline, it is quite possible that an examiner will actually read this part while skimming through your CSS essay.

However, unlike the previous two elements, the focus here is not on capturing attention, but on reiterating the logical structure of your arguments, and their links to your given examples. You must clearly delineate how they fit into your arguments and are sufficient to prove your points. That is the entire purpose of the conclusion; to make sure the examiner is convinced that your arguments make sense, and bring together everything of importance that has been discussed in the essay.

Examples for Your Arguments: A Must Have!

Without real world examples, your essay will be doomed to failure. Any claims you make, that are unsubstantiated by evidence, will be disregarded altogether. So think of examples as the stamp of authority on any argument you make.

The ones you can use, generally center around individuals, companies or countries, and can either be from the past, or more contemporary contexts. As long as the chosen example fits well into the argument, there should be no problem.

However, given the diversity of topics that you could encounter in the CSS English exam, it is crucial to know where to find such examples. Although there are potentially unlimited resources for this, a few good places to start are:

  1. World History on YouTube.
  2. Ted-Ed on Youtube.
  3. Local and international news channels .
  4. Local newspapers .
  5. Official government, media and research institute, accounts on Twitter .

Last but not least, Nearpeer’s English Essay Courses .

CSS English Essay Writing Tips: 

English Essay CSS Syllabus:

Before start your English essay preparation, you first download the CSS English essay syllabus . It is a roadmap for the essay preparation. All Candidates that are appearing in the CSS exam must throughly study the syllabus.

English Essay CSS Past Papers:

Practice makes man perfect. While preparing the essay for the CSS exam you must evaluate yourselves by attempting the CSS English essay past papers . These past papers play very important role to let you know what topics are most commonly asked in the past papers. 

CSS Essay Solved:

Nearpeer is offering a course of CSS solved English past papers so that students can get good grades in their CSS English essay exam. 

The Answers You Need

Do I need to give headings in the CSS English Essay?

No, you do not have to give headings or subheadings in the body of your essay. However, they should be included in the outline, and your essay should follow the structure you have laid out there.

Do I have to make the outline before starting the essay?

Yes. It is absolutely crucial that you make an outline, for reasons we have already discussed above.

Do the words in the outline count towards the word limit?

Yes. The entirety of your essay, outline included, is considered in the overall word count.

Do examiners check the CSS Essay outline?

Absolutely! In fact, in most cases, the outline, introduction and conclusion are the parts of your essay that the examiner will spend 80% of their time on. If your outline isn’t up to the mark, the rest of your essay will most likely not be checked.

Should we write a counter argument as well?

Yes. Part of making a convincing argument is addressing the counter-arguments or points of view that diverge from it. You should ideally dedicate at least 1 to 2 paragraphs on explaining and then logically refuting a counter-argument.

What should be the length of the CSS English essay?

Your essay, outline included, should ideally be between 2500-3000 words.

Does the quality of writing matter in the essay, or just the format?

Both are essential for you to pass your CSS English essay component. The format is one of the first things an examiner looks at. If there are formatting issues, your essay might, again, not be read at all.

However, if you get the format right, but your writing is poor in terms of logical coherence, legibility or language, you will still receive a low score. Focus on both!

Further Guidance

We hope this article gave you sufficient insight into how to begin writing an essay for the CSS exams. However, this is by no means all that you need to know. There is far more nuance to this particular test, and often months of practice and discussion are required to be well-equipped for it, so please do inquire further.

We wish you well on your journey to becoming a CSP officer; if you find yourself a little lost though, feel free to reach out to our round the clock free CSS counselling team at !